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A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse

Mimi Thorisson. Clarkson Potter, $40 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8041-8559-2

In this warm and inviting collection, Thorisson, a French TV personality and author of Manger, a food blog devoted to French cooking, brings readers into the kitchen of her farmhouse in Médoc, which she shares with her five children, numerous dogs, and her husband, the photographer who provided the stunning photos that comprise nearly half of the book. Thorisson groups her offerings by season, providing starters, main courses, and desserts that utilize the best ingredients for the time of year. From spring’s onion tarts, artichoke soufflés, and Parisian sole to winter’s potato pie, garlic soup, and coq au vin, she provides something for every palate. Tuna rillettes, apricot panna cotta, and pork cheek ravioli with cèpes demonstrate the breadth of her skill. And while the appeal of this collection rests firmly on its recipes, the incredible photographs capture life in the French countryside. Sidebars on everything from dried grapevines and wine to garlic and visits the butcher add little details that transport the reader to this bucolic, idyllic world where Thorisson is the perfect host. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book

The Editors at America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen, $40 (504p) ISBN 978-1-936493-86-9

One would think that with over 50 recipe-packed books on their list that the folks at America’s Test Kitchen has said all that needs to be said about making the perfect meatloaf, burger, and chicken wings. But as they prove here, yet again, one would be wrong. This impressive collection of meaty mains runs the gamut, from basics like the perfect grilled T-bone and barbecued pork spareribs to regional classics like Baltimore pit beef, Philly cheesesteaks, and ethnic favorites cassoulet and Greek pastitsio. There’s plenty of juicy tidbits to be found in the margins as well, helpful tips on how to clean a spice grinder (use raw white rice), tie two pork tenderloins together in order to grill them evenly, and pick the best ketchup (go for Heinz Organic). Those familiar with America’s Test Kitchen’s recipes are likely aware that creating the “best” of anything often takes time; readers are advised to read recipes through a couple times before heading out to the grocery store. That said, carnivores with an obsession for perfection will likely have found their new bible in this comprehensive collection. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Inside the Test Kitchen: 120 New Recipes, Perfected

Tyler Florence. Clarkson Potter, $35 (256p) ISBN 978-0385344555

In his newest volume, Florence attempts to discover the best approaches for over 100 dishes. Some, like DIY bacon, tortilla chips, and ricotta, and the use of a mixture of meats for meatloaf and burgers (Florence recommends a 50/50 mix of beef chuck and short rib) aren’t exactly revelatory, but others, such as his Thanksgiving gravy that calls bacon, turkey backbone and a litany of vegetables and no-boil polenta gnocchi beg to be tried. Ingenious techniques such as poaching eggs in a muffin pan enable the cook to prepare a dozen at a time and riffs like French onion arancini, in which balls of risotto are stuffed with brie and caramelized onions, breaded, and the fried will send readers scurrying to the closest grocery store. Some of his “perfect” recipes are labor-intensive, such as Wayfare Tavern’s fried chicken, which is roasted and cooled before frying, but he also suggests spatchcocking your Thanksgiving turkey to cut roasting time in half and includes a time-saving risotto and a basic mix that can be used for pancakes, waffles, muffins, cakes and even cookies. Whether readers are looking to save time or create the ultimate burger, scrambled eggs or pork chops, Florence and his staff have the answers. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A View from Beneath the Dancing Elephant: Rediscovering IBM’s Corporate Constitution

Peter E. Greulich. MBI Concepts Corporation, $14.99 (186p) ISBN 978-0-9833734-6-9

If Greulich is looking up at the dancing elephant, he’s certainly not also looking at the stars in this grim evaluation of IBM, its various CEOs, and what it needs to get back on track. Greulich, having spent 34 years at IBM in a variety of sales and technical positions before retiring, now seems compelled to revive “Big Blue” singlehandedly. His possibly overly simplistic solution is that “IBM needs a salesman-in-chief to restore balance.” Greulich revisits old wounds, such as pension plan changes during the 1990s and periodic cycles of traumatic layoffs, or “rightsizing.” All the while, he employs elephant-based metaphors as jabs at former Chairman Louis V. Gerstner Jr. and his book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?, which recounted Gerstner’s historic rescue of IBM from the brink of insolvency in 1993. Greulich gets off some effective zingers, noting, for example, that today’s IBM staffers have updated software on their computers only if they bought it themselves. Despite his hard-earned insights, this book seems unlikely to capture the attention of either business leaders or students, since both groups are far more focused these days on the brave new business models embodied by the likes of Google. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Study in Perfect

Sarah Gorham. Univ. of Georgia, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8203-4712-7

This superb collection from Gorham, author of poetry collections (Bad Daughter) and Sarabande Books’s editor-in-chief, exemplifies the best in creative nonfiction. Meditations on perfection and imperfection, Gorham’s essays traverse topics that are at once ordinary and elemental: the house she and her husband once thought was “perfect”; being a mother and being a daughter; alcoholism; middle age. Those longer pieces are interleaved with brief meditations, less than two pages long, on such topics as the perfect word, the perfect flower, the perfect conversation, and perfect sleep (“I remember only one such sleep”). The prose is simple—the very opposite of acrobatic—yet also surprising, fresh, and rhythmic: in that perfect four-story house, Gorham’s family “lived [their] lives vertically.” The alcoholic depicted in “The Drinker’s Guide to The Cat in the Hat” “liked his ice chipped... and a French jelly glass set to the right of his special chair.” Gorham’s play with pronouns and antecedents is beguiling, and her choice of quotations, from sources as diverse as Grace Slick and Oscar Wilde, are apt. No collection is perfect—the experimentalism of “The Shape of Fear” feels a bit strained—but this book comes gloriously close. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Taxidermy Art: A Rogue’s Guide to the Work, the Culture, and How to Do It Yourself

