Give Books! Here are 12 books that will inspire & delight this holiday season.
a review by Alison Blackman, Editor in Chief, advicesisters.com
Books are treasures both physical and in memory. When someone gives you a book, it’s more than just something tangible to put on your shelf. Books transport you, and they can sometimes even transform you. A book can be a very romantic gift (e.g. Love Sonnets of the Portuguese was one of my mother’s treasured posessions as it was given to her by a true love–my dad!).
Books remind us of the giver. Even if the book is not a romantic gesture, it is a personal one. Books are not one size fits all. Select a book you know will fuel your recipient’s passion for an existing interest, or inspire and excite them about something entirely new. Even the gift of a blank journal (but a special one) may become a treasured heirloom. A book can change the course of someone’s life, maybe yours. This review includes shopping links so you can click and buy. There’s something for everyone in this review of a dozen books.
Do you know someone who always seems to dodge Cupid’s arrow? The unlucky in love can now change their fates (fictional ones at least) with a unique book that lets them choose the way their love story play out, hopefully with a very happy ending. Give someone frustrated with the dating scene Choose Your Own Love Story: (Mis)Adventures in Love, Lust, and Happy Endings in paperback by Ilyse Mimoun (Running Press, late December 2015). Choose Your Own Love Story gives you over 50 choices and pick from 20 possible endings. Who will you end up with? It all depends upon the decision-making along the way that runs like a flow chart. You might end up with someone amazing, or simply a nice guy that makes you happy, but if you don’t like where your love story is going, you and get a do-over and try again. Some of the book is kind of cheesy and the characters might not exactly be your personality, but it’s fun to see how the story will twist and turn to the end, You can keep doing love story scenarios so many different ways! This book will appeal to everyone, from younger women who are just fed up with creeps on social apps, to women who really are tired of too many bad dates for way too long, and it’s just fun even if your love story has turned out well. Bring it to your next girls night out –being in the driver’s seat is fun…and fascinating!
Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker by Zenith Press 2015) is as has it all, does it all book about one of the nation’s hottest beverage choices today: Bourbon. The author conducts Kentucky Derby Museum (bourbon tasting) classes and is a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The book is well organized, from the history and techniques of making the spirit, to the intricacies of selecting and tasting bourbon. The author logically groups bourbon into four main flavor profiles–grain, nutmeg, caramel, and cinnamon. Each person’s taste and smell are unique and you may not get all the tasting notes that Minnick describes. I didn’t, at least. But the book is helpful in guiding a neophyte through the basics, giving them an idea or what (the author believes) they should be experiencing. More advanced bourbon fans will still find the book useful as the book feature more than fifty bourbon brands’ predominate tastes and suggests cocktail recipes to complement them. There are all sorts of interesting tidbits besides the tasting information, along with nice photos and illustrations. It’s a perfect book for holiday gifting for anyone of “drinking age.”
Interestingly, Lisa Rogak, author Cats on the Job: 50 Fabulous Felines Who Purr, Mouse, and Even Sing for Their Supper (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015) has written two books on dogs, and this is apparently her first book on cats. Even if you don’t love cats, you’ll find this adorable book with photographs of the 50 hard-working felines, a fun read. If you ever thought that cats can’t be trained to do anything much more than sleep and eat, think again! The (real) cats profiled in the book are doing real jobs from being a Japanese stationmaster, to helping ease suffering as a hospice worker, and even as a cat as an exercise trainer! I love cats, so I’m biased, but I was besotted with these beautiful felines. When a cat shows a talent, all you have to do is encourage it (and have a lot of patience). Perhaps the photos and descriptions of these beautiful creatures will inspire you to find hidden talents in your pets, too. This makes a fabulous gift for just about anyone of any age. It’s a “feel good: (or should I say felineGood) book.
Who doesn’t love the scent and taste of vanilla? It’s a known aphrodisiac. But when we think of vanilla we often think of dessert, or beverages. In 100 recipes-including 32 dishes carefully curated from 33 internationally acclaimed chefs worldwide, all using vanilla as a key ingredients. For example, there’s a recipe for fish and vanilla, and even meat and vanilla. note every recipe is for beginners, but you’ll be inspired by how versatile vanilla can be. Other chefs participating in this book are UK superstars Yotam Ottolenghi, Peter Gordon, William Curley, and Galton Blackiston who have contributed mouthwatering recipes…you will want to try a few, for sure. Vanilla sometimes means “bland” but there’s nothing bland about it! Vanilla is an aphrodisiac. Vanilla is a lot more “50 shades” of “plain.”
