Posts Tagged: Backlist Love

Backlist Love | Flower Power

April 20, 2017 Backlist Love, Books 1

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

The Meaning of Flowers: Myth, Language, and Lore by Gretchen Scoble, ill. by Ann Field (Chronicle Books, 1998)

100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells, ill. by Ippy Patterson (Algonquin, 1997)

The Meaning of Flowers

From ancient days, long before words complicated what we say to each other, flowers have been our messengers, invested with our most cherished feelings. The Meaning of Flowers celebrates over sixty blossoms with gorgeous collages and thoughtful histories of what each flower has meant through the ages and around the world. Anyone who loves giving and receiving flowers will find much to intrigue in this enchanting look at one of humanity’s most prolific sources of symbolism.

100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names

From Baby Blue Eyes to Silver Bells, from Abelia to Zinnia, every flower tells a story. Gardening writer Diana Wells knows them all. Here she presents one hundred well-known garden favorites and the not-so-well-known stories behind their names. Not for gardeners only, this is a book for anyone interested not just in the blossoms, but in the roots, too.

Why I liked them

Well, let’s be honest — these books are just so pretty. I’m no gardener, but I do enjoy the beauty (and sometimes weirdness) of blooms. Also, I think that various human cultures’ use of flowers is incredibly interesting. We as a species like to assign meaning/significance, and sometimes very odd names, to the showiest reproductive parts of plants.

Who I’d recommend them to

Neither of these books are particularly scholarly or in-depth at all. In fact, I’d say the real focus of The Meaning of Flowers in particular is its charming collage-style illustrations. 100 Flowers has a bit more of a narrative structure to it, and the writing is decent — actually, it turns out that the author of this one used to write for a magazine called GreenPrints (linked below), which I haven’t read but must mention because of its delightful tagline: “The Weeder’s Digest”….

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that these might not be engrossing novels, BUT they could be nice gift books for the gardeners in your life, or even for people with a tangential interest in Colonial/Victorian-era botany and social customs.

Links

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Backlist Love | Let’s talk about S-E-X

February 12, 2017 Backlist Love, Books 4

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach (W. W. Norton & Company, 2008)

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig (W. W. Norton & Company, 2014)

Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles by Robin Baker (Basic Books, 2006)

Bonk

In Bonk, the best-selling author of Stiff turns her outrageous curiosity and insight on the most alluring scientific subject of all: sex. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Why doesn’t Viagra help women — or, for that matter, pandas? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Mary Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm — two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth — can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to make the bedroom a more satisfying place.

The Birth of the Pill

We know it simply as “the pill,” yet its genesis was anything but simple. Jonathan Eig’s masterful narrative revolves around four principal characters: the fiery feminist Margaret Sanger, who was a champion of birth control in her campaign for the rights of women but neglected her own children in pursuit of free love; the beautiful Katharine McCormick, who owed her fortune to her wealthy husband, the son of the founder of International Harvester and a schizophrenic; the visionary scientist Gregory Pincus, who was dismissed by Harvard in the 1930s as a result of his experimentation with in vitro fertilization but who, after he was approached by Sanger and McCormick, grew obsessed with the idea of inventing a drug that could stop ovulation; and the telegenic John Rock, a Catholic doctor from Boston who battled his own church to become an enormously effective advocate in the effort to win public approval for the drug that would be marketed by Searle as Enovid.

Sperm Wars

Sperm Wars is a revolutionary thesis about sex that turned centuries-old biological assumptions on their head. Evolution has programmed men to conquer and monopolize women while women, without ever knowing they are doing it, seek the best genetic input on offer from potential sexual partners. If you’ve ever looked upon sperm as a little army of white-coated soldiers setting off to sack and pillage a barely pregnable fortress… well, you’d be right, according to Dr. Robin Baker, who has studied sperm and cervical mucus in much greater detail than anyone would’ve thought necessary and has come to some startling conclusions.

Why I liked them

Well, you know, the actual subject of intimate human relationships is and always has been kind of a hot topic — especially with Valentine’s Day coming up. But beyond that, I just really like well-researched narrative nonfiction that can take an embarrassing or taboo subject and present it in an interesting or even humorous way. Bonk is probably the best of the bunch — or at least the funniest. The Birth of the Pill gets a little more into the weeds with all the history of contraception and early 20th century sexual health/culture issues, but is still absolutely fascinating and well worth the read. Sperm Wars is also fascinating, but TBH it kind of goes off the rails at some points. The author got a little too, uh, excited about the fictional scenarios he made up to illustrate certain points, for one thing. And even though his points are based on scientific research, the conclusions presented in this book should be taken with several very large grains of salt (they tend to rely on oversimplification of human psychology/behavior and outdated social norms).

