‘Tis the season! Each week of December, we’re featuring 12 e-books based on a weekly theme. It’s our Lucky Stars promotion holiday style: the more, the merrier! This week, we’re highlighting books about the goodness of the holiday season — from celebrating glorious food to considering the people and ideas that matter most to us. In essence, we’re sending you tidings of comfort and joy with these books…
The Christmas Letters by Lee Smith: In The Christmas Letters, three generations of women reveal their stories of love and marriage in the letters they write to family and friends during the holidays. It’s a down-home Christmas story about tradition, family, and the shared experiences of women. Here, in a letter of her own, Lee Smith explains how she was inspired to write this celebrated epistolary novel:
Like me, you probably get Christmas letters every year. I read every word and save every letter. Because every Christmas letter is the story of a life, and what story can be more interesting than the story of our lives? Often, it is the story of an entire family. But you also have to read between the lines with Christmas letters. Sometimes, what is not said is even more important than what is on the page.
In The Christmas Letters, I have used this familiar format to illumine the lives, hopes, dreams, and disappointments of three generations of American women. Much of the story of The Christmas Letters is also told through shared recipes. As Mary, my favorite character, says, “I feel as if I have written out my life story in recipes! The Cool Whip and mushroom soup years, the hibachi and fondue period, then the quiche and crepes phase, and now it’s these salsa years.”
I wrote this little book for the same reason I write to my friends and relatives every holiday–Christmas letters give us a chance to remember and celebrate who we are.
With warmest greetings, Lee Smith
Sugar Pie and Jelly Roll by Robbin Gourley: Raised on a farm in North Carolina, Robbin Gourley started baking as a child the day she got her first toy oven. She’s been producing beautiful paintings for almost as long. Her newest cookbook is a perfect combination of all of Gourley’s talents, bringing together over sixty of her classic Southern dessert recipes (ranging from Chocolate Chess Pie to Syllabub), and over seventy-five of her delicate watercolors. Taking us back through reminiscences of her youth, Gourley shares how sweets wound their way through her childhood and family: the Raspberry Summer Pudding that her mother made with their freshly picked berries, the Pumpkin Chiffon Pie her uncle couldn’t resist, and the Sugar-Crust Pound Cake that became her father’s favorite. Divided into sections, the cookbook features easy-to-follow recipes for Pies, Crisps, and Crumbles; Puddings and Custards; Candy, Cookies and Bars; Favorite Cakes; Chilled and Spirited Desserts; Embellishments and Sauces.
Just the thing to round out the meal, Sugar Pie and Jelly Roll makes creating desserts as much fun as helping them disappear.
How to Spell Chanukah edited by Emily Franklin: These essays, by Adam Langer, Tova Mirvis, Steve Almond, Eric Orner, and others, range from the comedic to the snarky, the poignant to the poetic, and includes such topics as the jealousy experienced in December when the rest of America is celebrating Christmas (we never get to join in the reindeer games!); the problem parents have dampening their children’s desire for more presents (call it Greedikah!); and the weight gain associated with eating 432 latkes in eight nights (dayenu, enough!).
Whether your Chanukahs were spent singing “I have a Little Dreidel” or playing the “Maoz Tzur” on the piano, whether your family tradition included a Christmas tree or a Chanukah bush, whether the fights among your siblings over who would light the menorah candles rivaled the battles of the Maccabees, or even if you haven’t a clue who the Maccabees were, this little book proves there are as many ways to celebrate Chanukah as there are ways to spell it.
Man with a Pan by John Donohue: Look who’s making dinner! Twenty-one of our favorite writers and chefs expound upon the joys—and perils—of feeding their families. Mario Batali’s kids gobble up monkfish liver and foie gras. Peter Kaminsky’s youngest daughter won’t eat anything at all. Mark Bittman reveals the four stages of learning to cook. Stephen King offers tips about what to cook when you don’t feel like cooking. And Jim Harrison shows how good food and wine trump expensive cars and houses.
This book celebrates those who toil behind the stove, trying to nourish and please. Their tales are accompanied by more than sixty family-tested recipes, time-saving tips, and cookbook recommendations, as well as New Yorker cartoons. Plus there are interviews with homestyle heroes from all across America—a fireman in Brooklyn, a football coach in Atlanta, and a bond trader in Los Angeles, among others.
What emerges is a book not just about food but about our changing families. It offers a newfound community for any man who proudly dons an apron and inspiration for those who have yet to pick up the spatula.
Pie Every Day by Pat Willard: Pie Ever Day will convince even beginning cooks that, with very little fuss or trouble, delicious, filling, nutritious pies can indeed be offered up at the family table every day. Includes a comprehensive chapter on crust-making. “Witty . . . beautiful, as sweet as you know what, I ate it up.”– The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB, GOOD COOK CLUB, AND CONTRY HOMES AND GARDENS selection.
