Foreign Authors and Their Most Loved Books
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This past year of studying diversity and multiculturalism in literature, has completely reshaped my reading life. Everything seems to take on a deeper context than I've ever known before, thus I'm craving new and different things. Thankfully, that's where the beauty of Bookstagram comes in.

One afternoon, I was looking up a writer whose book I recently read. As I was scrolling through her feed, I stumbled upon a post about Marguerite Duras. I had never heard of her before, so I immediately took to the web to find out who she was and what she had written. As it happened, my library had her memoir, The Lover, so I read it immediately. 

I've read so many diverse novels (many young adult) this past year from the courses I was taking. Books that had a centralized theme on social classes, race, culture, mental illness, sexuality, all of which included writers from different backgrounds and regions as well. My desire for this type of literature has grown immensely. So I reached out on Instagram and asked for your favorite foreign authors and received great recommendations!

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The Lover | Marguerite Duras - French - This can be a difficult story for some to read if the age gap bothers you, but being autobiographical, I find I am much less critical of the content, and for what it was, she wrote it well. Despite that, her prose is sparse, beautiful, and all told in retrospect of a particular time in her life. I fully appreciate her writing and look forward to exploring more of her work.

Neapolitan Novels | Elena Ferrante - Italian - A much loved series of Ferrante's, her books are packed with a depth and richness unmatched by others. Navigating two women's lives, and their friendship, her thought-provoking quartet is so well loved.

The Eyre Affair | Jasper Fforde - British - A unique, on-going series from Great Britain, Frorde uses time travel, suspense, and often humorous prose to pull characters from some of the best loved and well known literature, and throw them into outlandish scenes and stories.

Little Jewel | Patrick Modiano - French - An intriguing mystery of a young girl in Paris who thinks she sees her long lost mother. On a quest to remember the past, Modiano masterfully creates atmosphere, using the city as a main focal point of the story, to aid his unreliable narrator and unique plot.

Les Miserables | Victor Hugo - French - A timeless book that moves readers through its strong prose, redemption, and fight between good and evil. Set in 19th century France, there is a strong undertone of political injustice that Hugo was critical of.

The Heart | Maylis de Kerangal - French - A truly heart wrenching story of love, loss, and survival. A quick and emotional read that has surprised many with its literary merit.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Milan Kundera - Czech - Set in Prague, this is a tale of two couples during the Soviet occupation in the '60s. Described as rich, beautiful, complex, and intellectual, all with a metaphorical philosophical twist using the characters and loose plot.

The Idiot | Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Russian - A unique tale of a man that is genuinely innocent in nature, ends caught up in a love triangle and other tense societal situations he has to navigate. It's remarkable and complex, often the way Russian literature is.

Resurrection | Leo Tolstoy - Russian - A look at the darker emotions of guilt, anger, and social injustice, Resurrection is about a man on jury to convict a woman he was involved with. Now determined to right his wrongs, he fights to appeal her.

The Red and the Black | Roger Gard Stendhal - French - Hailed as having one of the most intriguing characters in European literature, this novel navigates a man attempting to be better than where he came from, but then commits a terrible crime. Filled with wit and satire, there is also an abundance of subtext on France after the Battle of Waterloo, which highlights important elements that is said one should research if you're struggling to find this book interesting.

Kafka on the Shore | Haruki Murakami - Japanese - A young and old man drawn together in a clever story that is as loved as it is hated. I've seen it written that you often have to read certain books of Murakami's before reading others, to better understand the context, so be sure to do your research. His bizarre storylines are woven with fantastical imagery and insight, full of metaphors and are fully unconventional.

A Man Called Ove, Beartown | Fredrik Backman - Swedish - The first is a charming, heartbreaking and heartwarming tale of a man throughout his life leading to the present moment in which we find ourselves converging with new and different characters as they interact with the main character. You'll be hating and loving him with such intensity, you won't be able to put the book down. The latter is a long, layered, rich story of a town navigating through their shared love of hockey as something tragic happens and threatens their unique structure holding everyone and everything together.

