Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Good morning, fellow readers! I didn’t get as much book reading done this week, not sure why, so I’m still making my way through Kindred by Octavia Butler and Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope by Shirin Ebadi. I’m enjoying both of them, although I can only read Kindred during the day because I get so worked up and uneasy at the thought of her life. I don’t want to go to bed worrying about her. Yes, I know it’s fiction, time-travel fiction at that, but the premise is unbearable.

Last night I read an article in the Post about women protesting the repressive regime in Iran by pulling off their headscarves in public—a defiant and illegal act that has sent many women to jail. I took more notice than usual because earlier this week, in Ebadi’s memoir, I read about that law’s introduction. She was not pleased. I’m amazed she’s avoided jail so far, but I’m only a little more than halfway through so we’ll see.

Now, onto some cheap but good reads. As of earlier today, these ebooks were on sale at $2 to $5 at Amazon—up to an 88% 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.


Just added, on sale today only: The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee ($2.99)

New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and named a best book of the year by many.

A “wild opera of a novel,” The Queen of the Night tells the mesmerizing story of Lilliet Berne, an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept into the glamour and terror of Second Empire France. She became a sensation of the Paris Opera, with every accolade but an original role—her chance at immortality. When one is offered to her, she finds the libretto is based on her deepest secret, something only four people have ever known. But who betrayed her? With “epic sweep, gorgeous language, and haunting details,” Alexander Chee shares Lilliet’s cunning transformation from circus rider to courtesan to legendary soprano, retracing the path that led to the role that could secure her reputation—or destroy her with the secrets it reveals.

A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger ($1.99, 77% off)

In Chaucer’s London, betrayal, murder, royal intrigue, mystery, and dangerous politics swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings….Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail—on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels—to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.

The Last Days of Nights by Graham Moore ($2.99)

Great inventors take the stage in this historical fiction/legal thriller based on the lighting of New York City in the 1890s. The story is told by Paul Cravath, an attorney hired by George Westinghouse to take on Thomas Edison in a battle over lightbulb patents. The setup may sound dry, but Graham’s pacing keeps the story driving forward. There are crimes. There’s a mysterious woman. There’s a mad genius in the form of Nikola Tesla. And it’s all sets against the backdrop of the glittering Gilded Age. Every so often an historical fiction comes along that captures the imaginations of legions of readers. The Last Days of Night will join that elite group of novels.

On sale today only: Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow ($2.99)

In the Bronx of the 1930s, 15-year-old Billy Bathgate hooks up with a legendary mobster, Dutch Schultz. Schultz becomes an unlikely surrogate parent to the boy, introducing him to the ways of the world and training Billy to follow in his footsteps. After Billy falls for Schulz’s latest girlfriend, he begins to question the actions of the mob he was so eager to join. As he seeks to protect the young woman, he gains strength in following his own heart and makes a courageous passage from boyhood to adulthood. Doctorow won the 1990 PEN/Faulkner Award for this novel.

How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall ($1.99)

A daringly imaginative tale in which multiple lives are woven together through the prism of a still life painting. Moving from Italy to England, spanning nearly half a century, and bringing together the lives of four disparate characters, How to Paint a Dead Man is Hall’s fierce and brilliant study of art and its place in our lives.

Strange as This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake ($3.99, 58% off)

Set in present day West Virginia, Ann Pancake’s debut novel tells the story of a coal mining family—a couple and their four children—living through the latest mining boom and dealing with the mountaintop removal and strip mining that is ruining what is left of their mountain life. As the mine turns the mountains to slag and wastewater, workers struggle with layoffs and children find adventure in the blasted moonscape craters.

The Group by Mary McCarthy ($2.99)

A novel that stunned the world when it was first published in 1963, McCarthy’s The Group found acclaim, controversy, and a place atop the New York Times bestseller list for nearly two years for its frank and controversial exploration of women’s issues, social concerns, and sexuality. A blistering satire of the mores of an emergent generation of women, The Group is McCarthy’s enduring masterpiece, still as relevant, powerful, and wonderfully entertaining fifty years on.

