Real and unreal. Here are the books I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on May 1. There’s a brand new memoir/cookbook from Rick Bragg and a great guide to being a confident girl. Then things take a different turn with an educational book of folklore and a smart, twisty mystery.
The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table (Knopf) Rick Bragg, the beloved and bestselling author of All Over but the Shoutin’ is back with a new book in a familiar setting. This one is part food memoir, part cookbook but, overall and especially, a loving tribute to his mom. Readers will find more than 30 chapters, with delightful enigma-like titles like “Salt is Good,” “A Ham Hock Don’t Call for Help,” “Till it Thunders,” “Ribs in the Dead of Night” and “Untimely Figs.” Each section showcases a region and its food and its people with stories that will stay with you and recipes you’ll probably want to make. Because this is Rick Bragg, the stories are amazing, and you’ll know the remarkable people in them before this is all over. The recipes shine, too, with dishes like Wild Plum Pie, Fried Chicken (and Fried Chicken Gravy also known as “Water Gravy”), Real Biscuits, Vegetable Soup in a Short Rib Base, Fresh Fried Crappie with Hush Puppies and Tartar Sauce, Ham and Redeye Gravy over Fresh Diced Tomato. I’m not so sure about Baked Possum and Sweet Potatoes or Pan-Roasted Pigs Feet (even with a homemade barbecue sauce). The instructions are straightforward (to a point). The recipe lists exactly what you will need. Perfect Fried Eggs call for lard, eggs and luck. “How to cook it” is where this book really gets interesting. The directions become a conversation that meanders here and there and ultimately ends up with some tasty food on the table. It’s like standing in the kitchen and visiting and cooking alongside a traditional Southern cook like Bragg’s mother or my own grandmother—women who did farm-to-table long before it was a thing, women who measured in smidgens and dabs or, my favorite, “just some,” women who sustained those they loved with much more than the food they put on the table.
The Confidence Code for Girls (Harper) The authors of The Confidence Code, a bestselling book aimed at helping women of all ages at all stages of their careers have the self-assurance to achieve their goals, are back. This time, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman have written a book just for girls because this is how it starts. “Confidence,” they say, “gives you the power, the lift, the oomph to be yourself and do what you want—even when it’s scary.” Talk to an intimidating teacher? Check. Start a new club? Check. Join a basketball team, try out for a play and compete with boys in the classroom? Check, check, check. The book is cleverly written with graphic novel strips, fun lists and quizzes. Those, along with the stories from real girls and the authors’ wise advice, will leave a lasting impression and teach a lot of valuable lessons. Research shows that the tween and teen years are the best times for confidence creation. The idea with this book, written especially for girls ages 8 to 12, is to give these young women useful and practical tools to live bolder, braver and more confident lives—starting really, really early. Check!
Hairy, Scary, but Mostly Merry Fairies (NewSouth Books) The subtitle of Renee Simmons Raney‘s book—Curing Nature Deficiency through Folklore, Imagination, and Creative Activities—is a bit more serious than the title. That’s because connecting children with the natural world around them is increasingly more important and harder to do. Whether it’s a park, a farm, a forest or even a backyard, Raney believes every child deserves his or her own personal landscape. That’s where children can seek (and find) adventure and cultivate creativity, she says. This book, with charming illustrations by Carolyn Walker Crowe, combines fairy stories and folklore with hands-on, nature-related activities. Children learn about diverse habitats, creatures (supernatural and otherwise) and changing seasons while becoming more confident in exploring the wild outdoors. Raney is the director of the Conservation Education Institute of the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust. Fans all over the U.S. (and even worldwide) have enjoyed her environmental education programs, storytelling and fairy workshops. She includes in this little book a guide for educators that incorporates writing, math, art and science. You’ll even learn how to build a proper fairy house.
I Let You Go (Berkley) I do I love a twisty novel! I Let You Go is exactly that. And it’s set along the coast—the cliffs and beaches—of Wales. In this mystery thriller by Clare Mackintosh, Jenna Gray is running—from her old life, from a tragic car accident and from the loss of her child. The remote Welsh coast seems far enough away from all that, but she soon finds it is not. Meanwhile, back in Bristol, detectives are scrambling to finally solve a frustrating hit-and-run case where the leads have often led to nothing. As Jenna finally finds the courage to move on from her painful past, and even hesitantly pursue a relationship, she soon realizes that it’s impossible to free herself entirely from her old life.