Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Good Books 2008: Beijing Coma, High Crimes, In Defense of Food and More


In Defense of Food: & An Eater's Manifesto by food guru (some say elitist) Michael Pollan. & Pollan says, "you shouldn't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize." & Tom asks Debra Ginsberg if Michael Pollan would eat his tator-tot casserole. She says yes! & And yes, Tom makes tator-tot casserole and apparently it's tasty (so says Tom). &

Eat Memory: & Great Writers at the Table edited by Amanda Hesser. & A book of essays by famous writers on food. One of Lucia's favorite essays is by Ann Patchett who has a fight with her boyfriend at a very famous and spendy Paris restaurant and, as a result, doesn't remember any of the food!

Widow Clicquot: & The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar Mazzeo. & A biography about the champagne industry's grand dame.

High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed by Michael Kodas. & This one looks amazing to me. & Debra says it reads like a thriller. & It tells the story of what's happened to moutaineering on Mount Everest and it doesn't sound good: & unqualifed climbers and guides, drinking, whoring and stealing at base camp, scams and more. &

Photo caption:

Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg. & A father's memoir about his daughter's psychotic break. &

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken. & Both Lucia and Debra loved this woman's memoir about giving birth to a stillborn child. & They said this "slip of a book" manages to have humorous and touching moments in the midst of tragedy.

All Art is Propaganda and Facing Unpleasant Facts by George Orwell. &


Beijing Coma by Ma Jian. & A novel about a man in a coma after suffering a gunshot wound during the Tiananmen Square uprising. & Ma Jian takes us back through the young man's life over the last 10 years. &

Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan. & The story of what happens to a family and community when a 18-year-old woman goes missing. &

Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen. & One of Lucia's top favorite novels of the year. & An inventive love story with a doppleganger at its center. & Here's an interview with the author:

The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber. Debra calls it "a mindbending, conceptual thriller." & It's about a painter & who channels the 17th century Spanish court painter Diego Vel & aacute;zquez. & A great tour through art history that hooks you. &

My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides.

In the Dark by Mark Billingham.

Coffee-table Books

The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein and Stephen Bloom. & I've seen this book and it's wonderful - a great gift for someone interested in documentary photography, oral history, and small-town American life. & Photographer Feldstein photographed residents of Oxford, Iowa and then went back 20 years later and photographed them again. & He brought journalist Stephen Bloom with him the second time to conduct interviews. & The book has text and photographs. &

Posters for the People: The Art of the WPA by Ennis Carter.

& Cookbook:

A Platter of Figs by David Tanis, a chef at Chez Panisse. & Good, easy, down-to-earth recipes in a book that is beautiful to look at.

Children's Books

Gallop and Swing books by Rufus Butler Seder

The Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu.

The Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu. & Beautifully illustrated and no text. & The idea is to make the story up as you go along.

The Little Bit Scary People by Emily Jenkins

Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton. About Splat, who's a cat, on his first day of school.

We had a lot of calls from listeners who wanted to recommend books. & Here are some of their recommendations... and feel free to make some more in the comments section below!

Human Smoke: & The Beginnings of WWII, the End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker.

Banana: & The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel.

Building Kettenburgs: & Premier Boats Built and Designed in Southern California by Mark Allen.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.