Once you are a celebrity, your book is sure to capture attention.Yes Please by Amy Poehler, (Dey Street 2015) is a new, paperback version of a book that is Ms. Poehler’s “selfie. Read all about Amy’s random thoughts and dig into some stories that are mildly amusing. Everything is subjective and so are book reviews, so if you’re really into Amy, you will find it fascinating. it does appear to be authentic and honest and it is hefty enough to make this list of gift books (a lot of what’s in it seems to be filler, to beef it up, but well..ok). Get “up close and personal” with Amy, no matter what the topics. For non-readers, this book is also available on Audible featuring the voices of Amy Poehler, Carol Burnett, Mike Schur, Kathleen Turner, and a live recording from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Amy’s World Famous Sex Advice includes things like try not to fake it and don’t let your kids sleep in your bed. It’s probably meant to be funny, but I didn’t laugh. The book has a lot of fun photos. If you love Amy Poehler you are going to want to hear all about her life. This book is a great gift for her fans.
Beautifully illustrated cookbooks are not just great gifts for the holidays, but they become”keepsakes” that can be passed down to other generations, Most of us have at least one cookbook with pages stained from mom’s or grandma’s favorite recipes.The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition by Amelia Saltsman (Sterling Epicure) is a fascinating look at traditional Jewish cuisine made novel, fresh, delicious,and delightful. Buy this one for yourself or as a gift, and pass it on to someone after you’ve loved it for years. The book is organized by the Jewish Calendar, but if you’re looking for yet another recipe for babka or kugel, you won’t find it. The book takes “old world” ingredients in traditional Jewish recopies, and makes them modern in ways that your grandmother never imagined. The author does a good job of presenting dishes that will appeal to a wide variety of ages and lifestyles, and the recipes are relatively easy. For instance, a carrot, date and preserved kumquat salad, or a honey and apple cake that you can make fairly quickly. The front of the book has some background on the origins of Jewish Food, ingredient essentials (most are easy enough to find), fundamental kitchen techniques, , and a bit about how to use the book. The photos by Staci Valentine are exquisite. As the Levys Rye Bread commercial used to say: “you don’t have to be Jewish…” The book is a winner that will appeal to everyone, not just those “in the tribe.”
There are many books about Coco Chanel. She is an iconic figure in the fashion world, and her designs have stood the test of time and area coveted all over the world. Fashion is ever-changing, Coco Chanel: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon by Megan Hess (Rizzoli, 2015) is a history in illustrations (with text) of Coco Chanel’s life from her humble beginnings, to today’s managers of Chanel who hold the torch and move the company forward. There are more than 100 illustrations in black, white and a touch of red. Covered in the pages are all the iconic items Chanel made famous, from the little black dress, the classic quilted bags with chain handles, shoes, accessories and even perfume and makeup. The book has quotes from Coco Chanel herself, and other fashion icons and how the brand shaped their lives as well as everyone else’s. Chanel means something extra-special to those who love fashion and beauty and this book is cute, not just a dry history. The author, Ms. Hess, knows how to draw adorable (if glorified) pictures of Coco and her designs. She is a fashion illustrator who associated with Bloomingdales she did all the cover artwork for all of Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell’s books (more recently a private commission for Michelle Obama). Check out the author at www.meganhess.com.
A book that costs less than the ingredients you might need to create the recipes is the $30.00 A Year in Cheese: A Seasonal Cheese Cookbook by Alessandra Grano with Contr5iubtions by Leo Guarneri (sept 2015). This new, hardcover coffee table type book breaks down cheese by season, using many exotic cheeses and recipes collected from the famous artisan cheese shop Androuet (established in Paris in 1909). The photos are mouthwateringly delicious, and the recipes look sophisticated. The book is not geared toward the neophyte in terms of the ease of the recipes, but if you are a cook and/or lover of cheese, it’s fabulous.The cheese recipes are the crème de la crème for those who adore cheese and cooking, but they’re recipes are not super-easy. One that is, and that I tried, is how to make your own home-made cheese. One complaint: the amount of (exotic an/or pricey) cheese required for most of these recipes could bankrupt a modest food budget. But it’s a lovely coffee table book and the “whey” to a cheese lovers heart.
