With winter solstice on the horizon, and hopefully a bit of respite to yourself during the busy holiday season, may we suggest a curated book list for your pleasure? And perhaps you have a few readers in your life that may appreciate the simple present of new words to ponder, rejoice and retreat into. So we sought the gift advice of Elizabeth Lane for every kind of reader on your list, from the foodie to the naturalist - all titles can be found online through our favorite local bookstore, Elliott Bay Book Company.
And for even more on all things literary, visit past The Literary Edit columns for more suggested titles to discover and enjoy.
For the Foodie:
Ottolenghi Simple by Yotem Ottolenghi
One of the most anticipated cookbooks, at least for us! Ottolenghi’s cookbooks have been a longtime, if sometimes daunting, favorite and now he brings his stunning recipes with an added dash of simplicity – in terms of time, ingredients and elegant flavor. In three words – simple beautiful food.
Wine Food: New Adventures in Drinking and Cooking by Dana Frank and Andrea Slonecker
A foodie home cook’s best friend and aid in how to pair impeccable wine with rustic, gourmet, accessible food. Filled with recipes that are perfect for dinner parties or cozy nights in. A perfect host gift that pairs naturally with your finest bottle of red!
Dinner at the Long Table by Andrew Tarlow and Anna Dunn
Published a few years ago, this is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks that serves double duty in terms of aesthetic beauty, elevating a kitchen countertop or coffee table in an instant. Organized around a year of menus, this book straddles the aspirational and accessible, with meals that are both easy and elegant, alongside ones that will test your skills. Tarlow and Dunn give us a sincere invitation to live well through all the seasons.
For the Aesthete and Naturalist:
Just Kids: Illustrated Edition by Patti Smith
This book deserves a category all its own. In this lyrical memoir, Patti Smith recounts her youthful romance with Robert Mapplethorpe and their lives as young artists in downtown New York at the close of the 1960s. This is a perfect Valentine's Day read and serves as a beautiful love letter to not only a person, but to a distinct time and place: late 1960s New York, a period in which a decade's turbulence brought forth new expressions of art in a city that made such expression possible. Now in an illustrated edition, this book will live equally well on your coffee table next to your 2010 first edition.
The Hidden Life of Trees: The Illustrated Edition by Peter Wohlleben
One of the most perspective-shifting books in recent years, Peter Wohlleben raises the question: are trees social beings? Yes! The author then sets out his case that the forest is, indeed, a complex social network with connections surprisingly similar to human families. Marrying stunning photographs with narrative, Wohlleben brings his book off the shelf and to the coffee table where it will continue to spark conversation. A joyful read that will turn your springtime walk in the woods completely upside down as you approach the mysteries of nature with fresh insight.
How to be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery
Aran Goyoaga on Cultivating Love in the Kitchen + Meringue Cake with Roasted Apples From Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple
"Set a humble table and eat beautiful simple food. Nothing has to be fancy. When you make yourself comfortable, your guests will feel comfortable."
I loved Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus and so was thrilled when her latest came out, How to be a Good Creature. As evidenced by Octopus and reaffirmed here, Montgomery defines the best parts of being human by looking closely into the inner lives of animals. This book answers the age old question, "Are we alone?" The answer is a most resounding and glorious, “Of course not!” Montgomery masterfully shows us the many ways animals help make our paths in this world a little lighter.
For the Storyteller:
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
The book that is destined for every book lover’s shelf, The Library Book by Susan Orlean is the quiet gem that will stand in time as an unparalleled classic. While Orlean focuses on the central events around devastating 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire, this story breaks all narrative bounds. Part memoir, part investigative journalism, with the perfect dash of history -- all mix in perfect proportion to create an exceptional tribute to our libraries. Stunning in every way.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
The Overstory by Richard Powers begins in what seems to be a collection of short stories, before transforming into a style that is utterly without definition. One of the most important books and an essential read, this epic novel will have you stepping into your backyard forests with new perspective.
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
Celebrated author Haruki Murakami returns with a new novel that deftly explores the themes he does so very well, namely the mysteries of the human condition. Part ghost story, part fairy tale, and written in a style and voice uniquely his own and wholly familiar to his readers, Haruki Murakami’s new novel tackles redemption, rebirth, and the stories that cannot be told.
For the Kids:
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
An absolute gem of a book as Kate DiCamillo continues to provide brilliant stories for our younger readers. In Louisiana's Way Home, DiCamillo uses her characteristic sparse simple prose to bring Louisiana’s story to a wide range of readers. Louisiana is so unflinchingly honest, brave and persistent as she seeks to find her way "home." The perfect book to curl up with, either as a read-aloud or read-alone, be prepared to have your heart broken and then mended again as you journey through Louisiana’s tale.
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin
In my mind, there are few YA authors as inventive as M.T Anderson, and his latest, a collaboration with Eugene Yelchin, is nothing short of brilliant and engaging for both the avid and reluctant reader. This story has it all: warring kingdoms, adventure and honor, this is a tale that’s hard to put down. I couldn’t help imagine the little boy from “The Princess Bride” reading it aloud with his grandfather. In this story, the narrative elegantly transitions from parable to heartwarming tale of friendship and redemption, with a clear political message and a humor that will delight adults and kids, alike.
Blue Window by Adina Rishe Gewirtz
In a way that reminds me of Peter Pan, Adina Gewirtz’s Blue Window takes children's fantasy to epic heights. One evening a window in their living room mysteriously turns blue, the catalyst for a journey to a strange land as five siblings search to both find their purpose and their way home. A perfect choice for the middle-school reader who understands the power of make believe.