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The Avid Reader July 2008
THIS MONTH
In This Issue:

» Best Overall Cookbooks

» Famous Chefs

» Shelf Talk

» June's Most Expensive Books Sold

» Notes from Avid Readers

Survey

If you have comments about this issue of the Avid Reader, please send us your feedback.

All the recommended snacking from last month's Avid Reader has given me an appetite - maybe I'll cook up something scrumptious.

My first kitchen memory is of begging my trusted mother for a chunk of chocolate, not noticing how quickly she acquiesced, and being crestfallen when I ended up with a mouthful of bitter, unsweetened disappointment.

In the background of that memory I can see my mother's well-loved copy of The Joy of Cooking (A North American institution, much like Delia, to you Brits), always on the counter, then above my eye-level.

It has seen better years, but is still holding on, a red ribbon marking the recipe page for the pancakes we had on weekends and other favourites - all with notes scrawled in the margins and the spills of the spoils decorating the pages.

By now the cookbook shelf has expanded and changed, but the basics - the dog-eared, beloved staples - remain.

Cookery books provide inspiration, instruction and sometimes, even a really good read.

From meats to sweets, here is the best of the bunch to fill your home with good sounds and smells.

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BOOKS IN REVIEW
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Cream of the Crop: Best Overall Cookbooks

Whether a budding cook or a seasoned veteran in the kitchen, if you're serious about food, here are some cookbooks you'll want on hand.

The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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The River Cottage Meat Book
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Growth hormones, antibiotics, depleted rainforest, treatment of livestock and more - the word 'meat' has a heavy political burden to carry these days. In The River Cottage Meat Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall reminds us what those back teeth are for; long before we mass-produced and mucked it up, meat was a staple in the vast majority of diets, and can be healthy, sustainable, delicious.

Rustic and simple, Meat Book goes back to basics with focus on understanding how to choose the best meat and prepare it in skilled, mouth-watering, delectable ways.

If nothing says 'summer' to you like the smell of a steak on a grill, you'll love The River Cottage Meat Book.
The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

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The New Moosewood Cookbook
by Mollie Katzen

Moosewood cookbooks are immensely popular, and with good reason. In 1977, a time when vegetarianism was seen as a crazed hippie fad, the Moosewood collective, who are responsible for the famed vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant (in Ithaca, NY, since 1973) published the first of their now famous cookbooks, and brought with it exciting, varied, flavorful and nutritionally sound recipes.

Beautifully illustrated and simply explained, the Moosewood cookbooks have been winning over vegetarians and omnivores alike for 35 years. This is the most recent in the collection, but if you love to cook and want to cook healthfully, any and all of the Moosewood family are great bets to keep in your kitchen. I recommend the Curried Squash and Mushroom Soup.
How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman

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How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food
by Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman believes that everyone not only can cook, but should. Realizing cooking is daunting for many, he wanted to take the guesswork out of it, and put the fun back in. How to Cook Everything has something for everyone, from basic tips and clear directions to tried-and-true tricks, even if you know your way around the oven already.

Dropping all the mystique and pretence so often found in the culinary world, How to Cook Everything provides what a cookbook arguably should: a variety of high quality, well-explained, accessible recipes to tantalize and tempt. And with over 1500 of those recipes to choose from, this cookbook is a must-have staple for your kitchen.
The Joy of Cooking 75th Anniversary Edition by Irma S. Rombauer

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The Joy of Cooking - 75th Anniversary Edition
by Irma S. Rombauer

In 1931, a housewife named Irma Rombauer, who was facing poverty and troubling times, first self-published her collection of recipes and cooking tips, then titled The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat. In 2006, 75 years and numerous editions later, The Joy of Cooking was one of the most published, sold, and relied-upon cookbooks in the world, and the 75th Anniversary Edition was released. Irma Rombauer died in 1962, and over the years the format, style and voice of The Joy of Cooking changed with each release, but its well-loved and reliable reputation continued.

