For a Jane Austen enthusiast, I’m also a pretty big fan of creepy-crawly stories. It probably goes back to my childhood and reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Aaron Schwartz (secretly and under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime, of course). As frightening as those tales were, though, The Shining has long been the pinnacle of creepiness. So naturally, I was waiting on the edge of my seat for Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s latest book and sequel to The Shining. When my hold arrived last week, I devoured it in a weekend. Continue reading
I’ve been waiting for Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder on the Sunflower eLibrary this week, and to pass the time, I decided to check out one of her earlier, less well known works, The Magician’s Assistant. It was a detour from my reading list, but it is one that I am glad that I took. Continue reading
In her debut novel, The Ghost Bride, Yangsze Choo poses a few basic questions: What would you do if you were the young daughter of a Chinese family in Malaysia in the 19th century, and your father, whose had fallen into dire straits, was being encouraged to marry you off to as a “ghost bride” to the recently deceased son of a powerful and wealthy family? Continue reading
As much as I love a book that warms that heart and reaffirms my faith in humanity, I also sometimes like a book that takes a hard and unrelenting look at the deep flaws in people. For these moods, writers like Lionel Shriver provide a bracing tonic against sweetness. Shriver, the author of We Need To Talk About Kevin, has recently released Big Brother, a book that more than lives up to her reputation as a writer of difficult stories. Continue reading
Last weekend we decorated our house for Halloween and after tacking up the fake spiderwebs to the corners of the ceiling and setting out pumpkins, I decided that a good, scary book was in order. One book that has been on my to-read list for a while now has been Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Continue reading
In my opinion, the approaching October requires a different kind of reading than your typical beachy reads of the summer–something a little melancholy, but still with a little bit of levity. If this sort of book sounds appealing, then check out Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by the recently deceased David Rakoff. Continue reading
Vladimir Nabokov once said, “Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it.” Re-reading books is a unique pleasure, particularly with long-loved books. For me, I will never get tired of reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, or Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. However, there are newer books that are re-reading classics in the making. Here are a few that I have already found myself turning to a second (or third) time. Continue reading
I was going to write about a real-life detective story involving a 4,000 year old language, but then I came across I Could Pee On This: And Other Poems By Cats by Francesco Marciuliano and I felt like it was, of course, more important to talk about this hilariously irreverent book of cat poetry. Or, should I say, book of poems written by cats. Continue reading
I usually don’t read many motivational books, but after all the hype about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, I couldn’t resist taking a look at what this controversial title had to offer. Lean In‘s central premise is that women often bypass leadership opportunities because they believe they cannot have both professional and domestic success. Sandberg argues that when women opt-out of the workplace, the result is fewer women in high-level positions and less family-friendly corporate and professional culture. Continue reading
All week long, I’ve been trying to summarize The Shining Girls, the new novel from the South African writer, Lauren Beukes, to my friends and family, and so far, it is a book that defies easy description. The book’s wibbly-wobby, timey-wimey premise tells the story of a serial killer, Harper Curtis, who stumbles upon a haunted house that compels him to travel through time in order to track his victims. Harper is foiled, however, when one of his victims, a young woman named Kirby, survives his brutal attack, and instead, begins tracking him. As Kirby gets closer and closer to understanding the nature of the attempted murder and how to solve the crimes, Harper’s machinations (or are they the house’s???) begin to go awry.
The Shining Girls is based on such an odd concept that it seems like it might be difficult to buy into it. However, Lauren Beukes is a supremely talented writer and within the first 20 pages of the book, a universe in which something like this is possible makes complete sense. This is definitely a book, and author, to keep your eye on: word has it that there is already a deal for a television show in the works.
Three words that describe this book: Creepy, inventive, unexpected
Read if you like: Dr. Who, Gone Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I’ve been in a cooking rut lately, but I’ve been searching for unusual dishes to try and spice things up a little. I also love a good memoir, so I was excited to find that MPL had Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen, the new memoir/cookbook from Top Chef contestant Edward Lee.
