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In announcing that he had stopped serving the fattened livers of force-fed ducks and geese at his world-renowned restaurant, trailblazing chef Charlie Trotter heaved a grenade into a simmering food fight, and the Foie Gras Wars erupted. He said his morally minded menu revision was meant merely to raise consciousness, but what was he thinking when he also suggested — to Chicago Tribune reporter Mark Caro — that a rival top chef's liver be eaten as "a little treat"? The reaction to Caro's subsequent front-page story was explosive, as Chicago banned the ancient delicacy known as foie gras while an international array of activists, farmers, chefs and politicians clashed forcefully and sometimes violently over whether fattening birds for the sake of scrumptious livers amounts to ethical agriculture or torture.

"Take a dish with a funny French name, add ducks, top it all off with celebrity chefs eating each other's livers, and that's entertainment," Caro writes. Yet as absurd as battling over bloated waterfowl organs might seem, the controversy struck a serious chord even among those who had never tasted the stuff. Reporting from the front lines of this passionate dining debate, Caro explores the questions we too often avoid:

 

What is an acceptable amount of suffering for an animal that winds up on our plate?

 

Is a duck that lives comfortably for twelve weeks before enduring a few weeks of periodic force-feedings worse off than a supermarket broiler chicken that never sees the light of day over its 6-7 weeks on earth?

 

Why is the animal-rights movement picking on such a rarefied dish when so many more chickens, pigs and cows are being processed on factory farms?

 

Yet does any of this justify the practice of feeding a duck through a metal tube dropped down its throat?

In his relentless yet good-humored pursuit of clarity, Caro takes us to New York, California, Philadelphia and France as we hit the streets where activists use bullhorns, spray paint, Superglue and/or lawsuits as their weapons. We visit government chambers where politicians weigh the ducks' interests against their own; restaurants and outlaw dining clubs where haute cuisine preparations coexist with Foie-lipops; and U.S. and French farms whose operators maintain that they are honoring tradition, not abusing animals.

 

Can foie gras survive after 5,000 years? Are we on the verge of a more enlightened era of eating? Can both answers be yes? Our appetites hang in the balance.

 

Best Nonfiction Book, Great Lakes Book Awards

 

Best Book for Food Professionals (U.S.) and Special Jury Prize, Gourmand World Cookbook Awards (Paris).

 

Featured in Best Food Writing 2009, Holly Hughes (Da Capo)

 

“Mark Caro’s The Foie Gras Wars is an admirably fair-minded, yet always engaging, account from the front lines of the Culture War….One need have no knowledge of, interest in or passion for the swollen livers of geese or ducks to find this book thrilling…a must-have.”—Anthony Bourdain

 

“I like geese, but their livers seem to bring out the worse in people, and Mark Caro’s wonderful writing and delight in human nature had me savoring his book more than I’ll ever savor paté again.”—Roger Ebert

 

“Essential reading for anyone who is interested in the ethics of using animals for good.”—Temple Grandin

 

“I can’t believe I ever put the book down. Admittedly, the topic sounds like hard going, but this is so well-written and so balanced in its treatment that it is, improbably, a real page turner. It has everything: fascinating characters, devious deeds, wit, suspense, science.”— S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times

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Songwriting can seem a mysterious, intimidating process, yet it’s also tremendously simple. We all have music inside us: melodies in our sentences, rhythms in our syllables, heartbeats and steps. Whether we harbor professional aspirations or just a love of playing music, many of us enjoy the art of creation. Some do so with guitar or pen in hand, some while seated at a piano or electronic device, some while taking a stroll and whistling. There is no wrong way — yet many of us struggle to tap into our abundant sources of inspiration.

 

Now comes a book to remove the barriers between you and your creativity. Steve Dawson and Mark Caro’s Take It to the Bridge: Unlocking the Great Songs Inside You (GIA) offers a lively, instructive dialogue about the art of songwriting; helpful chord, key and song-form charts; and creative assignments designed to inspire anyone who ever has thought of adding songs to the world.

 

Steve is the brilliant singer/songwriter of the bands Dolly Varden and Funeral Bonsai Wedding as well as a musician’s musician who has played and sung with a diverse array of collaborators. Mark is a longtime cultural journalist who has written about everyone from the Beatles and New Kids on the Block to Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. After Mark took Steve’s inventive songwriting class at the Old Town School of Folk Music, he jumped at his friend’s suggestion that they collaborate on a book that would combine the class’s best songwriting exercises with a deep exploration of the joys and challenges of creating your own music.

 

This is not a book about scoring hits and making money. It's discovering your artistic voice and adding beauty and truth to the world. We all yearn to express ourselves creatively. Let's unlock that process together. 

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Behind the Laughter: A Comedian’s Tale of Tragedy and Hope, By Anthony Griffith and Brigitte Travis-Griffin with Mark Caro (Thomas Nelson)

"I was living every comic’s dream…with a nightmare attached."

 

Anthony Griffith, a stand-up comic from Chicago’s South Side, has lived on the borderline of comedy and tragedy. At the very time his career as a stand-up comedian was taking off, and he had finally achieved his dream of appearing on The Tonight Show, he was also enduring an unimaginable personal nightmare: his two-year-old daughter, Brittany Nicole, was dying from cancer. While Anthony performed under bright lights, he struggled not to succumb to the darkness of losing a child.

 

Behind the Laughter asks, When your world is falling apart, how do you keep going? It’s the story of how Anthony and his wife, Brigitte, learned to endure the most painful of times and emerge on the other side of the "zombie years."

 

This memoir is deeply moving yet also humorous—packed with laughs as Anthony takes us from his gun-toting grandma’s home to Chicago’s white and black comedy clubs, then to Hollywood, and to the world of network television. The surprising twists along Anthony’s path highlight the power of God that goes before us and prepares the way—a truth that later encourages Anthony and Brigitte after Brittany’s death and moves them to reach out and comfort others going through similar difficulties.

 

With humor and deep insights into the human spirit, Behind the Laughter explores the bonds of not only parent and child but also husband and wife. While Anthony and Brigitte’s story is uniquely theirs, it elicits powerful, relatable emotions and lessons that are universal and inspiring.

 

This powerful, intimate story pulls back the curtains on one marriage’s profound loss.”—Publishers Weekly 

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This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.” —President Donald Trump

 

Imagine Special Counsel Robert Mueller got so frustrated with the U.S. attorney general that, instead of letting the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election speak for itself, he allowed the full narrative of corruption, high crimes, and cover-ups to be revealed…

With more than 350,000 copies sold, the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Election has taken its place as the defining document of the Trump administration. Replete with some of the most infamous characters and outlandish schemes in modern American history, the underlying evidence in the Special Counsel’s written testimony could have been plucked from the script of a blockbuster movie. But at 400-plus pages of bewildering redactions and impenetrable legal analysis, the text itself is so dense that even our elected officials have admitted to leaving the report unread.

Now, stripped of legalese while still faithful to fact, The Special Counsel tells the story of what really happened in a compulsively readable-yet comprehensive-narrative. Whisking readers from Manhattan’s Trump Tower to the rural towns of Pennsylvania and the frosty streets of St. Petersburg, this book brings to vivid life the people, places, and politics that have shaped our post-2016 lives. One thing is bone-chillingly clear: our democracy is under attack and only an informed American public can save it. The Special Counsel is as necessary as it is thrilling.