The Shadow of the Wind | Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Spanish - Post war in Barcelona, a secret book society, and vanishing books, this book is woven with family, grief, and deep dark secrets. Described as having a complicated plot but with some of the best loved characters in literature.

Inkheart | Cornelia Funke - German - When books actually come to life. A man reading to his daughter unleashes a villain that is after his special gift, then leads you on a tale of conquering evil.

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Note on translations: Most of these books need to be thoughtfully selected with the translator in mind. Each version will provide a unique and different reading experience. You can read a post we wrote on how to do that and the importance of it right HERE.

Cheers to the Weekend 8.10.18
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Happy Friday, friends! This weekend is Rikki's first week off school in many moons, so we are celebrating by going to a huge book sale hosted by one of our favorite local indies! They're clearing some space, and the sale is going to be so big they are taking over their parking lot to put everything out. We are obviously all over that. To add to the bookishness of this weekend, tonight is our city's annual showing of Shakespeare in the Park, and they will be performing The Merry Wives of Windsor. What are you guys up to? Anything fun? Reading anything good?

 

Around The Web

Okay, I LOVE this story! We talk a lot about this, because we both have people in our lives we wish were bigger readers and haven't been sure how to give the right push, so this was perfect.

The back-to-school campus novel lists have begun to pop up and we are HERE for it. Ugh, fall can't come soon enough.

Seriously, how much would you have loved these awesome library spaces as a kid?

I spy some indie favorites in this round up of books that released this week! One of these is also at the very top of my wish list (hint: toast is involved).

Who is seeing Crazy Rich Asians in the theaters this week? I keep seeing great reviews, and while I didn't love the book, I think it has great potential as a movie.

Also, words cannot describe how excited I am for these books, even if I have to wait until 2020 to get my hands on them. I love solarpunk, and can't wait to see how she plays with the genre!

 

Instagram

We are head over heels for Andie's amazing feed. It's natural and cohesive, and features great reads!

Emily's feed makes us feel like we could be best friends, and is gorgeously shot.

We love to see other people who jointly run accounts and Gitana and Amelie run an especially vibrant one.

 

What We're Reading

Michaela- I've recently become quite the book commitment-phobe, but I am hoping to read more of Record of A Spaceborn Few and of The Mere Wife, and also to give myself permission to DNF this one. It always hurts me to not love a book I thought I would be head over heels for, ugh.

Rikki- I recently finished Of Mice and Men, and found myself wondering why I ever waited so long to read it. It's beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. I'm about five chapters into Circe and it's picking up pace to where I just want to sit and READ! I've also just started  while sneaking in the last few chapters of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in the evenings.

 

 

 

 

Michaela Devine Comment
Best Books For Foodies & Lovers of Food Writing
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For a peek into the kitchen

Kitchen Confidential | Anthony Bourdain- This is pretty much a classic of the genre, and was my personal gateway drug. Bourdain chronicles his life in the kitchen and doesn't hesitate to dish on the sex, drugs, gratuitous cursing, haute cuisine, general atmosphere and culture of the profession. I really enjoyed his honest peek behind the curtain and it shows off exactly what it was like to work in the kitchen before the age of celebrity chefs. 

The Making of a Chef | Michael Ruhlman- Ruhlman decides to engage in a bit of stunt journalism and enroll in the Culinary Institute of America to look at what the process of becoming a chef is really like. This book is full of detailed information about the processes of cooking, the skills he learned, and the chefs he met. It was intimate and fascinating. 

Delancey | Molly Wizenberg-  When her husband decides to open a pizza restaurant in Seattle, Wizenberg is less than thrilled. However, she writes about the process of recipe developing, what it takes to open a restaurant, and then what it's like to actually work in it in a way that is so visceral and human. She is a superb writer, and this was the perfect look at what the journey of opening a restaurant entails from a very personal point of view. 