Robert Marbury. Artisan, $18.95 paper over board (240p) ISBN 978-1-57965-558-7

Marbury, director and cofounder of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists, has compiled a history, how-to, and onlooker’s guide to roadkill art. The result is a collection of 100 works from taxidermy artists worldwide, along with a history of the craft and its edgy pioneers and do-it-yourself instructions, which start with a “squirrel lesson” that uses dead creatures. When the what-you-will-need section begins with “squirrel carcass,” it is obvious this is no tulle-and-glue-gun craft guide. The catalog has similarly riveting and revolting entries, including, among others, Rod McRae’s Crying Loud in the Age of Stupid, which shows a baby polar bear poised on a partially submerged refrigerator, and the Beaver Eating Human Thumb by Scott Bibus, whose work Marbury describes as having a “gleeful, mischievous tone... such as a squirrel disemboweling itself.” If nothing else, guests around the coffee table will have plenty to talk about when they see the crucified parrot Iesus Nazarenus. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Bullet and the Ballot Box: The Story of Nepal’s Maoist Revolution

Aditya Adhikari. Verso, $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-78168-564-8

Journalist Adhikari explores the unlikely rise of Nepal’s high-caste Maoist revolutionaries whose rural-based movement, supported mainly by lower-caste peasants and ethnic outsiders, managed to win power democratically in 2008. After participating in a popular 1990 cross-party uprising against the monarchy, the Communist Party (Maoist) waged a guerrilla campaign throughout the 1990s during the country’s rocky transition to parliamentary democracy. As Adhikari reveals, the party leadership faced not only all-out war with the state but also serious contradictions between its egalitarian principles and the traditional class, gender, and ethnic divides in its membership. But by the early 2000s, the Maoists had solidified into a highly organized armed cohort. Ironically, as they gained power, they fell victim to the same corruptions and failed promises of reform against which they had so successfully fought. Adhikari rightly notes that this story takes place in a country torn between India and China’s competing influence—a point frequently made in other literature on Nepalese politics. However, his access to a wealth of primary sources—including interviews with individual Nepalese Maoists—sets his analysis apart. Adhikari’s exploration of how the Maoists have dealt with the demands of power and the divisions among their constituents should interest any citizen or scholar of the modern nation state. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes—and What We Can Learn from Them

Mark McClusky. Hudson Street, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59463-153-5

Whenever American media mentions the triumph of super athletes, it usually involves cheaters using performance enhancing drugs. However, McClusky, the editor of Wired.com, tells the other side of the story. An increasingly commercial blend of science and sports training gives the elite athlete a winning margin over other competitors. Old training regimens such as weight lifting and resistance workouts are passé and have been replaced by biomechanists, physiologists, nutritionists, strength coaches, recovery experts, and statistical analysts, leading to the creation of such superstars as LeBron James, Lindsey Vonn, Mike Trout, and Serena Williams. McClusky addresses the notion of superior genetics, pills and substances that supposedly enhance performance, the identification of potential elite athletes, and ways to tailor tools and techniques that enhance specific skills for athletic superiority. With clear-cut analysis and detail, he tackles the new innovations in sports gear such as lighter track shoes and drag-cutting swimsuits; he also discusses the scientific discoveries concerning fatigue and endurance. McCluskey’s eye-opening account of sports science shatters outmoded training myths and heralds a revolutionary new terrain, in which the combination of high-tech methods and scientific breakthroughs designed will give the sports fan something wondrous to watch. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food

Ted Genoways. Harper, $22.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-228875-2

In this cautionary tale of a leading meat producer, the former editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review and contributing editor of Mother Jones delves into the inner workings of Hormel Foods, a company struggling to meet America’s insatiable hunger for hog products while keeping prices down. Hormel, with major plants in the nation’s heartland, keeps its conveyor belts operating full speed, processing all edible parts of the hog, including severed hog heads, sliced ears, clipped snouts, sliced cheek meat, and cut-out tongues. While hams, sausages, and Spam are processed at breakneck speed, Genoways discovered that the meatpacking giant often put profits over people, interviewing former and current workers, with fingers lost to saws or disabled by unrelenting illnesses. A medical team found plant workers wear little protective gear, which leaves them exposed to the inhalation of illness-causing aerosolized brain matter, but when sick employees filed for disability, they were rejected. Residents of town near Hormel plants also feel threatened by the company’s workers (largely illegal), as well as by water and soil contamination in small towns from plant runoff. Comparable to Sinclair’s classic expose, The Jungle, Genoways’s blistering account of the meatpacking industry makes the case for tighter monitoring of this powerful sector of American agribusiness. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld

Jake Halpern. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-10823-6

Author and journalist Halpern (Fame Junkies) reports from a “shadowy corner of the economy”—the world of consumer-debt collection, which “remains dysfunctional and largely unsupervised.” Our entry to this world is Aaron Siegel, a former banking executive who left his job on Wall Street in 2005 and returned to his hometown of Buffalo. He began to operate as a privately financed debt buyer—buying and selling debt, rather than trying to collect on it—and found an unlikely partner in Brandon Wilson, a former armed robber turned debt collector. Halpern’s narrative follows these two in the “aboveground economy” (that is, the consumer-debt marketplace)—tracking down a rogue collection agency that stole their debt, answering to million dollar investors, getting tips on deals at a Las Vegas debt buyer’s conference, etc. The author then delves into the inner workings of what he refers to as the “financial underworld.” Here, debt is bought and sold with no questions asked. Halpern also discusses the regulatory climate of the current economy; these details combined with the narrative, a startling picture emerges. By fostering a greater understanding of the workings of debt collection, the book sheds enough light into the shadows to compel readers to push for change. Agent: Tina Bennett, WME. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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