After more than a decade-and-a-half of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the number of Americans who have served in one or both conflicts has exceeded 2.7 million. Nearly 7,000 of them have died, and tens of thousands more were wounded. In The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq (Simon & Schuster, $28), C.J. Chivers tells the story of these ongoing, ill-fated, grossly mismanaged, and terribly costly wars not from the vantage of generals, admirals and civilian policymakers, but from the perspectives of those who have done the bulk of the fighting—the grunts, as they call themselves, in the lower and middle ranks. Chivers focuses on six individuals whose military tours occurred at different times and in different places. As a former Marine himself who has spent nearly twenty years reporting for the New York Times, Chivers is particularly well-qualified to present this intense, compelling, and unsettling account of Americans at war.
Through his groundbreaking menu at Noma in Copenhagen, René Redzepi questioned our long-held core beliefs of what is delicious and what is edible. In The Noma Guide to Fermentation (Artisan, $40), René and his Head of Fermentation, David Zilber, push us to the next frontier of cooking by challenging us to see what is possible if we pay attention and engage with the ingredients in front of us in an open, questioning way. Much like Samin Nosrat’s 2017 Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, here the essential elements of flavor are broken down and laid bare. Considering the complex science involved in the creation of everything from lacto-tomato water to coffee shoyu, the great surprise of this book is the clarity and simplicity of the recipes and the universal application of the specific processes. I can’t stress enough: this isn’t just for your friends that like to pickle! It’s for any home chef (or eater) that thinks seriously about how to make their food more delicious.
Written with both the novice and curious tea drinker in mind, Sebastian Beckwith and Caroline Paul’s A Little Tea Book: All the Essentials From Leaf to Cup (Bloomsbury, $20) is a primer on all things Camellia sinensis (tea plant). But don’t think this little book just contains a few tips on making a proper cuppa—it brings history, culture, science, and industry into the brew as well to expound on the complexity of the tea world. Did you know that tea aficionados use descriptive smells such as saddle leather, roasted chestnut, and even boggy moor to explain their favorite tastes? You will never sip a mug of Earl Grey the same way again. Punctuated with inviting illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton (of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat fame) this guide will inspire readers to throw out their tea bags and reach for the loose leaf.