The Best We Could Do: The Book I Just Can't Stop Thinking About

Do you ever read a book that simply will not get out of your head?  Well The Best We Could Do has been circling my mind since I read it last month. And for me that's a sure sign that it's worthy of a staff picks blog post.

 A simple summary of Thi Bui’s graphic memoir would be that it weaves together the author’s family history with the war in Vietnam . BUT IT IS SO MUCH MORE. The Best We Could Do is gut wrenching, heart-warming, emotional, educational, and visually stunning. On the cusp of being a new mother, Bui undergoes the very adult experience of learning to reconcile childhood impressions of her parents with who they really are and confronting the life-defining force the war had over her childhood, her family, and her country. The elements at play in this beautiful memoir not only highlight an under-represented side of the conflict but detail the struggles of coming of age against the backdrop of the immigrant experience.

Telling this story through art adds an emotional impact that I think prose just couldn't match.  If, after reading the One Book One San Diego's MARCH, you find yourself wanting more of the genre--pick up this outstanding work. 

Take Home Chef: Bookseller Edition


with Library Shop Cookbook Critic Scott

Loyal readers of the Library Shop’s blog are probably doing a double take right about now.  Cookbook Corner?  The Library Shop has a cookbook critic?  Why wasn’t I informed?  Well friends, though I’ve been with the shop since inception (September 2013), I take my job as resident cookbook critic seriously.  I’m not just going to pick something every quarter to fill space in a newsletter.  I’m not going to sell you a cookbook that looks good at first browse but ends up on your shelf as nothing more than a book of pretty food pictures.  I’m going to test it, cook with it, and, if I walk away from it after a few weeks and a few recipes I’m not going to even mention it to you.  It has to be a book that lasts.  That’s how much I value your time, and that’s why I’m excited to announce, after four years, my first Cookbook Corner pick:  Tartine All Day ($40). 


Tartine All Day was released early this year and has been in my kitchen’s heavy rotation since.  Written by pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt, co-founder of the legendary bakery Tartine in San Francisco (Chad Robertson’s excellent Tartine Bread is also available at the shop as well) the book branches out from breads and pastries providing some amazing dishes for every meal of the day, with a nice selection of creative vegetarian creations, but enough meat thrown around to occupy the carnivores.   The book is also 100% gluten free (as Ms. Prueitt, despite running a baking empire, is gluten intolerant) with about a quarter of the book devoted to gluten free baked goods, if gluten free is your jam.  (It isn’t mine, but I found it worthwhile to buy three different kinds of obscure flours to make sure I followed the recipes as instructed (there’s nothing worse than a cookbook critic who alters recipes then negatively reviews the frankenfood that didn’t turn out as written) and the taste, texture and crumb (cookbook critic terms) didn’t suffer from any of the deficiencies a lot of gluten free baking does.  Many of the dishes appear exotic and complicated at first glance, but nothing I made took me longer than an hour from start to finish and other than the gluten free flours I had most of the ingredients on hand, and none of the techniques are intimidating, so I was able to cook some things on the spur of the moment.  Lack of spontaneity is often what turns a potentially great cookbook into an aspirational-someday-I’ll-be-this-person-who-cooks-these-dishes untouched book on my shelf.  In my six months with the book I’ve made the Goat Cheese-Garlic Spread (4 ingredients, 5 minutes max, tasted amazing), the Gravlax (beat the Barefoot Contessa’s), the Zucchini Herb-Fritters, the Golden Beets and Greens with Hazelnuts and Honey-Vinegar Dressing (who knew beet greens could taste decent?), the Brandade (which has a few clever shortcuts to avoid spending three days and having to find salt cod), the Savory Bread Pudding with Wild Mushrooms and Bacon (a big hit here at the Library) and the show stopper for me, the humble Ricotta Dumplings (I took the optional extra step of making my own ricotta cheese out of milk and vinegar, but it was totally worth the effort and only took half an hour) simmered in an amazingly simple tomato sauce after pan frying to crisp them up.  Tartine All Day is truly as cookbook for every day all day (see what I did there?) and that’s why it’s Cookbook Corner’s Cookbook of the Quarter!



¡Viva Cuba Libre!

Is your bland cookbook collection stuck in the 1950s? ¡Cuba! by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Hun, and Jody Eddy will spark a revolution in your kitchen. With Fidel six feet under, and throngs of tourists flying direct to Havana, now is the perfect time to bring these Caribbean and Spanish influences onto your plate. This new era brings delicious opportunities for all of us, and this collection is just the start. Each page is a photographic tribute to the culture and history of Cuba and her people. Featuring mouth watering recipes and local anecdotes that will leave you saying "¡Viva Cuba Libre!" -Jeff

BUYER'S PICK: My Kids Book Obsessions This Winter

I wanted to pick one stellar kids book to write about today, but I just couldn't decide. There are three books currently rocking my children's lit world--and the common denominator seems to be... "dissatisfaction?" I'm not so sure what this says about me, but my soul connects with the protagonists of each of these absolutely lovely picture books. Lessons geared toward our children can be just as important to remind ourselves of as adults.  Be present. Be content. Be Nice. 

  • Tek: The Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell

Poor little Tek, he just loooves his tablet. He never sees his friends anymore, never sees his family. "Outside the world was evolving," the story bemoans, "but Tek couldn't have cared less." But one day, everything changes. Tek is forced to disconnect. And what does he find? That the world, is in fact, worth appreciating. "He looked around and discovered a dragonfly, a tiger lily, a ginkgo tree, a hairy elephant, the hairy people, and an awesome Awesomesaurus." 

