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Winter's glow has an inward burn as, confined by the weather, we turn to books to spark our imaginations. As always, we are blessed by the wealth of offerings from Sonoma County authors and illustrators, some of whose most recent works are summarized below. Contributing writers are Greg Cahill, Gretchen Giles, Liesel Hofmann, Sara Peyton, David Templeton, and Simone Wilson.

John Ash with Sid Goldstein
From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine
New York: Dutton, 448 pages; $29.95

It's all here, from soup (Roasted Eggplant Soup with Sweet Peppers) to piñons (Smoked Chicken Salad with Pine Nuts). In his latest offering, chef, restaurateur, and food writer John Ash--one of the most prominent figures in the local food community and now headquartered at Fetzer Vineyards in Mendocino County--reunites with Sid Goldstein (American Game Cooking) to carry on his crusade to convert America to the benefits of cooking with fresh, natural ingredients. And he delivers a convincing argument in the form of such mouth-watering, wine-country culinary creations as Seared Ahi Tuna with Lavender-Pepper Crust. The introduction even features a heartfelt plea to use "ethical" foods--a category that excludes the growing number of genetically engineered fruits and vegetables. But you don't want fish genes tainting your tomato bisque anyway, right? In addition to the usual complement of delicious recipes--many requiring a serious hand in the kitchen, but also plenty of relatively simple and creative dishes that can be served up on the grill by the inspired novice--Ash intersperses his text with insightful studies of salt and other common kitchen items, and expert advice on food presentation and selection. His "10 Quick Tips for Perfect Food and Wine Pairing" should help make a usually complicated process into an enjoyable event.--G.C.

Lois G. Grambling
Night Sounds
illustrated by Randall F. Ray
Windsor: Rayve Productions, 1996, 40 pages; $12.95

Illustrated by Healdsburg artist Randall Ray, Night Sounds is an introduction to the "If a tree fell in a forest" school of philosophy--but for the preschool set. As a child settles down for the night, he or she listens with drowsy attentiveness to the crickets and kittens that chorus in the cheerful gloom and wonders what happens to the sounds once sleep comes. Simple and paced for the very young, this is a bedtime book told by a child in bed and intended for a child in bed, creating the soothing atmosphere needed to finally let go of the wonders of the day and succumb to sleep.--G.G.

Robert Hauff
Bytes of Faith
Baltimore: Noble House, 1995, 167 pages; $18.85

When the beliefs and comforts of traditional religion fade away or crumble into doubt, what can be brought in to fill the gap? Rohnert Park author Robert Hauff, in his debut book, chronicles the 30-year spiritual journey he has shared with his wife, Judith. Written in a deeply personal, conversational style, with frequent snatches of witty, fiery, and always probing dialogue as the married couple debates and explores each stage in their process of "discovering what God isn't," Bytes of Faith ends up with the couple finding more questions than answers . . . but with a surprisingly rich sense of peace and serenity in this unique work of spiritual writing.--D.T.

Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen Thompson Hill
Real Life Dictionary of the Law: Taking the Mystery out of Legal Language
Los Angeles: General Publishing Group, 1995, 479 pages; $19.95

Even though ardent O.J.-watchers got themselves a big ole dose of instant law school, more reasonable adults still don't know their quid pro quo from their res ipsa loquitur. The Hills, a Sonoma-based legal team, are here to help, serving as a reminder that ignorance of the law is no excuse. At least not while this well-formatted, easy-to-understand reference book is available. With an ample format, this reference (which is said to be a godsend to those squinting themselves blind over Black's Law Dictionary) also makes a nod to humor, tucking in among the definitions of debenture and declarant such quotes as Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Good men must not obey the laws too well." Adjourned.--G.G

Richard Rothlin
10¢ to Guerneville
Santa Rosa: Wine Designs, 1996, unpaged; $12.50

Eccentric and kind, Sonoma County resident (and man of the world) Richard Rothlin was one of the first residents to inhabit the pristine stretch of sheep ranch known as Sea Ranch. Wine connoisseur and inveterate traveler, Rothlin--now in his mid-70s--last year set himself the task of traveling from downtown Santa Rosa to the village of Guerneville with just one thin dime in his pocket. Unfortunately, he choose to do it on the fateful day last winter when the Russian River plumed its banks, wetting Rothlin and an entire community down with it. Full of unfinished thoughts, fingernail biographies of bus drivers and kind strangers, and a rainy-day list of boxers and British royalty, this diary of Rothlin's journey and his life is a paperback oddity sweet and rare.--G.G.

Stacey Shuett
Somewhere in the World Right Now
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995, unpaged; $16

Accompanying her own lush, dark illustrations, Duncans Mills-based children's author Stacey Shuett has crafted a gorgeous book about a somewhat unglamorous subject--time zones--and done it with such simple, straight-ahead prose poetry and engrossing pictures that the time zone gets snazzier by the second. Meant for young children, Somewhere in the World Right Now brushes swiftly over the idea that just as you are right now reading these words, someone else is preparing to arise or preparing tortillas or preparing for bed. Right now, parts of the earth are shaded and others are brightened. Right now, we are all spinning through the cosmos together. Right now.--G.G.

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From the Feb. 15-21, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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