Feast on some new books (and pumpkin) this fall

It’s October, which means pumpkin season is in full swing. If you’re a lover of all things pumpkin but your knowledge is limited to pie and lattes, pick up DeeDee Stovel’s The Pumpkin Cookbook (Storey Publishing, second edition). Pumpkin, a sturdy crop that’s been harvested in North America for more than 9,000 years, is not just a cooking staple, but a superfood packed with rich vitamins and nutrients. You can boil it, mash it, grill it, puree it, steam it, grate it and use it as a serving vessel. Stovel instructs readers on the best ways to prepare pumpkin (there are varietals other than those we use for jack-o’-lanterns) that can be enjoyed year round. Her 139 recipes include the use of raw (Pumpkin Gratin!) and canned puree pumpkin (Holiday Pumpkin Dip!) from the store.

While your traditional pumpkin pie is baking, pick up one of these new books:

When I first read the description of Francesca Hornak’s debut novel, Seven Days of Us (Berkley), I immediately thought of Jonathan Topper’s great book, This Is Where I Leave You, a story about a fractured family forced to spend a week together under less-than-pleasant circumstances. Emma and Andrew Birch haven’t spent Christmas with their two daughters for several years. This year, their eldest, Olivia, has just returned from treating an epidemic overseas and is under a strict, week-long quarantine, forcing the family to spend the entire Christmas holiday at their antiquated countryside estate. Olivia must readjust to her new norm, including her newly engaged younger sister, Phoebe, and her first-world problems. During the seven days, family secrets are revealed and members of the uncommunicative Birch family are forced to face their personal issues and support each other during a time that will forever change their family.

Hannah Kent’s new novel, The Good People (Little, Brown and Company), is a work of historical fiction about magic, ancient medicine and the power of rumors in a small village in early 19th-century Ireland. After Nora Leahy loses her husband and daughter, she is saddled with caring for her grandson, Michael, a 4-year-old who cannot walk or talk. Nora hides Michael away in hopes that villagers won’t talk about or ridicule her or the boy. However, after the valley suffers a string of bad luck, neighbors begin to blame it on the boy, whom they are convinced is an evil spirit. Longing to stop the rumors, the bad luck, and most importantly, to have a piece of her daughter back, Nora and her maid, Mary, seek out the help of Nance, the elderly local who uses magic and herbs to cure evil. Nance, whose work is frowned upon by the church and many of the villagers, is determined to earn back their trust by saving the child. Kent’s well-written novel has been has been short-listed for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.


Kimberly DUNBAR