As part of our Best Books of 2014 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Dentistry, Judaism, the Boston Red Sox, Facebook, genetics, a biblical cult and a broken billionaire: Only a writer with Joshua Ferris’ considerable talents could turn these wildly disparate topics into a profound meditation on the meaning of existence. When New York dentist Paul O’Rourke discovers that someone is impersonating him on social media, he’s forced to re-examine who he is, why his relationships have failed—and why his patients won’t floss. Through Paul’s personal odyssey, readers get a penetrating, hilarious and unsettling look at life in an era of constant connection and persistent loneliness.
When world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson isn't making television appearances or working at his award-winning New York restaurant, Red Rooster Harlem, he's cooking at home. And now you can try your hand at his "truly doable" recipes thanks to his new cookbook, Marcus Off Duty.
Black Bottom–Peanut Pie
MAKES ONE 10-INCH PIE
A classic Southern black-bottom pie has a rich chocolate ganache topped with meringue. I make mine more decadent. Yes, it still has the black bottom, but the topping is a gooey, salty hit of peanuts. Inspiration comes from my favorite childhood snack—the Snickers candy bar. When I was a kid, I would treat myself to a Snickers bar on the way to soccer practice. I was convinced that the combination of chocolate and peanuts gave me the energy I needed to play for hours. I don’t eat many candy bars these days, but I still love that combination of flavors.
FOR THE CRUST
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafer cookies, such as Nilla wafers
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
½ cup sugar
FOR THE PEANUT TOPPING
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
½ cup light corn syrup
4 teaspoons molasses
10 ounces (about 2 cups) unsalted roasted peanuts
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
FOR THE GANACHE
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (64% cacao), finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
MAKE THE CRUST
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the milk solids brown and the butter smells deliciously nutty, about 10 minutes; be careful not to let it burn. Take it off the heat immediately.
3. Pulse the vanilla wafers in a food processor to make coarse crumbs. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the processor, add the sugar and melted butter, and pulse until all the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch pie plate. Bake until lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.
4. Turn the oven up to 375°F.
MAKE THE PEANUT TOPPING
5. Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one by one, then beat in the corn syrup and molasses. Stir in the peanuts and salt.
MAKE THE GANACHE
6. Place the chocolate in a medium, heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, then pour over the chocolate. Gently whisk until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.
7. Pour the ganache into the cooled pie shell and let it set for 10 minutes. Spoon the peanut topping on the ganache. Use an offset spatula or a table knife to spread the filling evenly over the ganache, covering it completely.
8. Bake the pie for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 325°F and bake until the crust is browned and the topping is set, about 45 minutes.
9. Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before serving.
The new year is full of great books! Librarians around the country voted, and LibraryReads has put together a list of the incoming January titles that librarians are most excited about reading and sharing with their patrons.
Topping the list is Alan Bradley's latest delightfully dark mystery starring the pint-sized sleuth Flavia de Luce, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. Our Top Pick in Fiction for January, Graeme Simsion's follow-up to his best-selling The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect, also makes the list, along with The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister, a tale of illusions and possible murder. Other anticipated novels include The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, whom we interviewed in our latest issue, and Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar, a novel about an elite group of London's intellectuals, The Bloomsbury Group. You can check out the full LibraryReads list here.
The world lost a talented storyteller when 71-year-old novelist Kent Haruf died earlier this month, after a battle with cancer.
Longtime interviewer Alden Mudge has talked to a lot of authors in his time, but he was especially impressed by the kindness of Haruf when he spoke to the author in 2004.
"Readers make a critical mistake when they assume that the virtues—or vices—of a novel's characters are the same as those of its creator. But on this particular morning, it is more than tempting to find in Haruf's direct, thoughtful and self-effacing conversation everything that is most uplifting in the characters who populate his fictional town of Holt, Colorado."
Haruf's many fans can be consoled by the fact that there'll be one last trip to Holt, Colorado: Our Souls at Night will be published by Knopf in June. It's another simple story of everyday people leading lives that are only remarkable in that they are actually being remarked upon. This time, the story centers on a widow and widower who forge an unlikely friendship with benefits that aren't exactly approved of by their small-town neighbors—and which becomes more complicated with the arrival of a five-year-old grandson.
Will you read it?
RELATED CONTENT: More on Kent Haruf.
What do you do when you're unable to touch the one you love? That's the question in Gena Showalter's latest paranormal romance, The Darkest Touch. The warrior Torin is doomed to carry the demon of Disease for eternity, meaning that anyone he touches becomes violently ill and will most likely die.
Unfortunately, Torin inadvertently kills the friend of the powerful Red Queen, Keeley. Vowing to avenge her friend’s death, she tracks down the host of Disease—only to discover that Torin is actually a pretty nice guy. The two unexpectedly grow close, and even though they are baffled by their bond, they cannot deny the powerful attraction between them. Of course, if they act upon this attraction, Keeley's life is put in danger. However, Keeley reveals that there might be a cure for his Disease, and they both have a compelling reason to find it: each other.
Showalter guides readers into a compelling supernatural world with a welcome sense of humor and playfulness. Things may be deadly serious for Torin, but Showalter knows that romance is at its best when it’s fun.
She finished her project and threw it at him. “I know, I know. I’m super talented and beyond thoughtful. You don’t know what you’d do without me. You’re welcome.”