In this most recent edition, much of the original feel was restored, including 4500 recipes (many of which are very simple), excellent reference and instruction, a section of classic recipes from older editions, and a section about nutrition.
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From Famous Foodies
Chinese Food Made Easy
by Ching-He Huang

Who doesn't love egg rolls, chow mein, dumplings, plum sauce and spicy ginger beef? Chinese cuisine is universally popular, and can be made healthy, cheap and delicious in our homes.

But to a novice chef, embarking on a whole new nationality of cooking can be as daunting and clumsy as trying to eat with chopsticks for the first time. With unfamiliar methods, flavours and ingredients, it can be tempting to reach for the phone and order takeaway rather than risk getting it wrong and wasting a lot of bamboo shoots.

Ching-He Huang sets the reader and chef at ease with her simple descriptions of modern, tasty Chinese dishes that anyone can make. From beloved basics like chop suey, to adventurous, spicy Szechuan treats, Huang provides her readers with everything needed to make their own Chinese feast with ease and confidence.
Chinese Food Made Easy by Ching-He Huang

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Pure Food: How to Shop, Cook and Have Fun in Your Kitchen Every Day
by Christine Cushing

Christine Cushing's latest book Pure Food: How to shop, Cook and Have Fun in Your Kitchen Every Day takes the aspiring chef right from the supermarket shelves through the preparation of delicious meals. Cushing provides her own flavour and ideas for buying locally and eating fresh, healthy food.

Cushing encourages the use of unique produce, and the diversification of the reader's produce consumption away from just "peas and carrots". To ease any potential hesitation, she includes pictures, descriptions and purchasing tips for various types of produce such as gai-lan, rapini and kumquats. Her shopping tips also expand to include seafood, meat and poultry.

As useful for reference as it is for recipes, Pure Food is not to be missed.
Pure Food by Christine Cushing

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Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food
by Gordon Ramsay

If you've ever watched his reality television show, Hell's Kitchen, you know Gordon Ramsay has a short fuse and can cuss like a sailor. The chefs he trains are put through rigourous, demanding and often demeaning tests, belittled, abused and tongue-lashed to within an inch of their frying pans. But for all the possible criticism of Ramsay's methods, he is an exceptional chef, and commands respect from foodies worldwide. He has won several prestigious awards and honours, and in 2007 became one of only three chefs in the UK to have three Michelin stars at once.

In Fast Food, Ramsay takes into account that not everyone has the resources, time, money and skill to create gourmet masterpieces every night, but he maintains it's no excuse to not eat well - he provides ample knowledge and guidance to make healthy, satisfying meals with the average person's money and time.
Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food by Gordom Ramsay Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food by Gordon Ramsay

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Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast
by Nigella Lawson

If we have Passion for Books at AbeBooks, Nigella Lawson has passion for food. She gets excited about cuisine, taking it beyond sustenance to the senses, tasting as she goes and obviously loving every second of the creation. To her, cooking is all about the id, the pleasure, the enjoyment of nourishing ourselves with good tastes, good smells and good food.

Similar to Ramsay's Fast Food, this latest from Lawson also focuses on making her concoctions more accessible, more universal, to get as many people as possible eating well, learning, experimenting, and elbow-deep in deliciousness. Dive in, and wait for your taste buds to thank you.
Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

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Want more great cookbooks?

Check out our Cooking Feature page! It has interviews, lists, reviews, recommended books, award-winners and more.
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Shelf Talk: Reference to Recipe - A Closer Look at CookBooks
by Richard Davies - PR Manager; Resident Brit.

In my kitchen, there are 21 cookery books on a bookshelf within splattering distance of the cooker. I thought there would be a dozen at most and I was rather surprised to count so many. My balti cookbook 100 Best Balti Curries by Diane Lowe and Mike Davidson is by far the dirtiest with more disgusting brown and yellow stains than recipes. If you scraped off the food particles from its pages, there would be enough for a lamb dansak and perhaps a starter too.

