Tuesday New Books

I so wanted to go to the CIA in Hyde Park but alas...

Millions of people fantasize about leaving their old lives behind, enrolling in cooking school, and training to become a chef. But for those who make the decision, the difference between the dream and reality can be gigantic—especially at the top cooking school in the country. For the first time in the Culinary Institute of America’s history, a book will give readers the firsthand experience of being a full-time student facing all of the challenges of the legendary course in its entirety.

On the eve of his thirty-eighth birthday and after shuffling through a series of unsatisfying jobs, Jonathan Dixon enrolled in the CIA (on a scholarship) to pursue his passion for cooking. In Beaten, Seared, and Sauced he tells hilarious and harrowing stories of life at the CIA as he and his classmates navigate the institution’s many rules and customs under the watchful and critical eyes of their instructors. Each part of the curriculum is covered, from knife skills and stock making to the high-pressure cooking tests and the daunting wine course (the undoing of many a student). Dixon also details his externship in the kitchen of Danny Meyer’s Tabla, giving readers a look into the inner workings of a celebrated New York City restaurant.

With the benefit of his age to give perspective to his experience, Dixon delivers a gripping day-to-day chronicle of his transformation from amateur to professional. From the daily tongue-lashings in class to learning the ropes—fast—at a top NYC kitchen, Beaten, Seared, and Sauced is a fascinating and intimate first-person view of one of America’s most famous culinary institutions and one of the world’s most coveted jobs.

From Publishers Weekly

In this candid and wickedly humorous memoir, Karp recounts her struggles of going from having a steady job to living in a trailer in a Southern California Wal-Mart parking lot in a matter of days. Raised in a Jehovah's Witness household, Karp endured sexual abuse from her father (who later abandoned the family) as well as mental and physical abuse by her mother. Despite this, as well as being forced by her mother to get a job at age 10, she excelled in school and had a well-paying job as an executive assistant when she was 22. But in the wake of the recession, Karp was laid off after TK years, and, unable to pay rent or stay with her mother and stepfather, had to live in a 30-foot trailer she'd recently inherited. Taking advantage of Wal-Mart's policy of allowing RVs and trailers to stay in their parking lots overnight, Karp "moved" to a parking lot, spending her days at Starbucks using the Wi-Fi connection to search for jobs. When a friend suggested blogging about her experience, she started http://girlsguidetohomelessness.com/ and connected with other homeless activists; soon, her story went viral. Karp's voice is instantly appealing, and her message that basic respect shouldn't disappear when you lose your home is a vital one.

The first listed species to make headlines after the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 was the snail darter, a three-inch fish that stood in the way of a massive dam on the Little Tennessee River. When the Supreme Court sided with the darter, Congress changed the rules. The dam was built, the river stopped flowing, and the snail darter went extinct on the Little Tennessee, though it survived in other waterways. A young Al Gore voted for the dam; freshman congressman Newt Gingrich voted for the fish.

A lot has changed since the 1970s, and Joe Roman helps us understand why we should all be happy that this sweeping law is alive and well today. More than a general history of endangered species protection, Listed is a tale of threatened species in the wild—from the whooping crane and North Atlantic right whale to the purple bankclimber, a freshwater mussel tangled up in a water war with Atlanta—and the people working to save them.

Employing methods from the new field of ecological economics, Roman challenges the widely held belief that protecting biodiversity is too costly. And with engaging directness, he explains how preserving biodiversity can help economies and communities thrive. Above all, he shows why the extinction of species matters to us personally—to our health and safety, our prosperity, and our joy in nature.

Publishers Weekly

"My cockamamie scheme...I would go around the country collecting tree seeds at the homes of famous people I admired, grow them into saplings, then buy a cheap parcel of land and plant them there." So begins Horan's whimsical journey, which quickly evolves into the focus for a new book (after the novel Goose Music). Though the repetitive, sometimes sweeping pattern of traveling, researching, gathering, and briefly recounting tidbits may not awaken new interest in the chosen authors' lives, and though tepid reflections ("Edith Wharton was filthy rich, and she sure could write one hell of a story"; "Henry Miller was the writer who...saw the truth of life") don't elucidate why particular icons have influenced Horan, his enthusiasm propels the book. Read as the tale of an amateur naturalist's road trip rather than as a curious, profound homage to literary giants, Seeds carefully reminds us of lands—and homes—that are worth preserving, provoking questions of legacy. Trees become lodestones for memory, charged with history and grandeur, and Horan concludes his project in a particularly inspiring way, emphasizing how the merest "seed" of an idea can flourish with perseverance.

Publishers Weekly

Named for two literary characters ("Alice" from Lewis Carroll and "Ozma" from L. Frank Baum), the author is the daughter of a Philadelphia-area elementary school librarian. Father and daughter embarked on a streak of reading-out-loud sessions every night before bed as Ozma was growing up. At first they decided on 100 nights straight of reading before bed—a minimum 10 minutes, before midnight, every night, no exceptions—then it stretched to 1,000, and soon enough the author was headed to college and they had spent eight years straight reading before bedtime, from Oz stories to Shakespeare. Reading with her father offered a comforting continuity in the midst of her mother's disquieting move away from the family, her older sister's absence as a foreign exchange student, and the parsimoniousness of her single father. Ozma's account percolates chronologically through her adolescence, as father and daughter persevered in their streak of nightly reading despite occasional inconveniences such as coming home late, sleepovers (they read over the phone), and a rare case of the father's laryngitis. Ozma's work is humorous, generous, and warmly felt, and with a terrific reading list included, there is no better argument for the benefits of reading to a child than this rich, imaginative work.

Wendy McClure is on a quest to find the world of beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder — a fantastic realm of fiction, history, and places McClure has never been to yet somehow knows by heart. She traces the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family—looking for the Big Woods among the medium trees in Wisconsin, wading in Plum Creek, and enduring a prairie hailstorm in South Dakota. She immerses herself in all things Little House — exploring the story from fact to fiction, and from the TV shows to the annual summer pageants in Laura’s hometowns. Whether she’s churning butter in her apartment or sitting in a replica log cabin, McClure is always in pursuit of “the Laura experience.” Along the way she comes to understand how Wilder’s life and work have shaped our ideas about girlhood and the American West.

The Wilder Life is a loving, irreverent, spirited tribute to a series of books that have inspired generations of American women. It is also an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones — and find that our old love has only deepened.


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