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BOOKS ISSUE: 25 books from 2011 to check out


Biography can be the best history; stories of the people who changed the world (for better, and often for worse) are more compelling than turgid texts of dates and places. Lions of the West recounts the development of the American frontier from the end of the Revolutionary War to the Civil War era through the lives of 10 men. Yeah, all men. In fact, Morgan (by choice or by the longtime bias of American historians) makes it appear as if all of the great and evil deeds done as the nation moved Westward Ho were the province of the male of the species. At times, the profiles are a bit over the top (I don't really care that much about Kit Carson's personal life.) Overall, though, it's a detailed, lively, and informative book that minces no words, especially when discussing the theft of much of the southwest from Mexico. San Franciscans will enjoy learning who Stockton, Sloat, Castro, Winfield, and a few other streets were named after. (Tim Redmond)



By Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher

Running Press

272 pp., paper, $14

Found Footage Festival founders and comedy writers Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher are apparently the Indiana Joneses of VHS, unearthing remarkable video package cover art that would otherwise be relegated to hoarder basements, bonfires, and anywhere else the worst (a.k.a., the best) videotapes go to die. I salute these dudes, even though the captions they tag each page with aren't always funny or necessary. Truly, the covers (soft-focus and garish, tacky and baffling) speak for themselves, direct dispatches from ye olden days, long before YouTube brought WTF-ness to anyone with an Internet connection. You see, children, back in the 1980s or 90s, home viewers had to seek this shit out: instruction in squirrel-calling, chair-dancing, seduction, hairstyling ("What the Heck Am I Going to Do With My Hair?"), baby-proofing, spotting counterfeit Beanie Babies, etc. Straight-to-video masterpieces (F.A.R.T.: The Movie). Horrible exercise fads ("Bunnetics: The Buttocks Workout"). Well-meaning but also ghoulish-looking self-improvement vids ("Face Aerobics"). Every page is magical. Your mind will be blown. (Cheryl Eddy)



By Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough

Ten Speed Press

297 pp., hardcover, $32.50

Bi-Rite Market is the ultimate neighborhood grocery. Shockingly small (with ambition to expand), it's jam-packed with the best in organic produce, meats, cheeses, and artisan food products, much of it local. Now, Bi-Rite founder Mogannam has a new book loaded with recipes for such inviting delectables as white bean puree with prosciutto crespelle and strawberry rhubarb pie. But don't relegate it to the cookbook category. Hewing to Bi-Rite's mantra of creating community through food, the authors share extensive tips on shopping seasonally and locally for the healthiest and best-tasting products, no matter where you may live. You'll learn what to look for at the grocery, storage and usage tips, and more. Well-illustrated sections feature produce (broken down by season), wine, beer, cheese, deli meats, butchery, baked goods, and even farmer profiles. Bonus: stay tuned for Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, Bi-Rite's ice cream and frozen treats recipe book from its renowned creamery, out this April. (No word yet on whether it'll tell us how to beat the ever-present line outside.) (Virginia Miller)



By Chuck Palahniuk


247 pp., hardcover, $25

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