Food and the City | Ina Yalof- This one looks at what's happening behind the scenes in the world of food in New York City. It's almost like short stories; every chapter reads like a conversation with someone in the industry, and is chock full of great storytelling and interesting tidbits. If you crave an insiders look at the industry as a whole (it runs the gamut from food cart vendors and dishwashers, to fancy chef people), this is the book for you. 

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For a look at life as a celebrity chef

Yes, Chef | Marcus Samuelsson- Samuelsson has led a really interesting life, and he discusses his background, his choices, and the things that inspired him to become a chef. If you're interested in what the road to modern celebrity chef status looks like, this is your book. 

My Life In France | Julia Child- We both really, really loved Child's memoir about her life and how she got her start in cooking while living in Paris with her husband. She is shockingly warm and funny, and this book was a complete delight to read. She is easily one of the most likable narrators I've ever read, and the world of post WWII Paris is richly drawn. If you're at all interested in food writing, this is a must. 

Coming to My Senses | Alice Waters- Ultra famous chef Alice Waters pens a memoir about what it was like during the tumultuous 1960's and 1970's, the opening up her passion project of a restaurant, the food counter-culture she was a part of, and how it ended up changing the food world forever. This book is very much about her life, and her life was very much about Chez Panisse, so this one is particularly interesting to read.

The Devil in the Kitchen | Marco Pierre White- White is like the bad boy rocker of the celebrity chef world, and his memoir proves he's worthy of his reputation. He honestly has a great sense of humor, and name drops in the best ways, so this one is extra fun to read. Like most memoirs, it recounts his early years and his rise to fame, but he's so unusual and fascinating, this book is far from ordinary. 

32 Yolks | Eric Ripert- On the lighter end, Ripert focuses on how his tumultuous childhood shaped his love of food, his stint in culinary school, what it was like to work in some seriously world famous restaurants, his various failings and missteps, and more. What sets this memoir apart from the pack is how ridiculously wonderfully he describes food, and how amusing his anecdotes are. That, and the entire book is set before he gets ultra famous, which was refreshing.

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For a taste of what it's like to be in a world class restaurant

Garlic and Sapphires | Ruth Reichl- If you ever wanted to know what life is like for a food critic, pick this up immediately. Reichl excels at describing food, and really brings the reader with her into the highfalutin restaurants she critiques for the New York Times, and the hole in the wall places she frequents for herself. She also makes you keenly aware of all the things that make a great restaurant---and it's not just the food. 

The Sweet Life in Paris | David Lebovitz- Food + Paris...what's not to love? Lebovitz moves to Paris after decades of dreaming about it, and chronicles his culture shock in all it's foodie glory. He's funny and warm, and his adventures around Paris and Parisian culture are just fun. Plus, he is, of course, a world class pastry chef and cookbook author, so the city is especially interesting through his eyes.

The Tummy Trilogy | Calvin Trillin- This was written in the 1970's, but Trillin basically gets paid to traipse around the country trying food everywhere he goes. Dream life, right? He's another author that writes these essays with a lot of warmth and humor as he eats his way across the US. Hardcore foodies will recognize familiar landmark restaurants and pine for the food scenes of decades ago. 

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If the sommelier is your favorite person in a restaurant

Cork Dork | Bianca Bosker- I loveeeeeed this book about wine. Instead of being stuffy and pretentious, Bosker is ridiculously relatable as she takes a deep dive into the world of wine and the people who live for it. I learned so much, not only about how to taste and appreciate wine, but about the real culture in that world underneath it's prim exterior. I mean, at one point she is at a high class wine event that devolves into popping thousands of dollars of booze and group singalongs of drinking songs. It's seriously great. 

