With summer off to a roaring start, I thought I’d share some favorite new books of the season. They’re a mix of fiction and nonfiction, some are written by friends, and many are about food. Any of them would be the perfect companion for a lazy afternoon :)
The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
This is a novel about half sisters, family secrets, broken hearts, and second chances. It’s about 16-year-old Willow—beautiful, brilliant and sheltered—her much-older half-sister Taisy, who hasn’t been home for 17 years, and their brilliant, imperious jerk of a father, Wilson, who might be nursing a tender hope for a second (or third) chance. I love Marisa’s quirky, lovable characters—and I was completely charmed by this witty, intelligent book, which features (oddly enough) Middlemarch as an apt metaphor!
Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner
I was completely hooked by this novel, which portrays the rags-to-riches tale of designer Gabrielle Chanel, a woman who rose to astonishing heights despite her impoverished childhood, gender, and (often) acrid personality. Christopher’s insights into Coco’s psychology helped me understand some of her decisions, even as I sometimes shook my head in disappointment. Coco made hard choices and they weren’t always right or moral. I think this book would provoke a wonderful book club discussion.
The World on a Plate by Mina Holland
I usually travel to eat, but author Mina Holland does the opposite—she eats to travel. In this collection of essays, she examines global cuisine, swooping across five continents, and including anecdotes, trivia, and recipes. Here are a couple of fun facts I learned from the book:
“Darjeeling black tea is known as the ‘Champagne of teas’ for its fine grapy flavors, which enhance the taste of more or less any given food.”
“Suet has a high melting point, which means that, over the course of a long, slow steaming period, it imparts moistness without making the pudding too dense.”
In a French Kitchen by Susan Herrmann Loomis (on sale June 16)
This is a memoir and cookbook all rolled into one, complete with practical tips, delicious recipes, and real stories from real people. Susan’s anecdotes are funny and charming and she offers a wonderful guide for producing honest, simple, and chic meals, à la française. I especially liked her easy-to-digest lists, which are a mixture of sensible tricks and folklore. For example, here are a few of “Mamie’s Rules for Life”:
“Have a fever? Drink thyme tisane and go to bed.”
“Make dessert first.”
“Add butter to vegetables right before you serve them; then you can really taste it.”
That’s Not English by Erin Moore
“A lifelong Anglophile, Erin Moore was born and raised in Florida, where the sun shines and all the tea is iced.” And so begins the tale of my friend Erin, who moved to London and learned an entirely new language. Her hilarious examination of the seemingly superficial differences between British and American vocabulary opens a can of worms wriggling with historic and cultural differences.
Re Jane by Patricia Park
In this retelling of Jane Eyre, the narrator is a young Korean-American woman finding her way in New York City and Seoul. Funny, moving, and—more than anything—a love letter to Queens, I read it in a gulp and laughed out loud several times.
1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die by Mimi Sheraton
“This book is my autobiography, or at least a very big part of it,” says Mimi Sheraton. After 60 years of writing about food, she has assembled this collection of dishes from around the globe: must-eat mouthfuls to seek and/or dream about. With encyclopedic knowledge, recipes, and helpful addresses, this is an excellent book to inspire (or inform) your next vacation.
Have you discovered any good books lately? I’m currently reading All the Light We Cannot See.
(Top image from Jackie Clark Mancuso.)