News of the Week: Gift Books, Oprah’s Favorites, and It Might Be Time to Clean Your Fridge

In the news for the week ending November 15, 2019, are book picks, gift picks, Christmas trees on both coasts, dirty refrigerators, burnt toast, and more.

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Read This!

In the current issue of the Post, Amazon’s Chris Schluep picks 10 new books you might want to buy this Christmas. Here are 7 more you might want to get for someone on your list (even if the only person on that list is yourself).

The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker, and Megan Scott. For this special edition of the classic recipe collection, Irma Rombauer’s great-grandson and his wife have updated the tome to incorporate new dishes, new ingredients, and modern cooking techniques.

The Problem with Everything, by Meghan Daum. The essayist does a neat trick here. She has written an important book about all of the latest cultural issues everyone is arguing over — from #MeToo and privilege to free speech and identity politics — but has also written a sort of memoir that ties everything together. Really well done.

Mobituaries, by Mo Rocca. The CBS correspondent has a new companion book to his terrific podcast, where he delves into things that have gone away, including famous people like Audrey Hepburn and Sammy Davis Jr., fictional characters on sitcoms, sports teams, and even the family station wagon. This is for someone who loves history and finds obituaries rather enjoyable.

Edison, by Edmund Morris. This is the last book by the historian, who died in May, and it examines the life of inventor Thomas Edison in a way that has never been done before.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants, by Bill Bryson. What do you really know about your own body? This is billed as an “owner’s manual for everybody” and is by the acclaimed author of such great books as A Short History of Nearly Everything, A Walk in the Woods, and I’m a Stranger Here Myself.

Sarah Jane, by James Sallis. Sallis, author of Drive, is one of our greatest living writers. His latest novel tells the life story of Sarah Jane Pullman: the various roads that led her to become a small-town cop and how they affect her investigation of the disappearance of the sheriff she replaced.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less, by Terry Ryan. Okay, this isn’t a new book — it came out in 2002 — but I read it again recently and it’s really fantastic. It’s the real-life story of Ryan’s mother Evelyn, who raised her large family by entering (and winning) several writing contests in the 1950s. It’s a book that’s compelling, funny, and inspiring, and was made into a terrific movie starring Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson (I guarantee you’ll cry at the end).

It’s Time Again for Oprah’s Favorite Things …

I think it’s safe to say that Oprah Winfrey’s list of things to buy is now an official Christmas tradition, right up there with carols, peppermint bark, and Black Friday sales. This year’s list has something for everybody. Well, maybe not everybody, unless you have a lot of money to spend.

There are some great, affordable items on the list, like this specially designed reusable coffee cup for $11.99 and this art-studio-in-a-box for kids for $39.99. You can get these body slippers for only $24.99 (they’re called “body slippers,” but they still go on your feet) or a bandana for your dog for only $28.99. Have you ever wanted a giant picture of Susan B. Anthony on a T-shirt? Now you can get that, too.

I think Oprah likes anything with the word “truffle” in it, because she picked this limited-edition gourmet truffle oil hot sauce for $34.99, this luxury truffle gift tray set for $99.99, and these sea salt caramel truffles for $39.99.

But you want to know about the high-end stuff she likes this year, right? Forget all about that dental work you need done and buy this exercise bike for $1,599. If you like coffee or espresso — no, I mean really like coffee or espresso — you can get this automatic coffee and espresso maker for $899.95. And this precision griddle will set you back $549.95, but do you want great pancakes or don’t you?

My favorite gift on the list just might be these puffy, insulated winter sneaker boots for $139.95, because they look like something Neil Armstrong might have worn when he walked on the moon.

… And Also the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

It arrived in New York City on Saturday. It’s a Norway Spruce from Florida, New York (yes, there’s a Florida, New York) and was planted by Carol Schultze in 1958. It started out small enough to hold in her hand, but now it’s 77 feet tall. You can watch the official lighting on NBC the night of December 4.

That tree sounds a little nicer than California’s official Christmas tree, which is making some people long for Charlie Brown’s. Maybe it will look better with lights and tinsel.

Has the Sand Finally Run Out?

One of the saddest things to happen to television the past 20 years is the demise of daytime television. I don’t know how today’s ratings compare to the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s, but it’s unfortunate that daytime dramas and game shows have been replaced by talk shows where people scream at each other, courtroom reality shows, and 11 hours of Today. There was a time when each network had several soap operas, but now there are only four still on the air: CBS’s The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful, ABC’s General Hospital, and NBC’s Days of Our Lives. And the latter might be on the way out.

