Is it possible to be an urban naturalist? To find out, Lyanda Lynn Haupt turns to crows, the native wildlife which city-dwellers and suburbanites most frequently (if reluctantly) encounter. She relates her findings in the slim, beguiling Crow Planet (Little, Brown, $23.99), a book that inspires and surprises. In graceful prose, Haupt records her own struggle to understand crows and to truly see nature in the city. She also shares delightful asides on motherhood, Benedictine monks, and Seattle yuppies. Most important, Haupt drives home the seriousness of the environmental crisis without succumbing to despair.
Chefs, foodies, and Italophiles will treasure Elena Kostioukovitch’s Why Italians Love To Talk About Food (Farrar Straus & Giroux, $35). This masterful tome is a culinary encyclopedia and travelogue—a chronicle of Italy’s regional cuisines. In each chapter, Kostioukovitch introduces a region and explores the foods that define it. We learn about Piedmontese truffles, Neapolitan mozzarella di bufala, and the Roman Jews’ unique relationship to eggplant. Cuisine is a “code that pervades all of Italy,” Kostioukovitch writes, and discussing it “means celebrating a rite, uttering a magic formula.” Gorgeous photos and mouthwatering sample menus round out this literary feast.
Slow: Life In A Tuscan Town (Welcome Books, $50), by Douglas Gayeton, is a work of art. After moving to the village of Pistoia, Gayeton began to document the local residents and their intimate, ancient traditions of growing, preparing, and enjoying food. The stunning sepia-toned photos alone are worth the price tag, but Gayeton’s commentary makes this book exceptional. His whimsical, elegant observations—ingeniously incorporated into or on each photograph—elevate Slow into something far more than a coffee table decoration. The title is apt: you’ll want to slow down and savor each image.