Southern Belly by John T. Edge: John T. Edge, “the Faulkner of Southern food” (the Miami Herald), reveals a South hidden in plain sight, where restaurants boast family pedigrees and serve supremely local specialties found nowhere else. From backdoor home kitchens to cinder-block cafés, he introduces you to cooks who have been standing tall by the stove since Eisenhower was in office. While revealing the stories behind their food, he shines a bright light on places that have become Southern institutions.
In this fully updated and expanded edition, with recipes throughout, Edge travels from chicken shack to fish camp, from barbecue stand to pie shed. Pop this handy paperback in the glove box to take along on your next road trip. And even if you never get in the car, you’ll enjoy the most savory history that the South has to offer.
Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers by Mark Bailey and Edward Hemingway: In this entertaining homage to the golden age of the cocktail, illustrator Edward Hemingway and writer Mark Bailey present the best (and thirstiest) American writers, their favorite cocktails, true stories of their saucy escapades, and intoxicating excerpts from their literary works. It’s the perfect blend of classic cocktail recipes, literary history, and tales of the good old days of extravagant Martini lunches and delicious excess.
When Algonquin Round Table legend Robert Benchley was asked if he knew that drinking was a slow death, Benchley took a sip of his cocktail and replied, “So who’s in a hurry?” Hunter S. Thompson took Muhammad Ali’s health tip to eat grapefruit every day; he just added liquor to the mix. Invited to a “come as you are” party, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, arrived in their pajamas ready for their cocktail of choice: a Gin Rickey.
Forty-three classic American writers, forty-three authentic cocktail recipes, forty-three telling anecdotes about the high life, and forty-three samples of the best writing in literature –Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers delivers straight-up fun.
52 Loaves by William Alexander: William Alexander is determined to bake the perfect loaf of bread. He tasted it long ago, in a restaurant, and has been trying to reproduce it ever since. Without success. Now, on the theory that practice makes perfect, he sets out to bake peasant bread every week until he gets it right. He bakes his loaf from scratch. And because Alexander is nothing if not thorough, he really means from scratch: growing, harvesting, winnowing, threshing, and milling his own wheat.
An original take on the six-thousand-year-old staple of life, 52 Loaves explores the nature of obsession, the meditative quality of ritual, the futility of trying to re-create something perfect, our deep connection to the earth, and the mysterious instinct that makes all of us respond to the aroma of baking bread.
Camille Glenn’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Cookbook by Camille Glenn: A keepsake cookbook inspired by the classic meal of holidays past, from the author of THE HERITAGE OF SOUTHERN COOKING. It’s divided into nineteen holiday menus, which salute seasonal activities from “Trimming the Tree” to “Ringing in the New Year.” A BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB’S GOOD COOK BOOK CLUB SELECTION.
The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani: It is 1953 in the tight-knit Italian neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware. Maddalena Grasso has lost her country, her family, and the man she loved by coming to America; her mercurial husband, Antonio, has lost his opportunity to realize the American Dream; their new friend, Guilio Fabbri, a shy accordion player, has lost his beloved parents.
In the shadow of St. Anthony’s Church, named for the patron saint of lost things, the prayers of these troubled but determined people are heard, and fate and circumstances conspire to answer them in unforeseeable ways.
With great authenticity and immediacy, The Saint of Lost Things evokes a bittersweet time in which the world seemed more intimate and knowable, and the American Dream simpler, nobler, and within reach.
Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner: Like most of us, Lauren Winner wants something to believe in. The child of a reform Jewish father and a lapsed Southern Baptist mother, she chose to become an Orthodox Jew. But as she faithfully observes the Sabbath rituals and studies Jewish laws, she finds herself increasingly drawn to Christianity. Taking a courageous step, she leaves behind what she loves and converts. Now the even harder part: How does one reinvent a religious self? How does one embrace the new without abandoning the old? How does a convert become spiritually whole.
In Girl Meets God, this appealingly honest young woman takes us through a year in her search for a religious identity. Despite her conversion, she finds that her world is still shaped by her Jewish experiences. Even as she rejoices in the holy days of the Christian calendar, she mourns the Jewish rituals she still holds dear. Attempting to reconcile the two sides of her religious self, Winner applies the lessons of Judaism to the teachings of the New Testament, hosts a Christian seder, and struggles to fit her Orthodox friends into her new religious life.
Ultimately she learns that faith takes practice and belief is an ongoing challenge. Like Anne Lamott’s, Winner’s journey to Christendom is bumpy, but it is the rocky path itself that makes her a perfect guide to exploring spirituality in today’s complicated world. Her engaging approach to religion in the twenty-first century is illuminating, thought-provoking, and most certainly controversial.
Golfing with God by Roland Merullo: Herman “Hank” Fins-Winston was a pro golfer destined for greatness. Now he lives in a condominium on the thirteenth fairway of one of heaven’s glorious courses – a fact he finds surprising and amusing, since for one reason or another, a fair percentage of golfers never make it to paradise. Hank is having the time of his afterlife until he’s summoned one idyllic morning to play a round with the Almighty. It seems that God is having some trouble with His game. As they play the heavenly courses, both in paradise and back on earth, Hank comes to realize that what began as a golf lesson has become a spiritual journey.