a la modeAre you ready to take your baking over the top? Here are sixty decadent and delightful ice creams and the sixty desserts that are their vehicles. A la Mode offers not just solid dessert recipes, from raspberry oat bars to bear claws, from chocolate pecan pie to a white chocolate pavlova, but also gives you the unforgettable pairings that make these desserts smash hits: apple cranberry pie with Camembert ice cream, chocolate sheet cake with salt caramel frozen custard, and espresso cream jelly roll with mascarpone ice cream.

Let’s face it: vanilla can sometimes be so… vanilla. A great a-la-mode pairing should be as decadent as finding the perfect wine to go with your cheese plate. With A la Mode , IACP winners and cookbook dynamos Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough show you how to create innovative delights such as creamy hazelnut gelato atop coffee-poached pears, or maple frozen custard with a mouthwatering cinnamon roll cake, alongside simpler classics like confetti ice cream with layered vanilla birthday cake. You haven’t lived until you’ve had peanut brittle pie with popcorn ice cream, a Cracker Jack fantasy!

Because what’s a warm pie without ice cream? With A la Mode , you’ll have an answer to that question! (description from publisher)

sewing happinessTwenty simple sewing projects are tied together with a thread of memoir that tells the story of how sewing brought Sanae Ishida profound happiness. Each seasonal project, specially designed to promote health, creativity, relationships and more, provides gentle inspiration to live your best life.

When Ishida was diagnosed with a chronic illness and lost her corporate job, she thought her life was over. But these challenges ended up being the best thing that ever happened to her because they forced her to take stock of her life and focus on the important things, and enabled her to rediscover sewing – her true passion.

Inspired to succeed at just one thing, Ishida vowed to sew all of her daughter’s clothes (and most of her own) for one year. Sewing Happiness includes 20 projects plus variations (including Japanese-inspired home goods and children’s and women’s clothing) organized by season, and stitched together with Ishida’s charming personal story. (description from publisher)

salt and silverSalt & Silver traces the journey of Johannes Riffelmacher and Thomas Kosikowski as they travel through Central and South America – reporting on all the best surfing locations, chronicling the stories of local surfers and restaurant owners, and compiling recipes representative of each area.

The narrative begins in Cuba with beautiful images of the city and the beaches, as well as stories related to the Cuban surfing community and a discussion of popular Cuban dishes. Next is a tour of Mexico–first with street tacos, a trip through Mexican markets, and day spent in the urban graffitiscene of Guadalajara; then with Tostadas de Pulpo (Octopus Crackers), Shrimp and Portobello Burgers, and glimpse into small town life in the remote surfing town of San Pancho. The Mexican leg of the journey draws to a conclusion with 7-meter-waves, BBQ, and Tajine in Rio Nexpa, as well as “a perfect righthander barreling of a point” in the scenic La Ticla. After Mexico comes a long list of sites and sounds as the two men make their way through Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and finally Chile, exploring the beaches and waves, as well as the kitchens of each location.

Interspersed throughout the pages of the trip are more than 90 regional recipes, over 250 stunning photographs, and a wide array of tips and stories ranging from social commentary on the Cuban surf scene to pointers on how to rent a “Hamaquera” in La Ticla for $3 a night. (description from publisher)

birding for the curiousThis book isn’t for a birder. It’s for the huge audience of people who hike, maybe have bird feeders, and generally enjoy nature. With this book, the naturalist will discover an incredible and rewarding new adventure in the beautiful world of birds.

Birding for the Curious by Nate Swick is packed with easy and fun activities and information about birds, how to find them and their part in the nature around us. The information in this book will not only help you identify and learn more about birds, but you’ll have a blast doing it. Nate Swick, member of the American Birding Association, has compiled chapters upon chapters of interesting, unique and informative birding knowledge, followed by activities that use the skills you learned.

So not only will you learn things like what kind of birds you’re looking at around the neighborhood, how to decipher different bird calls, and how to bring the birds to your backyard, but you’ll complete fun activities like creating a list of the most popular birds in your area, creating a sound map of bird calls, and making a feeder for your backyard. (description from publisher)

great american eating experiencesFollow the locals to their favorite foods throughout the United States, state by state, with the help of this gorgeously packaged travel planner.

