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National Barbecue News 2014 Barbecue Book of the Year

By Doug Mosley

Helloooo, December! Where did you come from all of a sudden?

My goodness, did 2014 just speed on by or what? It seems like it was just yesterday that we turned the calendar onto this year and now here it is all the way to the other end. And thus, if you’ve been following this space for some time, you know that December brings about the annual announcement of our proud honors, the National Barbecue News Barbecue Book of the Year Award.

This will be the eighth time we’ve given this award and the competition has been as stiff this year as it has any of the past years. We’ve had some outstanding past winners and this past year marked the first time we’ve had a two-time winner. As a refresher, here’s a look back at all of the honorees:

2007: Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Road Trip by Ray Lampe ($16.95, St. Martins Griffin, 272 pp.)

2008: The Best Barbecue on Earth: Grilling Across 6 Continents and 26 Countries With 170 Recipes by Rick Browne ($22.95, Ten Speed Press, 254 pp.)

2009: Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint by Chris Lilly ($24.99, Clarkson Potter, 256 pp.)
2010: The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition by Ardie Davis, Paul Kirk and Carolyn Wells ($24.99, Andrews McMeel, 318 pp.)

2011: Smokin’ with Myron Mixon: Recipes Made Simple from the Winningest Man in Barbecue by Mixon and Kelly Alexander, with a forward by Paula Deen ($22, Ballantine, 192 pp.)

2012: Wicked Good Barbecue: Fearless Recipes from Two Damn Yankees Who  Won the Biggest, Baddest BBQ Competition in the World by Andy Husbands and Chris Hart ($21.99, Fair Winds Press, 224 pp.)

2013: America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What the Champions Cook in Their Own Backyard by Ardie Davis and Paul Kirk ($19.99, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 180 pp.)

Just so we can keep everything on the up and up, let’s review the rules for this prestigious honor. To be eligible to win this award, the book must come from the genre of outdoor cooking to first be placed into consideration. Second, a book has to have been printed within the calendar year for which it earns the award. I do allow for exceptions for books from the previous November and December since this publication goes to press for each December edition in November, but in reality there aren’t many eligible books that are released during those months. After meeting those qualifications, it is all up to the committee to decide which books become finalists and, from there, which one earns this prestigious award. Although committee votes are kept secret, the ultimate award winner has always been a unanimous result. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the books that made finalist this year.

There were three books that were head and shoulders above the rest. The first finalist I’ll tell you about is the second book from a past honoree, Chris Lilly. His book, Fire & Smoke: A Pitmaster’s Secrets ($24.99. Clarkson Potter, 256 pp.), was every bit the equal of his first book, 2009’s Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint. Lilly is that multimedia star that has ascended to the forefront during the current surge of interest in barbecue and he has delivered quality performance on the tube and in the pages in the same manner as how he became a big winner on the competition barbecue circuit. Lilly could have very well been the second two-time winner of this award, but this year he’ll have to settle for being a finalist.

Melissa Cookston nearly became the first solo female author to win this award with her book, Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room: Southern Recipes from the Winningest Woman in Barbecue ($22.99, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 192 pp.). There have been other women who have been part of the author group who’ve been honored, but none who were the lone author as Cookston is. This was one of those books that already had generated buzz even before I first saw it and the general expectation was that if it were to bear Cookston’s name, it would be outstanding, just like all of her other endeavors.

So that brings us to the third book, the one that will claim this year’s title as the National Barbecue News Barbecue Book of the Year. This one also had great pre-release hype and even then it exceeded expectations. The one unifying trait of every past winner of this award is they all stood out from the very first time you leafed through the pages and this book was no exception to that. Our 2014 honoree is Wiley’s Championship BBQ: Secrets That Old Men Take to the Grave by Wiley McCrary, Janet McCrary and Amy Paige Condon ($19.99, Gibbs Smith, 216 pp.).

The way the tales were spun in this book made it a lot of fun to read, while at the same time the content was outstanding. I marveled at how complete this book was, in terms of the available information, graphic layout and pictures (OK, so maybe in the original review I griped that it could’ve used more pics, but that was my only gripe!). There was no doubt about it – this is one of those books that you must have on your shelf.

An interesting side note is that this may be the second year in a row that this award has seen a first. Last year it was a two-time winner; this year it is someone who has won this publication’s awards for restaurant, caterer, and now book. That’s a triple crown of sorts, right?
Well, that brings 2014 to a close. Thanks again for reading this column each month and special thanks to my editor, Kell, and the epically fantastic Melissa Lott. Enjoy the holidays, and let’s do this all over again in 2015!


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