Oh me, oh my, do we have some big names coming out with new books this week. You’re going to want to read all of these, and you should, because I’ve yet to hear a bad word about any of them.
Here are the upper tier releases for Apr 23, 2013:
Cooked by Michael Pollan; The Penguin Press; 400 pages
I’m gonna start this ridiculous Tuesday by highlighting Michael Pollan’s most recent food book, partly because I know that I’ve basically ignored cooking books on this blog (I specialize in burning, not cooking) and partly because you can’t go wrong with any of the books this week. Splitting the book into sections based on the four elements is a little bit cheesy (Ha! Get it? Talk about cheesy!), but its revelations and arguments still sound compelling.
In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook.
Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships: with plants and animals, the soil, farmers, our history and culture, and, of course, the people our cooking nourishes and delights. Cooking, above all, connects us.
The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris; Little, Brown, and Company; 288 pages
No, I have absolutely no idea what the title of Sedaris’s new essay collection refers to. Are we going to use owls as a model to explain diabetes? Are we going to inject owls with diabetes to see the effects? Are we going to shrink owls to a microscopic level and then go inside the human body and explore diabetes? So many questions, David Sedaris. Whatever the answer is, it’s sure to be hilarious.
A new collection of essays from the #1 New York Times bestselling author who has been called “the preeminent humorist of his generation” (Entertainment Weekly).
From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new book of essays taking his readers on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler’s experiences. Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marveling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist’s shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten.
Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende; Harper; 400 pages
Isabel Allende’s newest novel is ranked third on the list? Well, no, the order of the list is largely arbitrary, but thinking that does give you an insight into just how intense this week is for new releases. Allende has actually written a novel set in current times, and that’s going to be an interesting little change of pace from her previous works.
Isabel Allende’s latest novel, set in the present day (a new departure for the author), tells the story of a 19-year-old American girl who finds refuge on a remote island off the coast of Chile after falling into a life of drugs, crime, and prostitution. There, in the company of a torture survivor, a lame dog, and other unforgettable characters, Maya Vidal writes her story, which includes pursuit by a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. In the process, she unveils a terrible family secret, comes to understand the meaning of love and loyalty, and initiates the greatest adventure of her life: the journey into her own soul.
Frozen In Time by Mitchell Zuckoff; Harper; 416 pages
This book is wild. During WWII a cargo plane crashed in Greenland (important to remember that Greenland = icy). So a rescue plane was sent to save the crew. The rescue plane crashed. So an amphibious plane was sent to save both crews. That plane disappeared during a storm. Somehow people survived and Mitchell Zuckoff explains their harrowing story and his own inclusion on a recent expedition to find the disappeared amphibious plane. See? Wild.
Two harrowing crashes . . . A vanished rescue plane . . . A desperate fight for life in a frozen, hostile land . . . The quest to solve a seventy-year-old mystery
The author of the smash New York Times bestseller Lost in Shangri-La delivers a gripping true story of endurance, bravery, ingenuity, and honor set in the vast Arctic wilderness of World War II and today.
On November 5, 1942, a U.S. cargo plane on a routine flight slammed into the Greenland ice cap. Four days later, a B-17 on the search-and-rescue mission became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed. Miraculously, all nine men on the B-17 survived. The U.S. military launched a second daring rescue operation, but the Grumman Duck amphibious plane sent to find the men flew into a severe storm and vanished.
In this thrilling adventure, Mitchell Zuckoff offers a spellbinding account of these harrowing disasters and the fate of the survivors and their would-be saviors. Frozen in Time places us at the center of a group of valiant airmen fighting to stay alive through 148 days of a brutal Arctic winter by sheltering from subzero temperatures and vicious blizzards in the tail section of the broken B-17 until an expedition headed by famed Arctic explorer Bernt Balchen attempts to bring them to safety.
But that is only part of the story that unfolds in Frozen in Time. In present-day Greenland, Zuckoff joins the U.S. Coast Guard and North South Polar–a company led by the indefatigable dreamer Lou Sapienza, who worked for years to solve the mystery of the Duck’s last flight–on a dangerous expedition to recover the remains of the lost plane’s crew.
Drawing on intensive research and Zuckoff ‘s firsthand account of the dramatic 2012 expedition, Frozen in Time is a breathtaking blend of mystery, adventure, heroism, and survival. It is also a poignant reminder of the sacrifices of our military personnel and their families–and a tribute to the important, perilous, and often-overlooked work of the U.S. Coast Guard.