Who I’d recommend them to

I’d recommend Bonk to just about anybody, or at least anybody who has a sense of humor about sex. The Birth of the Pill is great for people who are interested in the history of medicine or the medicalization of the human life cycle, or early feminism and its impact on our current contraceptive options. I’m a little more cautious about recommending Sperm Wars, though. Only read this one if you can stand to wade through unadvertised erotica and can recognize/contend with occasional pseudoscience.

Links

Bonk

The Birth of the Pill

Sperm Wars

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Backlist Love | Ol’ Blue Eyes

December 10, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 4

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

The Sinatra Treasures: Intimate Photos, Mementos, and Music from the Sinatra Family Collection by Charles Pignone, Quincy Jones, and the Frank Sinatra Estate (Bullfinch, 2004)

Sinatra by Richard Havers (DK, 2004)

The Sinatra Treasures

The first-ever collection from the archives of the legendary Chairman of the Board, filled with never-before-seen photos, letters, mementos, and more.

What is a legend? A legend is a man who, more than 65 years after stepping on stage for the first time, is still larger than life. A man who changed the way we wear our hats. A man possessed not of a voice, but The Voice. Frank Sinatra is a legend.

Sinatra

From poverty to power, Hoboken to Hollywood, this story is the embodiment of the American Dream. For over 50 years Frank Sinatra was at the epicenter of American life – on the radio, in the movie theaters, on TV, and in newspapers and magazines. Includes over 800 photographs, some rare and unseen, capture each moment of the legend’s seven-decade career.

Why I liked them

I have a little weakness for 1940’s music in general, and Frankie in particular. (And Bing of course, but right now we’re talking about Frankie.) That man had a VOICE, right? I was going through kind of a Frankie phase when I met my now-husband in high school — yes, a Society of the Serpent teenager having a crush on a dude that was born like 20 years before her own grandfathers is totally normal* — and he actually bought these for me. So, I’m sort of doubly attached to them, both for the content and for the sweetheart gift status.

But that means nothing to y’all, I know, so let’s talk about the books themselves. They’re both pretty hefty and packed with images, rather more like coffee table books than like regular biographies. The Sinatra Treasures book in particular is great because it comes with a CD with some random recordings of Frankie doing radio talk shows and that sort of thing, which I realize might not sound that appealing to most people who only hear Frankie incidentally at the mall during the holiday season, but for a fan it’s pretty interesting.

*OK, maybe not, but a girl can’t help the way she feels and don’t you judge me.

Who I’d recommend them to

Frank Sinatra fans, obviously. Or fans of 1940’s music/culture in general. I know that’s probably not a huge subset of my particular blog’s peanut gallery, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Frankie lately what with all the Christmas music floating around on the airwaves right now, so this seemed like as good a time as any to talk about these books.

Links

The Sinatra Treasures

Sinatra

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Backlist Love | Beauty School Dropout

October 15, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 4

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

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The Classic Ten: The True Story of the Little Black Dress and Nine Other Fashion Favorites by Nancy MacDonell Smith (Penguin, 2003)

Color Stories: Behind the Scenes of America’s Billion-Dollar Beauty Industry by Mary Lisa Gavenas (Simon & Schuster, 2002)

The Classic Ten

Explore the origins, meaning, and remarkable staying power of the ten staples of feminine fashion, including the little black dress, blue jeans, high heels, and more. Tracing the evolution of each item from inception to icon status, she reveals the history and social significance of each, from the black dress’s associations with danger and death to the status implications of the classic white shirt. Incorporating sources from history, literature, magazines, and cinema, as well as her own witty anecdotes, Smith has created an engaging, informative guide to modern style.

Color Stories

For everyone who’s ever slicked on lipstick, flirted with eye shadow, or browsed the bewildering array in any store’s beauty de-partment, “Color Stories” offers an insider’s view of all the brainstorming, bickering, and bitchery that go into those little sticks of color and pans of powder. Former beauty editor Mary Lisa Gavenas takes us behind the scenes during the nine months that culminate in the launch of a season’s all-important “color stories.” We discover how one shade becomes the “must have,” why makeup artists never use the same products as the rest of us, and exactly how easy — and impossible — it is to start a million-dollar makeup line.

Why I liked them

I realize that a lot of folks think of beauty and fashion as “vapid” interests, but these industries combined account for over 407 billion dollars of business done in the U.S. alone. I also think that some people dismiss these things because they’re seen as traditionally feminine, and that ain’t OK. So I’m really glad for books like these that discuss seriously some of the history/culture behind the beauty and fashion industries! Plus, this “behind-the-scenes” stuff is just downright fascinating.