 

For inspiration in your own kitchen

My Kitchen Year | Ruth Reichl- This cookbook is half recipes, half memoir, largely about the impact of food on Reichl's life the year following the demise of Gourmet, the food magazine she headed for many years. A good mix of accessible and aspirational, she makes you want to pay attention to and connect more fully with food in your everyday life without being intimidating. She also does a wonderful job of capturing the seasons and cooking seasonally, if you've been (like me) trying to get better at that. Bonus: we did a dinner party for this book!

Here Let Us Feast | M.F.K. Fisher- This was recently reprinted by Counterpoint Press who kindly gifted us a review copy and it's basically a giant toast to the pleasures of food. Fisher is the grandmother of food writing, and this is a collection of  lighthearted essays that capture a wide variety of food writing. In it, she references and takes excerpts from books, famous chefs of times long past, movie stars, ancient writings, Shakespeare, and more.. Read this is you just plain want to get excited about food. 

 

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If fun foodie fiction is more your style

Sweetbitter | Stephanie Danler- A book that centers on a young woman working in a restaurant in NYC? Yes, please. If you're enamored with restaurant/wine/food life and books that revolve around that stuff, this is for you.  I'm a sucker for Danler's beautiful, lush, heavy writing style, and Tess's breathless, relentless pursuit of that unidentifiable something more.

Garden Spells | Sarah Addison Allen- This one is pure, warm, lighthearted fun. Enchanted apple trees,  family secrets, romance, and a caterer named Claire who can cook emotions into food, so that when it's eaten you feel what she infused into it. I love this book, it's one of my favorite comfort reads, and is just chock full of magical food.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake | Aimee Bender- Fun useless fact: this was the very first e-book I ever read, way back in like 2008! In it, nine year old Rose discovers she has the ability to taste the emotions of whoever made the food she eats. This knowledge gives her unexpected insight into the deeper workings of her family and the complex dynamics swirling beneath the surface. Ultimately, it uses food as a vehicle to explore emotions, and the impactful, complicated role they play in our lives.

The Mistress of Spices | Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni- A classic of the magical realism genre, this novel follows an immortal named Tilo who has a special gift with spices. Magic powers, surprise romance, and heavy decisions make this a fun and memorable read. 

 

BONUS: foodie documentaries

Chef's Table- The production value of this docu-series is unreal. Each episodes highlights a different chef and they do sincerely gorgeous filming, interviewing, and showcasing of that chef's story, food philosophy, and their restaurant. You get ridiculously good behind the scenes looks at famous restaurants and the genius of these people. I've never seen anything live up to the standard this series has set. Just go watch it. 

Somm- Hands down my favorite wine documentary, this is similar to Cork Dork. It follows 3 sommelier candidates as they prepare for and take the test to become certified wine masters. It's dramatic and human and fulllll of wine information.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi- Sushi lovers, if you ever wanted the most in depth look at the art of sushi, this is your film. This family takes their restaurant and the making of sushi seriously. Plus, I learned so much about the process and etiquette of eating sushi.

A Chef's Life- I've heard great things about this series, and it's next on my watch list! It looks like its part documentary, part cooking show as it follows one family and their restaurant. It seems to have a focus on southern storytelling and has won all sorts of accolades. 

Check out Anthony Bourdain's pet project that looks similar to Chef's Table, and this great list of food documentaries on Netflix, if you need more!

 

What are your favorite foodie books or shows? I'm always on the hunt for more!

 

 

Cheers to the Weekend 8.3.18
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Well hello there, August! This weekend is one of our last slow ones before the last bits of summer traveling, and school starting up again for our kids in a couple weeks. We've had a cooler week around here, which just feels like fall is teasing us, but summer is definitely here to stay for a while longer. We both have projects around our homes we're working on, and Rikki is finishing the last few days of classes this quarter this coming week. What are you up to?

 

AROUND THE WEB

While I'm studying diverse literature for grad school right now, I'm loving all the articles that explain why it matters, this one in particular is really great.

If you're looking for places to find free audiobooks, this post is a great resource.

You all know we have a weakness a great book with lots of booze in it and here's an entire list. Heart eyes forever.

