• Heat by Bill Buford ** (of 4)

    Buford does his best to make Mario Batali into an eccentric, bigger-than-life, Artiste comparable in status to Michaelangeolo, DaVinci, and Jackie Gleason, but in the end it’s just food, and Batali is a drunk who cooks really well. Buford didn’t make me care. Maybe if I were a devotee of Batali’s TV show or his restaurant, the book would provide that missing piece. I wonder, however, if Buford weren’t a writer for the New Yorker but some shmoe off the street whether an editor would have bought this book. Much better to read Kitchen Confidential. (July 2007)

  • Going with the Grain by Susan Seligson ** (of 4)

    Eight travel stories about bread in Morocco, Jordan, Brooklyn, the Wonder Bread factory in Massachusetts and so forth. Seligson writes well enough. Her stories are cute, you get to know places, but there doesn’t seem to be a point to it all. It’s like reading a blog. I’m sure her family loved the book. March 2009.