Great Books for Hunkering Down

Posted by: Erin March 25, 2020 No Comments

From lazy long weekends to holidays at the beach, these books are perfect for any self isolation.

By Erin

Call me crazy, but I’m kindof digging these days of social distancing.

A global pandemic and world-wide hysteria notwithstanding, I’m finding this involuntary shut-down and welcome break from the constant go-go-go of my entrepreneurial life. (Talk to me in a month when I can’t pay my mortgage and I may be singing a different tune, but for now, the band’s playing on).

Now, I’m completing long-planned projects, puttering in my kitchen, and of course, curling up on the couch with an absorbing read.

Below, I’ve put together a list of great wine books for hunkering down. Be warned: these are highly inspirational and may encourage you to start a new career, or simply attempt a cake from scratch.

Harvest of Joy, How the Good Life Became Great Business, by Robert Mondavi

I love this book. I’ve read numerous times and loaned it to close friends and family (not easy for me to do, I’m not someone who loans books comfortably). This incredible tale of California wine pioneer, Robert Mondavi, is exquisitely written, tracing the remarkable adventure of his life and his eponymous winery. Brimming with quotable passages, readers will find inspiration, advice, and validation in every chapter. You can read my earlier, in-depth review here. If you are a lover of business, entrepreneurship, romance, food, wine or a hero’s journey, this is a great wine book for hunkering down.

The Widow Clicquot, The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It, by Tilar J. Mazzeo

A New York Times best-selling biography pieced together from the private journals of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, the records of her Champagne house, Veuve Clicquot, and historical fact, Tilar expertly tells the story of a true-life legend and visionary. Barbe-Nicole was widowed in 1805 when she was just 27 years old.  Social norms suggest that she should have returned her father or remarried. Instead, she chose to take over her husband’s fledgling winery. For decades she navigated the champagne house through political upheaval, war, and financial crises with deft authority and skill. Thanks to her acumen, her business not only thrives 200 years later, but is synonymous with style and luxury.

The Wine Bible, by Karen MacNeil

Entertaining and informative, I read this book cover to cover when I was studying for my somm designation, and now I recommend it to all our students. At 1,000 pages this is truly a bible. It covers everything from how wine is made, wine regions, bottle recommendations – even historical trivia. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the tome. You can choose your own wine adventure, cherry picking the chapters most interesting to you. Or you can also easily read from start to finish if you are simply looking to learn a bit more. Fascinating, intelligent and utterly absorbing, this is a must have for any wine library.

Around My French Table, More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

Yes, I know this is a cookbook. But it’s still a great book. Each entry starts with a few paragraphs about why the recipe matters in France, notes on life and culture in gay Paree, and even ideas to make the recipe adaptable to what you have available in your hometown. The recipes are excellent, and Dorie walks you through each step so seamlessly you will feel quite confident taking up a whisk and marching dans votre cuisine. But the real deliciousness comes from the lively and evocative stories. I read this book when I crave armchair travel, inspiration for a more elegant life, or indulge my inner voyeur to life in France.

A Table in Venice, by Skye McAlpine

For the same reason I delight in Around My French Table, I adore Skye’s anecdotes of life in Venice. Born in the UK and raised in Venice, she now divides her time between London and the Floating City. Overflowing with tantalizing photographs – of the markets, the food, Skye’s signature, elegantly bohemian table settings – this book draws me in every time. The recipes are reasonably simple, but utterly exquisite. The accompanying write ups make you feel as though you are sharing a secret with Skye over a spritz in a locals-only Venetian trattoria or sitting down to a casually chic alfresco dinner in her beautifully wild garden. Or maybe that’s just me getting carried away. But I dare you to try her poppy seed puffs or zucchini pizzette and not feel the same.

The Book of Cheese, The Essential Guide to Discovering Cheeses You’ll Love, by Liz Thorpe

Perfect for hunkering down, this book is an exhaustive tome of everything related to cheese. Written by America’s leading authority on all things fromage, Liz Thorpe has stuffed everything she can into this 400-page encyclopedia. She lists 10 chapters on leading “umbrella” cheeses (cheddar, brie, mozzarella etc.) and their close and distant relatives. Each chapter starts with a helpful chart to show “gateway” cheeses, leading the casein curious to successfully maneuver from cheese basics to more esoteric and intense cousins. Of course, there’s a write up on each and every cheese mentioned, plus a handy reference at the end of each chapter for great pairings – from crackers to wine. She advises on what appearances, smells and textures to avoid (not as easy as you might think when dealing with mold and pungent aromatics). Liz also expertly offers tips on storage and shelf life, to edible rinds, to her personal faves. Interwoven between the facts and charts are fun trivia on everything from history to animals to laws. Your cheeseboards will never be the same.

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