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Best Cookbooks of 2014

As the cookbook buyer for Powell's Books, I am the lucky one who gets to choose every new cookbook that comes into our stores. This means I have a pretty sweet cookbook collection, but I try to keep my shelves under control by limiting myself to only one bookcase of cookbooks. When a new cookbook comes in, a lesser performer has to get kicked out.

No longer do I keep a cookbook because someday I might need to bake a wedding cake, or just because it has a pretty cover (I'm pretty much lying here; I have plenty of cookbooks just because I like the cover, but they are slowly getting thinned out). Most of my cookbooks are real workhorses, in all their food-splashed glory.

Below are the 2014 cookbooks that I cook from at home, and that I heartily recommend to my friends and Powell's customers. There were many other delicious, beautiful, and/or creative cookbooks released this year, but these are the ones that found a place on my shelves, in my heart, and, most importantly, in my belly! Here, in no specific order, are my favorite cookbooks from 2014:


Best Kids’ Books of 2014

No, I'm sorry, it's impossible. The best kids' books of 2014? The best? Can't do it. There have been entirely too many exceptional examples of the smart, the hilarious, the exciting, the heartfelt, and the downright weird. To think we could pick just a handful and call them the absolute best for the whole 12 months, 365 days, 31,557,600 seconds of 2014 — who do we think we are?

Well, we're a group of booksellers and book lovers who just love loving books. The more we love books, the more we love recommending books. In fact, we recommend them to each other all the time, because what could be better than diving into a book, knowing someone you know or respect absolutely loved that book? So, in the spirit of all that, I give you my recommendations of 10 books, some recommended to me, some just my own recommendations, which I've loved loving and which I definitely recommend recommending.


William Gibson: What I’m Giving

At Powell's, we feel the holidays are the perfect time to share our love of books with those close to us. For this special blog series, we reached out to authors featured in our Holiday Gift Guide to learn about their own experiences with book giving during this bountiful time of year.

Today's featured giver is William Gibson, author of The Peripheral.

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What books are you giving to friends and family this holiday season and why?
Glow by Ned Beauman because it's brilliant, tight, funny.

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway because it's like Douglas Adams wearing Joseph Conrad, but better, and the author's imagination is utterly, delightfully peculiar.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes because I love ardent intra-genre contemporary weirdness, and her Detroit is superb.


Fred Armisen: What I’m Giving

At Powell's, we feel the holidays are the perfect time to share our love of books with those close to us. For this special blog series, we reached out to authors featured in our Holiday Gift Guide to learn about their own experiences with book giving during this bountiful time of year.

Today's featured giver is Fred Armisen, author of The Portlandia Cookbook.

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What books are you giving to friends and family this holiday season and why?
Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes across America by John Waters and Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Two very funny books by two of my favorite people in the world.

Have you ever bought a book that you intended to give as a gift but ended up keeping for yourself?
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn.


Mary Oliver: What I’m Giving

At Powell's, we feel the holidays are the perfect time to share our love of books with those close to us. For this special blog series, we reached out to authors featured in our Holiday Gift Guide to learn about their own experiences with book giving during this bountiful time of year.

Today's featured giver is Mary Oliver, author of Blue Horses: Poems.

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What books are you giving to friends and family this holiday season and why?
Any volume of the Sufi poet Rumi translated by Coleman Barks. Additionally, The Gift by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky.

Is there a book you find yourself gifting year after year?
Perhaps not gifting every year, but I read every year Emerson: The Mind on Fire by Robert Richardson.


Cary Elwes: What I’m Giving

At Powell's, we feel the holidays are the perfect time to share our love of books with those close to us. For this special blog series, we reached out to authors featured in our Holiday Gift Guide to learn about their own experiences with book giving during this bountiful time of year.

Today's featured giver is Cary Elwes, author of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride.

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What book are you giving to friends and family this holiday season?
Brando's Smile by Susan L. Mizruchi.

Have you ever bought a book that you intended to give as a gift but ended up keeping for yourself?
Never. The best gifts are the ones you want for yourself.


Edward O. Wilson: What I’m Giving

At Powell's, we feel the holidays are the perfect time to share our love of books with those close to us. For this special blog series, we reached out to authors featured in our Holiday Gift Guide to learn about their own experiences with book giving during this bountiful time of year.

Today's featured giver is Edward O. Wilson, author of The Meaning of Human Existence.

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What book are you giving to friends and family this holiday season and why?
J. Craig Venter's Life at the Speed of Light. The ultimate discipline of the biological sciences will be synthetic biology, the radical modification and creation of new forms of life. This book is by one of the pioneers of the field and is clearly and cogently written.

What's the best book you've received as a gift?
As an 18-year-old sophomore at the University of Alabama, it was Ernst Mayr's Systematics and the Origin of Species from the Viewpoint of a Zoologist, in which I learned about evolution.


Neil Patrick Harris: What I’m Giving

At Powell's, we feel the holidays are the perfect time to share our love of books with those close to us. For this special blog series, we reached out to authors featured in our Holiday Gift Guide to learn about their own experiences with book giving during this bountiful time of year.

Today's featured giver is Neil Patrick Harris, author of Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography.

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Do you have a favorite children's book to give budding readers?
I love Roald Dahl. His books are so quirky and odd — and great bait to get kids interested in reading. They all have odd, dark elements yet are filled with humor and humanity. One of my favorites is Danny the Champion of the World — a beautifully written story of a boy and his father, and their adventures hunting quail. I'd love to make it into a movie someday.

Have you ever bought a book that you intended to give as a gift but ended up keeping for yourself?
Indeed! And often! It's one of my favorite pastimes: shopping for others and buying for myself. Most recently: ...


Eleanor Catton: What I’m Giving

At Powell's, we feel the holidays are the perfect time to share our love of books with those close to us. For this special blog series, we reached out to authors featured in our Holiday Gift Guide to learn about their own experiences with book giving during this bountiful time of year.

Today's featured giver is Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries.

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What books are you giving to friends and family this holiday season and why?
I'm giving poetry to my partner, who is a poet himself and so very difficult to buy for, as his tastes are much more diverse and informed than mine. I know that the presses he most admires are New Directions, The Cultural Society, Flood Editions, Talisman House, and the recently formed Verge Books — I'll do some research first and find what's new and forthcoming on their lists.

Is there a book you find yourself gifting year after year?
I've given The Gift by Lewis Hyde to a great many people. For obvious reasons, it's a book that's best given away.

Continue »


The Collected Poems of James Laughlin

Fall has brought us a true gift in the publication of the massive The Collected Poems of James Laughlin, published by New Directions in an exceptionally beautiful hardcover edition. The book includes an inexhaustible number of poems, in a lovely 1,214(!) page tome.

Laughlin is best known as the founder of New Directions Publishing, the U.S. publisher that championed, and has continued to champion, the work of people as diverse as Ezra Pound and Denise Levertov, Hermann Hesse and Henry Miller, William Carlos Williams and Roberto Bolaño, and Muriel Rukeyser and Clarice Lispector. There's a story about the origins of this dedication to such a broad and defining list, one that would go on to help shape Modernism in our time. It goes like this: when Laughlin was a young man, he took a leave from his studies at Harvard and went to study with Pound in Italy. In the end, Pound told Laughlin he couldn't write, so he should go home and use his money (Laughlin's family was quite wealthy) and publish those who could. Namely, as it turned ...


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