We won’t waste time trying to justify why you should buy books; if you’re in the books-are-dead crowd, you’re probably not reading this. But if you agree that books still matter, you already know that they are the perfect present – they can help pass an hour or change the direction of a life. What other gift has so much power? Not socks, that’s for damn sure.
And hey, we’re no purists; fit each book to its use. You’ll want to experience The Wes Anderson Collection in all its weighty coffee-table beauty, whereas some of our more prosaic cookbook picks may be most useful in the kitchen as a Kindle edition. Just remember, it’s tough to fetchingly wrap a wireless transmission.
[To see this post as a slideshow, click here.]
A baker’s dozen of the year’s best cookbooks
Le Livre Blanc by Anne-Sophie Pic (Jacqui Small): Stunning photography highlights artful dishes by one of the world’s true top chefs.
René Redzepi: A Work in Progress by René Redzepi (Phaidon Press): The Scandinavian chef’s journey of self-discovery charted in cookbook, journal and snapshots.
Elizabeth David on Vegetables by Elizabeth David (Studio): Reissue of a simple yet world-changing masterwork.
Robicelli’s: A Love Story, With Cupcakes: With 50 Decidedly Grown-Up Recipes by Allison and Matt Robicelli (Viking Books): Tart prose matches adult flavors.
Vegan Secret Supper: Bold & Elegant Menus from a Rogue Kitchen by Mérida Anderson (Arsenal Pulp Press): Innovative dishes sourced from the underground supper club.
Balaboosta by Einat Admony (Artisan): Like an Israeli Nigella Lawson, Admony is more home cook, less fancy chef.
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession and Recipes from Tokyo’s Most Unlikely Noodle Joint by Ivan Orkin (Ten Speed Press): A man, a plan, a bowl: Ivan. Recipes From an Edwardian Country House: Classic Tastes From the English Stately Home by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall (Atria Books): Get your Downton on.
Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand by Andy Ricker (Ten Speed Press): Travelogue-cum-cookbook of so-called humble dishes.
The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop by Emily and Melissa Elsen (Grand Central): Unexpected flavors and high-low combos.
Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen by Edward Lee (Artisan): Korean-Southern fusion from the Top Chef: Texas fan favorite.
Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans by Natalie Slater (Page Street Publishing): What it lacks in animal ingredients, it makes up for in punk attitude.
Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach (Ecco): Just breathe. And sit down to a meal with your loved ones.
The making of a kitchen dweller
Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard and the Reinvention of American Taste by Luke Barr (Clarkson Potter): Massive feat of research re-creates a defining moment of French-American cuisine.
No Experience Necessary by Norman Van Aken (Taylor Trade Publishing): A Key West Kitchen Confidential from a king of Floridian high-end dining.
Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites by Kate Christensen (Doubleday): How food can shape your life – and your art.
Drinking With Men by Rosie Schaap (Riverhead): Chronicle of the search for a warm, safe place among comrades by the New York Times cocktail columnist.
L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi (Ecco): West Coast knucklehead shapes up, launches modern food-truck movement. The first title from Anthony Bourdain’s Ecco imprint.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (First Second): Charming memoir of a food-obsessed childhood, told in comic form.
Portraits of and by our friends and neighbors
Facadomy: A Critique on Capitalism and Its Assault on Mid-Century Modern Architecture by James Cornetet (Process Press): A bucket list of Orlando midcentury marvels wrapped in a spot-on rant against poorly planned development.
American Fraternity Man by Nathan Holic (Beating Windward Press): Hilarious coming-of-age tale from the Burrow Press editor.
No Regrets, Coyote by John Dufresne (W.W. Norton & Co.): Everglades-set crime novel kicks off on an unquiet Christmas Eve.
Met Her on the Mountain: A Forty-Year Quest to Solve the Appalachian Cold-Case Murder of Nancy Morgan by Mark I. Pinsky (John F. Blair, Publisher): Orlando author unpacks a very cold case.
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis (Atlantic Monthly Press): Florida State University professor does nothing less than define post-WWII/pre-9/11 America.
Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman (Atlantic Monthly Press): An acidic tome covering five centuries of Floridian greed, racism and violence.
Observations on chic
Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli and Me by Patricia Volk (Knopf): The formative influence of two fashion obsessives.
Man Repeller: Seeking Love, Finding Overalls by Leandra Medine (Grand Central Publishing): What’s a fashion blogger to do when her addiction to eccentric ensembles turns off men?
The Asylum: A Collage of Couture Reminiscences and Hysteria by Simon Doonan (Blue Rider Press): Madcap exposé of the “glamorous madness” of the people who decide what you wear.
Diana Vreeland Memos: The Vogue Years edited by Alexander Vreeland (Rizzoli): Behind the scenes at work with the legendary editor.
Stories from behind the stick
Savory Cocktails: Sour Spicy Herbal Umami Bitter Smoky Rich Strong
by Greg Henry (Ulysses Press): Put down the simple syrup.
Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today by Warren Bobrow (Fair Winds Press): The Cocktail Whisperer shares classic alcoholic “remedies.”
Craft Cocktails at Home: Offbeat Techniques, Contemporary Crowd-Pleasers and Classics Hacked With Science by Kevin K. Liu (self-published): Invaluable principles of mixology, meticulously tested.
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks
by Amy Stewart (Algonquin Books): Guide to the herbs, spices, flowers, fruits, trees and nuts that flavor your cocktail.
The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That by Richard Betts (Rux Martin): No easier way to learn what you like.
Recipes by and for Orlandoans
9 Courses by Brandon McGlamery (Story Farm): The culinary roots of the James Beard-nominated chef of Luma and Prato; cookbook available at those restaurants or at lumaonpark.com or prato-wp.com.
The Southern Cowboy Cookbook by John Rivers (Story Farm): Local barbecue evangelist shares tips; available in 4 Rivers Smokehouse restaurants or at 4rsmokehouse.com.
Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan by Hollis Wilder (Stewart, Tabori and Chang): Owner-operator of Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly proves that not all cupcakes are sweet.
Where we are, where we’re headed
The Circle by Dave Eggers (Knopf): The slow-creep nightmare of working for a monolithic Google-esque tech corp.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf): Observations on American blackness by a non-American black woman. Bonus: The author is sampled on Beyoncé’s new album.
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese): Third volume of Atwood’s dystopian series is less rollicking, more elegiac, still terrifying.
Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw (Spiegel & Grau): Interlocking stories of China’s new pecking order from a Taipei Tom Wolfe.
New ways of seeing the everyday
The Best American Infographics 2013 edited by Gareth Cook, foreword by David Byrne (Mariner Books): Data visualization may be the apex art form of our time.
Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art from the Underground by Matthew Chojnacki (Schiffer Publishing): Don’t miss local Lure Design’s poster for The Shining.
Self Portrait as Your Traitor by Debbie Millman (HOW Books): Can a book of hand-drawn type make you cry? This one can.
The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz (Harry N. Abrams): Indispensable reference guide to the hermetic and beautiful world of Wes.
And Every Day Was Overcast by Paul Kwiatkowski (Black Balloon Publishing): Growing up bored and high in South Florida.
Words and pictures about sounds
Yé-Yé! Girls of ’60s French Pop by Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe (Feral House): Well-researched but not academic look at les demoiselles du French pop, with foreword by Lio (singer of the seminal “Le Banana Split”). Zou bisou bisou!
Late Century Dream: Movements in the U.S. Indie Music Underground by Tom Howells, Noel Gardner, Pavel Godfrey and Brian Howe (Black Dog Publishing): Editors from The Quietus, Pitchfork and NME take on America’s late-’90s scene. Bonus: cover photo by one of our own, Orlando photog Jim Leatherman.
Mexican Summer: Five Years Photo book of art and ephemera plus 10-inch vinyl (extremely limited edition, no digital version) from the label that brought you Best Coast, Kurt Vile, Tallest Man on Earth and more.
The Replacements: Waxed-Up Hair and Painted Shoes by Jim Walsh and Dennis Pernu (Voyageur Press): Treasure trove of previously unseen photos and interviews memorializing the late great rock-crit darlings.
True stories of the great and the wicked
A Mysterious Something in the Light: The Life of Raymond Chandler by Tom Williams (Chicago Review Press): New interviews and unpublished letters illuminate the private life of our finest crime writer.
Salinger by David Shields, Shane Salerno (Simon & Schuster): Muckraking oral history of the reclusive writer beloved by generations of undergrads.
Fosse by Sam Wasson (Eamon Dolan): Sex, drugs and jazz hands.
Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson (Scribner): The Bell Jar years.
Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch (Harper): Irascible jazz purist limns life of bebop pioneer. Not recommended for moldy figs.
Evocations of America’s eternal city
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Scribner): Sex and speed – the MPH kind – in the downtown ’70s art scene.
Bleeding Edge Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press): Pynchon on 9/11: Follow the money. Corruption, conspiracy, loathsome dot-com financiers. Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco): Small but flawless tale is nominally a “thriller,” but actually a portrait of a disappearing community.
Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem (Doubleday): Red-diaper baby raised in a Greenwich Village commune.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown and Co.): A Catcher in the Rye for the 21st century.
Chaos remembered in tranquility
Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen (Viking): Irascible jazz purist (and half of Steely Dan) limns own life. Not recommended for moldy figs.
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh (Touchstone): Sidesplitting comics of depression, dog ownership and cake.
Buck ’Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens by Buck Owens (Backbeat Books): Remarkably lucid reminiscences from the influential Bakersfield songwriter.
Mumbai New York Scranton: A Memoir by Tamara Shopsin (Scribner): Humor and intelligence suffuse the illustrator’s spare, incisive, yet emotional travelogue.
Autobiography by Morrissey (Putnam): This charming man.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.