Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

I enjoy putting these lists together on Saturday morning so I hope you enjoy them too. It’s going to be a cold day here in North Carolina—a good day to curl up with an e-book.

As of earlier today, these ebooks at Amazon were on sale at $2 to $5—up to a 90% discount—but act quickly if you want a bargain. These deals may only last a day or a week, you never know. If you’re in the browsing mood, check out last week’s ebook sales too—some of those books may still be on sale.

Food & Cooking:

High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America by Jessica B. Harris ($1.99, 80% off)

I’ve had this one on my list for quite a while. Winner of the IACP Award for Culinary History: “an utterly engaging history of African American cuisine, taking the reader on a harrowing journey from Africa across the Atlantic to America, and tracking the trials that the people and the food have undergone along the way…how each came to form an important part of African American culture, history, and identity.”

Today (Saturday) only: The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook: 650 Recipes for Everything You’ll Ever Want to Make by America’s Test Kitchen ($4.99)

If you don’t like leftovers, this is the cookbook for you—from the people behind Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

“Over the years we’ve discovered that scaling down a recipe isn’t as simple as cutting the ingredients in half—cooking times, temperatures, and equipment need to be adapted as well. This comprehensive cookbook takes the guesswork out of cooking for two.”

Rustic Italian Food by Marc Vetri ($1.99)

This cookbook gets great reviews and doesn’t look like one of those over-the-top restaurant chef cookbooks.  “From acclaimed Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri comes a celebration of handcrafted, regional Italian cooking that advocates a hands-on, back-to-the-basics approach to cooking.”

The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits by Hugh Acheson ($1.99)

From James Beard Award winner, “a seasonal cookbook…designed to make the most of your farmers’ market bounty, your CSA box, or your grocery produce aisle…Here are 50 ingredients—from kohlrabi to carrots, beets to Brussels sprouts—demystified or reintroduced to us through 200 recipes: three quick hits to get us excited and one more elaborate dish.”

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin ($2.99, 67% off)

I read this long ago but I bought it again because I gave my copy away in one of my moves. “In this delightful celebration of food, family, and friends, one of America’s most cherished kitchen companions shares her lifelong passion for cooking and entertaining. Interweaving essential tips and recipes with hilarious stories of meals both delectable and disastrous, Home Cooking is a masterwork of culinary memoir and an inspiration to novice cooks, expert chefs, and food lovers everywhere.”

The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice by Michael Krondl ($1.99)

“In this engaging, enlightening, and anecdote-filled history, Krondl…tells the story of three legendary cities–Venice, Lisbon, and Amsterdam–and how their single-minded pursuit of spice helped to make (and remake) the Western diet and set in motion the first great wave of globalization.”

ebooks on sale


Reminder: some of these books may only be on sale a few days so act quickly if you’re interested.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin ($4.09, 41% off)

One of her most critically acclaimed novels and a science fiction classic, Dispossessed “contrasts two forms of social organization: a messy but vibrant capitalist society, which oppresses its underclass, and a classless ‘utopia’ (partly based on the ideas of the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin), which turns out to be oppressive in its own conformist way. Ms. Le Guin leaves it up to the reader to find a comfortable balance between the two.”

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson ($1.99)

I remember thinking this looked like a great read when it came out, and it still does. I bought it this time. Who could resist these reviews?

“T. Geronimo Johnson plays cultural criticism like it’s acid jazz. His shockingly funny story pricks every nerve of the American body politic…Braggsville lashes self-satisfied liberals in the academy and self-deluded Confederates in the attic.”

“Organic, plucky, smart, Welcome to Braggsville is the funniest sendup of identity politics, the academy and white racial anxiety to hit the scene in years…[He] knows just which dark corners to expose, which cultural buttons to push, which ironies to illuminate and how to whirl an affecting yarn all the while.”

On Beauty by Zadie Smith ($2.99)

Winner of the 2006 Orange Prize for fiction: “the story of an interracial family living in the university town of Wellington, Massachusetts, whose misadventures in the culture wars—on both sides of the Atlantic—serve to skewer everything from family life to political correctness to the combustive collision between the personal and the political. “

Native Son by Richard Wright ($2.99, Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

A classic from 1940: “…the story of [a] young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.”

Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck ($1.99, Penguin Classics)

Another classic, this one from 1962. I read this years ago when I was in my solo travel adventure phase.

“One of America’s most beloved writers in the later years of his life—a self-portrait of a man who never wrote an explicit autobiography…In September 1960, John Steinbeck…set out on a voyage of rediscovery of the American identity, accompanied by a distinguished French poodle named Charley; and riding in a three-quarter-ton pickup truck named Rocinante. His course took him through almost forty states.”

A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates ($1.99, 90% off)

A dark but compelling looking book to make you think about the other side, whichever one it is for you.

“The story of two very different and yet intimately linked American families. Luther Dunphy is an ardent Evangelical who envisions himself as acting out God’s will when he assassinates an abortion provider in his small Ohio town while Augustus Voorhees, the idealistic but self-regarding doctor who is killed, leaves behind a wife and children scarred and embittered by grief. In her moving, insightful portrait, Joyce Carol Oates fully inhabits the perspectives of two interwoven families whose destinies are defined by their warring convictions and squarely—but with great empathy—confronts an intractable, abiding rift in American society.”

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ($1.99)

Half of a Yellow Sun, also by Adichie, was one of my favorite reads the year it came out so I’ll read anything by her now.

The story of “a 15-year-old Nigerian girl growing up in sheltered privilege in a country ravaged by political strife and personal struggle.” “When Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, [her] father, involved mysteriously in the political crisis, sends her to live with her aunt. In this house, noisy and full of laughter, she discovers life and love—and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family.” “By turns luminous and horrific, this debut ensnares the reader from the first page and lingers in the memory long after its tragic end.”