Fictional houses that are basically characters is one of our favorite things to come across in a story! I'm actually reading one right now.

I need this in my life: love stories for people who hate love stories. I tend to be put off by love plots in books lately (though give me alllll the kdramas!).

Speaking of drama: Kevin Kwan talks the real life inspiration behind Crazy Rich Asians!

I cannot get over the brilliance of this. A Twitter thread entirely about books that didn't get the hype they deserved from the past 10 years. Gird your loins, friends, because this is a TBR explosion waiting to happen. Even authors chimed in!

 

INSTAGRAM

An incredibly beautiful lifestyle feed that is constantly adding to my TBR

Hats off to a fellow "literary mom" getting through one book at a time

Reka shares some excellent classic books, and we so enjoying getting in on her discussions

 

WHAT WE'RE READING

Michaela - I put Spinning Silver on hold to read Circe for our read-along, but I'm happy to be finishing it off this weekend! After that I'm absolutely going to start Record of a Spaceborn Few, because the Wayfarers' series are some of my favorite books, and I am sooo excited about this third installment.

Rikki - I really enjoyed reading Marguerite Duras' The Lover this week. I also read Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai for diverse ya reading for my capstone project. And still enjoying reading my way through the long Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Wrap Up | July 2018
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Michaela

Tin Man | Sarah Winman- We received this in our complimentary Deep Readers Club box for May, and the theme was "Contentment" so I was just not expecting this book to be what it was...and what it was was a grief novel. I can absolutely see why people say this book is warm, and it does do a decent amount with the story for it's short page count, but for me it lacked enough depth to truly stand out. On the plus side, it has that melancholy, bittersweet tone I tend to be drawn to, but it wasn't enough to save it. Pick this up if you want to read a book that's like if Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance and The Heart's Invisible Furies had a grief novel baby.

Empty Set | Veronica Gerber Bicecci- We were gifted this by Coffee House Press a few months ago, and I finally picked it up! It's such an interesting blend of visual and language arts, which I was not at all expecting. A flip through it's pages will reveal diagrams that connect marvelously to the words on the page, illustrating the webs of relationships and ideas being expressed. This book is focused on exploring emptiness in the form of both literal physical and figurative emotional space. It's style is highly experimental, but effective, and I've never read anything quite like it. I admit it won't go down as a favorite, but I'm glad to have read it, and the uniqueness will stay with me for a long time. If you're looking for a really interesting, outside of the box take on a novel about relationships, this could be for you. 

A Midsummer Night's Dream | William Shakespeare- A re-read of my favorite Shakespeare play! Just as fun and rom-com-y as I remembered, and I completely love the imagery in this, so expect a dinner party soon.

Norwegian Wood | Haruki Murakami- Wow. I expected to love this one, and really did not. I'm actually left feeling kind of gross about the whole thing. Where do I start? Trite, unlikable characters (and I am usually all about unlikeable characters), a narrator that was passive and dull, but who was supposed to be deep, lots of random sex that didn't do enough for the plot to justify the focus on it, pedestrian philosophy presented as something with gravitas, stale, overdone, heavy handed metaphors, and an oddly repetitive storyline. It was clearly heavily influenced by Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited, but was a much, much less brilliant version. It just didn't do it for me. HOWEVER. I do see potential in Murakami as a writer, he paints gorgeous scenes and I can see maybe liking one of his more fantastical works. We will see. 

Northwood | Maryse Meijer- First off, no question, it was ABSORBING. The book uses really, really unique formatting, but fair warning: the story it tells is intense and dark. It puts Fifty Shades of Grey to shame, and trigger warnings abound. The prose jumps between long stream of consciousness paragraphs, to experimental poetry, to more standard formatting of narration in order to present a clear storyline. It follows a woman who goes and lives in a cabin in the woods for a year, her relationship with a man she meets there, and the aftermath. The different formats and writing styles genuinely enhance the story and the intensity of it rather than being confusing or disjointed, and I especially loved how bits of standard fairytales are mixed into the twisted tale. The shock value in this one is high, but a lot of the emotions in here are surprisingly relatable and universal. Thanks to Catapult for providing a complimentary early copy of this one!

