BOOKS ON WILLAMETTE’S DAME OF PINOT NOIR, ALASKAN NATIVE HISTORY AND ART, CHRISTMAS STORIES FROM FRANCE, THE LEGENDARY ITALIAN JOURNALIST ORIANA FALLACI, MLB’S BIGGEST HITS, AND MORE.
A VERY FRENCH CHRISTMAS The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All Time Jean-philippe Blondel, Dominique Fabre, New Vessel Press Hardcover $22.95 (140pp), 978-1-939931-50-4
Christmas comes but once a year, yet it gets to enjoy extravagant dinners and gift-giving soirees in splendid places, so don’t feel too bad for the holiday. Take France, for example, home to many of the finest kitchens and wine cellars in the world. What holiday wouldn’t love to visit France? The English-speaking Francophiles and travelers among us who like nothing more than to suss out the soul of a foreign place can rejoice in this endearing collection of Christmas stories from ten of France’s most esteemed writers—past and present— skillfully translated. Think about it this way: the Christmas spirit possessed the pens of Guy de Maupassant, Anatole France, Irène Némirovsky, Alphonse Daudet, Anatole La Braz, Jean-philippe Blondel, Dominique Fabre, Paul Arène, François Coppée, and Anatole Gustave Droz. What’s not to love?
THE VINEYARD YEARS A Memoir with Recipes Susan Sokol Blosser, Westwinds Press Softcover $16.99 (286pp), 978-1-5132-6071-6
Serious grape nuts know that every grape variety (Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, etc.) has a favorite place to dwell. Grapevines will grow just about anywhere, but to make spectacular wine, each variety prefers very particular growing conditions—soil type, hours of sunlight, ambient temperature, and other factors. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon reach their full potential in the Bordeaux region of France, for example; Syrah, in the Rhone. In the New World, Napa Valley has shown a remarkable affinity for Cabernet and Chardonnay, and, of great interest to Pinot Noir lovers, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, with its chalky soils and chilly nights, is now thought to rival Burgundy in growing great Pinot Noir. In fact, even while Oregon only accounts for 1 percent of the wine produced in the US, the state produced a remarkable 20 percent of the wine that Wine Spectator awarded ninety points or higher.
The founder of Sokol Blosser Winery, one of Willamette’s first wineries, Susan Sokol Blosser was instrumental in helping her region attain world-class status for its Pinot Noir. This memoir proves that her writing and intelligence is at least on par with her winemaking prowess.
DIAMONDS FROM THE DUGOUT 115 of Baseball’s Greatest Hits from Baseball Legends Mark Newman, Blue River Press Hardcover $24.95 (240pp), 978-1-68157-067-9
To err is human. To err at batting and fielding balls is the defining feature of America’s favorite game. Even the best who play the game are successful at hitting a baseball only three times out of every ten attempts. And because of all that failure, retired professional ballplayers tend to remember most of the singles, doubles, triples, and home runs they swatted over the course of their long careers. One of baseball’s top beat writers, Mark Newman posed the very succinct What hit meant the most to you and why? question to more than one hundred legendary ballplayers, and their answers make for mesmerizing, often emotional reading—iconic names like Johnny Bench, Roberto Clemente, Carlton Fisk, Lou Brock, Pete Rose, Brooks Robinson, Ken Griffey Jr., and Mickey Mantle. To err is human, even in book publishing, but this project knocks it out of the park.
ORIANA FALLACI The Journalist, the Agitator, the Legend Cristina De Stefano, Marina Harss, translator Other Press Hardcover $25.95 (288pp), 978-1-59051-786-4
Historically, the multifronted battles of the sexes were unfairly one-sided—men almost always won. And while progress did and does happen occasionally, a proudly sexist, impolite president has made boorish behavior acceptable again for millions of men. Here’s hoping women everywhere push back with everything they got. Here’s hoping strong, courageous women are celebrated and emulated. Here’s Oriana Fallaci: The Journalist, the Agitator, the Legend, offering a near-perfect example of a woman owning her environment—from her early teen years in the Italian Resistance to the first act of her journalist career where she developed a full-frontal, abrasive interview style covering the entertainment industry to the worldwide fame she earned interviewing Khomeini, Gaddafi, Indira Gandhi, Kissinger, Ariel Sharon, and so many others. Not to forget that she also squeezed in some war reporting, novel writing, and love affairs that can only be described as torrid and then heartbreaking. This is as powerful a life story as you will ever read.
NORTH Finding Place in Alaska Julie Decker, editor, University of Washington Press Softcover $39.95 (304pp), 978-0-295-74184-0
You don’t need a degree in etymology to know that the word indigenous can be alternately pronounced dug-in-ness, providing a far better sense of its meaning. And in the Americas, no people are more dug- in than native Alaskans, descendants of the original adventurers who crossed the Bering Strait—perhaps as long as twenty-four thousand years ago—and stayed up there rather than heading south.
This fascinating art/anthropology/history project came about as a winning partnership between Anchorage Museum and the University of Washington Press. Along with a diverse collection of writers, Julie Decker, the museum’s director, contributed four chapters and the intro, in which she writes, “This publication seeks to place Alaska’s history, cultures, landscapes, and people into an American art perspective and an international northern perspective.” The artworks depicted herein proceed to tell a great deal about the individuals and communities from which they originated. Alaskan history is any number of beautiful things.
TRIUMPH AND DISASTER Five Historical Miniatures 978-1-78227-274-8 GENIUS AND DISCOVERY Five Historical Miniatures 978-1-78227-275-5, Stefan Zweig, Pushkin Press Hardcover $16.95 (160pp)
Try as it might, history has a hard time being impartial. In the course of human events, certain matters get elevated above others for no clear reason. The same with historical figures. Some get fame and notoriety, while their equally notable counterparts find silence and obscurity. Unless, of course, a dogged historian takes notice and corrects the historical record. Vienna- born Stefan Zweig served that role in Europe between WWI and WWII, writing brilliant historical miniatures, beloved at the time, and never out of print since; more than three million copies have sold. Zweig’s eye for identifying worthwhile subjects to cover was flawless; his writing and storytelling skills, masterful—all served in little twenty- to twenty-five-page bursts of insight. Nonfiction essays now seem all the rage, but Zweig had perfected the discipline nearly one hundred years ago.