This fuzzy little grump could be any kid these days; it's so easy to get plugged in and hooked. Patrick McDonnell, who just happens to be one of my favorite kids books authors, is spot on here-- don't forget to experience the world around you! Each page is an adorable Mutts-like take on the classic cave man, and the book itself is shaped like a tablet, complete with home screen button and text emojis. 


  • Penguin Problems by Jory John & Lane Smith

Oh BOY do penguins have problems. "It's too cold... the ocean smells too salty today... everybody looks the same as me... I look the same as everybody else." Our penguin narrator woke up on the wrong side of the iceberg and refuses to see the world in any other light. Why should he? It's too dang bright.  But one day a walrus shows up, as they do, always thinking the glass is half full. "Have you gazed upon the blue of that cloudless, winter sky, my friend? Have you felt the sun as it gently warms your back?" It's all about perspective. We might find a thousand things to complain about, but take a step back and we'll see the world for its better side. At least for a moment. And that's a step in the right direction.


It is tough to be misunderstood, and nobody knows this better than the Kraken. He just wants a little social interaction. But yet fish swim away in terror. "Why?!" he cries out to the salty depths above. The solution comes from an unlikely source: the fearsome Great White knows how to make friends, it's as easy as one, two , three (...and four, five, six).

1. Keep your cool. 2. Smile! 3. Hugs, not slugs! 4. Share! 5. Lend a helping fin. 6. Be yourself!

The truth is some people have a hard time making friends--kids and adults alike. But the simplest answer is the easiest: be a nice person and stay true to yourself. You may not conquer the world, but gosh darn it, you'll have at least one good friend.  



Each of these supremely awesome kids books are avaialbe in the shop or online. I know they will be come your new obsession too    --Kimberly

Teen Book Review: Signs of You

Here at Central we have an awesome Teen Center. Not just a great collection of books (which we have), and not just study rooms, comfy couches, and a media gaming room (which we also have)-- but the Pauline Foster Teen Center is patronized by some of the coolest teens in San Diego. 

One such rad teen is Charisse, our very first Library Shop Guest Reviewer! The Teen Book Club meets every 2nd & 4th Friday of the month and reads the latest in YA in addition to helping with teen author events.

Here's Charisse's take on Signs of You by Emily France:

This book is really awesome! From reading this book I learned that you have to live your life and you can’t let tragedy define your life. I would definitely recommend this book to one of my friends.

Euphoric over Euphoria

Euphoria, by Lily King, is one of the best books I've ever read.

Whoa. Bold statement, right? I know I'm probably not telling you a hot secret, seeing as Euphoria is a several times over award winner, but if you haven't had a chance to pick it up: now is the time!

Based on the life of Margaret Mead (real-life pioneer in the field of anthropology)-- this 2014 novel is a can't-put-it-down thrill to read. King totally immerses you into this intense moment in history: anthropology as a budding field of research, women taking charge in the male dominated 1930s, "Western advancement" in all its evil...and yet the 254 pages of Euphoria is also perfectly written emotional journal of three unique people. A love triangle that tests the definition of marriage, of sexuality (especially in the early 20th century), and of (dare I say) euphoria. 

plus, the fact that Rainbow Gum trees are a real thing is amazingly mind blowing. Bark that oxidizes at different rates, turning bright rainbow colors?? WHAT IS THIS SCIENCE?

Did I lose you there for a minute? Sorry, I can't help but be totally wowed.

But even if you aren't impressed by Rainbows growing out of the Earth-- you will be by this book. 


New Year, New Books!

Our Library Shop staff is made up of book-lovers of all types of authors and genres. Here are mini-reviews of the books we're reading right now, all available in the shop! 

Jen Sincero has a witty and wonderful take on self-help in her book You Are a Badass. Sincero prompts readers to be their own inner critic through sassy and blunt humor that will leave you both rolling on the floor laughing and staying up late thinking about all the ways you can better yourself in work, school and relationships.- Amy

From Angela Davis to Zora Neale Hurston, Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History... and Future! is an empowering alphabet book with over 60 years full of strong women. Poets, activists, musicians: author Kate Schatz doesn't leave any rad women out. This is a great introduction to feminism and will also appeal to anyone interested in American history. - Denja

We all know him as the terrifying antagonist from the original Star Wars films. In Darth Vader and Son and Vader's Little Princess, Jeffrey Brown re-imagines the Sith Lord as a loving father, schlepping through the monotony of life in a galaxy far, far away. These fun picture books make a great gift for fans of all ages. You will never hear- "Luke, I am your father" the same way again! - Jeff

Come experience a new journey in Lewis Carroll's famous Alice's Adventures in Wonderland! Enjoy a completely re-imagined take on a fun classic through the amazing illustrations of Anna Rifle Bond. Each turn of the page will take you to a new place and keep you wanting more. Great for fans of every age or new ones that have yet to be captivated by this magical tale. - Stephanie

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins is a new picture book classic in the making, and a sweet and hilarious addition to any family's library. Kids and parents will laugh out loud at the expressions Bruce the bear makes as he realizes the eggs he planned to eat have hatched into goslings. Even worse, they immediately imprint on him and he has to raise them as his own. This is a clever take on the Mother Goose story with a funny and ultimately heartwarming message about the family that chooses us. This would make a great read-aloud for kids 3-9. - Erin