Since his death in 2005, Richard Pryor has been named as the No. 1 comedian of all time by Comedy Central and continues to influence the American comedy scene to this day. In Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him, authors David and Joe Henry draw from a wide range of sources and personal experiences, including conversations with Pryor himself, in their exploration of the man behind the comedy legend.
While the Henry brothers' admiration for Pryor certainly shines through, Furious Cool does not shy away from the darker details of Pryor's rise to fame—his turbulent upbringing, emotional conflicts and drug abuse are all essential details in this story, making this a very honest and engrossing read.
Watch the great documentary-style trailer from Algonquin below:
Are you interested in reading Furious Cool? Any other biographies on your list?
Patchett's latest book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, is a collection of essays that spans her 20-year career and covers a wide range of topics, including her attempt to get into the L.A. Police Academy and her love of opera. According to our reviewer, each chapter is "told in simple, appealing prose that feels like a phone conversation with a good friend." (Read the full review.)
We were curious about the books Patchett has been reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites, which she graciously agreed to share:
My husband is a doctor, and so a lot of his friends are doctors. They work together in a hospital; they have their own lunchroom. When they get stuck trying to figure out what's wrong with a patient, they call each other to talk through the possibilities and get advice. It's not so different for writers. While we don't all work in the same place (unless we live in Brooklyn), we bounce ideas off one another. We seek solace and advice through letters, emails, phone calls and through reading one another's books. Three of my best friends have novels out now, and they've all been to my bookstore, Parnassus Books in Nashville, while on tour. It's no surprise my favorite books of late were written by my favorite people (listed in order of pub dates).
This is the sequel to the very successful The Apothecary. Maile wrote two novels and two collections of short stories for adults (all fantastic) before turning her considerable talents to middle school children. I have almost no ability to read fiction for young people, a shortcoming, I know, but I found these books riveting. Maile brings the full force of her extraordinary intelligence and imagination to bear on magical, scientific and geo-political themes. Plus the boy gets the girl.
People have a tendency to believe that the first book of yours they read was also the first book you wrote, so many readers who were introduced to Liz through Eat, Pray, Love (there were more than 8 million of them) neglected to notice that she had already written three other books before that, two of them fiction. So while it may come as a surprise to some that her new book is a complicated and brilliant novel about a 19th-century botanist who is devoted to moss, those of us who have read all her books always knew she had it in her. (Read our interview with Gilbert about The Signature of All Things.)
by Donna Tartt
Donna once told me the reason her books take so long to write (her last one, The Little Friend, was published 12 years ago) is that they are about as long as three regular novels. They are certainly three times as complex as a regular novel, and about 10 times as ambitious (and maybe 20 times as beautiful). David Copperfield as nothing on her hero, Theo, who is spun out into the world by a terrorist attack with nothing but one perfect painting to hold himself together. It's a classic.
What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage or any of Patchett’s recommended books?
It's that time of year again. In addition to looking forward, as we always do, to the books releasing in the coming months, we're also taking time to reflect upon all of the amazing books that have come out this year. Soon we'll be sharing our 50 Best Books of 2013, but to tide you over until then, here are our 13 favorite cookbooks of the year, as selected by our esteemed cooking columnist, Sybil Pratt. Warning: Some serious stomach rumbling may occur as you proceed down the list!
EVERY GRAIN OF RICE
By Fuchsia Dunlop
Everything you’ll need—a primer on basic ingredients, including Dunlop’s richly flavored, not-hard-to-find “magic” seasonings, essential tools, prep methods, cooking techniques, menu ideas and an extensive, illustrated glossary.
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A collection of 100 eminently doable recipes, inspired by local fishermen and farmers, by famed Charleston institutions past and present (check out the Cheese Spread from the hallowed Henry’s) and by dishes discovered in old cookbooks and memoirs.
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From Danny Meyer, CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group, which includes many of New York City’s most admired restaurants, Michael Romano, his partner and culinary director of the group, and food writer Karen Stabiner comes more than 150 easy, affordable recipes, peppered with behind-the-scenes stories.
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An inspiring, heartfelt celebration of Italian tradition and Viviani's rags-to-riches (or scraps-to-scrumptious) life, from poor Florentine kid who started cooking with his great-grandmother at the age of 5 to celebrity chef and owner of three successful restaurants in the U.S.—with more than 150 recipes.
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Shows you how to cook like a Mexican mama, offering not the cheese-drenched, gluey stuff we norteamericanos so often mistake for Mexican, but the simple, healthy, comforting, sensational food that’s served in homes. ¡Buen provecho!
