Chanukah begins at sundown tonight. Though it was fun to light the first candle while also carving the Thanksgiving turkey in 2013, I think it is safe to say that, for those who include gift-giving as a part of their holiday celebration, it’s nice to have a few extra shopping days this year.
As if the extra time weren’t helpful enough, I’m going to make shopping even easier, dear blog readers, by compiling a list of eight reading recommendations (one for each night!) that would make wonderful gifts for the book lovers in your life.
My selections fall into three favorite categories—health, food, and Judaism—each sure to ignite lively conversations between family and friends.
And, as a special treat, I’m including my favorite Chanukah recipe for “Bourbon Pear and Apple Sauce.” It’s the perfect, grown-up accompaniment to latkes.
Happy holidays, everyone!
HEALTH AND MEDICINE:
The Good Doctor: A Father, a Son, and the Evolution of Medical Ethics
By Barron H. Lerner
This book is both a thoughtful look at the evolution of modern patient care, and the heartwarming story of a dedicated and beloved doctor, as told by his son (also a doctor). The New York Times called it, “Exquisitely insightful.”
An entertaining look back at 19th century quacks, snake-oil salesmen, and charlatans, whose bizarre cures and remedies laid the groundwork for modern medicine.
What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine
By Danielle Ofri, MD.
The author examines how a doctor’s feelings of shame, fear, anger, anxiety, empathy, and even love, can impact and influence patient care. The Boston Globe called the book, “Rich and deeply insightful. . . . A fascinating journey into the heart and mind of a physician struggling to do the best for her patients while navigating an imperfect health care system.”
FOOD AND FOOD CULTURE:
White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf
By Aaron Bobrow-Strain
Thoroughly entertaining and meticulously researched, this book explores America’s century-long love-hate relationship with white bread, the companies that make it, and the people who buy it. It’s a smart and accessible look at food politics.
A journalist living in Italy explores the many ways that food culture and traditions are being lost to an over-processed world. Though there are no specific recipes, the reader is introduced to a variety of meals and ingredients that will have your mouth watering and inspire you to get back into the kitchen.
JUDAISM and JUDAISM-ADJACENT:
Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family
By Susan Katz Miller
Almost a third of all married Americans have a spouse from another religion, and there are now more children in Christian-Jewish interfaith families than in families with two Jewish parents. This book explores and celebrates the growing number of American interfaith families, where parents are choosing to raise their children in two religions, instead of picking one, or giving up on both.
The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation
By Louise Steinman
In Steinman’s beautifully written literary memoir she travels to Poland to explore the past, and uses her own family’s experiences as the lens to explore how Jews of Polish descent are trying to reconnect with their families’ Polish roots today.
Man’s Search For Meaning (new Gift Edition)
By Viktor E. Frankl
First published in 1959, this book has sold more than four million copies, and continues to be a source of hope to readers. Part memoir, self-help manual, Frankl writes about surviving three years in Nazi concentration camps, and uses his training as a psychiatrist to reflect on how people can transcend suffering and find meaning in their lives. O, the Oprah Magazine called the book, "[O]ne of the most significant books of the 20th century.”
Bourbon Pear and Apple Sauce for Chanukah
(makes 6-8 servings, but can easily be doubled)
2 tsp grated ginger, fresh or frozen
2 tbs butter
1/3 cup bourbon (you can go up to a ½ cup if you want to get crazy)
6 tbs brown sugar
4 large apples peeled, cored, and sliced (not chopped)—softer apples, McIntosh or Cortland work best
2 large or 3 small pears, ripe or semi-ripe, cored and sliced
1/2 cup water, or as needed
Peel, core, and slice apples and pears. Set aside. Set stove to medium high.
In an enamel pot, melt the butter and then sauté the ginger until fragrant (2-3 minutes). Add brown sugar and cook until dissolved, stirring frequently. Add in the bourbon and cook until reduced by half.
Add in apples and pear, spreading them evenly along the bottom of the pot Bring the ingredients to a bubble.
Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking apart fruit as it softens. Add water, as needed, to thin out the consistency and keep the sauce from sticking to the pot.
Mash with a potato masher to desired consistency. Let cool slightly and serve warm alongside potato pancakes.
Caitlin Meyer is a senior publicist at Beacon Press. Meyer previously worked at Facing History and Ourselves as Public Relations and Communications Manager before joining Beacon in 2008. She is a graduate of Emerson College.