He held the material up to the light. “What is this?”
“Only the best thing ever for a man with your particular ailment. A shirt with a retractable hood. That way you can cover your face during fights and not have to worry about opponents accidentally brushing against your skin.”
“I don’t worry about that anyway. If my opponents aren’t killed by Disease, they’re killed by me.”
Yes, she’d seen his dagger work. “Well, I was your opponent and I’m still here.”
He offered her a half smile. “You’re right.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
Had no one given him gifts before? “Say thank you, and put it on.”
“Thank you.” Motions swift, he removed his shirt and pulled the new one over his head, then anchored the hood in place.
“Well?” she prompted. “What do you think?”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, princess, but I kind of feel like Batman.”
“Well, are you Batman? Has anyone ever seen the two of you in a room together to prove this—” she waved a hand over him—“isn’t your secret identity?”
He lifted the hood to glare at her, and she laughed. A ray of sunlight shot through the windows as if purposely seeking her.
What are you reading this week?
When it comes to books, we all know it's what's on the inside that counts. But sometimes a well-designed cover can draw us in better than any blurb or synopsis can, and that's why we wanted to recognize our 25 favorite book covers of 2014!
100 Sideways Miles
By Andrew Smith
Design by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Read our review of this book.
As part of our Best Books of 2014 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
There’s a playful bite to the eight short stories that make up Lorrie Moore’s new collection: They address the banality and bitterness of romance with subversive, mordant humor. In these tales of marriage and divorce, comedy is the coping mechanism for the disappointments of being in (and out) of love. It’s like laughing with a mouthful of food—the reality isn’t pretty, but we’re laughing anyway.
If reading a book with a holiday theme is the best way for you to get in the Christmas spirit, you're in luck: this year brings some promising releases from new and old favorites.
In her first holiday novel, best-selling author McCrumb brings back the Appalachian soothsayer Nora Bonesteel.
Set in the waning days of the Civil War, this heartfelt novel follows a widow who finds solace in the camaraderie of her quilting group.
It’s Christmas Eve 1814, and Jane Austen is visiting a political family’s ancestral home. But then one of the revelers dies in a suspicious accident.
Three acclaimed writers of Amish romance share stories of love and the simple life in a collection that’s guaranteed to warm hearts.
Spend the season on snowy Nantucket with the quirky Quinn siblings, whose holiday includes a love triangle, a wife caught kissing Santa Claus and a few shots of whiskey.
Elise is no fan of Christmas—it’s the time of year she discovered her husband was cheating on her. Can a stranger help her find joy in the season?
The best-selling author of the Christmas Hope series returns with the story of two single parents, a lonely teen and a childless couple who discover the true meaning of Christmas.
What book puts you in the Christmas spirit? Let us know in the comments!
P.S. You can also enter to win some of these books and other fab holiday reads in this week's contest.
We counted up the votes from our reader survey, and these are BookPage readers' favorite books of 2014!
The gorgeous selection of Nature Gift Books are some of my favorites from our December issue's gift guide. The close-ups of marine invertebrates and bugs in Spineless and Bugs Up Close are a perfect blend of "ew!" and "whoaaa." I can think of several hikers who would love to receive a copy of America's Great Hiking Trails, and Landmark transforms the world around us into art—and takes the human impact into account, which I find especially interesting.
Perhaps the best book of the bunch is Earth Is My Witness, a stunning volume that compiles 30 years of work from noted nature photographer Art Wolfe. Check out a few of my favorite images from this dazzling book:
Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), Rio Negro, Amazonas, Brazil
Gemsbok, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
Left: Emperor Penguins, Antarctica
Right: Huli wigman smoking, Papua New Guinea
© Art Wolfe/ Art Wolfe Stock. Rights: All images copyright (c) Art Wolfe. From Earth Is My Witness. Reprinted with permission from Earth Aware Editions.
When there are this many fantastic nature books, it's inevitable that a few excellent options had to be cut from the final list! Here are a few more great Nature Gift Books:
Watching Hadfield do stuff in space makes me feel like I'm 8 years old and glued to "Bill Nye the Science Guy" on my parents' TV. In this new book, Hadfield takes armchair astronauts on an "idealized" orbit of the Internal Space Station. These spectacular photos offer 2,000-mile views of places like Kazakhastan and New Zealand, as well as a whole new perspective on the textures, colors and shapes of our little planet. And of course, Hadfield sprinkles these photos with cool facts, but my favorite moments are when Hadfield points how how landscapes can look like animals, punctuation or even teeth. It's the astronaut's answer to kids lying in the grass and seeing shapes in clouds.
National Geographic has been sharing remarkable stories from around the world since 1888 (wow). This impressive book is a collection of hundreds of images—and the often unexpected stories behind them—that have graced the cover of this publication. It's an illustrated history of not only the magazine but our society. Highlights include the wreckage of the Titanic from December 1985, a chimp grooming Jane Goodall in December 1995, and a bloodied polar bear in May 2006.
Stromberg notes in this book's foreword that many people, regardless of whether or not they consider themselves "horse people," feel a connection with and deep reverence for the horse. Call me biased, as I never grew out of my little girl horse phase, but I think it's impossible to have too many horse coffee table books.