Here’s what I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on November 6 when I introduced viewers to some of my favorite books. Three are new. One is an old favorite. And there’s something for everyone. Really.
The Wildlands, by Abby Geni, is a true page-turning literary thriller. When an F5 tornado ravaged their small Oklahoma town, the McCloud siblings lost more than anyone. Their home and farm were instantly demolished. Their father simply disappeared into the storm. National media attention did more damage, and the brother, Tucker, abandoned his three sisters. But then, on the third anniversary of the storm, a nearby cosmetics factory is bombed and its lab animals released. Soon an injured Tucker turns up and enlists the help of his youngest sister, Cora. The brother she misses and loves and looks up to talks Cora into a cross-country mission of violence against all of humanity. The descriptions of the siblings’ relationships in this literary thriller are deeply touching. Cora’s transformation is mesmerizing and hard to see. The older sister’s determination to get her little sister back is amazing and inspiring.
Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus came out in October, and local author Irene Latham tells me that Oct. 8 was “World Octopus Day.” I had no idea. What I do know: Latham writes amazing, engaging, imaginative books for kids that are fun enough that adults will look forward to reading them aloud. And the colorful, clever illustrations here by Thea Baker are great fun. After she comes across a postcard, Agnes, a giant Pacific octopus, begins corresponding with other creatures below—and above—the waves. Her notes are funny—“Dear Human, Just because I have a beak that can crush bones and arms that stretch as wide as a car does NOT make me a monster. Love, Agnes.” This picture book for kids ages 5-9 is a clever way to teach young readers about ocean science and the lifecycle of this interesting animal. The back of the book has a list of websites and other books for further exploration. Also, I imagine there are some signed copies at The Alabama Booksmith. This is a lovely gift idea for your young readers.
Travels With Foxfire, by Paul Hudgins and Foxfire student Jessica Phillips, continues a time-honored tradition. Since 1972, the Foxfire books have celebrated (and at the same time preserved) the unique culture of Southern Appalachia. From Georgia to the Carolinas to Tennessee and Kentucky, there are 30 essays here that explore the origins of stock car racing, the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the vanishing art of gathering wild ginseng. Novelists, cooks, artists, water dowsers, musicians, moonshiners and bear hunters all are included here in this lovely tribute to the people, geography, history and traditions of this part of our world.
The Best Recipes in the World is one of my favorite books by New York Times bestselling author Mark Bittman. I also love his How to Cook Everything. However, in The Best Recipes in the World, Bittman takes food-lovers on a delicious, global journey. There are more than 1,000 recipes in this huge book. Some might sound daunting, but they are totally doable—especially with our awesome, local international markets on Green Springs Highway like Mi Pueblo. Lots of these recipes can be made ahead of time; hundreds are ready in 30 minutes or less. This time of year—when we’re cooking for those we love—why not give them something a little different? Spanish shrimp deviled eggs? Greek leg of lamb with thyme and orange? Chinese black bean and garlic spareribs? Swedish appletorte? Look for favorites like pad Thai and Indian tandoori chicken and French crème brulee, too. The book also features informational sidebars to explain techniques, ingredients and origins of dishes. And there are several international menus to really make a meal of it.