Who I’d recommend them to

I’d say that if you’re interested in cute clothes or fun makeup at all, these books are for you. You don’t have to be an Instagram “model” or subscribe to Vogue as a prerequisite or anything — if you just swipe on a little lipstick now and then or appreciate a good comfy cashmere sweater, you can learn something super interesting from either of these books.

Links

The Classic Ten

Color Stories

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Backlist Love | Princess Charming

October 14, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 0

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

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Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen (Dutton, 2014)

Better than Beauty: A Guide to Charm by Helen Valentine and Alice Thompson (Chronicle, 1938)

Popular

Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at “pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular?

Better than Beauty

Better than Beauty resuscitates the long-lost art of charm with hints, tips, and tricks guaranteed to boost our charm quotient. First published in 1938, this classic compendium is overflowing with timeless advice to help guide you through a maze of social interactions with wit and finesse. Much more than an etiquette or personal grooming book, Better than Beauty tackles complicated social situations with delicacy.

Why I liked them

I picked up Better Than Beauty on a whim ages ago because I honestly thought it was a kitschy joke book just based on the cover (like those Anne Taintor magnets and things). Joke was on me, though, because it was actually a reprint of a pre-WWII guide to “charm” for women. And you know what? … it was actually exactly what I needed at that point in my life. It was one of those awkward time periods — both socially and physically — and having Betty Cornell’s vintage advice was actually one of the things that helped me figure out how to grow out of that. Along those same lines, I kind of wish I’d had Maya’s book at that age, too — but knowing teenaged me, I probably would have refused to read such an obvious “guidance counselor bait” book.

Who I’d recommend them to

Well, teen girls trying to drag themselves out of one of those awkward stages, of course. Or just anyone who’s interested in fashion and etiquette and that sort of thing — especially if you (like me) sometimes need a reminder that whatever trends you see in the fashion magazines aren’t the end-all-be-all of beauty/charm/social success.

Links

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Backlist Love | Slightly Less Depressing SFF

October 2, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 6

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

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The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Penguin, 2001)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (Pan, 1979)

The Eyre Affair

Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers….

Why I liked them

OK, I suppose the title ought to have been ‘Somewhat Cheery SFF’ or ‘More Likely To Make You Laugh Than Cry SFF’ but since I posted about ‘Slightly Depressing SFF’ yesterday I thought it might be best to continue the theme….

I enjoy somewhat silly books that make healthy use of puns, literary/film references, and, well, general silliness. Neither of these books are particularly heavy on character development or world-building or even particularly serious philosophy — they’re just good fun romps through quirky imaginary settings.

Also, both of these books are the first of series, so if you do enjoy them the fun doesn’t have to end when you turn the last page.

Who I’d recommend them to

TBQH, these books are not for everyone. They both involve heaping helpings of British humor, geeky humor, and just plain absurd humor — on top of liberal, deliberate use of just about every trope you can think of. If you need your spec fic to involve dragons or rebel princesses or epic space battles, these books are not for you. But if you’re intrigued by depressed androids or Shakespeare authorship gang wars or interstellar bulldozers or hardboiled book detectives… definitely give these titles a try.

Links

The Eyre Affair

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Backlist Love | Slightly Depressing SFF

October 1, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 4

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Anchor Books, 1998)

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Delacorte, 1969)

The Handmaid’s Tale

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….

Slaughterhouse-Five

Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Why I liked them

Don’t let the title of this post fool you — even though these books aren’t exactly uplifting, they do give me ALL THE FEELS. They’re both very political, tackling super tough topics like war and misogyny, but through the lens of somewhat absurd (initially, anyway) sci-fi circumstances.

Who I’d recommend them to

Um… everyone? OK, I guess folks who aren’t really into spec fic in the first place will probably not appreciate these books as much as they ought to be appreciated. I’d especially recommend The Handmaid’s Tale to folks who got really into the recent YA dystopian craze — especially to young women who are exploring their political opinions/options for the first time. Slaughterhouse-Five is a must-read for fans of Star Trek and other classic, thought-provoking science fiction stuff.

Links

The Handmaid’s Tale

Slaughterhouse-Five

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Backlist Love | Two Preston & Child Novels

July 1, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 0

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

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Riptide by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (Macmillan, 1998)

Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (Macmillan, 1995)

Relic

Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum’s dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human…

But the museum’s directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate the new exhibition, in spite of the murders. Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who-or what-is doing the killing. But can she do it in time to stop the massacre?

