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BOOKS ISSUE: 25 books from 2011 to check out


Local photographer Kira Stackhouse experienced an inspiration so intense that she ditched her high-profile marketing job to pursue it: she would photograph specimens of the 50 most popular canine breeds officially registered with the American Kennel Club ("purebred dogs") that had been purchased from professional breeders — and pair them with photos of the exact same kinds of dogs found in local dog rescues and shelters. The purpose was to start a dialogue about the effects of professional breeding and highlight the many kinds of dogs available for adoption (and also to change peoples' perceptions about rescue dogs). But a major part of the story — and what makes this book so fantastic — is the wonderful doggy photography and sumptuous layout. Dogs are posed, or pose themselves, against iconic Bay Area backdrops, accompanied by often hilarious, always revealing, biographies and profiles. Project Dog became an online sensation: this book cements its reputation. Available at (Marke B.)



By Alex Ross


384 pp., paper, $18

In the expanded paperback edition of his absorbing and erudite collection of essays, Alex Ross of the New Yorker writes what could be called his mantra as critic: "I have always wanted to talk about classical music as if it were popular music, and popular music as if it were classical." Ross listened exclusively to classical until he was 20, something he admits may sound "freakish." But whether he's describing Björk in her recording studio in Iceland, or composer John Luther Adams' sound and light installation in Alaska, Ross draws from an immeasurable well of knowledge and plunges into his subject with gusto. He can find commonalities between Radiohead's "Pyramid Song" and Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, clear away the myths that have clouded both Franz Shubert and Bob Dylan, and thoroughly explain why OK Computer and John Cage's 4'33" are equally astonishing. Informative, eye opening, Ross is every lover of music thrown harmoniously into one. (James H. Miller)



By John Besh

Andrews McMeel Publishing

272 pp., hardcover, $35

To know anything about New Orleans' dining scene is to know John Besh. As one of Nola's great chefs, he has a number of restaurants, including the acclaimed August, elevating local cuisine in forward-thinking ways. His original book My New Orleans is a striking post-Katrina tome to one of the greatest cities in the world and its vibrant culinary history. It's a gorgeous coffee table volume packed with photos of the region's people, places, and foods — more than 200 recipes from Mardi Gras specialties to gumbo, many with a contemporary twist. Besh just released, My Family Table, with welcoming, everyday recipes he cooks with his family that are healthy, fresh, simple, and heartwarming. Besh's star power (Iron Chef champion and James Beard award-winner that he is) never dominates. Like New Orleans, it's a visually beautiful book, but this time themed by "School Nights," "Breakfast with my Boys," and recipes like "Curried Anything" or "Creamy Any Vegetable Soup." Closing with the key element of cooking, the communal, he writes: "If asked what my last meal would be, I'd reply, 'Any Sunday supper at home, cooked with love, for people I love.'" (Virginia Miller)



By Mark Boster

Time Capsule Press

128 pages, hardcover, $34.95

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