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updated 12/13/2010 7:57:27 AM ET 2010-12-13T12:57:27

Warren Brown, author of "United Cakes of America"
Books for foodies:

1. "Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours"
By Dorie Greenspan
Houghton Mifflin, $40

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "Fab gift for the big foodie. Lots of recipes, delish ideas, great pics to gaze at."

2. "Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients"
By Publishing staff of Dorling Kindersley
DK, $35

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "Hundreds of excellent pics and facts on different things to cook with. Great resource and source of inspiration. Loads of value, easily schools newbie foodies. A bit heavy, but great to have on hand."

3. "Food Stylist’s Handbook"
By Denise Vivaldo
Gibbs Smith, $50

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "Behind the scenes info and pics showing process of food styled shoots. Some food porn, but not just gawker pics."

4. "The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook"
By Rachel Saunders
Andrews McMeel, $35

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "Great for the group project cooking session that will last for months. Plus a delicious way to add love and excitement to breakfast year round."

5. "I Love Bacon!"
By Jayne Rockmill
Andrews McMeel, $19.99

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "Stops me in my tracks, mouth waters … must read! Too much fun to pass up! Plus, a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength."

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6. "Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Café"
By Joanne Chang and Christie Matheson
Chronicle, $35

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "A fellow change-of-career entrepreneur from before it became trendy, with great pics and recipes."

7. "Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented"
By Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $29.95

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "Irresistible."

8. "Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian"
By Rose Elliot, Kate Whitaker, Vana Haggerty, and Ken Lewis
Sterling, $30

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "Good to have a large resource dedicated to vegetables. Ideas can be broader and more interesting."

9. "Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips"
By Ina Garten
Crown, $35

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "Reliable author providing recipes that live up to the title."

10. "Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France"
By Joan Nathan
Knopf, $39.95

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "Packed with info and anecdotes, great recipes, and written by the nicest person."

11. "Essentially Thai: Spirit House"
Helen Brierty and Annette Fear
New Holland, $35

Why it’s Warren’s pick: "Food of the restaurant Spirit House, set in Thailand. Up close and big pics give a tour of Thailand along with great views of the dishes."

Debra Gingrich

Patricia Cornwell, author of "Port Mortuary"

Fiction:
1. "An Object of Beauty"
By Steve Martin
Grand Central

Why it's Patricia's pick: “Steve Martin's ‘An Object of Beauty’ shines an intense light on the fascinating world of fine art auctions but also gives us a taste of a newly evolving form of literature that I call mixed media fiction. He intersperses into the text photographs of actual paintings, which is effective in a way I wouldn't have expected. The narrator is sharply witty and edgy in his observations — unmistakably Martin.”

2. "A Reliable Wife"
By Robert Goolrick
Algonquin Books

Why it's Patricia's pick: “ ‘A Reliable Wife’ is sensuously steamy and chillingly sinister, a period piece that is almost impossible to put down from the very first sentence. Robert Goolrick's writing is so graphic, bold and lyrically gorgeous, I continue to find myself haunted by it and rather shocked by a story that is as ugly as it is lovely.”

3. "Spooner"
By Pete Dexter
Grand Central

Why it's Patricia's pick: “Pete Dexter's ‘Spooner’ is one of the cleverest and outrageously funny novels I've read in a very long time. His scene of a burial at sea that goes insanely wrong had me laughing out loud — and amazed. Dexter's wit and use of metaphor yet again prove his genius.”

4. "Lord of the Flies"
By William Golding

Why it's Patricia's pick: "A monumental work that serves up human nature raw. A must-read."

5. "The Great Gatsby"
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Why it's Patricia's pick: "One of the most flawless novels ever written. Gorgeous."

6. "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"
By John Berendt

Why it's Patricia's pick: "An astonishing romp that is marvelously entertaining. Berendt turns a city into a character."

Nonfiction:
1.
"Washington"
By Ron Chernow

Why it's Patricia's pick: "A warm-blooded look at the man himself. This work shows Washington as fully human."

2.Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley
By Peter Guralnick

Why it's Patricia's pick: "One of my favorite biographies. Even if you're not an Elvis fan, this book is impossible to put down."

3. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer
By James L. Swanson

Why it's Patricia's pick: "Thrilling. One of the most remarkable true accounts of anything I have ever read! The assassination of Lincoln has never been shown in such heart-breaking detail."

4. "Cleopatra: A Life"
By Stacy Schiff

Why it's Patricia's pick: "Absolutely remarkable. It reads like a novel — one of the best biographies of all time."

5. "Life"
By Keith Richards

Why it's Patricia's pick: "If you've always wondered what it would be like to be backstage and on the road with one of the most famous rock bands in history, you'll love Richards' autobiography. What an exciting story about music and the man."

6. "Three Cups of Tea"
By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver

Why it's Patricia's pick: "An incredible story that proves that a single person with passion can change the world — and not only climb mountains but move them."

Jonathan Adler, author of "Happy Chic Accessorizing" and "Happy Chic Colors"

1. "American Fashion Designers at Home"
By Rima Suqi
Assouline

Why it's Jonathan's pick: "Fab look at the inside world of fashion people. I love it cause it includes lots of quirky interiors and a look into the homes of people you've heard of."

2. "Apartment Therapy's Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces"
By Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan
Clarkson Potter (May 11, 2010)

Why it's Jonathan's pick: "Inspiring because it's accessible. Shows how you can make a small space feel big and glamorous and proves that bigger ain't always better."

