We won’t waste time trying to justify why you should buy books; if you’re in the books-are-dead crowd, you’re probably not reading this. But if you agree that books still matter, you already know that they are the perfect present – they can help pass an hour or change the direction of a life. What other gift has so much power? Not socks, that’s for damn sure.
And hey, we’re no purists; fit each book to its use. You’ll want to experience The Wes Anderson Collection in all its weighty coffee-table beauty, whereas some of our more prosaic cookbook picks may be most useful in the kitchen as a Kindle edition. Just remember, it’s tough to fetchingly wrap a wireless transmission.
[To see this post as a slideshow, click here.]
A baker’s dozen of the year’s best cookbooks
Le Livre Blanc by Anne-Sophie Pic (Jacqui Small): Stunning photography highlights artful dishes by one of the world’s true top chefs.
René Redzepi: A Work in Progress by René Redzepi (Phaidon Press): The Scandinavian chef’s journey of self-discovery charted in cookbook, journal and snapshots.
Elizabeth David on Vegetables by Elizabeth David (Studio): Reissue of a simple yet world-changing masterwork.
Robicelli’s: A Love Story, With Cupcakes: With 50 Decidedly Grown-Up Recipes by Allison and Matt Robicelli (Viking Books): Tart prose matches adult flavors.
Vegan Secret Supper: Bold & Elegant Menus from a Rogue Kitchen by Mérida Anderson (Arsenal Pulp Press): Innovative dishes sourced from the underground supper club.
Balaboosta by Einat Admony (Artisan): Like an Israeli Nigella Lawson, Admony is more home cook, less fancy chef.
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession and Recipes from Tokyo’s Most Unlikely Noodle Joint by Ivan Orkin (Ten Speed Press): A man, a plan, a bowl: Ivan. Recipes From an Edwardian Country House: Classic Tastes From the English Stately Home by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall (Atria Books): Get your Downton on.
Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand by Andy Ricker (Ten Speed Press): Travelogue-cum-cookbook of so-called humble dishes.
The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop by Emily and Melissa Elsen (Grand Central): Unexpected flavors and high-low combos.
Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen by Edward Lee (Artisan): Korean-Southern fusion from the Top Chef: Texas fan favorite.
Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans by Natalie Slater (Page Street Publishing): What it lacks in animal ingredients, it makes up for in punk attitude.
Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach (Ecco): Just breathe. And sit down to a meal with your loved ones.
A CHEF’S LIFE
The making of a kitchen dweller
Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard and the Reinvention of American Taste by Luke Barr (Clarkson Potter): Massive feat of research re-creates a defining moment of French-American cuisine.
No Experience Necessary by Norman Van Aken (Taylor Trade Publishing): A Key West Kitchen Confidential from a king of Floridian high-end dining.
Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites by Kate Christensen (Doubleday): How food can shape your life – and your art.
Drinking With Men by Rosie Schaap (Riverhead): Chronicle of the search for a warm, safe place among comrades by the New York Times cocktail columnist.
L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi (Ecco): West Coast knucklehead shapes up, launches modern food-truck movement. The first title from Anthony Bourdain’s Ecco imprint.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (First Second): Charming memoir of a food-obsessed childhood, told in comic form.
FLORIDA WRITERS, FLORIDA STORIES
Portraits of and by our friends and neighbors
Facadomy: A Critique on Capitalism and Its Assault on Mid-Century Modern Architecture by James Cornetet (Process Press): A bucket list of Orlando midcentury marvels wrapped in a spot-on rant against poorly planned development.
American Fraternity Man by Nathan Holic (Beating Windward Press): Hilarious coming-of-age tale from the Burrow Press editor.
No Regrets, Coyote by John Dufresne (W.W. Norton & Co.): Everglades-set crime novel kicks off on an unquiet Christmas Eve.
Met Her on the Mountain: A Forty-Year Quest to Solve the Appalachian Cold-Case Murder of Nancy Morgan by Mark I. Pinsky (John F. Blair, Publisher): Orlando author unpacks a very cold case.
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis (Atlantic Monthly Press): Florida State University professor does nothing less than define post-WWII/pre-9/11 America.
Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman (Atlantic Monthly Press): An acidic tome covering five centuries of Floridian greed, racism and violence.
Observations on chic
Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli and Me by Patricia Volk (Knopf): The formative influence of two fashion obsessives.
Man Repeller: Seeking Love, Finding Overalls by Leandra Medine (Grand Central Publishing): What’s a fashion blogger to do when her addiction to eccentric ensembles turns off men?
The Asylum: A Collage of Couture Reminiscences and Hysteria by Simon Doonan (Blue Rider Press): Madcap exposé of the “glamorous madness” of the people who decide what you wear.
Diana Vreeland Memos: The Vogue Years edited by Alexander Vreeland (Rizzoli): Behind the scenes at work with the legendary editor.
Stories from behind the stick
Savory Cocktails: Sour Spicy Herbal Umami Bitter Smoky Rich Strong
by Greg Henry (Ulysses Press): Put down the simple syrup.
Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today by Warren Bobrow (Fair Winds Press): The Cocktail Whisperer shares classic alcoholic “remedies.”
Craft Cocktails at Home: Offbeat Techniques, Contemporary Crowd-Pleasers and Classics Hacked With Science by Kevin K. Liu (self-published): Invaluable principles of mixology, meticulously tested.
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks
by Amy Stewart (Algonquin Books): Guide to the herbs, spices, flowers, fruits, trees and nuts that flavor your cocktail.
The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That by Richard Betts (Rux Martin): No easier way to learn what you like.
Recipes by and for Orlandoans
9 Courses by Brandon McGlamery (Story Farm): The culinary roots of the James Beard-nominated chef of Luma and Prato; cookbook available at those restaurants or at lumaonpark.com or prato-wp.com.
The Southern Cowboy Cookbook by John Rivers (Story Farm): Local barbecue evangelist shares tips; available in 4 Rivers Smokehouse restaurants or at 4rsmokehouse.com.
Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan by Hollis Wilder (Stewart, Tabori and Chang): Owner-operator of Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly proves that not all cupcakes are sweet.
HOW WE LIVE NOW
Where we are, where we’re headed
The Circle by Dave Eggers (Knopf): The slow-creep nightmare of working for a monolithic Google-esque tech corp.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf): Observations on American blackness by a non-American black woman. Bonus: The author is sampled on Beyoncé’s new album.
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese): Third volume of Atwood’s dystopian series is less rollicking, more elegiac, still terrifying.
Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw (Spiegel & Grau): Interlocking stories of China’s new pecking order from a Taipei Tom Wolfe.
New ways of seeing the everyday
The Best American Infographics 2013 edited by Gareth Cook, foreword by David Byrne (Mariner Books): Data visualization may be the apex art form of our time.
Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art from the Underground by Matthew Chojnacki (Schiffer Publishing): Don’t miss local Lure Design’s poster for The Shining.
Self Portrait as Your Traitor by Debbie Millman (HOW Books): Can a book of hand-drawn type make you cry? This one can.
The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz (Harry N. Abrams): Indispensable reference guide to the hermetic and beautiful world of Wes.
And Every Day Was Overcast by Paul Kwiatkowski (Black Balloon Publishing): Growing up bored and high in South Florida.
Words and pictures about sounds
Yé-Yé! Girls of ’60s French Pop by Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe (Feral House): Well-researched but not academic look at les demoiselles du French pop, with foreword by Lio (singer of the seminal “Le Banana Split”). Zou bisou bisou!
Late Century Dream: Movements in the U.S. Indie Music Underground by Tom Howells, Noel Gardner, Pavel Godfrey and Brian Howe (Black Dog Publishing): Editors from The Quietus, Pitchfork and NME take on America’s late-’90s scene. Bonus: cover photo by one of our own, Orlando photog Jim Leatherman.
Mexican Summer: Five Years Photo book of art and ephemera plus 10-inch vinyl (extremely limited edition, no digital version) from the label that brought you Best Coast, Kurt Vile, Tallest Man on Earth and more.
The Replacements: Waxed-Up Hair and Painted Shoes by Jim Walsh and Dennis Pernu (Voyageur Press): Treasure trove of previously unseen photos and interviews memorializing the late great rock-crit darlings.
LIVES: 3RD PERSON
True stories of the great and the wicked
A Mysterious Something in the Light: The Life of Raymond Chandler by Tom Williams (Chicago Review Press): New interviews and unpublished letters illuminate the private life of our finest crime writer.
Salinger by David Shields, Shane Salerno (Simon & Schuster): Muckraking oral history of the reclusive writer beloved by generations of undergrads.
Fosse by Sam Wasson (Eamon Dolan): Sex, drugs and jazz hands.
Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson (Scribner): The Bell Jar years.
Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch (Harper): Irascible jazz purist limns life of bebop pioneer. Not recommended for moldy figs.
NEW YORK STORIES
Evocations of America’s eternal city
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Scribner): Sex and speed – the MPH kind – in the downtown ’70s art scene.
Bleeding Edge Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press): Pynchon on 9/11: Follow the money. Corruption, conspiracy, loathsome dot-com financiers. Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco): Small but flawless tale is nominally a “thriller,” but actually a portrait of a disappearing community.
Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem (Doubleday): Red-diaper baby raised in a Greenwich Village commune.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown and Co.): A Catcher in the Rye for the 21st century.
LIVES: 1ST PERSON
Chaos remembered in tranquility
Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen (Viking): Irascible jazz purist (and half of Steely Dan) limns own life. Not recommended for moldy figs.
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh (Touchstone): Sidesplitting comics of depression, dog ownership and cake.
Buck ’Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens by Buck Owens (Backbeat Books): Remarkably lucid reminiscences from the influential Bakersfield songwriter.
Mumbai New York Scranton: A Memoir by Tamara Shopsin (Scribner): Humor and intelligence suffuse the illustrator’s spare, incisive, yet emotional travelogue.
Autobiography by Morrissey (Putnam): This charming man.