Ask The Critic: What's on your bookshelf?

I tore through Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Eating Animals, and then sat back and watched the weak-willed and easily influenced suddenly declare their vegetarian sovereignty with a blood-streaked smile on my face and a bloody rare cheeseburger in my hand. Novella Carpenter's Farm City was one of the best food books I've read all year--about one woman's attempt at urban gardening and feeding herself off a small plot in the middle of Oakland.

I have all the classics mounded up on my bookshelves at home, have ogled lustfully at Eric Ripert's day-in-the-life book, On The Line, and had my life irrevocably altered by both Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and the El Buli cookbooks. I keep old recipe collections from Gourmet , published in those flush years when they used to put out illustrated, hardcover tomes once a year, because you just never know when you're going to need prep instructions for a marshmallow pie or corned duck.

I have Ruth Reichl's books up there. I have Marco Pierre White's books up there. I have Down and Out in Paris and London which, to this day, remains one of the best books ever written about what its like working in a kitchen, and the collected works of M.F.K. Fisher because, to this day, no one has ever been able to capture the joy and heartbreak and history and pure, sexy indulgence of food the way Mary Frances Kennedy did.

So my question to you grub-junkies this week is a simple one: Tell me what books you have, what books you love, what books you can not live without. And then, tell me why...

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