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With 200 recipes, this new paean to vegetables is big, beautiful and so bountiful that it’s not going to encourage moderation. Just looking at the luscious full-color photos is enough to make a committed carnivore morph into an advocate of the mostly veggie approach to everyday eating.
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A complete companion to mastering the art of putting up and putting by—making sweet preserves with fruit and savory preserves with vegetables, and using simple techniques for drying, freezing and storing seasonal produce. More than 220 recipes are organized by season and accompanied by stories (preserver extraordinaire West is also a gifted Southern storyteller) and essays.
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In 100 recipes using 10 ingredients or fewer, divided into eight chapters, Iyer presents his unique system for learning to cook Indian food. This is your own master class; each chapter is a course on a course with a specific technique that’s explained (or “unfolded”) in a special foldout with full-color, full-fun, step-by-step photos.
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A glorious selection of sauces and soups with suggestions for the pasta shapes that go best with them, recipes for making pasta from scratch and, most importantly, advice on approaching pasta as Italians approach this most-loved food that is “synonymous with family, hearth and home.”
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Gorgeous, fabulous and filled with recipes that will make even the most jaded cook jump for culinary joy. Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s unique realm of flavor is sunny, colorful, zesty and bold, appreciably Middle Eastern, with Mediterranean and Californian influences and universal appeal. They keep prep unfussy and simple. They want you to have fun with their food and, most of all, they want you to say “wow!”
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Goin, a true omnivore and true believer in seasonal and local cooking, is boldly, brilliantly creative, combining ingredients, layering and reinforcing flavors so that the sum of the dish is greater than its parts (some of the “parts” are divine by themselves). This is serious, challenging cooking, not dumbed-down, not simplified.
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The pièce de résistance of this year’s crop of grand cookbooks, a big, beautiful package, filled with luscious photos. First and foremost come the best recipes from Daniel, Boulud’s famed New York restaurant, with complex preparations inspired by classic French dishes and given a Boulud twist.
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Look for a review of this cookbook—the Top Pick!—in our December issue.
What are your favorite 2013 cookbooks? Have you tried making any of our Recipes of the Week this year?
Let’s get this over with: Scotch is whisky, everything else is whiskey. Our reviewer Eve Zibart, who shared her selection of some of the season's best drinks books in our November issue, would even argue that “Scotch whisky” is redundant. Here's Eve's take on a new offering from Princeton Architectural Press that highlights that perennially popular brown beverage.
Instant Expert: Whiskey, by Master of Malt and whiskey educator John Lamond, is for the habitual, and habituated, sipper. This pocket reference—which can be secured with a handy yellow elastic—emphasizes tasting notes, so its appeal may depend on how you view what used to be considered "winespeak." Flavors and aromas described as greenery, tarry rope, dark chocolate, cocoa, ripe orange, pineapple, pine needles, licorice, vanilla, marzipan, toffee, fennel, musk, cereal (no brand), peat (naturally), seaweed, iodine, melon, violets, cherry, smoky cough syrup (!), “mahogany-flavored chewiness” (who knew?), “homemade black current jam” (one longs to visit his pantry) and so on. This is exacting and pungent, but a few experiments will likely prove Lamond a reliable guide—and a fortifying one. He also lists some classic cocktails and great whiskey bars of the world, though sadly, the U.S. is scantly represented. At least the recipes don’t require a chemist.
Thanks, Eve! Looking for more books on the beverages that help make our holidays happy? Click here.
If, like me, you spent much of your childhood consciously avoiding uttering the phrase "I don't know," or boasting to your friends that you could most definitely climb up an oil-slicked slide in less than five seconds, our next Nostalgia Week book is just for you.
SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age is the wondrous result of author Mathew Klickstein's hundreds of interviews with the folks—both behind the scenes and on camera—who brought us such beloved TV show gems as "Double Dare," Clarissa Explains It All," "The Ren & Stimpy Show" and, of course, "You Can't Do That on Television."
In this guest post, Klickstein shares what it was like writing the book, as well as some fascinating tidbits he discovered along the way:
When I first signed with a major publisher to write the Nickelodeon oral history, I was uncontrollably besotted by champagne-colored visions of estranged friends and long-lost girls from my past contacting me out of the blue: “Matt! I saw your book in the store!”
It’s only now, after publication and while navigating the circuitous machinery of the publicity foofaraw, that I’ve come to understand who the audience for SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age really is.
It’s not only us. It’s also them—the people this book is about. In truth, I’ve realized only recently that the main reason I wrote a book on this most grand era is this: In revealing to all of us the more than 250 Nick VIPs who contributed to SLIMED!, I’ve also revealed us to them.