Convenience Store Woman | Sayaka Murata- Unexpected, insightful, and with a little edge to it, this one is a short, quirky read that’s full of great observations about the physical world, society, and emotion. I love when books are tightly written, and this one neatly packs a whole lot into it’s 170 pages. In the end it’s about the pressure to conform, but there is so much more inside this little world of a book. Definitely recommend. Thanks to Grove Atlantic for the complimentary review copy.

The Hour of Daydreams | Renee Macalino Rutledge  - This is a reimagining of a Filipino folktale about a man who falls in love with a Star Maiden, but manages to be a much deeper exploration of love, relationships, and identity. I really enjoyed how layered this one was, and though the prose was a little dense, it was beautiful. Rutledge does a wonderful job weaving myth and fantasy into the story of an everyday couple, who maybe aren't so ordinary. If you like fairytale retellings, and don't mind some density, this could be for you. Especially recommended for fans of the Snow Child. Thanks to Forest Avenue Press for the complimentary review copy.

Circe | Madeline Miller- Easily my favorite book this month, Circe was absolutely lovely. Prose that skims along, but is beautiful enough to warrant re-reading sentences, a lot of plot without being confusing or tangential, and overarching themes of quiet strength and feminism. There are lots of familiar myths, legends, gods and goddesses in here all reworked from a new perspective; I did a lot of Googling for a refresher on some of these characters. I've seen some criticisms of Circe not being flashy enough with her powers, or not standing up for herself enough, but I think the point of this book was that she wasn't interested in flashy heroics, she defied the gods quietly and only to serve herself. So much of this book is focused on the strength of women in so many different ways, and I thought it was very well done. 

 

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Rikki

The Astonishing Color of After | Emily X.R. PanI really loved this book. Pan took a difficult topic/event and turned it into a creative and colorful story with a lyrical tone that shows the innermost side of working through grief as well as the power of friendship and family. It's beautifully done and I loved every minute of it.

Cannery Row | John SteinbeckAh, to be in Steinbeck's world again was purely delightful. I truly love his fluid writing and effortlessly descriptive atmosphere that takes me through interesting narrative interwoven with descriptive scenes. While reading, I'm equal parts taking my time to enjoy it and can't put it down. I could read Steinbeck forever. 

Growing a Farmer | Kurt Timmermeister A local foodie and entrepreneur once owned a bakery in our beloved Seattle, followed by a restaurant. Decades later and he's now a full-fledged farmer on a local island, a mere fifteen minutes away from our home. While this isn't a telling or gripping memoir, it was fun to fall into his organic, dreamy, and novice shift to becoming a farmer. As a gardener and small homesteader, stories like this hold a lot of appeal for me.

The Girl in the Garden | Melanie WallaceA long awaited read, that was not exactly what I was expecting. It was a curious, character-driven story, written in long flowing detail. Thankfully, I was in the right mood for this style of book: patient. It was quite good overall, but by the very last page as the story wrapped itself up, what I expected to happen turned into a controversially morbid ending. 

The Power of Habit | Charles Duhigg I soaked up this book like a sponge! It's fascinating to learn how our brains work, and even more so, what makes us do the things we do.  Having studied and ran my own business for so many years, marketing and learning to lure people in, was a big part of my regular work routine. This book dove all in, in a really understandable way, as to how companies and people have done that for for over a century for all sorts of reasons. If you have any inclination to this sort of thing, I highly recommend picking it up. I'm ordering a copy to annotate and use as a reference right now.