Lee is a Korean-American chef who has trained in Brooklyn, France, Kentucky, as well as his grandmother’s traditional Korean kitchen. His new book offers readers an array of dishes that fuse what would otherwise seem to be wildly dissimilar traditions: Korean food and Southern cuisine. Think fried chicken with kimchi waffles, or rice bowls with remoulade.
But there is more to Smoke & Pickles than its offbeat recipes. Lee chronicles his culinary journey from a bratty Brooklyn teenager to a jaded hipster chef to a passionate and socially conscious restauranteur. Each chapter focuses on a different period in his life, followed by recipes focused on a different type of a food, e.g., “Seafood & Scrutiny,” “Pickles & Matrimony,” and “Cows & Clover.” Lee’s recipes are unexpected, to be sure, but for those looking to shake things up a bit, it’s fun to see recipes that throw caution to the wind. I probably won’t be trading my chocolate chip cookie recipe for Lee’s Tobacco Cookies anytime soon, but as it goes in the culinary world, it was worthwhile to experiment.
Mary Roach is fascinated by the science of eating, and by the end of Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, you will be, too. At least if you have a strong stomach. Gulp is a non-fiction account of the nitty-gritty aspects of taste, eating, and digestion, and how these functions affect our daily lives. Roach travels the world, speaking with experts in everything from saliva to methane. She covers wide-ranging issues, from why our pets taste food differently than we do, to how stomach acid works to the role that digestion has played in civilization.
Most writers would not be able to handle the high gross-out factor with this subject matter, but Mary Roach approaches it with a sense of levity that makes its discussion downright charming. She is also quite skilled at making science accessible for the layperson. While she does not skimp on concepts, she does a great job of making them intriguing to those of us have forgotten most of high school biology.
Three others to try: A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson; Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris; Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects, by Amy Stewart
The undead/supernatural cultural zeitgeist is still upon us, but maybe you are ready for a fresh take on the genre? Part Ghostbusters, part The Devil Wears Prada, The Shambling Guide to New York City focuses on the adventures of Zoe, a young book editor who is trying to break into the world of city guide writing in NYC. If the publishing world wasn’t cutthroat enough, Zoe has to contend with the fact that her both her new coworkers and her audience are, quite literally, monsters (coterie, in the language of the book).
Zoe gradually begins to win the respect of her colleagues. As she delves deeper into research for her upcoming book, she is immersed in a whole new world of coterie lifestyles and politics. Zoe takes most of it in stride, but her professional life is soon disrupted by some nasty baggage from her past that unfortunately overlap with her new life…and just when she was starting to get to know the cute-but-mysterious (human) guy across the hall. Soon, the balance of coterie and human worlds is thrown out of whack, and Zoe realizes she may be the only one who can set things right.
Lafferty is well known as a writer of urban fantasy, and this book is a great new title for fans of the genre. The Shambling Guide to New York City is a shaggy little monster of a book with a good sense of humor about its subject matter and a heroine who is weirdly relateable.
Usually memoirs focus on our relationships, whether romantic, familial, platonic. However, Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel-memoir, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, focuses on a different kind of relationship: her lifelong love affair with food. While many memoirs focus on complex experiences and feelings, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen is about the joy of food in all its stages, from growing to cooking to eating, through various stages of the author’s life.
Knisley, who is also the author of French Milk, is the daughter of a professional chef and has a healthy appreciation for all kinds of foods. There is so much discussion about the dangerous and unhealthy aspects of eating these days, so it is also refreshing to read about the positive aspects of food in our lives. One of the most satisfying elements of the book is how Knisley talks about her own dietary eccentricities. She freely admits to eating hot dog salads when she was in college, as well as a love for McDonald’s fries (a fact that greatly irritates her gourmet-food loving dad).
However, as a lover of cooking myself, I have to say that my favorite part of the book was the recipes. Reminiscent of the illustrations of recipes in the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks, this book uses clever illustrations that makes the recipes come to life. The best of the recipes was the one for the chocolate chip cookies. Like many, she considers the recipe her own mother used the best, which is a reminder of how our childhoods shape our taste buds.