This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Madeleine Brand.

Writer Elizabeth Berg is the author of the novel "The Pull of the Moon," and she has a taste for reading. For our series, You Must Read This, writers recommend a book they love, and Berg settled on a cookbook. It was not an easy choice.

ELIZABETH BERG: It is a happy day when I am asked to publicly recommend a book. It is also a dilemma. When I consider all the books I have loved and depended upon and profited from, how can I pick just one?

In the end, I have decided to come clean about the book I have probably recommended more often than any other. It is a cookbook. Now, wait. It is far more than a cookbook. It is a humor book and a security blanket and a kind of bible. It's called "Beat This!" And it's written by a woman named Ann Hodgman, under whose kitchen table I would like to live. Hers is the standard by which I measure all other cookbooks. So far, nothing comes close except her companion cookbook, "Beat That!"

The bulk of the recipes in "Beat This!" are for things that are familiar and beloved, but Hodgman makes them better. When you have that deep kind of hunger that is part longing, what's better to eat than the best apple pie, or the best deviled eggs and crab cakes and white chocolate raspberry pie? You'll find all those recipes in "Beat This!"

You'll also find entertaining copy, like: Chili is further proof of my rule that every recipe is better if you add sausage or bacon. Or: It violates the whole thing of a strawberry to cook it. About her butter crunch, Hodgman says: Master this recipe, and you control the world.

Some of the recipes in this cookbook are labor-intensive; some are amazingly easy. One of my favorite super easy ones, for cinnamon rolls, has in its short list of ingredients: tubes of refrigerated dinner rolls. About this, Hodgman says: Well, if this isn't an embarrassment to include here, but these are shockingly good. And boy, oh boy, they really are. They should come with a warning not to make them when you are alone in the house.

As an added bonus, "Beat This!" has recipes for dog biscuits and play dough and the liquid you use to blow bubbles. Here's my recipe for a delicious thing to do today: 1. Buy "Beat This!" 2. Go to page 64, and make that roast chicken. 3. While it's in the oven, lie on the sofa and read Susan Fletcher's exquisite novel "Oystercatchers" or any short story by Alice Munro. Or Rita Dove's poetry. Or E.B. White's essays. There. I knew I'd find a way to get in more than one book.

BRAND: Elizabeth Berg, the author of the novel "The Pull of the Moon." Her choice for You Must Read This is "Beat This!" by Ann Hodgman. For more You Must Read This recommendations and a recipe for white chocolate raspberry pie, go to

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