Northwood | Maryse MeijerThis book. Oh my god. I loved it's unique, (partially) abstract-written format, poetry, and creativity. BUT, the storyline details this woman's autobiographical account as a nymphomaniac, off-and-on addict, and an affair with a married man she could never quite get over, even after she got married. Aside from the crass absurdities in her behavior, I liked the concept, but even then it was dark and disturbing.

Hillbilly Elegy | J.D. Vance - A last minute quick read for the month, this was another not-what-I-was-expecting book. A story brought together by vignettes of J.D.'s life and the culture surrounding him as he grew up in the South as a self proclaimed hillbilly. J.D. draws from societal facts that examine the life of his deep-South demographic, which I found fascinating. Really glad I read this.

 

What did you read and love this month?

Cheers to the Weekend 7.27.18
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It's the last weekend in July! Here in the PNW, August is really the last hurrah for summer before temperatures cool down in September. As summer wanes, we're planning our final warm-weather reads and looking ahead to the next season. August is also going to bring BIG news from us, and we can't wait to share! This weekend we are looking forward to meeting up for our Saturday breakfast date, and spending as much time outside as we possibly can with our families! What are you guys up to?

 

AROUND THE WEB

A super fascinating look at how one of my favorite books this month became a surprise international bestseller.

Want a fairytale retelling with a bit more of an edge? Check out this list!

An amazing list of graphic novels by female authors; I spy some favorites, do you?

Thoughts on making friends as an adult, through books. Sign us up, because we always need more bookish friends!

High brow beach reads, if that's your style (spoiler alert: it's ours).

 

INSTAGRAM

From good books to the loveliest scenes around her home, you really just want to crawl in and talk books all day

Hannah has a lovely feed with a wide selection of really good books

Great lifestyle scenes and books on the go, and we love her light-hearted humor 

 

WHAT WE'RE READING

Michaela - I'm polishing off Circe ahead of our readalong so that I can pass Rikki my copy (we love to share and trade our books around!) and then focusing my attention on the last bit of Bitter Orange which Tin House kindly gifted us and I am LOVING. I'm really excited this is a fall release, because it is so deliciously atmospheric. 

Rikki - I know, I know, I'm slowly inching along through a few different books, but I'm immensely enjoying each one. I'm at the halfway point with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The Girl in the Garden is a book to slowly read and soak up the character-driven details, I'm loving it. I just finished The Power of Habit, and I really loved that book as well, a great non-fiction read for the month! Lastly, Michaela passed on Northwood (thanks Catapult for gifting us this one!) and man, it's something else. I love how uniquely formatted and written it is!

August Read-Along with Rikki & Michaela | Circe

Reading can be so lonely at times, can't it? You pick up a new book and wonder, is this any good? You are halfway through and wonder, what just happened?! You finish a book, close the cover, and look around eager for a friend to talk to. Yeah, we know that feeling too.

If we could meet in real life, that'd be ideal. But since we can't, we think a virtual book club is the next best thing. We've both been working on spending more time for "just me," and sometimes reading can be that much needed downtime. We used to go to our local book club together, but since my baby girl came along last fall, those evenings away can prove to be really challenging. Some day I'll get back there, but until then, I'm turning to you. 

August Book Pick + Discussion

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We were debating back and forth what would be a good first pick, and of course, we wanted something we've both been anticipating. Then we took to the polls on Instagram, and there was a clear winner, plus, the feedback we received about doing this read-along was exceptional. We're so thankful to have such good bookish friends. If it turns out you've already read the book, we'd love to still have you join in the discussion. And if you have any suggestions for next month, let us know.

We've talked about starting this book club for awhile now, and the timing is finally working out. With the end of the month fast approaching, we quickly chose a title on our radar. For August, let’s read Circe by Madeline Miller. Because it would be impossible to choose one book that everyone hasn’t read, even if you’ve already read this, please still join in the discussion below without giving away the book. Be sure to join in with us next month when we choose a new book!  Bonus points if you recommend books for us to read!