Anchored by regional specialties and the best places to sample them, Great American Eating Experiences serves up real-deal comfort foods like New Orleans Po’ Boys and Chesapeake crab cakes, sprinkled with fun food factoids, food surprises, and more. Go beyond the Internet basics and discover the country’s most authentic food experiences. As an added bonus, GPS coordinates for each destination make sure you don’t miss these sometimes hard-to-find secrets.

The book is organized state-by-state, highlighting the best regional eating experiences both tried-and-true and unexpected. Among more than 130 festivals, you’ll discover a festival celebrating Moxie, a medicinal elixir-turned-soft-drink that is almost exclusively found in Maine; local Michigan spots to try Cudighi – ground sausage sandwich topped with mozzarella and tomato sauce; where to sample Native American fry bread in Arizona and New Mexico; the best places to eat Key lime pie in Florida; the two dueling Philly cheesesteak restaurants in Philadelphia; the New Orleans birthplace of the muffaletta; and much more.

This colorful travel planner helps you discover the best local foods and eating experiences throughout the United States. (description from publisher)

new sugar and spiceRaise your desserts to a whole new level of flavor with The New Sugar & Spice, a collection of more than eighty unique, unexpected, and uniformly delicious recipes for spice-centric sweets.

Veteran baker Samantha Seneviratne’s recipes will open your eyes to a world of baking possibilities: Her spicy, pepper-flecked Chile-Chocolate Truffles prove that heat and sweet really do go hand-in-hand, and a fresh batch of aromatic, cinnamon-laced Maple Sticky Buns will have the whole family racing into the kitchen. Discover new recipes from around the globe, such as Sri Lankan Love Cake or Swedish-inspired Saffron Currant Braid. Or, give your classic standbys a bold upgrade, such as making Raspberry Shortcakes with zingy Double Ginger Biscuits.

Filled with fascinating histories, origin stories, and innovative uses for the world’s most enticing spices–including vanilla, cinnamon, peppercorns, and cardamom — The New Sugar & Spice guarantees that dessert will be the most talked-about part of your meal. (description from publisher)

eat pray love made me do itIn the ten years since its electrifying debut, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love has become a worldwide phenomenon, empowering millions of readers to set out on paths they never thought possible, in search of their own best selves. Here, in this candid and captivating collection, nearly fifty of those readers–people as diverse in their experiences as they are in age and background–share their stories. The journeys they recount are transformative–sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, but always deeply inspiring.

Eat Pray Love helped one writer to embrace motherhood, another to come to terms with the loss of her mother, and yet another to find peace with not wanting to become a mother at all. One writer, reeling from a difficult divorce, finds new love overseas; another, a lifelong caregiver, is inspired to take an annual road trip, solo. A man leaves seminary, embraces his sexual identity, and forges a new relationship with God. A woman goes to divinity school and grapples with doubt and belief. One writer’s search for the perfect pizza leads her to New Zealand and off-the-grid homesteading, while another, in overcoming an eating disorder, redefines her relationship not only with food but with herself. Some writers face down devastating illness and crippling fears, and others step out of their old lives to fulfill long-held dreams of singing, acting, writing, teaching, and learning.

Entertaining and enlightening, Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It is a celebration for fans old and new. What will Eat Pray Love make you do? (description from publisher)

rise of the rocket girlsThe riveting true story of the women who launched America into space.

In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn’t turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.

For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women – known as “human computers” – who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we’ve been, and the far reaches of space to which we’re heading. (description from publisher)

eating in the middleIn her inspiring New York Times bestselling memoir, It Was Me All Along , Andie Mitchell chronicled her struggles with obesity, losing weight, and finding balance. Now, in her debut cookbook, she gives readers the dishes that helped her reach her goals and maintain her new size.