According to Queeney by Beryl Bainbridge ($2.99)

This historical novel set during the eighteenth century recounts the tumultuous final years of famed English lexicographer and poet Samuel Johnson….Lauded British author Beryl Bainbridge paints a well-rounded portrait of an extraordinary man and his all-too-human experiences. Written from the perspective of the Thrales’s daughter, According to Queeney heightens fact with fiction, sincerity with irony, and humor with despair. Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, it is a captivating account of the Georgian era, lending modern insight to British history.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck ($2.99)

Published in 1945, Cannery Row focuses on the acceptance of life as it is: both the exuberance of community and the loneliness of the individual. Drawing on his memories of the real inhabitants of Monterey, California…Steinbeck interweaves the stories of…characters in this world where only the fittest survive, to create a novel that is at once one of his most humorous and poignant works. In her introduction, Susan Shillinglaw shows how the novel expresses, both in style and theme, much that is essentially Steinbeck: “scientific detachment, empathy toward the lonely and depressed…and, at the darkest level…the terror of isolation and nothingness.”

The Secret Lives of Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin ($1.99)

A perceptive, entertaining, and eye-opening novel of polygamy in modern-day Nigeria. The struggles, rivalries, intricate family politics, and the interplay of personalities and relationships within the complex private world of a polygamous union come to life in The Secret Lives of Four Wives set against a contemporary African background.

my recommended fiction, cookbooks and nonfiction ebooks on sale

Food & Cooking:

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

Get ready for a celebration of all things Irish—next Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day. Here are four Irish cookbooks in my library, all at a great price.

The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews is still on sale this week ($3.00).

Food and travel writer Colman Andrews brings to life the people, countryside, and delicious food of Ireland. Fast emerging as one of the world’s hottest culinary destinations, Ireland is a country of artisanal bakers, farmers, cheese makers, and butteries, where farm-to-table dining has been practiced for centuries. Meticulously researched and reported, this sumptuous cookbook includes 250 recipes and more than 100 photographs of the pubs, the people, and the emerald Irish countryside…Rich with stories of the food and people who make Ireland a wonderful place to eat, and laced with charming snippets of song, folklore, and poetry, The Country Cooking of Ireland ushers in a new understanding of Irish food.

The Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret Johnson is still on sale this week ($3.99).

“Contemporary Irish cooking means not just a rustic, stick-to-your-ribs Irish Stew with Brown Soda Bread, but also Green Tomato Tarte Tatin, as original and sophisticated as one found anywhere in Europe. The book reads like a tourist itinerary for hungry pub crawlers…and shares history on favorite pubs and their famous and infamous patrons and proprietors.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

Kevin Dundon’s Modern Irish Food by Kevin Dundon ($4.99)

“Kevin Dundon’s Modern Irish Food is clearly from [the farm-to-table] tradition of Irish cooking. None of the ingredients used are particularly revolutionary or are the concepts too difficult, but it’s very much Irish classics with a slight twist.” (The Baking Beardy)

My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve by Cathal Armstrong ($5.99)

“Armstrong is the chef of several DC-area Irish joints, including Restaurant Eve. His debut cookbook, My Irish Table, explores everything from his Irish homeland to his current career in fine dining….Beyond the breakfast pages, you’ll find a collection of Armstrong’s mother’s dishes; a chapter each on fish, vegetables, and baked goods; a set of celebratory dishes grouped by holiday; and, of course, a section devoted to refined dishes from the restaurant. But this chapter does not dominate the book—Armstrong’s cooking is nothing but approachable.” (Serious Eats)

Other e-cookbooks on sale right now…

Adventures in Slow Cooking: 120 Recipes for People Who Love Food by Sarah DiGregorio ($1.99)

“The recipes are spot-on….but just as exciting are her expert tips about the equipment itself. It’s clear that DiGregorio has spent a lot of time with her slow cooker—she wrote our Guide to the Best Slow Cookers, after all—and she has endless knowledge for slow-cooking newbies and veterans alike.” (Food & Wine)

Rose’s All-Original All-American Pie Recipes by Rose Levy Beranbaum ($2.99)

I didn’t buy this cookbook because I have one of hers that’s even better, The Pie and Pastry Bible. The Rose’s All-Original cookbook is described as “nine completely new but tested-and-proven pie recipes. The book provides tips and techniques for baking in general, and complete directions for each pie and crust type.” I checked the table of contents and it really does only have nine recipes. If you want a good pie cookbook, splurge for the Bible. It’s well worth it.

Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen by Gonzalo Guzmán ($1.99, 87% off)

Finalist for the 2018 International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Book Awards.

“It’s never easy to convince someone to try a cultural cuisine, let alone cook it. But if you were to consider Nopalito as California-style fresh cuisine with regional Mexican flavors and ingredients woven in, perhaps just maybe you’d give this book more than a passing glance. Inspired by his familial roots in Mexico and then his professional career in San Francisco, chef and Nopalito owner Guzmán takes you thoughtfully [through] family-style recipes that he cooks and serves in his restaurants. Fresh and vibrant like the market foods they are prepared from, and wistfully nostalgic for the land and memories that inspire them. You will cook and delight in it all. And add a healthy dose of cultural cuisine to your kitchen repertoire.” (WITF)

The Minimalist Cooks Dinner: More Than 100 Recipes for Fast Weeknight Meals and Casual Entertaining by Mark Bittman ($1.99)

“One of Bittman’s smaller cookbooks, comprised of about 100 recipes that were previously published in his Minimalist column in The New York Times. This is a solid collection all-around, with a lot of interesting dishes that were new to me….I did learn a couple of wonderful new techniques from this cookbook that I have since incorporated into my regular repertoire….If you don’t already own a Bittman tome like How to Cook Everything, this book would certainly be a good introduction to his cooking style, and a lot less daunting to get through.” (Simply Cooking)

I have How to Cook Everything, it’s a great all-around fundamental cookbook.

Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook by Elisabeth Prueitt ($2.99)

“You can tell a lot about a cookbook by its first and its last recipe…The first recipe…is a simple gremolata…And the last: marshmallows. In between there are about 200 more recipes and well over 300 pages….as well as tips and menus and pretty pictures….Both recipes work perfectly; both you can make and make again, fitting them into dozens of meals. Or you just read about them….and go straight to the everyday portion of the program, the pages and pages of stuff you’ll want to make tonight for dinner….It’s a cook’s book, a family book, a home kitchen book. That said, it isn’t really a book for beginners.” (Los Angeles Times)

my recommended fiction, cookbooks and nonfiction ebooks on sale


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

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert ($2.99)

I love this book. Whether you’re a creative or not, you’ll find inspiration here. You may know Gilbert as the author of Eat Pray Love—and that will be all you need to hear to either buy this book or click away. Don’t make the mistake of turning away if you want to tap into your innate creativity.

The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer That Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield ($0.99)

It began in Ireland in the mid-1700s. The water in Ireland, indeed throughout Europe, was famously undrinkable, and the gin and whiskey that took its place devastated civil society. It was a disease ridden, starvation-plagued, alcoholic age, and Christians like Arthur Guinness—as well as monks and even evangelical churches—brewed beer that provided a healthier alternative to the poisonous waters and liquors of the times. This is where the Guinness tale began…The tale that unfolds during those two and a half centuries has power to thrill audiences today: the generational drama, business adventure, industrial and social reforms, deep-felt faith, and the noble beer itself.

Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto ($1.99)

Meticulously researched and beautifully written, the true story of a Japanese American family that found itself on opposite sides during World War II…a riveting chronicle of U.S.–Japan relations and the Japanese experience in America…Alternating between the American and Japanese perspectives, Midnight in Broad Daylight captures the uncertainty and intensity of those charged with the fighting as well as the deteriorating home front of Hiroshima—as never told before in English—and provides a fresh look at the dropping of the first atomic bomb…An indelible portrait of a resilient family, a scathing examination of racism and xenophobia, an homage to the tremendous Japanese American contribution to the American war effort, and an invaluable addition to the historical record of this extraordinary time.