Celebrity chefs have written some of my cookbooks and some are penned by gorgeous 'stove bunnies' while others are written by folks I have never heard of. They are a real mixture. Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course is the bedrock of our cookbook shelf - no finer example of English middle class culture exists than Delia. Users of this book simply call it Delia - they say 'I'll look in Delia' or 'Let's see how Delia would do it.' When we moved to Canada from the UK, Delia came with us - although immigration doesn't know, so don't tell.

Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book is our spiritual guide to cakes and sweet things - and I have absolutely no idea where this spiral-bound book came from. It must have been a gift. The Everyday Vegan by Dreena Burton is our recommended read for vegan stuff. We are not vegetarians, vegans or even tree-hugging hippies, but this is an excellent book. We also have Vive Le Vegan by the same author, but have never opened it.

Earlier this year, she-who-must-be-obeyed bought Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld, and I was deeply scornful of the book and its stylistic design. After all, Jessica was just the wife of a famous comedian and not even a proper cook. However, her muffin recipe won me over and now I think it's a pretty good cookbook for people with young families.

We also have Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy, Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver and How To Eat by Nigella Lawson, but frankly they are all rubbish.

As we have a young family, our most influential cookbook of the past six years has been Annabel Karmel's. Annabel is the queen of cooking for babies but many people have not heard of her. If you have a bun in the oven then check out her books.

The biggest and heaviest cookbook on our shelf is Christopher Idone's Glorious American Food. It's a 1985 first edition in excellent condition and I bought it for $3 at a secondhand book sale earlier this year. I have no intention of ever using it for recipes - I just like to look at the beautiful photography of regional cooking around the States. I suspect I am not alone in enjoying food porn - this one is more coffee table than kitchen table.

In truth, I have never read any of these cookery books from start to finish. Does anyone? Although I like cookbooks, I don't love them - they are no more than reference books.

However, I do love books that provide an insight into the world of professional kitchens. Anthony Bourdain started it all with Kitchen Confidential - a graphic account of the crimes and misdemeanours committed by chefs. Bourdain, a highly experienced chef himself, is an excellent writer and is withering about the Jamie Olivers of this world. The Nasty Bits is an excellent collection of Bourdain's essays - it's also worth a look.

Last Christmas, I was thrilled to unwrap Heat by Bill Buford. A writer and editor at The New Yorker magazine, Buford quit his journalism job to become a chef in the famed Babbo Restaurant in New York. He recounts his training in painful detail - his painful burns, his painful humiliations, and his painful mistakes. He travels to England to meet Marco Pierre White - the maddest, baddest and craziest of all the mad, bad and crazy chefs. Buford also goes to Italy to work with a mad, bad and crazy butcher, who had attained superstar status for what he could do with a knife.

I like to cook, but thanks to the likes of Buford and Bourdain I never want to work in a restaurant kitchen. I can only liken it to working on a daily newspaper - never ending pressure and never ending deadlines with success dependent on a team effort.

Tell us about your favourite cookery book and your contribution could be featured on AbeBooks (don't forget to tell us your name and where you're from)!
The Cookery Book Shelf of Richard Davies
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ON THE SITE
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Richard & Judy's Hot Summer Reads

Richard & JudyRichard & Judy have once again announced their list of must-read books for this summer - plus, find signed copies here.

See the whole list

Pump and Circumstance - Petrol Stations in Literature

Gas StationsBy the time you reach the end of this article petrol prices will probably have increased another five pence. Filling up is getting us down. However, the humble petrol station has been a focal point of American culture for more than 75 years and not just for drivers - novelists and screenplay writers have been pumping gasoline for years.

Fill 'er up

Life with Madonna

Life with MadonnaMadonna's brother spills the beans about her life, her music, her family and what makes the superstar tick.