Riptide

For generations, treasure hunters have tried to unlock the deadly puzzle known as the Water Pit: a labyrinth of shafts and tunnels that honeycombs the heart of a small island off the coast of Maine. Reputed to be the hiding place of pirate treasure, the Water Pit possesses an inexplicable ability to kill those who venture into it, from professionals to innocent explorers. But now one man has made a startling discovery: The Water Pit is actually a carefully designed fortress, conceived for pirates by a renowned seventeenth-century architect who hid his plans in code.

A thriller of the highest order, Riptide is an extraordinary novel of obsession, courage, and adventure. With each nerve-racking page we are swept into the mystery and the challenge of Ragged Island and forced to face the haunting question: Is the Water Pit a gateway to limitless treasure–or to hell itself?

Why I liked them

Actually, I chose to feature these books today because my spouse really likes Preston & Child books, and today is his birthday, so I thought it would be fitting to tell y’all a little about how the other half reads.

I do like these two titles in particular, though. Relic is actually the first in a series of books that follow the thrilling adventures of investigator Aloysius Pendergast, but I think it stands well on its own. I loved the museum setting and, like, it doesn’t *exactly* involve dinosaurs, but it kind of does? No spoilers! Riptide really is a stand-alone, and I enjoyed it in particular because it involves pirates and a mysterious curse.

Preston & Child are masters of thrill and suspense. I was too keyed up to sleep properly after I started reading Relic the first time. And don’t let the double authorship turn you off — it’s really impossible to tell which bits are written by which person.

Who I’d recommend them to

These are great books for anyone looking for a contemporary (er, semi-contemp by now I guess), science-ish / paranormal-ish thriller. Relic is possibly the better of the two, but if you aren’t sure about starting a series right now you should definitely give Riptide a try. Like Michael Chrichton or Dan Brown? You should definitely try these books.

Links

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Backlist Love | Two Brandon Sanderson Novels

June 11, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 4

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

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Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2009)

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2005)

Warbreaker

Warbreaker is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn’t like his job, and the immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago. Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence known as breath that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people. By using breath and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished.

Elantris

Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.

Why I liked them

I’m a sucker for high fantasy stories with well-developed magic systems and plucky heroines, and Sanderson always delivers. Usually my favorite stories are published as doorstopper series, so these are somewhat unique on my shelves in that they’re stand-alone books. They’re both “Cosmere” novels (set in the umbrella universe that encompasses most of Sanderson’s fantasy books), but I don’t think you have to know anything about the author’s other series to be able to enjoy these.

I picked them up after I finished reading the Wheel of Time series, which Brandon Sanderson completed after its original author (Robert Jordan) passed away. I was impressed by this new-to-me author’s work, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get invested in another big fantasy series right away, so I tried these two stand-alones first instead — and I’m so glad that I did.

Who I’d recommend them to

TBH, I’d recommend the Mistborn series to Sanderson virgins first — Elantris was his first published novel, and Warbreaker was actually an experimental self-pub’d e-book project before the final version was released in paper format, and I do think that the Mistborn books represent a significant maturing of the author’s storytelling skills compared to these other two books.

But if you, like me, would prefer not to invest in a series right off when you can get a little taste of the author’s style/quality instead, by all means start with Elantris. I promise you’ll want to try Warbreaker (which is FREE in e-book format on the author’s website!!!) and Sanderson’s other books after that, too. And if you’re already a Sanderson fan, what are you waiting for?

Links

Warbreaker

Elantris

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Backlist Love | A Particulary Useful Cookbook

February 28, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 0

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

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Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today (General Mills, 2005; originally published 1969)

Betty Crocker Cookbook

From foolproof, dependable recipes to reliable how-to advice, the Betty Crocker Cookbook has everything you need for the way you cook today. Whether you’re a new or experienced cook, the Betty Crocker Cookbook is the book for you.

Why I liked it

This cookbook, out of all the ones I’ve read, is probably the one I’ve actually used the most often. It just has a lot of basic, solid dishes that involve easy-to-find and cheap ingredients. Plus it includes lots of “helper” info, like where on an animal various cuts of meat come from, or step-by-step photos for a few cutting methods.

My mother gave me this cookbook ages ago… I’m pretty sure it was a gift for my high school graduation, and I think her own mother did the same for her, so this cookbook is something of a family tradition. Even though this cookbook is over 10 years old I still use it on a regular basis.

Who I’d recommend it to

This is a great resource for beginning cooks who are ready to try out a variety of recipes. It’s especially helpful for people who enjoy “American” food like casseroles and that sort of thing — although there is a pretty good choice of flavors/variations to choose from to please just about any palate.

Links

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