'Tis the Season... to Read!

Yes, cheesy title is cheesy. That's okay.

Happy holidays! Whatever you're celebrating and whatever you're doing, I hope you experience the best iteration of it yet.

Around this time of year, many people find themselves purchasing gifts. Know what makes a wonderful gift? Books.

With that in mind, here's a list of books I've either read, sampled, bought, juggled, stumbled across, or otherwise discovered in the past year. I hope they make your season a little brighter.

Defending Beef -- Nicolette Hahn Niman's tour-de-force analysis of how beef production -- done properly -- can be enormously beneficial to the environment. A somewhat counter-intuitive notion to some, but cattle can contribute mightily to the health of grasslands, many of which have suffered tremendously due to the eradication of the large ungulates who used to live there. If all you know of beef is factory farming, you need this.

The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook -- This one's a beast. Diana Rodgers provides over a hundred recipes, plus great info on everything from raising livestock to maintaining a garden to making candles and playing chicken shit bingo. (Note: do not make candles while playing chicken shit bingo. Do not ask me how I know this.)

The Paleo Solution -- Seriously? You've never read it? You're the one, eh? It could be called "How to Feel Better, Look Better, and Live Longer." It didn't come out this year, but do yourself a favor. Equal parts entertaining and enlightening.

Fed, White and Blue -- I met Simon Majumdar when we were on a panel together at the LA Festival of Books. He read from this book at the start of the discussion, and I was hooked. An endearing look at America through the eyes (and stomach) of an immigrant.

Gaining Ground -- At the same panel, I met Forrest Pritchard, a farmer and grass-fed cattle rancher who walks the walk. He's a hell of a guy, and a hell of a writer. Pick this one up. Part memoir, part inspiration, part instruction -- all great.

The Nourished Kitchen -- How to cook real food. A gorgeous book with great recipes. A charming and insightful book you should keep handy when you're in the kitchen.

Seriously Wicked -- I do, in fact, read about more than food and environment. You know Tina Connolly, right? Nebula-nominated fantasy writer (of The Ironskin Trilogy), making her first foray into Young Adult lit? This story about a teen girl whose adopted mother is a seriously wicked witch -- it's fantastic. Get it for the young adult or young at heart in your life.

The Serpent King -- Isn't even out yet, but it's available on pre-order. Another Young Adult piece, and a stellar coming-of-age debut by Jeff Zentner, and marinated in southern atmosphere. I'm eagerly anticipating this one. Get your order in now.

The problem with lists like these is knowing where to stop. So many books mean so much to me, that I could go on like this forever. So if you'd like another recommendation, let me know and I'll see what I can come up with.

Conversely, if there's something you think I haven't read -- and I really, really should -- let me know.

And have a happy, healthy holiday season.