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Ask a Book Buyer: Laugh-Out-Loud Reads, Children’s Cookbooks, and More

Ask a Book BuyerAt Powell's, our book buyers select all the new books in our vast inventory. If we need a book recommendation, we turn to our team of resident experts. Need a gift idea for a fan of vampire novels? Looking for a guide that will best demonstrate how to knit argyle socks? Need a book for a vegetarian who loves Radiohead and Flight of the Conchords? Email your question to askabuyer@powells.com. We'll be posting personalized recommendations regularly.

Q: The hardest thing to find is a funny book. I loved Richard Russo's Straight Man, Lisa Lutz, and Catch-22. But laugh-out-loud books are rare. Do you have a few recommendations? –Phillip

A: You must, must, must read Christopher Moore. Generally accepted as one of his best (and funniest) books is Lamb. I'm also extra fond of The Stupidest Angel, which is laugh-out-loud funny and one of the few books I've ever reread. –Tom

Q: My five-year-old granddaughter is currently reading at a second-grade level and has been cooking since she was not quite four. I want to find a good children's cookbook pitched at around the third- or fourth-grade level, since I expect her reading skills to grow as she homes in on more difficult content. As to her cooking, she's working on her knife skills now, which I never really did! –Will

A: Your granddaughter would enjoy Mollie Katzen's Pretend Soup, which is written for children and is full of healthy, imaginatively named recipes.

I also love Alice Waters's charming Fanny at Chez Panisse, which is gorgeously illustrated and full of seven-year-old Fanny Waters's stories about growing up in a restaurant kitchen. The book includes educational sections on how food makes its way from the farm to the table, recycling and composting, as well as nutritious, interesting recipes.

My last recommendation is The Kid's Cookbook: A Great Book for Kids Who Love to Cook! by Williams-Sonoma. Super practical and user-friendly, it contains photo illustrations of cooking techniques (including those knife skills!) and recipes flagged for a variety of skill levels. –Rhianna

Q: I like Romain Gary, Richard Hell, and William S. Burroughs. They're probably my favorite authors of all time, and I need new fiction books to read! Can you help me out? –Morgan

A: These are your next go-to authors and books; Jim Carroll (The Basketball Diaries), Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), Jack Kerouac (On the Road), Albert Camus (The Stranger), Fyodor Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment). Want to go darker and edgier? Georges Bataille (The Story of the Eye) and Michael Gira (The Consumer). –Aubrey

Q: Any suggestions for novels that deal with Judeo-Christian spirituality in a profound and complex way? Something like Shusaku Endo's Silence, or Chaim Potok's Asher Lev/Chosen novels? I also liked A Prayer for Owen Meany and Gilead, but they weren't as multilayered to me. –Pat

A: The most lyrically complex, intensely beautiful Jewish novel I have ever read is Henry Roth's Call It Sleep. –Rhianna

Q: Any book suggestions for my 53-year-old sister? Her favorites are The Tender Bar and Cheryl Strayed's Wild. –Jane

A: Have your sister try The Liar's Club by Mary Karr, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. Each of these narratives is written in the same frank, poignant vein as The Tender Bar and Wild. There is also a promising new memoir coming in January about the trials of a woman growing up with no legs called Mermaid, by Eileen Cronin. –Aubrey

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming...
    Used Hardcover $10.95
  2. Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes:...
    Used Hardcover $9.50
  3. Fanny at Chez Panisse: A Child's...
    Used Trade Paper $11.95
  4. The Kid's Cookbook: A Great Book for... Used Spiral/comb $13.50
  5. The Basketball Diaries Used Trade Paper $8.00
  6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A...
    Used Trade Paper $7.50
  7. On the Road
    Used Trade Paper $7.95
  8. The Stranger
    Used Trade Paper $4.95
  9. Crime and Punishment
    Used Trade Paper $5.50
  10. Call It Sleep Used Trade Paper $7.50
  11. The Liar's Club
    Used Trade Paper $6.50
  12. The Glass Castle: A Memoir
    Used Trade Paper $7.95
  13. Let's Take the Long Way Home: A...
    Used Trade Paper $4.95
  14. Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience
    Used Hardcover $9.95
  15. The Tender Bar: A Memoir
    Used Trade Paper $3.50
  16. Gilead
    Used Trade Paper $7.50
  17. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff,...
    Used Trade Paper $8.00
  18. Story of the Eye
    Used Trade Paper $6.00
  19. Wild: From Lost to Found on the...
    Used Trade Paper $7.95
  20. A Prayer for Owen Meany
    Used Trade Paper $4.95
  21. Silence
    Used Trade Paper $6.50
  22. Catch-22
    Sale Trade Paper $8.98
  23. Straight Man: A Novel
    Used Trade Paper $6.95
  24. The Chosen (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
    Used Trade Paper $4.95
  25. My Name Is Asher Lev
    Used Trade Paper $8.00

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