If you were to approach Ron Swanson and ask him to recommend a cookbook, he would, with absolutely no hesitation, tell you to pick up The Wild Chef ($23). Written by Jonathan Miles, Wild Chef columnist for Field & Stream, this is the ultimate outdoorsman's cooking companion. Whether you're just a fan of the taste of wild meat, you aspire to become a serious hunter-chef, or you've been butchering game for years, there's plenty to like in between these pages. Broken down into four sections by season, this cookbook is packed full of detailed recipes, anecdotes, and gorgeous photography of food and the outdoors.
Ideally at this point in your life you understand that ramen isn't just a cheap way to eat your way through college, but a versatile dietary staple that can actually taste incredible. As a middle-aged Jewish man originally from Long Island, Ivan Orkin — now owner of two Tokyo ramen shops and author of Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint ($18) — certainly has a unique perspective on these deceptively simple noodles. His book is part memoir, exploring how he became a culinary entrepreneur and minor celebrity in Japan, and part cookbook, exposing the secrets behind his now-legendary handmade noodles, broth, and toppings. After reading it, you'll have a new-found respect for this incredible food, and an admiration for a man who defied all odds to become who he is today.
If you've spent much time in Portland, Oregon, you've undoubtedly heard of Le Pigeon, and with any luck you've been fortunate enough to enjoy a meal there. For those who can't make it out to the Pacific Northwest, you can enjoy their French New American cuisine at home with Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird ($26). This cookbook is divided into sections covering the myriad of dishes available, including: Tongue, Fat Liver, Little Birds, Rabbit, Pork, Horns and Antlers, Lamb, and more. Highlights include Elk Tongue Stroganoff, Rabbit and Eel Terrine, Lamb Belly BLT, and Pork Tacos. While some of the ingredients may be a bit hard to find if you're not an all-star chef, you'll find plenty of recipes to fuel your next dinner party.
Far-flung destinations, beautiful women, gunplay, fast cars — this is life behind the cameras of the greatest spy movie franchise in film history — and now you can experience it all with Bond On Set ($20-40). These books explore behind the scenes of several of the most recent Bond films: Skyfall, 007 Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Die Another Day. With photography documenting the making of these thrilling movies, excerpts from the screen plays, and illuminating captions, you'll find deep insight into how these films came to be. Whether you're a die-hard Bond fan, or just a cinephile with an interest in how great movies are made, there's plenty to like in every one of these books.
If you're a true Star Wars fan, you can probably close your eyes and picture some of the series' most iconic moments: Han Solo as he's lowered into the carbon freezing chamber, or the bittersweet look of redemption on the face of Anakin Skywalker as Luke removes his mask. Star Wars: Frames ($90) is a celebration of 1,416 moments like these, hand-picked by George Lucas from over one million frames of film, and reproduced across two hardcover volumes — one for the original trilogy and one for the prequel trilogy. Each set arrives in a box designed to resemble Vader's Tie Fighter and opens to reveal images of the Sith Lord himself.
Whether you're a completely-obsessed Apple fanboy, or just an industrial or packaging designer looking for inspiration, Iconic: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation ($75 or $300) is the coffee table book for you. Filled from cover to cover with carefully-shot photos documenting the evolution of Apple products from the Apple II to the iMac, this book details Apple's rise from a two-man company in a Silicon Valley garage to one of the top producers of consumer electronics in the world. See full-color photos of desktops, portables, iPhones, iPods, prototypes, and packaging, accompanied by introductions and quotes from Apple insiders. If you're really wild about Apple, opt for the special edition which comes in a specially-made retro peripheral case celebrating computing products from the late 70s and early 80s.
Rap, hip hop, whatever you want to call it — sometimes song lyrics leave you feeling clueless about their meaning — but don't worry, Understand Rap: Explanations of Confusing Rap Lyrics You & Your Grandma Can Understand ($10) is here to save you from uncool ignorance. This book explores rap lyrics from songs divided into multiple categories (braggadocio, cars, crime, disses, fashion, intoxicants, people, places, and sex) giving you deep insight into sometimes-cryptic hip hop turns of phrase. Each lyric is quoted, along with the artist, song, and album, and then explained in a matter-of-fact, academic manner that will leave even the least knowledgeable feeling like a hip hop head.
You all know by now that Legos aren't just meant for kids — there are grown men (and women) all over the world building incredible things out of these little colorful bricks. Beautiful Lego ($18) highlights the amazing creations made by Lego enthusiasts that really transcend the medium. This book features photos of Lego replicas of everyday objects and famous buildings, ships, creatures, and more, as well as interviews with the artists that give you a window into their creative minds. It might be just the inspiration you need to pull that box of bricks out of your basement and start building.
Most of you have probably at some point dreamt of ditching your mind-numbing nine to five, packing up your things in a van, and heading for the open road. Foster Huntington, author and photographer of Home Is Where You Park It ($65), did exactly that two years ago, and has been living in his VW Vanagon ever since. Along the way he has run into a number of like-minded people and their vans, documenting them as he went. This coffee-table book features over 100 photos of camping vans, as well as anecdotes about other travelers, and stories from his own experiences exploring the country surfing and camping.
Even in the era of the smartphone, there's still plenty of room in the traveler's bag for a good guide book — especially if it's one of the Herb Lester Travel Guides ($7 and up). Made to serve as your go-to guides for the great cities of the world, these books feature maps and illustrations from exceptional designers, and cover everything from famous destinations to local favorites. Choose from guides to European cities like London, Amsterdam, and Paris, or American cities like New York, Austin, and San Francisco. They also offer collections of guides in case you're planning a grand tour.
You no doubt enjoy pasta with some regularity — but do you know where this versatile, yet simple culinary staple comes from? In The Perfect Shape + The Perfect Sauce = The Geometry of Pasta ($17) you'll find everything you didn't know you didn't know about pasta. Beginning with the basics (an introduction to ingredients, recipes for a few types of pasta and several sauces), the book dives deep into a huge range of pastas from A to Z. Each entry includes a brief history lesson, a detailed description, ideal sauce pairings, in some cases recipes for the pasta, and a black and white illustration.
There are few joys in life greater than partaking in delicious preserved meats — and it's with that pleasure in mind that we present to you In The Charcuterie: The Fatted Calf's Guide to Making Sausage, Salumi, Pates, Roasts, Confits, and Other Meaty Goods ($24). With 125 recipes for preparing meats, brought to you by the proprietors of San Francisco's legendary charcuterie, The Fatted Calf, you'll be able to make some of your favorites (and probably some things you've never heard of) right in your own home kitchen. They'll walk you through everything from preparing your kitchen, to selecting the right cuts, to the basics of butchering, to salting, curing, bringing, stuffing, and much more.