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

Non-Fiction

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. &

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. &

Fiction

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.

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