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Author Archive: "Ann E."

I Want My Hat Back

Jon Klassen's charming picture book transcends age. The story is simple but utterly hilarious. The illustrations are pointed and evocative; the way Klassen draws the animals' eyes, alone, is worth the price of admission. I've recommended this book more than any other this year. Hands down: brilliant.

The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World

With continued civil and political unrest and a recent, unusually severe drought forcing food shortages and pandemic starvation, Somalia is a country with a complex history and an uncertain future. That makes Jay Bahadur's account of the infamous pirates that patrol the nearby waters especially significant. Bahadur gained unprecedented access to the men (many of whom had been trained by the government in a series of failed attempts to create a national coast guard) and paints a vivid and poignant picture of their daily reality of desperation and survival. At once shocking and humane, The Pirates of Somalia will open your eyes to the other side of the news story.

The Hidden Reality

In the first chapter of The Hidden Reality, Brian Greene writes, "There was a time when 'universe' meant 'all there is.' Everything. The whole shebang." Well, those days are over. From string theory to the Inflationary Multiverse scenario to artificial universes (yes, you read that right: our potential to create new universes), Greene's thought-provoking new book encapsulates the major theories that go along with proving (or disproving) the existence of worlds beyond our own. The beauty of Greene is his talent for presenting such esoteric material in a package accessible to those of us unfamiliar with the details of Einstein's cosmological constant or the many layers of a braneworld scenario. Highly recommended.

The New Basics Cookbook

Rosso and Lukins's New Basics is a fantastic overall cooking resource. I'm a bit of a cookbook nut, yet, of all the volumes on my shelves, this is the one that I regularly return to for ideas, guidance on the fundamentals (measurements, roasting time, flavor pairings, etc.), and the plethora of delicious recipes. In lieu of photos, there are detailed drawings that illustrate complicated steps or just add a little character to the page, all of which are a lovely complement to the easy-to-use layout and organization of the chapters. The New Basics gets high marks from this cook.

I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections

The essays in Ephron's charming collection range from the very relatable (vignettes covering everything from egg yolks to Thomas Friedman) to the delightful and personal (as in "Journalism: A Love Story," which recounts her post-college days in a largely male-dominated profession), and all are filled with humor, wit, and the perfect sprinkling of self-deprecation and vitriol.

The Outlander

The Outlander is a rare novel. Its beautifully breathless language seduces your attention to the smallest detail. From the first sentence you find yourself running, running with a woman you've just met, for reasons unclear, from pursuers unknown. Yet you don't stop running, nor does she. She runs, in fear and confusion, across fields and up mountainsides, in her mind and through her dubious memory. The frenetic pace carries you through the story and uncovers a world of survival and isolation, brutality, freedom, and love, and introduces you to an extraordinary cast of reprobates, rugged outsiders, and a pair of unusually large, red-headed twins. So incredible is Adamson's description of this journey, I believe The Outlander will be my number one pick for years to come.

Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties

"Peggy Knickerbocker's Simple Soirées is a testament to good food and entertaining. Each menu includes tips for table decorating and a handy party planning guide, which details what can be done days or hours ahead of time. But the real treasure here are Knickerbocker's gorgeous recipes and her inimitable talent for marrying flavors...."

The Concise Oxford American Dictionary

As Erin McKean, editor in chief, remarks in the preface, "A dictionary should be a tool for daily use, not a dreaded last resort." I am here to confirm that McKean and Oxford have produced a dictionary that is anything but dreaded. In addition to clear, succinct definitions of over 180,000 entries, The Concise Oxford American Dictionary includes a handy reference section that covers details of presidents and states, chemical elements, weights, measures, punctuation, and quick grammar tips. With the rise of the Internet as a reference tool, one may think it unnecessary to own a physical (gorgeously constructed) dictionary; but the weight and feel of the pages flipping to unfamiliar words and long-standing beloved ones is still indispensable to me, even in this day and age. More importantly, in using a reference from Oxford, I can be certain that I have an accurate, thorough, and trusted source at hand.

John, Paul, George and Ben

A charming introduction to the Founding Fathers, John, Paul, George, and Ben is filled with Lane Smith's characteristic whimsical and sly illustrations — not to mention his hilarious take on history! Sure to please picture book lovers of all ages.

Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information Is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from Our Brains to Black Holes

Though the idea of information theory as the foundation of all of science is not new, Seife presents his argument in a fresh, compelling way that's practicable to the lay reader. The material covered is certainly absorbing, but it's Seife's fluid and engaging style that will keep you turning pages.

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