Bookshelf Holiday Gift Guide: ‘The French Chef in America: Julia Child’s Second Act,’ ‘Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939,’ and ‘The History of Photography’

By Paul Riegler on 20 December 2016
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Books have the power to take us to another place. They don’t require batteries and come pre-wrapped.

Indeed they are also far more portable than their predecessors such clay tablets and papyrus scrolls.

Here are three very thoughtful and insightful tomes you may want to buy as gifts for your friends and maybe order a copy for yourself too.


‘The French Chef in America: Julia Child’s Second Act’

“As a child, I watched my grandmother watch and critique Julia Child on television, wondering why she (Julia) and not my grandmother was on the small screen,” FBT Editorial Director Jonathan Spira told me. Julia Child was synonymous with French cooking, but apparently Mr. Spira’s grandmother – a Viennese widow – knew better.

“The French Chef in America” is Child’s nephew Alex Prud’homme’s account of her life after she moved back from France to the United States where Child had a profound impact on what Americans eat while creating an entirely new genre of food programming on television. She took French cuisine from being something found in hushed restaurants to something suitable for a simple dinner at home. Child inspired an entire generation of chefs, among them Emeril Lagasse and Sara Moulton, and Prud’homme dishes up what transpired in her life between her shows, which live on as repeats on hundreds of television stations across the globe today.

“The French Chef in America” is $15.30 on


‘Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939’

The story of how Adolf Hitler went from a being a common “Munich rabble-rouser” and failed artist to a demagogue who derailed one of the early twentieth century’s leading democracies has been the subject of many books, but few come closer to zeroing in on Hitler the man than German historian Volker Ullrich who strips away the mythology the Führer created around himself in “Mein Kampf.”

“In a sense,” Ullrich writes in the book’s introduction, “Hitler will be ‘normalized’ – although this will not make him seem more ‘normal.’ If anything, he will emerge as even more horrific.”

This is the first of two volumes, ending in 1939 with the Führer’s 50th birthday, and it provides a clearer explanation than biographies that have preceded it on how Hitler became Hitler.

“Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939” is $23.80 on


‘The History of Photography’

Authored by FBT Editorial Director Jonathan Spira’s father, S.F. Spira (the younger Spira stepped in to complete the work after his father developed Alzheimer’s Disease), this coffee table cum history book cum encyclopedia takes the reader through photography’s pre-history through the prism of The Spira Collection, the world’s largest private assemblage of photographs, cameras, books, and ephemera, to the digital present. “The History of Photography” examines photography’s relationship to other disciplines including painting and science and is written in a scholarly yet readily accessible style.

No wonder Todd Gustavson, curator of the George Eastman House museum, called it “the most important photo-history book to appear in the last quarter century.”

“The History of Photography” is $14.87 on

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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