Are your loved ones already bugging you to give them a list of gifts you want? Do you need fresh literature to read? Or maybe you just want to treat yourself? Check out this list of fun and helpful books.
A couple months ago, J. Kenji López-Alt (of Serious Eats fame) released a cookbook called The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.
Ever wondered how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and an interior that’s perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge when you cut into it? How to make homemade mac ‘n’ cheese that is as satisfyingly gooey and velvety-smooth as the blue box stuff, but far tastier? How to roast a succulent, moist turkey (forget about brining!) — and use a foolproof method that works every time?
Over the course of 900+ pages, 300 recipes, and a ton of great photos, López-Alt dives deep into the chemistry of home cooking, teaching you everything you need to know to be successful in the kitchen and why certain culinary techniques are scientifically better than others.
Lessons include basic knife care and usage, the composition of eggs + the ways they change during cooking, the shelf life of various cooking ingredients when stored properly, the best way to cook pasta + the five “mother” sauces at the root of nearly all pasta dishes, an in-depth explanation of stock for soups and stews, and much more.
Topics include hygiene, bad habits, lack of courtesy, sharing responsibility with one’s spouse, dressing well and smelling nice, tipping etiquette, communication (in person and otherwise), life changes, weddings, and more. In this updated second edition, Post also covers modern problems concerning social media, online dating, texting and emailing, smartphone usage, etc.
A lot of it comes across as quaint and old-fashioned, of course, but after reading it you may attain a much higher baseline of courtesy and respect in your everyday behaviors. This excerpt from the book sums up why it all matters:
Here’s the bottom line: Men get it right some of the time, but they generally don’t spend enough effort really thinking through how their actions will affect the people around them. And that’s what good etiquette really is: thinking about what the considerate, respectful thing to do would be, and then doing it. By thinking about our behavior, we turn each action into a conscious choice. The more we practice making those choices, the more often we’ll make good choices—and the better our lives and the lives of our loved ones will be.
And that’s what makes etiquette worth the effort.
Gavin Aung Than, the cartoonist behind the excellent Zen Pencils blog and author of Zen Pencils: Cartoon Quotes from Inspirational Folks, recently released a second compilation book: Zen Pencils Volume Two: Dream the Impossible Dream.
Like the previous book, Dream the Impossible Dream collects 20 of Gavin’s best and most inspiring comics from the past 20 months (as of April 2015). It also includes exclusive bonuses in the form of a pull-out poster (approx. 15.75″ x 23.6″) and a 16-page original comic called The Monster Named Fear. Some of the comics have been revised to be more enjoyable in book form, which shows Gavin’s appreciation for a fine reading experience.
Randall Munroe, creator of the popular xkcd webcomic, has an upcoming book called Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words. Inspired by his own hilarious comic Up Goer Five (“This end should point toward the ground if you want to go to space”), Thing Explainer will…er, explain things with detailed blueprint diagrams and a vocabulary of only the 1,000 most common English words.
In his own words:
The diagrams in Thing Explainer cover all kinds of neat stuff—including computer buildings (datacenters), the flat rocks we live on (tectonic plates), the stuff you use to steer a plane (airliner cockpit controls), and the little bags of water you’re made of (cells).
We thoroughly enjoyed Munroe’s previous book, What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, and can’t wait to read this one too.
Things Explainer will arrive on November 24th, 2015 in these editions:
Shaun Usher, the guy behind those projects, also has a blog called Lists of Note that documents the lists of notable people throughout history. He compiled 125 of these lists into a book called Lists of Note: Inventories Deserving of a Wider Audience. Here are just a few examples:
- A shopping list written by two 9th-century Tibetan monks.
- Leonardo da Vinci’s to-do list.
- 19 year-old Isaac Newton’s list of the 57 sins he’d already committed.
- Galileo’s list of parts needed to build his telescope.
- Martin Luther King’s advice for black people starting to use buses.
- Johnny Cash’s list of ‘things to do today’.
- Michelangelo’s illustrated shopping list.
- Julia Child’s list of possible titles for what would later become an American cooking bible.
This stuff is fascinating, even if you’re not much of a history nerd.
The David Foster Wallace Reader is a beautifully produced compendium of the famous author’s best works as chosen by his friends, colleagues, and critics. It includes several of his more popular essays and excerpts from his novels. It also collects, for the first time, his first published story (The View from Planet Trillaphon as Seen In Relation to the Bad Thing) and even some teaching materials from his days as a writing instructor.
As Jason Kottke put it:
If you’ve somehow been waiting to dig into Wallace’s writing but didn’t know where to start, this is where you start.
Mindfulness in Plain English — written by Henepola “Bhante G” Gunaratana, a Theravada Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka — is exactly what the book title suggests: A straightfoward, practical guide to meditation and mindfulness for those wanting to take up such habits.
When we say “practical”, we mean it. Not only does Gunaratana guide readers through the basics of meditation and why it can be an important practice in today’s manic world (whether you’re Buddhist or not), he even addresses common issues people face during meditation, such as sudden boredom or irritation, and even legs that fall asleep.
Here are a couple excerpts taken from separate parts of the book, yet together sum it up nicely:
You can’t make radical changes in the pattern of your life until you begin to see yourself exactly as you are now. As soon as you do that, changes will flow naturally. You don’t have to force anything, struggle, or obey rules dictated to you by some authority. It is automatic; you just change. But arriving at that initial insight is quite a task. […]
Through the process of mindfulness, we slowly become aware of what we really are, down below the ego image. We wake up to what life really is. It is not just a parade of ups and downs, lollipops and smacks on the wrist. That is an illusion. Life has a much deeper texture than that if we bother to look, and if we look in the right way.
[We hope you’ll forgive a bit of self-promotion as we bring this book guide to a close. —Ed.]
When the holidays are over, the presents have been put away, the food’s been eaten, the decorations are down, and the good-byes have been said, the only thing left is to log those joyous memories away while they’re still fresh. There’s no better way to do that than with the award-winning Day One journaling app for iOS and Mac.
For a comprehensive rundown of what Day One can do and how you can make the most of it, check out our new iBook, Day One In-Depth. This is the most detailed and extensive guide to Day One available today, featuring in-depth reviews covering the app’s every function and feature.
- iBooks format ($8)