Best-selling author Adriana Trigiani’s first nonfiction title, Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers, is being touted as “the gift book of the Christmas season.” Trigiani credits her success to the formative influence of her family—especially to the example of her “two stellar grandmothers,” Lucia and Viola, who “showed me, in their own ways, how to get out of my own way and carve out a rich and fulfilling life, a peaceful life, a gracious life, and a secure life.” Trigiani’s tour of her family’s history flows with the ample narrative energy of her fiction, and like her novels, Don’t Sing at the Table rises from the ground of private insight toward the sphere of common human understanding. In paying tribute to the formidable Lucia and Viola, Trigiani lays out for her readers a table of wisdom, which, yes, sings with love and memory.

Do we really need a book to tell us how to play in the snow? Yes, if the book is Snow Play, by Birgitta Ralson, who takes readers far beyond snowballs and snowmen, and turns snow into the most magical and creative material in the world. Ephemeral and cold though it may be, snow can be shaped, cut, carved, packed, dug, sawn, stomped and otherwise manipulated into amazing projects. The 27 offered here are presented with crystalline step-by-step instructions, specifying time frame, difficulty, type of snow (there are seven) and materials required. Quickies like Frozen Critters, Snowball Lantern and a Marble Run take only 15 minutes to make, while the stupendous Snow Cave demands a whole day and a whole lot of snow. Somewhere in between are ingenious variations on snowmen, a frosted snow cake, an ice slide and the Loch Ness monster: a range sure to elicit sharp anticipation for the next snowy day.

Amy Sedaris, actor, comedienne and author of I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, follows up with a tongue-in-cheek tome that takes into account our economic downturn, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. Earnest crafters, beware! This is not your grandmother’s how-to book, unless Grandma is amused by drug references, raunchy humor and scathing send-up. No, this is Amy Sedaris, who spoofs, as only she can, the phenomenon of crafting as a hobby. Simple Times assures readers that “putting common elements together in order to achieve a lovely something that nobody needs” is “a delightful pastime.” Lovely somethings include a pinecone tote, a macaroni alien mask, a tampon ghost and a chapter called “Crafting for Jesus.” Sedaris crams 21 chapters with wickedly funny projects, sage counsel and painstakingly detailed photographic spreads.

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