The book’s reception has reinforced the fact that, yes, even as (slightly more) sane and (slightly less) loudly sentient adults, we do still care as much as we did back when these people were wildly running around onscreen as our heroes during their formative years. We’re here, we’re not going away and neither will Nick’s Golden Age.
Along the craggy path to figuring all of this out, I picked up four breadcrumbs that definitely surprised me about Nick’s foundational years that may surprise you too:
Green slime was at one point dangerous. Aside from the truly disgusting and likely toxic provenance of green slime that you’ll have to read about in SLIMED! to believe, it’s worth noting that a “sliming” was initially categorized as having the same television “violence rating” as a decapitation, according to a report by media specialist George Gerbner. Additionally, green slime’s “secret ingredients” in the early years included baby shampoo in order to help facilitate the cleaning-from-the-hair process. Even though it was baby shampoo, it could still burn one’s eyes, especially if one were to take his/her sliming incorrectly. And, yes, there was a Right Way and a Wrong Way to be slimed.
Yes, Christine Taylor (“Melody”) and David Lascher (“Ted”) from "Hey Dude" did date during part of the series’ production. "Hey Dude" director Fred Keller explains in SLIMED! that for two adolescents, Christine and David handled the typical vicissitudes of young love very well. Immediately after that quote in the book, however, Christine avers that it’s actually surprising how poorly they dealt with it. And therein lies the whimsical contradictions of an oral history.
Marc Summers is not a total douchebag. In fact, just the opposite is true. One would assume a wildly famous game show host would be the kind of Bad and the Beautiful jerk-off. But with Marc, that perennial smile is not an act. He really does love what he does, and he really does love his fans. There was not one person I spoke to in this book who didn’t bring up Marc as a friend, a collaborator, a mentor or a partner in crime.
Joey Ramone was almost on an episode of "The Adventures of Pete & Pete." In the episode, Little Pete decides to start up a band of his own after hearing the first and only song he’s ever actually liked. Singer-songwriter Syd Straw (who played numbers-obsessed math teacher Ms. Fingerwood) was actually a staple of the ’80s music/punk/art scene of ’80s New York City. When she was asked by producers to help fill in the band, she immediately called up her good buddy Joey Ramone. Joey had never seen the show before, but Syd made the premise of being on this hip and wacky kids’ show sound so appealing to the punk progenitor, that he nearly agreed . . . until he remembered he was leaving for a full European tour the next day with his “bruddahs.”
What do hippies, surfers, up-and-coming rock bands and cross-country road trippers all have in common? Often, it's their choice of vehicle: a VW Camper Van. In the nearly 70 years since its inception in the 1950s, the reliable and roomy vehicle has become a pop culture icon with a devoted cult following. One of these enthusiasts is Mike Harding, author of The VW Camper Van: A Biography. Part history, part memoir, the book is sure to delight the most diehard of devotees—and fully entertain those who are merely curious.
In this guest blog post, Harding writes about his love affair with Molly—his orange 2001 Type 2 Transporter—their adventures together and some interesting tidbits he learned while writing The VW Camper Van:
Like Toad in The Wind in the Willows, I have always been fascinated by the open road, the road that goes ever on and leads away from the world of work and taxes. And, to me, the VW Camper Van, with it’s blush of hippie-dom, looked like a magical key to that place of adventure and freedom.
But I had a family and lots of commitments and although I did travel the world—from trekking in the high Himalayas to lone Buddhist temples, crossing the Hindu Kush and singing for my supper in the mining camps of the Australian deserts—I never made that final leap and bought myself a Camper.
Until one November day filled with dark, Wuthering Heights weather, when I followed an ad in a VW mag and bought Molly in the back streets of a Northern England industrial town.
Since then Molly and I have traveled Britain, staying in forests and by the seashore and visiting lonely moorland pubs and friendly village folk festivals. With my banjo on the back seat and her little fridge full of food and wine, we trundle along the backroads shouting “Poop poop!” to the world.
Here are some little known facts about the VW Camper Van:
• The early VW vans featured the filler cap for the fuel tank in the lockable engine compartment because of the rampant cases of fuel theft from vehicles in postwar Europe.
• If it weren't for an Englishman from Northern England—Major Ivan Hirst—there would be no VW Beetle or Camper Van. (You'll have to read the book to find out why!)
• President Johnson’s “Chicken Tax,” which effectively stopped the import of VWs into the U.S. in the late '60s, has still not been repealed.