Simply Glamorous: Make-up Transformations to Make You Look & Feel Fabulous by Gary Cockeril St Martins Press 2-15 ($26.99) isn’t a holiday book as much as a beauty “how-to” to help inspire women every day of the year. Any fashionista or anyone who works in beauty, fashion and lifestyle would love it, so why not make it their holiday gift? The book is oversized and the cover photo of a woman’s face is so compelling, you almost can’t stop staring at it. Inside are dozens of different types of “models” who are mostly under age 30. Mr. Cockerill demonstrates different makeup techniques and looks on them and to be fair, even if they weren’t young and pretty, the makeup is astounding. The real focus of this interesting book is for Cockerill to show off his professional expertise and to demonstrate how cosmetics can make every woman look radiant and feel confident in her appearance. Even though my readers will not have the skill or the patience to do the looks, I picked up a number of ideas and techniques that I didn’t know. As a beauty editor myself, these would work for a large majority of women. You can see photos and step by step demonstrations of how to do the various looks for eyes, face and lips. While some of the drama is from expert contouring of the face, which is not something I’d recommend to most beginners, almost everyone can take their makeup look up a notch (or two) with the information in this book. The illustrations, before and after, and pretty stunning. My only complaint is that there should have been more older models and more from different ethnic groups. Still, even if you are not a 20-year old, the tricks and tips are worth the book.
Starting a journal is life-altering. So what better time to get started than 2016? The Instant Happy Journal: 365 Days of Inspiration, Gratitude, and Joy By Karen Salmansohn , Ten Speed Press, 2015) . This paperback book with colorful dotted cover has a page for every day of the year in which to write your thoughts, often with a question posed to you such as “What made you feel afraid today?” or On a score of 1 to 10 how happy are you today?” The questions will help to spark your imagination. Other “happiness prompters” include motivational quotes and scientific studies, While the idea is to uplift you every day and encourage you to write, you are creating a personal treasure when every page is full and the year is over. Give this to anyone you know going through “life changes” from a teen to a new retiree, to a new mom, grandma, sister, friend. In short, just about anyone.
Here’s a book that I’m willing to bet you and your holiday gift list recipients don’t have. It’s The Complete Wild Game Cookbook: Includes 165 Recipes (Robert Rose Press, August 20, 2015) By Jean Grappe. The book fascinated me, even though I’m not a “hunter.” There is information and there are recipes for exotic foul and animals including Game Birds such as: Duck, Woodcock, Grouse, Ptarmigan, Guineafowl, Partridge, Rock Dove, Northern Bobwhite, Pheasant, Quail, Thrush, Lark and Lapwing, and also game animals such as Caribou, Deer, Baby Wild Boar, Muskox, Black Bear, Beaver, Hare, Seal and Squirrel. You may not want to eat, let alone cook, any or all of these, but then again, you might. The tips on butchering and even calorie counts and how to pair with wine are entertaining and informative, along with the detailed recipe instructions and step by step illustrations (some of the animals themselves, no comment on this). It’s just exotic enough to be absolutely absorbing.
Sue Coleman, the author of Breaking Up is Hard To Do but remaining with a LOSER is even harder! (By Sue Coleman, June 2015) sings her heart out on a CD that is included with her self-published, paperback book, but it’s not Neal Sedaka’s famous “Breaking Up is Hard To Do.” Each song on her CD is of her own creation, meant to boost inspiration of the individual chapters in the book. The original pop, rock and blues songs performed by Sue Coleman are the best part of the book. As with so many of these relationship books, the authors believe that they are sharing something unique, powerful, etc. But while the experiences might be completely authentic, the advice isn’t anything new. Basically, the author says be wary of losers and break free. The supposed nine powerful rules to end and avoid doomed relationships are things most adults already know, even if they don’t always follow them. The idea of a CD with the book is a novel one, and for that reason if no other, I’m suggesting it as a holiday gift idea. My advice? Go with your gut and when everything screams “this is wrong” don’t ignore that inner voice…listen to Sue Coleman’s CD, instead!