1. Jan Golinski, Science as Public Culture: Chemistry and Enlightenment in Britain, 1760-1820. One of the best books on the history of Enlightenment science, in addition to the core material it focuses on how the leading researchers went about creating public audiences for their investigations and for the scientific questions that interested them. Indirectly, it is also a good book for understanding the importance of social media today. And unlike many books of science, it properly places the “could you actually make a career out of doing this?” question in the forefront.
2. The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume 1: 1898-1922. It is striking how quickly in his life Eliot is corresponding with very famous people, including Bertrand Russell, Ezra Pound, Conrad Aiken, Julian Huxley, Herbert Read, Wyndham Lewis, and others, all before Eliot himself is renowned. I also enjoy the 23 March 1917 letter to Graham Wallas where Eliot boasts about his new job at Lloyds, praises the extraordinary nature of banking work, and roots for a salary boost. Later Hermann Hesse and James Joyce and Virginia Woolf are added to the mix, and this is only volume one (out of eight). I have ordered more. Simply reading the short bios of the letter writers, at the end of the book, is better than most other books.
3. Lara Lee, Coconut and Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen. Yes, I have been learning how to cook Indonesian food, a natural extension of my previous interest in cuisines from India, Malaysia, and Singapore. This is an excellent book for several reasons, and a better book yet for a pandemic. First, you can fold it open easily on the kitchen counter. Second, the pages can take some wear and tear. Third, the key ingredients are readily storable. Galangal, turmeric, and narrow red chiles all freeze very well. Refrigerated lemon grass stays good for at least a few weeks. Shallots and garlic and coconut milk and cream are easy enough to buy and store. This is actually the #1 issue for a cookbook, if like me you cannot so often plan your cooking in advance. The Thai grocery in Falls Church has all the “marginal’ ingredients as well. On top of everything, the resulting food product is yummy!