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks ($1.99)

I loved the author’s historical fiction March, so I jumped on this as soon as I saw it.

“When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition.”

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark ($2.99)

Spark would have been 100 on Thursday which accounts for these sales. If you’re a fan, follow #murielspark100 and @MurielSpark100 on Twitter.

“Timeless classic about a controversial teacher who deeply marks the lives of a select group of students in the years leading up to World War II…[Miss Brodie is] one of twentieth-century English literature’s most iconic and complex characters—a woman at once admirable and sinister, benevolent and conniving.

These Spark novels are on sale too:

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan ($2.99)

Winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize. Some reviewers absolutely love it and some had problems with some of the writing, strangely enough since it won the Booker. It looks intense.

It’s a story about a group of Australian POWs during World War II “related through the reminiscences of Dorrigo Evans, a 77-year-old surgeon raised in Tasmania whose life has been filtered through two catastrophic events: the illicit love affair he embarked on with…his uncle’s wife, as a young recruit in the Australian corps and his WWII capture by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore” where he toiled on the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway, the one you know from the film, The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Baltasar and Blimunda by José Saramago ($2.99, 70% off)

If you know me, you know I have a thing for the Portuguese, including this guy.

“Weaving together multiple storylines to present both breathtaking fiction and incisive commentary, renowned Portuguese writer and winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, José Saramago spins an epic and captivating yarn, equal parts historical fiction, political satire, religious criticism, and whimsical romance…adventure, a rumination on royalty and religion in 18th-century Portugal and a bitterly ironic comment on the uses of power.”

City of Women by David Gillham ($1.99)

These three blurbs demonstrate why this novel called me. “A chilling look at the unspeakable limits reached by the women of WWII Berlin and the stress and fear that shaped their lives.”

“An unassuming stenographer stuck in a loveless marriage and living in Berlin with her sour, difficult mother-in-law. But her life is not as common as it seems, for she has a lover, a Jewish lover, and if that were not risky enough, Sigrid becomes entangled with a neighbor who is helping to shelter Jews.”

“World War II Germany may be familiar ground, but Gillham’s novel—vividly cinematic yet subtle and full of moral ambiguity, not to mention riveting characters—is as impossible to put down as it is to forget.”

ebooks on sale


These books were on sale as of Saturday morning, but may not be on sale for long—act quickly.

Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge by Eleanor Herman ($1.99)

I love reading about the women of history. These women often wielded more power than the wives.

“Throughout the centuries, royal mistresses have been worshiped, feared, envied, and reviled. They set the fashions, encouraged the arts, and, in some cases, ruled nations…Sex with Kings takes us into the throne rooms and bedrooms of Europe’s most powerful monarchs…With diaries, personal letters, and diplomatic dispatches, Herman’s trailblazing research reveals the dynamics of sex and power, rivalry and revenge, at the most brilliant courts of Europe.”

Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers by Taisia Kitaiskaia ($2.99)

“Kitaiskaia has selected 30 extraordinary literary women, each who have a story to tell, and shares with the reader why they are so easily considered ‘witches.’ She covers each author in three pages. The first page is quite simply the name, what she is known for, and her birth and death dates. The second page is an exquisite illustration of the author…The third page is the kicker. Kitaiskaia assigns three descriptive words to each woman, continues with three mysterious and witchy paragraphs, and ends with a short paragraph about the author’s life and recommended readings.”

Benazir Bhutto: Favored Daughter by Brooke Allen ($0.99, 83% off)

Amazon has published a series of biographies, all less than 200 pages. Bhutto’s is on sale now: “The first woman to lead a Muslim nation…Born to privilege as the daughter of one of Pakistan’s great feudal families, she was groomed for a diplomatic career and was thrust into the political arena when her father, Pakistan’s charismatic and controversial prime minister, was executed.”

Other books in the Icons series on sale now:

In Gratitude by Jenny Diski ($1.99, 90% off)

This memoir by British author Diski was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. “From a wholly original thinker comes a book like no other: a cerebral, witty, dazzlingly candid masterpiece about an uneasy relationship; about memory and writing, ingratitude and anger; about living with illness and facing death.”

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li ($1.99, 90% off)

“Yiyun Li grew up in China and has spent her adult life as an immigrant in a country not her own. She has been a scientist, an author, a mother, a daughter—and through it all she has been sustained by a profound connection with the writers and books she loves.” “Written over two years while the author battled suicidal depression… [this book] is a painful and yet richly affirming examination of what makes life worth living.”

The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity by Cynthia Bourgeault ($2.99)

I do love it when the old texts are given a good, healthy shake.

“Cynthia Bourgeault examines the Bible, church tradition, art, legend, and newly discovered texts to see what’s there…What emerges is a radical view of Mary Magdalene as Jesus’s most important disciple, the one he considered to understand his teaching best. That teaching was characterized by a nondualistic approach to the world and by a deep understanding of the value of the feminine.”

“This is not simply another book on Mary Magdalene along the lines of Dan Brown or the Holy Blood/Holy Grail authors…[it’s] an argument that is certainly controversial, and in lesser hands has been badly distorted. However, Bourgeault does it in a way that is grounded both spiritually and academically.”

You can see how I rated the books I’ve read recently on my Goodreads “Read” shelf.

Creative Commons licensed images by HealthyMond on Unsplash (inside the book tower at the Municipal Library in Prague) and Jan Mellström on Unsplash (antique shop in Venice).

Amazon book links are affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission on any sales that result from clicking. Thank you!

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