Do you make a list of what to buy friends and family at the holidays? What about your own wish list?
On my desk is a list of names I wrote by hand on a long, yellow lined sheet. I’ve checked off all of them now, which is good because Hanukkah is long gone, and Christmas is a week away.
My personal wish list is new. I started it last year, buying myself one (pricey) book I’ve coveted in December, and vowing to do so every year. In 2012 it was the cookbook Plenty, since I already had Jerusalem, and have been enjoying both ever since.
This month I’ve been lusting for The Most of Nora Ephron, a collection of her work, published posthumously. Ephron was my writing hero: sassy, funny, and so right about women, love, and politics. At $35, it’s a tome, but I bet the pages aren’t as yellowed as her old paperbacks on my shelf. There’s a section on food writing, including her hilarious novel, Heartburn, about being a food writer and divorcing journalist Carl Bernstein.
So if no one gifts you with the books you want this holiday, get one for yourself. If you need inspiration, here are two to consider:
1. Naked, Drunk, and Writing, by Adair Lara. After a colleague mentioned she uses it to teach her essay writing classes every semester, I read this book. I waited too long! I could have been recommending it since 2009, when it first came out. Here is a witty, practical book that answers questions such as:
- Where to start and end a piece?
- How do I make myself write? (Her answer is hilarious.)
- If I show my work to my mother, will I ever be invited to a family gathering again?
Even if you don’t like self-help books, you’ll find that Adair is your encouraging friend, patiently cheerleading you to be a better writer, get work finished, and get it published.
2. The Flavor Thesaurus, by Niki Sengit. You might already own The Flavor Bible, but this book is different: a British writer’s creative and global recommendations for food pairings. It’s organized like a dictionary, and leaves you to your own ideas about proportions. Here are two samples of her lively voice and culinary point of view:
“Potato & Nutmeg Nutmeg is used to obscure some of potato’s ruder, earthier flavors. It’s often given the same purpose with pumpkin or spinach. A little grating should do the job. But then nutmeg is so lovely with all these ingredients, why restrain yourself?”
“Walnut & Shellfish There’s a dish they serve in American Chinese restaurants that tends to divide humanity fairly straight down the middle: deep-fried shrimp tossed in honey and lemon mayonnaise and mixed with candied walnuts. Tribe A sees the potential in chewy, salty shellfish mixed with sugar-crisp, slightly spicy nuts. Tribe B suppresses instant emesis at the thought of the calories and sheer inauthenticity. I’m with Tribe A.”
I hope you’ll treat yourself this month. And if you need more inspiration on great writing books, please see:
- 6 useful How-to Books and Guidebooks for Writers
- 5 Books for Holiday Marking and Underlining
- 4 Books of Food Essays.
(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)