The Best New Books to Read This Month

The year isn’t over yet! Here are 8 books to add to your 2016 reading list, including one holiday story collection perfect for the season.

1

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, by Sarah Lohman

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Food historian Sarah Lohman uses early American recipes to explain how eight flavors – black pepper, vanilla, garlic, soy sauce, chili powder, curry powder, MSG (monosodium glutamate), and Sriracha – helped shape American diets (and palates) today. Take black pepper for instance: Lohman begins with the story of Jonathan Carnes’ 1790 discovery of pepper farms in Sumatra to the 1993 launch of the Food Network, which has led to a 40% increase in pepper consumption in the U.S. in the years since. Apparently, seeing chefs like Mario Batali and Ina Garten finish off their dishes with fresh cracked pepper ushered in a new era of seasoning in American home kitchens. Fascinating! But what becomes most apparent in Lohman’s engaging, well-researched book is the role immigration has played in American cuisine. Chili powder, for example, was invented by a German American in 1897 who was inspired by the “Chili Queens of San Antonio” and sought to make cooking Mexican food at home easier. Lohman, who chronicles her adventures in historical gastronomy on her blog Four Pounds Flour, writes in a conversational style that is easy to read and utterly delectable.

RELATED: 7 Food Memoirs That Will Make Your Mouth Water

To buy: $20, amazon.com.

Released December 6.


2

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars, by Dava Sobel

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Acclaimed science writer Dava Sobel (A More Perfect Heaven) shines a light on the brilliant history of the 22 women who worked at Harvard Observatory during the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Dubbed “human computers,” these women were tasked with calculating and interpreting the data that their male colleagues collected via telescopes. Studying glass photographic plates of the stars, the women catalogued thousands of discoveries and created classification systems still in use today. With her superb research of countless letters and diaries, Sobel delves into their personal lives as well as the science to weave a fascinating and inspiring tale of these female pioneers who have been shamefully overlooked.

To buy: $21, amazon.com.

Released December 6.


3

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days, by Jeanette Winterson

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British author Jeanette Winterson channels Charles Dickens for this baker’s dozen (there is a bonus personal tale about her own Christmas memories) of holiday-themed short stories featuring ghosts, fairies, and orphans. Many of the entries have been published before, but this compendium, which also features seasonal recipes, makes for a timely gift to be enjoyed with a mug of cocoa.

To buy: $20, amazon.com.

Released December 6.



4

The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds, by Michael Lewis

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To err is human, as the saying goes. Forty years ago, two Israeli psychologists, Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky, wrote a series of studies that explained how humans make decisions – and just how unreliable our intuitions can be. Unwittingly, Michael Lewis touched upon this aspect of cognitive psychology in his bestselling book Moneyball, which told the story of how the Oakland Athletics scrapped human intuition and turned to statistics to improve its team and win baseball games. When The New Republic referenced Kahneman and Tversky in a review of Moneyball, Lewis set out to learn more about their work. In The Undoing Project, Lewis explains not only their incredible work, which created the field of behavioral economics, but also the marriage of two brilliant minds. Complete opposites, moody and insecure Kahneman and swaggering, extroverted Tversky managed to become such a united front that they even sat side by side at one typewriter. But as so often happens with intensely close relationships, the pair drifted apart. Dr. Tversky was given more credit and the jealousy drove a wedge between them. While the sections of the book that illuminate their groundbreaking research can be tough to digest, the collaborative love story captivates and inspires.

To buy: $17.50, amazon.com.

Released December 6.


5

In Sunlight or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper, edited by Lawrence Block

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Even if your knowledge of the American painter Edward Hopper begins and ends with “Nighthawks,” you will still be entranced by this impressive collection of short stories based on his work. Featuring contributions from acclaimed writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, Megan Abbott, and Lee Child, In Sunlight or In Shadow brings Hopper’s depictions of America, from peaceful landscapes to noir cityscapes, to life with the deft hand of each author’s voice. Every story opens with a color reproduction of the painting that is at the center of it, allowing the reader to discover new details in Hopper’s work that may have gone unnoticed if not for the spectacular storytelling.

To buy: $20, amazon.com.

Released December 6.


6

A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, by Siri Hustvedt

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Celebrated novelist Siri Hustvedt (The Blazing World) assembles her boldest essays on women, art, perception, philosophy, neuroscience, and consciousness in this impressive, scholarly collection. Tackling lofty subjects such as the mind-body problem, consciousness, gender biases in art and literature, and more, Hustvedt proves she is among the top of today’s critical voices.

To buy: $26, amazon.com.

Released December 6.



7

Small Admissions, by Amy Poeppel

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When Kate is unceremoniously dumped by her French “almost fiancé,” she abandons her grad school plans and instead takes up residence on her couch, leaving only for an occasional dog-walking gig. Enter Angela, her type-A, extremely wound-up sister, who helps Kate land a job in the, you guessed it, admissions department at the Hudson Day School, an elite private school in Manhattan. Jumping in the height of “the dark time” (aka the admissions season), Kate must keep her life together as she does her best to handle the strong personalities of eager parents and entitled students. (The letters and emails Kate receives from parents desperate to get their children into Hudson Day add a healthy dose of laugh-out-loud humor.) While it takes a little bit to get into the story, Small Admissions is a fun (and funny) take on how sometimes twists of fate lead us exactly where we are meant to be.

To buy: $20, amazon.com.

Released December 27.


8

Books for Living, by Will Schwalbe

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“What are you reading?” That’s the question publisher and author Will Schwalbe thinks we should all be asking each other more. It is a simple question, but one that can open a vast, shared universe and opportunities for discussion. In a similar vein as his 2012 bestseller, The End of Life Book Club, which chronicled the books he and his mother read together as she was dying from pancreatic cancer, Schwalbe now shares the books that help him make sense of the world. This isn’t necessarily a list of his favorite books, but those that helped him when he was in need. E.B. White’s Stuart Little helped him explore the world, Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train taught him how to decipher trustworthiness, while Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living has been his steadfast guide throughout it all. Schwalbe doesn’t spend much time rehashing each book, but rather demonstrates how the book influenced or changed him through personal stories. A love letter to reading, bibliophiles will close the last page with a few more entries on their to-read list.

To buy: $19.50, amazon.com.

Released December 27.