By David Sax. (PublicAffairs, 301 pages, $25.99.)
Sax, with a James Beard writing award under his belt, takes on the question of how food trends influence our lives. Why does food have to be trendy? he asks. Why can’t it just taste good on its own merits? He begins by dissecting the cupcake trend by unearthing the famous “cupcake scene” from “Sex and the City,” in which a confection from Magnolia Bakery got screen time. Sax is astonished to find that the whole scene is about 20 seconds long — and doesn’t even name the bakery! Turns out a tour guide started offering cupcakes with her commentary. Just like that, we became obsessed with frosting-dominated treats.
Sax explores health issues, marketing strategies and the role of chefs — nowhere near as fun as reading about cupcakes. But then the book picks up when it traces the explosion of food trucks, the “when will it be over?” trend of bacon and, perhaps the most fascinating chapter of all: the recurring resurrection of the fondue pot. Tikka masala curry fondue? Maybe.
Sax even manages to work in a final word about cronuts, perhaps the most notorious food trend in memory, which appeared just as he was turning in his manuscript. For consumers willing to look inside themselves, even as they roll their eyes at a bacon-flavored sexual lubricant, this book — while oddly not especially appetizing — is illuminating.
The Hidden Child
By Camilla Läckberg. (Pegasus, 528 pages, $25.95.)
Swedish writer Camilla Läckberg folds historical mysteries inside modern-day crime thrillers. In her latest novel, “The Hidden Child,” police detective Patrick Hedstrom is supposed to be at home on paternity leave, while his wife, writer Erica Falck, gets some child-care downtime to finish a book. Instead, he gets drawn into his colleagues’ investigation of a murder in their seaside resort town. Erica gets curious about a Nazi medal found among her late mother’s belongings.
In Läckberg’s trademark style, which has rightfully made her a bestselling author in Sweden, the old and the new eventually merge into one story, offering a hard-to-put-down tale of hidden motives and old secrets.