England to Me by Emily Hahn ($1.99, 77% off)

Emily Hahn has been called by the New Yorker “a forgotten American literary treasure.” Now Hahn is reintroduced to a new generation of readers, bringing to light her richly textured voice and unique perspective on a world that continues to exist through both history and fiction….Hahn’s England to Me takes readers into a [post-World War II] world filled with uncertainty as she tries to settle into the English countryside after her harrowing years in the Far East. From Southampton to London, here is a portrait of a country in flux, and of a woman of strong insight determined to find her place in it.

The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen by Susan Bordo ($2.99)

Part biography, part cultural history, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne’s life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination…Drawing on scholarship and critical analysis, Bordo probes the complexities of one of history’s most infamous relationships. Bordo also shows how generations of polemicists, biographers, novelists, and filmmakers imagined and re-imagined Anne: whore, martyr, cautionary tale, proto “mean girl,” feminist icon, and everything in between. In this lively book, Bordo steps off the well-trodden paths of Tudoriana to expertly tease out the human being behind the competing mythologies.

On sale today only: You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages by Carina Chocano ($1.99, 80% off)

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism and the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay.

In this smart, funny, impassioned call to arms, a pop culture critic merges memoir and commentary to explore how our culture shapes ideas about who women are, what they are meant to be, and where they belong…Chocano blends formative personal stories with insightful and emotionally powerful analysis. She explains how growing up in the shadow of “the girl” taught her to think about herself and the world and what it means to raise a daughter in the face of these contorted reflections.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem ($1.99)

The moving, funny, and profound story of Gloria’s growth and also the growth of a revolutionary movement for equality—and the story of how surprising encounters on the road shaped both. From her first experience of social activism among women in India to her work as a journalist in the 1960s; from the whirlwind of political campaigns to the founding of Ms. magazine; from the historic 1977 National Women’s Conference to her travels through Indian Country—a lifetime spent on the road allowed Gloria to listen and connect deeply with people, to understand that context is everything, and to become part of a movement that would change the world.

Skin: Talking About Sex, Class, and Literature by Dorothy Allison ($3.99, 60% off)

A collection of critical essays from award-winning author Dorothy Allison about identity, gender politics, and queer theory…Known for her bold and insightful writing on issues of class and sexuality. In Skin, she approaches these topics through twenty-three impassioned essays that explore her identity—from her childhood in a poor family in South Carolina to her adult life as a lesbian in the suburbs of New York—and her sexuality.

Dorothy Allison is perhaps best known for her novel, Bastard out of Carolina, an excellent read.

Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull ($4.99, 64% off)

The charming true story of a spirited young woman who finds adventure—and the love of her life—in Paris…A delightful, fresh twist on the travel memoir, Almost French takes us on a tour that is fraught with culture clashes but rife with deadpan humor…As she navigates the highs and lows of this strange new world, from life in a bustling quartier and surviving Parisian dinner parties to covering the haute couture fashion shows and discovering the hard way the paradoxes of France today, little by little Sarah falls under its spell: maddening, mysterious, and charged with that French specialty—seduction.

Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877–1920 by Jackson Lears ($1.99)

An illuminating and authoritative history of America in the years between the Civil War and World War I…As he does in all of his acclaimed writings, Lears culls numerous sources to give a compelling, humane portrait of a cultural epoch. Rather than rehashing familiar tales, he brings acute judgment to the motivations of well-known figures like J. P. Morgan and William Jennings Bryan, while using their individual stories to illustrate the larger milieu…In fact, most critics appreciated that the author draws firm parallels between the time period in question and our own.

1917: Lenin, Wilson, and the Birth of the New World Disorder by Arthur Herman ($2.99)

This is the story of two men, and the two decisions, that transformed world history in a single tumultuous year, 1917: Wilson’s entry into World War One and Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution…In this incisive, fast-paced history, New York Times bestselling author Arthur Herman brilliantly reveals how Lenin and Wilson rewrote the rules of modern geopolitics…[and] unleashed the disruptive ideologies that would sweep the world, from nationalism and globalism to Communism and terrorism, and that continue to shape our world today.

Creative Commons licensed photos by Juan Davila (lake) and Ben (trees) on Unsplash.

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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