Books to take on the road, use in the kitchen, or keep close to your heart
By Kathy Chin Leong

My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes,  Dawn Lerman
You never know what you get in the mail, but when this book landed on my office desk, I couldn't take my eyes off the cover.  The torso and body of a half-naked fat man standing on a scale against a lime green backdrop was just too weird to pass up.  I flipped open the book, and for the next week, I devoured the pages. 

Lerman's memoir of a little girl growing up with an obese father, distant mother, baby sister, and doting grandmother is not only poignant, but immensely uplifting as she helps her father to learn to eat healthy in order to save his life.  As a child, she eagerly takes on her family recipes and figures out how to de-calorize them with nutritional options.  Laced with humor, wit, and touch of sadness (as it is real life), the Lerman tale seems to overlaps bits of everyone's human journey. We all want to love our parents and get approval. We all want to lead successful lives and do good in the world. We all wish that parental dynamics weren't so darn complicated, and we are still trying to navigate the complexities of familial expectations.  

Take it on the road, read it during the holidays. It is one heck of a tale you will wind up telling to others.  Retail price: $16 paperback, 318 pp, Berkley, Penguin Random House.

Bridges of Paris,  Michael Saint James
This fortunate fellow has done what we've all dreamed of doing.  Michael Saint James, a dauntless film editor and world traveler, lived in Paris for an entire year and spent day and night delighting and studying in its charms in detail. There was a purpose to this exploit: to write a book and capture the bridges of this city in all its sensual forms with aerial photographic equipment, close-up lenses, and everything in between. The result is a magical coffee table compendium (it must weigh at least 10 pounds) delivering to the lucky reader the essence of the 37 bridges that cross the Seine River.  This is a delectable, visual feast, for Bridges of Paris features over 350 original images and unique angles of the romantic waterway.  Some of these photos are so beautiful and artfully composed, they resemble oil paintings.

Within the pages of this precious gift, fascinating historical points are written with a literary swoop. Saint James tells the story of Paris through the story of each bridge.  There is context behind each photo. Moments depicting everyday life such as a fellow fishing and couples strolling by the river give us a snapshot of the quiet, intimate Paris.  You can practically hear the lapping of the water and the chatter of the French saying, "Bonjour" and "au revoir" as they kiss and greet and in passing. For anyone who has ever stepped upon French soil or wants to, this treatise of 276 pages will provide many moments of joy and revelation.  Bon appétit!  Retail price: $85 hard copy, 276 pp, Citron Bay Press. To learn more about the book, click on

Sally's Baking Addiction,  Sally McKenney
Sally loves to bake. In fact, she went from baking to blogging about it, and Sally McKenney has published Sally's Baking Addiction, a cookbook filled with 75 of her top recipes.  She is a baker extraordinaire, sharing sugary concoctions such as Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cupcakes, Sunshine Lemon Cupcakes, and the deadly Caramel Coffee Chocolate Chip Torte.  

This book will make for a great new favorite cookbook whenever you are looking to make a special occasion cake or dessert.  Look through the recipes to see which baked goods will be useful to take on the road with you as a sweet nibble. Next time you are preparing to go on vacation, bake up a batch of Sally's treats to remind you of home. Retail price: $25 hard cover, 176 pp, Race Point Publishing. (Also available as an eBook).

Flavors of Aloha: Cooking with Tommy Bahama
Rick Rodgers, Jeff Morgan, and photography Peden + Munk 

If you love Hawaii, and you love Hawaiian food, you will love this book. I guarantee it. From the minute I laid my hands on Flavors of Aloha, my eyes were dancing upon gazing and grazing. Each page of this unique coffee table cookbook has been artfully curated.  The 100 recipes are tantalizing because the photography is so darn stunning you could frame the pages. The opening photo is filled with pink plumeria leis, loose petals, and green tea leaves against a granite backdrop. It looks as if the owner tossed the leis on the ground and the photographer came across it accidentally.  One is a double landscape photo of a lush forest with the ocean in the foreground. 

And the various dishes are already mouthwatering when you read the text.  I mean, how can you resist a dish titled, "Roasted Korean Chicken Wings," or "Chinese Roast Duck with Orange-Honey Glaze?" C'mon!  In the back of the book, the authors include various Hawaiian dessert recipes that will take you back to the islands in no time. "Passion Fruit Chiffon Tart,"  "Guava and Currant Tea Cake," "Kona coffee Flan" will be legendary in your household.  Most of the recipes are not difficult to master, and you can even make it a goal to get through the 100 recipes in a year.  Now that's a New Year's resolution!  Retail price: $40 hard cover, 221 pp, Chronicle Books. 

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