• VW vans have been used for everything from funeral hearses to camping vans, from fire engines to mobile chintzy English tea rooms complete with fragile china cups and fairy cakes.
• Sadly, the production of VW Camper Vans came to an end this year.
[All photos from The VW Camper Van, used with permission.]
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Little, Brown • $26 • ISBN 9780316322409
Published October 8, 2013
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 15-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai was on her way home after school when she was shot in the head at point-blank range. This was no random act of violence. Her hometown of Mingora, in the Swat Valley, had recently come under the control of the Taliban, who are known to vigorously oppose the education of girls. Malala—whose parents had always encouraged her education, her father even founding her school—did not shy away from publicly speaking out about her belief in the right of all girls to go to school. Doing so made her a target, leading to that fateful October afternoon.
Defying all odds and expectations, Malala survived the shooting, making a full recovery and more determined than ever to fight for the right of girls around the world to be educated. I Am Malala is her story—a story that is simply incredible, simply unforgettable, simply inspiring. Here are her eloquent and powerful opening words:
I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.
One year ago I left my home for school and never returned. I was shot by a Taliban bullet and was flown out of Pakistan unconscious. Some people say I will never return home, but I believe firmly in my heart that I will. To be torn from the country that you love is not something to wish on anyone.
Now, every morning when I open my eyes, I long to see my old room full of my things my clothes all over the floor, and my school prizes on the shelves. Instead I am in a country which is five hours behind my beloved homeland Pakistan and my home in the Swat Valley. But my country is centuries behind this one. Here there is every convenience you can imagine. Water running from every tap, hot or cold as you wish; lights at the flick of a switch, day and night, no need for oil lamps; ovens to cook on that don't need anyone to go and fetch gas cylinders from the bazaar. Here everything is so modern one can even find food ready cooked in packets.
When I stand in front of my window and look out, I see tall buildings, long roads full of vehicles moving in orderly lines, neat green hedges and lawns, and tidy pavements to walk on. I close my eyes and for a moment I am back in my valley—the high snow-topped mountains, green waving fields and fresh blue rivers—and my heart smiles when it looks at the people of Swat. My mind transports me back to my school and there I am reunited with my friends and teachers. I meet my best friend Moniba and we sit together, talking and joking as if I had never left.
Then I remember I am in Birmingham, England.
So far this week, we've indulged our nostalgia for toys and candy, and now it's time for reminiscing over another cultural obsession: movies! Infographic Guide to the Movies by Karen Krizanovich is sure to delight film buffs with its clever, bright graphics illustrating a bookload of facts, tidbits and trivia about the movies. A map detailing the zombie outbreaks depicted in films, a timeline of apocalyptic movies and an illustrated analysis of Judd Apatow's secret for success—these and more make this fun book a visual feast for movie lovers of all kinds.
Author Karen Krizanovich describes what it was like compiling the more than 100 infographics of the book and even shares couple of them to whet your appetite:
Everyone loves films, trivia and graphics. As a film writer and author of Infographic Guide to the Movies, I can say that this 160-page book is so engaging that people will forget they’re learning things while reading it. As I say in the introduction, research shows that infographics can help almost anyone grasp difficult concepts more easily. (That’s almost everyone. Bear that in mind.)
I'll avoiding further grandiose epistemological statements. It took more than 30 designers to make Infographic Guide to the Movies as alluring as it is. Some designers supplied their own ideas; others illustrated our concepts. Our biggest problem was, to paraphrase Amadeus (1984), “simply too many notes”—we had too many great ideas. My suggestion to determine editorial content by arm-wrestling was quashed, so this book is not the work of me as auteur. It’s more a case of, as Mel Brooks once said, “We are all singing but I have the mouth.”
Infographic Guide to the Movies was a labor of love. Who am I kidding? It was an obsession! I have had a love-hate relationship with infographics ever since I failed my first quantitative methodology exam. (I passed the second one. Just passed.) For all completionists and "detail people" out there, please read the introduction before you email me with your thoughts, corrections, arguments and "what ifs." It’s a book, made by humans, printed on paper. It will have errors. The question is, can readers find them all?
Ryan Gosling is very close to the world’s most perfect man, so it’s good to see here that his skill makes us love him no matter what he plays. I look at page 31 and say to myself, “Hey girl,” and pretend he’s saving me from being hit by a bus in New York City. Like he once did for real. (Not to me.)
Attack Clint! is one of my favorite pages. In fact, you could do one of these for any action actor. How much does his character need to suffer for us to empathize with him? Lots.