In 80 recipes, she shows how she eats: mostly healthy meals that are packed with flavor, like Lemon Roasted Chicken with Moroccan Couscous and Butternut Squash Salad with Kale and Pomegranate, and then the “sometimes” foods, the indulgences such as Peanut Butter Mousse Pie with Marshmallow Whipped Cream, because life just needs dessert.

With 75 photographs and Andie’s beautiful storytelling, Eating in the Middle is the perfect cookbook for anyone looking to find freedom from cravings while still loving and enjoying every meal to the fullest. (description from publisher)

online colorIt’s August and time for a new theme for the Online Reading Challenge! This month it’s Games We Play.

Now wait non-sports fans – don’t leave yet! There are some amazing books on this list and you don’t have to be a fan of competition to appreciate and enjoy them. In fact, in many of these books, sports are in the background, lending color and atmosphere but are not crucial to the story. As for other, more sports-focused titles, you’ll still find that the most important part of the story is the people.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown. I recommend this book to everyone, it’s that good. It will appeal to anyone, no matter what your interests. It’s impossible to not get caught up in the stories of the young men who became team that set out to earn the right to represent the United States in the 1936 Olympics. It’s about struggling against impossible odds brought about by the Great Depression, about creating a family when you no longer have your own, about working together for a common cause. There’s a lot of history woven into the story, a chilling glimpse of what the world would be up against with the Nazi’s and just enough dramatic description of the rowing to help you appreciate this elegant and demanding sport. A winner on many levels. Read it.

Seabiscuit: an American Legend by Lauren Hillenbrand. Hands down, one of my favorite books ever. Beautifully written, rich in atmosphere and history, this is not only the story of the scrappy little horse that won the hearts of the nation, it’s about the people surrounding and touched by this horse – his hard scrabble jockey, the taciturn trainer, the owners that took a chance. Against the backdrop of the grim struggles of the Great Depression, this underdog up against the rich and privileged is a classic American success story. Don’t miss it – for the history, for the colorful characters, for the charming little horse that took everything thrown at him and just kept going.

Mysteries by Dick Francis. The late Dick Francis wrote dozens of mysteries, all set at least on the fringes of horse racing. He was a master of succinct, economical writing, creating action and tension with understated elegance. Sometimes the racing is nearly irrelevant, sometimes it is more central and it is usually English steeplechase (racing over jumps). Francis, who was himself an award-winning jockey, brings authenticity to the books. I’ve read most of these mysteries; the earliest titles are grimmer and more violent while the later ones emphasize atmosphere (although they are no less suspenseful). My favorites are Break In and Bolt which follow the same main character (unusual for Francis) who, like Francis once was,  rides for the Queen Mother. I love the English racing scene he describes, the strategy of the racing and the skill of the jockeys and horses as well as the nearly unbearable tension as the mystery ratchets up. I’d recommend any of Francis’ mysteries for quick, enjoyable reads.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. This harrowing story of an attempt to summit Mt Everest explores a wide variety of issues and emotions – is pursuing this nearly impossible task irresponsible and selfish? What is it doing to the ecosystem of the mountain? How is it affecting the lives of the natives, the often unsung heroes of the expeditions? Is the risk worth the price many have paid? I read the original article that appeared in Outside magazine and could barely make it through those few pages – this is an intense, unforgettable adventure, if you’re up for it.

Some other titles worth looking at include A Good Walk Spoiled (golf) and A Season on the Brink (college basketball) both by John Feinstein, Friday Night Lights (high school football) by Buzz Bissinger and A River Runs Through It (fly fishing) by Norman MacLean. And if you didn’t read it for Magical Realism month, I highly recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain (auto racing) by Garth Stein.

This is a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction, interesting historical settings and lots of suspense. One of the characteristics of these books is the dedication and enthusiasm individuals bring to their chosen field and, no matter how you feel about sports, these are traits that are always interesting and engaging.

My choice for this month is The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, which follows a promising college baseball player and what happens when a routine throw goes wrong. The reviews are good and I’m looking forward to reading it!

Now, what about you? What are you going to read this August? Let us know in the comments!

Books mentioned in this post include:

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