TVLine reports that the cast has been released from their contracts and that the show, which started in 1965, will be going on hiatus at the end of the month while the network and Sony negotiate over continuing. This doesn’t mean the show will definitely be canceled — in fact, they have enough episodes already filmed to last until next summer — but it’s certainly not a good sign, especially when networks have to struggle to find a reason to keep soaps on the air.

What’s in Your Fridge?

November 15 was chosen as National Clean Out Your Fridge Day because it’s just before Thanksgiving and you have to make room for all of the stuff you’re going to put in there. I’d just like to say that it’s probably a good idea to clean out your fridge more than once a year. You probably have leftover potato salad from July 4 in there, way in the back, behind that jar of tomato sauce that expired last month.

RIP Robert Freeman, William Wintersole, Rick Ludwin, Maria Perego, Virginia Leith, and Stephen Dixon

Photographer Robert Freeman created the covers for some of the most iconic Beatles albums, including Meet the Beatles, Help!, Beatles for Sale, and Rubber Soul. He died last week at the age of 82.

William Wintersole was a veteran actor who spent over 20 years portraying attorney Mitchell Sherman on The Young and the Restless. He also appeared on Star Trek, The Fugitive, The Outer Limits, Columbo, and Mission: Impossible. He died last week at the age of 88.

Rick Ludwin was the TV executive who had a big hand in keeping Seinfeld on the air after the first four episodes were panned by test audiences. He also ran NBC’s late-night lineup for 30 years and wrote jokes for Bob Hope. He died last weekend at the age of 71. Many stars he knew posted their condolences on Twitter.

Maria Perego created the mouse puppet Topo Gigio, made popular by The Ed Sullivan Show. She died last week at the age of 95.

Virginia Leith had one of the most famous heads in movie history, playing the bodiless accident victim kept alive in a pan by her crazy scientist boyfriend in the cult classic The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. She also appeared in A Kiss Before Dying, Fear and Desire, and On the Threshold of Space, as well as many TV shows. She died last week at the age of 94.

Stephen Dixon was an acclaimed author of 18 experimental novels including Frog, Interstate, Garbage, and I. He also wrote hundreds of short stories, featured in small independent magazines and places like Esquire and Playboy. He died last week at the age of 83.

This Week in History

The Great Northeast Blackout (November 9, 1965)

It started in Queenston, Ontario, and affected millions of people in the Northeast United States, including New York City and all of New England, though certain areas of New York City and some towns never went dark because they had separate power sources. The blackout lasted almost 13 hours.

Felix the Cat Makes First Appearance (November 9, 1919)

He made his debut 100 years ago this week in the silent animated short Feline Follies. The ending is … dark.

Felix The Cat – Feline Follies (1919) First Felix Film (Uploaded to YouTube by silentfilmhouse)

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: General Electric Toaster (November 15, 1958)

General Electric toaster ad

Are there really nine kinds of toast? Mine usually come out either “light” or “the phone rang and I forgot about it.”

Sunday Is National Homemade Bread Day

If you need some bread to put into your toaster, how about this recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Bread or this recipe for Traditional White Bread from Allrecipes? If you’re looking for something beyond bread for toast and sandwiches, our own Curtis Stone has this recipe for Banana Bread with Toasted Walnuts, and Ellie Krieger has a recipe for Pumpkin Bread with Cranberries.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

International Men’s Day (November 19)

Finally! A day for the world’s most underrepresented group.

The Great American Smokeout (November 21)

Many smokers will try to kick the habit starting on January 1, but it’s never too early to stop smoking.


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  1. I have read several of Bryson’s books. His books are fun to read and he is quite amusing. I picked up I’m a Stanger Here Myself at the airport years ago when I forgot to bring something to read. I was hooked. Look forward to this book.

  2. Almost all of these books look really good. They’re on my ‘to get’ list—after the Holidays. Have to work a lot of extra hours NOW so I’m not affected $$ wise when my 2nd job is closed for 8 days during the last two weeks of December. It’s a drag, but a much bigger one is having that closure mess me up until February!

    Isn’t Oprah just the best? These things are wonderful, they are, but GOD I wish I’d been in her audience back in 2004 the day she gave EVERYONE a $28k Pontiac G-6!! One of their nicest cars before the division was shut down several years later. That’s still one of my favorite things, Bob. I don’t think even she can top that one.

    Thanks for the ‘Felix the Cat’ 1919 debut link. Hopefully you won’t be chastised for it in uptight 2019. We know what THAT’s like. (There’s still nothing wrong with Dean Martin’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside” either)!

    Love that 1958 GE Toaster ad with the “straight-line” design. As long as the toast isn’t burned, we’re good!


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