Find the book

Bestsellers for June
  1. Revolutionary Road
    Richard Yates
  2. The Intelligent Investor
    Benjamin Graham
  3. A New Earth
    Eckhart Tolle
  4. The Shack
    William Young
  5. The Eyes of a King
    Catherine Banner
Most Expensive Books Sold in June
  1. An Universal History from the Earliest Account of Time to the Present
    £5,122
  2. Lord of the Flies
    William Golding - £4,517
  3. Souvenirs de la Suisse - 100 vues le plus remarquable
    £2,339
  4. The Etched Work of Frank Brangwyn
    Frank Newbolt - £2,317
  5. Poems with lithographs
    Frank O'Hara and Willem De Koonin - £2,195
See the whole list
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Notes from Avid Readers
Thank you so much to everyone (and there were a lot of you!) who wrote to share experiences and opinions about abominable or excellent book to film adaptations. It's clear our readers feel strongly about the books they love. Here are some of the comments we received (I now have some titles to rent - and some to avoid at all costs!).

One of my most enjoyable book-film experiences involved reading Edith Wharton's "Age of Innocence" in three days, and renting the film (1993, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer) on the evening of the third day.
—Darby C.

After reading through your lists of books that were made into movies, I could not believe that you left out C.S. Forester! The African Queen is an incredible movie, but the book is a revelation; the same and, yet, subtly different with no happy ending. And then we come to Horatio Hornblower. I discovered the series because the old Gregory Peck movie is one of my father's favorites but consider them way superior. Reading the series truly brings you back to early 19th century England in a way the movie never does. Since C.S. Forester is still in print after over 70 years, I'm obviously not the only who feels this way.
—Ann

What about that classic of all time Moby Dick? The book is a must read and hard to put down; the John Houston film is a classic film drama with real (not computer generated) and convincing special effects. But while story lines are similar the detail and the character of the plots are quite different. Each works very well in its own medium and is hard to surpass. Sadly they had to do a remake which is neither Melville nor Houston and comes a very poor third. —Richard

I enjoyed your article! I too love to read and also really like to watch movies - I am always SO disappointed when they take a good book and make horrible changes in the movie version! Two that I thought were quite good are:"Gone With The Wind" b/c it's a great story but many people won't attempt to read it, (900+ pages) and "Lonesome Dove", another good story with lots of well- written characters to get to know, and the movie followed the book quite closely. —Dee

"Forrest Gump": Tom Hanks made the movie, but the book (by Winston Groom) is almost unreadable. —Sharon

(editor's note: Three of you mentioned the movie "Forrest Gump" being superior to the book).
The only time I have seen a film that I liked as much as the book was Alice Walker's "The Color Purple". The book made me cry, and the film emotionally engages you as much as the book.
—Claire

James Clavell's "Tai Pan" was an excellent novel, albeit a bit of a slow start. The movie adaptation, however, was terrible. This big novel needed mini-series treatment like "Shogun". On the other hand, Clavell's "King Rat" was both an excellent novel AND an excellent movie.
—Mark

I loved both the book and the movie "Out of Africa". To me it was extremely romantic. The cast of the film made the book come to life. I would love more films as good as this one, and I reread the book occasionally.
—Doris

After seeing "Away from Her", I looked up Alice Munro's story on which it was based. It made me realize what a genius young Sarah Polley is; the movie far outshines the story.
—Deborah

To my mind the most egregious travesty of book into movie is "Mary Poppins" that dreadful, treacly, inexcusable interpretation of the real Mary Poppins, a force to be reckoned with and a formidable delight. —Marilyn

I must take this opportunity to whine and complain about "City of Joy" by Dominique Lapierre. The book was a wonder, has haunted me for years and years. So they then make such an insipid movie - oh my gosh - what a loser. It's criminal!
—Marjorie

Hi, great topic for a series of articles. How about George Orwell's "1984"? I thought the British cinematic rendering was amazingly true to the book. I think the movie was able to capture the tone of the book so well. Granted, as you say, it's impossible to include all the details and nuance of a novel in a movie, but they were very successful. Thanks.

—Jim

I think the worst film adaptation of a novel ever has to be "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding. The book, creepy as it is, is packed full of social and political commentary and is actually quite an eye-opener. The film focuses entirely on the surface story of the book, losing all the meaning Golding was trying to portray.
—Rebecca
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