[Illustrations from Infographic Guide to the Movies, used with permission.]
Yesterday, we got reacquainted with our favorite childhood toys. For today's Nostalgia Week guest post, we're turning our focus to another childhood obsession (for most of us, anyway): candy!
Samira Kawash's Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure is a scrumptious, sweeping history of sweet treats that includes the early days of mass production, its eventual entanglement with morality and how it became downright vilified by a diet-obsessed culture. This fascinating account of a candy crazed nation is certain to satisfy your craving for an entertaining and informative read. Here's Samira with more on the book and some interesting tidbits she learned while writing it:
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Candy: sometimes it seems like such an innocent pleasure. But then we worry: Will it rot my teeth? Make me fat? Ruin my dinner?
The ambivalence around candy really came home to me when my daughter was about three years old. Should I let her eat it? When and how much? I began to realize that I had grown up with a very confused message about how candy was both very desirable and very bad. My own confusion as a parent seemed reflected in many others’ experiences. It seemed to me that there was something interesting going on there, and I wanted to figure out what it was.
My research led me back to the earliest days of what I call “industrial candy,” that is, candy made in factories in mass quantities. Candy grabbed hold of the American imagination and stomach in the early decades of the 20th century, yet at the same time, there were many reasons Americans were suspicious about candy: It was a new kind of food; it was entirely artificial; and it offered pleasure and stimulation in ways that made some people who were influenced by religious moralism feel very uneasy.
Candy uncovers this untold history, both bright and dark. Here are some of the surprising stories about candy that I learned along the way.
• Early nutrition research in the 19th century identified sugar as a significant source of quick energy. The German military experimented with candy rations and discovered significant advantages for endurance and strength. By the early 1900s, U.S. and British forces were generously provisioned with candy. The number one favorite was lemon drops, which candy makers produced to a precise U.S. government formula.
• The quantity of inexpensive candy available to ordinary Americans exploded in the 1880s. Not everyone celebrated. Early candy critics warned that cheap candy was poison candy. Reformers alleged that candy routinely included noxious or toxic ingredients and fillers, including boot black, floor scrapings, glue, plaster of paris, arsenic and iron rust. Hundreds of alleged poisonings were blamed on bad candy. The evidence? None to be found.
• Candy bars combining ingredients like nuts, nougats, caramel, marshmallow and chocolate were an exciting new sensation in the 1920s. They were portable, convenient and affordable: the perfect food for a nation on the go. Classics like Snickers and Milky Way got their start in this era. But thousands more were offered to a candy eating public hungry for novelty. The bars are long gone, but the names remain. Silly names like Snirkles and Damfino. Salacious names like Fat Emma, Big Dick, Hot Liza and Love Nest. And even substantive names that evoked more nutritive meals: Denver Sandwich, Chicken Dinner and Spud.
• The Oh! Henry candy bar was one of the top sellers in the 1920s. The secret to success? Creative marketing, including a campaign to encourage women to use the bar in novel ways. One suggestion: to “slice and serve,” transforming the rugged bar into a dainty delicacy. Another idea: cooking with Oh! Henry candy bars. Recipes for desserts, breakfast treats and even savory and vegetable dishes enhanced with Oh! Henry bars were collected in “60 Ways to Serve a Famous Candy.” Candy salad, anyone?
• Candy’s popularity led inevitably to a dietary backlash. Lulu Hunt Peters was the first American author to popularize the idea of dieting by counting calories in her 1918 bestseller Diet and Health, with Key to the Calories. Candy was, for Peters, an especially pernicious temptation. She warned: “When you see a pound of candy you would like, don’t think of it as candy, but as a lump of fat annexed to your fattest spot. If you have any candy around, and can’t give it away, throw it away.” But more Americans were eager to follow the advice of the candy industry promoters: “Candy is Delicious Food! Enjoy some every day.”
[Images from Candy, used with permission.]
Journalist Wil S. Hylton has had stories featured in New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire and Rolling Stone, but did you know he has a new book in stores Nov. 5? In Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II, Hylton follows a mysterious and perplexing story. On September 1, 1944, 11 members of the U.S. Navy disappeared during a 453 Bomber flight over the Pacific island nation of Palau. For 60 years, this sudden disappearance received little attention and little investigation, until Hylton decided it was time to dig in.
Using information from underwater archaeology, medical doctors, military historians, eyewitness accounts from island locals and even poignant insight from the families of the missing, Vanished proves to be a rewarding venture into the past.
Check out this neat trailer (with plenty of Indiana Jones-style flair!) and learn more about the upcoming book.