3. "The Selby Is in Your Place"
By Todd Selby
Abrams (April 1, 2010)

Why it's Jonathan's pick: "Another interiors book which shows how real creative people live. Nice to see homes that aren't too grand but that are incredibly creative and surprising. A real keeper."

4. "Untouched"
By Johnny Rozsa
Glitterati, Inc. (September 1, 2010)

Why it's Jonathan's pick: "Johnny Rozsa is a fab celebrity photographer who has shot everybody you've ever heard of and these are his unretouched photographs. In the plastic world we live in, it's kind of fab to see the way people really look, un-airbrushed."

5. "Beautiful People"
By Simon Doonan (Adler's husband)
Simon & Schuster (April 14, 2009)

Why it's Jonathan's pick: "Hilarious romp of a read. All about Simon's quest for the illusory Beautiful People and his realization that the real Beautiful People aren't celebs, they're his insane family. Poignant and heartwarming for the holidays."

6. "Taschen's Big Butt Book"
Edited by Dian Hansen
Publisher: Taschen (June 8, 2010)

Why it's Jonathan's pick: "It is what it is. Hilarious."

Video: Hot holiday reads

  1. Closed captioning of: Hot holiday reads

    >> morning on "today's" holiday gift guide, book buying 101. how do you choose when there are literally millions of titles to pick from.

    >> first up tackling fiction and nonfiction is patricia cornwell . congratulations.

    >> it's great to be here.

    >> but you're going to talk about other people's books which is really nice and you're starting off with the latest book by steve martin , why do you like it so much?

    >> this is a really provocative book, and what i look about it is that it introduces us to art auction . he's embedded photographs of paintings in the text that i never would have thought.

    >> you call it mixed media fiction?

    >> it's new and incredibly brilliant of him and when you're reading it, you love looking at these paintings.

    >> the next book you want to talk about is "the reliable wife" it's about robert goolrick. you said it's about as ugly as there is lovely.

    >> she's plotting the vicious poisoning the man she chose to marry, but it's remarkably told and written.

    >> you're going to roll out of your chair laughing and this is a very witty brilliant guy. there's a scene of a burial at sea that goes as wrong as anything possibly can.

    >> you've got keith richard ' book life. and do you think this is going to be interesting to people who aren't rock 'n roll fans or stones fan.

    >> absolutely and love his love of music. he's almost teaching you to play the guitar in the book.

    >> and talk to me about "three cups of tea."

    >> this is a man who was changing a plan, it was a school he was building in afghanistan but it's a wonderful story and i love his scenes about mountain climbing .

    >> you've just covered fiction to nonfiction in the midst of 40 seconds. patricia, thank you very much.

    >> one of the must have cookbooks, warren brown is the found -- his book is united cakes of america. this one is for a real foodie, it's called around my french table.

    >> that's right, it's beautiful, it just has recipes that any person who loves to cook would just jump into and love to get started with. beautiful pictures, wonderful recipes. culture.

    >> what more can you ask for?

    >> you couldn't really.

    >> the next one is filled with pictures and stats.

    >> and for me this is what i really get into. because it's ingredients of every single kind from all around the world. fantastic photos and you want something you can turn to all the time just to know how do i make manager really well and what is this ingredient?

    >> the food stylist handbook.

    >> yes, and i'm selecting this because i think it's great for people who love watching food shows to understand a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes . this book is supposed to train food stylists and give an inside look to it. it's interesting to know what goes on and how many different ways you can manipulate foods and make them look good.

    >> and the fourth book, you couldn't decide?

    >> for me it's all about family projects and i have made jams at home and it a great way to be together with the family in the kitchen. but it's kind of hard to do alone. but i like the idea as a family.

    >> and i know you like the jam.

    >> i do as much as i can.

    >> and this is my favorite. lots of different creative recipes you can go crazy with and have your favorite flavors.

    >> we have been trying to decide whether we should make a bacon cupcake?

    >> a crumbled bacon on top of a cake.

    >>> coffee table books are always a great gift. we have got the author of happy chic accessorizing, jonathan, good morning to you. first of american fashion designers at home and this book is from the far end over there. what do you like about it?

    >> it's so fun to see a glimpse inside the world of fashion designers . you have heard of them and you get to see how they live and it's always unexpected, a little bit quirky and fun.

    >> well known names?

    >> well known names.

    >> and a lot of free pictures and i love this book because of the ideas you get out of this is pretty surprising.

    >> the fashion apartment therapy shows y ou how to be a real person in a small space and make it happen.

    >> and surprising.

    >> i'm all about surprises in creativity.

    >> and speaking of surprises. you've got a book selby is in your place. this has a lot of very interesting pictures. it's really anexperimeenceable book.

    >> it shows you how to make your house, glamorous, unexpected and kind of excentric.

    >> and being a designer, we can understand why you would pick those first three.

    >> the fourth book was called untouched by johnny rayside. he's a photographer. it's beautiful photographs.

    >> it's johnny rosea, no resuch resuch -- retouching. there's something addicting about reading this book.

    >> i'm going to grab the book because i have a few seconds left and you've got susan sarandon who wrote the introduction and she said being with this photographer was always an event and the photos are stunning.

    >> yeah, the photos are incredible and very creative.

    >> jonathan, thank you so much. and thanks to all of our guests. and you can get more information about all of these books at todayshow.com. jessica alba after your local news.

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