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Read-Along Rules

  1. No pressure! This is supposed to be fun and encouraging. Set your own pace and enjoy reading! 

  2. We plan on keeping the discussion on this post so it doesn't get lost on Instagram. Share your favorite part, quotes, goals, progress, or encourage others. Definitely share when you finish and what you thought!
  3. Be kind. Not everyone will love the books we choose, but varying opinions is what makes this so engaging and fun. 

Making Time to Read

I encourage you to answer this question right now. How are you going to make time to read this month? I trade a lot of picking up my phone or turning on the TV for picking up a book, and you'd be really surprised how much time that ends up being. Maybe a few minutes early in the morning or before bed. During your lunch break, or a step away from work, or before you start dinner even. There are pockets of time throughout your day that you'd be surprised what you can squeeze in. But the idea is that this time reading is time well spent, not a chore. Get lost in the pages, but please, don't burn dinner.

Getting Started

To get started, borrow or purchase a copy of Circe and start reading at your own pace, but before that, introduce yourself below in the comment section and answer these three questions:

  1. Tell us of a good book you've read recently.
  2. How do you plan to make time to read this month?
  3. Suggest a book you'd like to read next.

We'll go first, and thanks so much for joining in!  I am so excited to make more time to read and intentionally make some time for myself.

Cheers to the Weekend 7.20.18
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We are suddenly charging toward August somehow, and scrambling to fit in more summer activities before the warm weather fades to the crisper days of autumn. This weekend will be spent with our families getting to those summer plans, puttering in our gardens, and reading, of course! What are you guys up to this weekend?

 

AROUND THE WEB

A day in the life of an indie publisher we love!

We couldn't agree more about the importance of independent bookstores.

We can never have enough book + cocktail pairings, and some of these look really cool, plus it's so fun that this is a regular series at this bar!

What you can learn about yourself by tracking your reading.

 

INSTAGRAM

Have you checked our our new insta dedicated to indie and small press?

Tasha's account is reading + lifestyle vibes that feel authentic and are super pretty!

We love Annaciara's bright, happy account. It looks like a book goes everywhere with her, plus she is full of snark and hilarity in her stories. 

Kristine is also nailing that literary lifestyle in the best way.

 

WHAT WE'RE READING

Michaela - I read up a storm this week, honestly! I'm heading into this weekend hoping to polish off the last bit of Bitter Orange and The Hour of Daydreams, both of which are gorgeous and fascinating in very different ways.

Rikki - I am still jovially reading through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and look forward to watching the movie soon. I forgot I had put The Power of Habit on hold at the library some time ago and started it promptly when it came in. I really love this book, and sneak in a moment to read it every single chance I get!

Want More Books By Independent Publishers In Your Life? Announcing Our New Side Project
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Okay, real talk for a second: we LOVE #bookstagram and the book blogging community, but sometimes it can feel like an echo chamber. We really enjoy reading the hot new releases from the big publishers and the access to the larger conversations that allows us, but we also love books put out by smaller presses, which tend to be vastly underrepresented.

With this in mind, we created @theindiebiblio. It's our new Instagram account (it will mainly be run by Michaela) that will focus exclusively on indie publishers and small presses. Nothing will changing here or over on @theardentbiblio, these spaces will remain representations of our true and full reading lives with our usual blend of books + lifestyle. We just wanted a space dedicated to those amazing books and publishers that aren't getting much of a voice in the bookstagram world, and to be a place where readers can reliably find great new books from smaller publishing houses. 

Why should you care about small presses and independent publishers, you ask? This article does a great job explaining it, but essentially it boils down to the fact that they offer a wider variety of voices and experiences as well as writing that takes more creative risks. Personally, I tend to find them more intense and interesting on the whole. If you're finding yourself burnt out or bored with the books traditional publishing puts out, indie presses might be your answer. Here is a resource we made if you're unsure of where to start!

We'll be focusing primarily on literary fiction and fresh releases in the indie world. I've backlogged some old favorites, but new releases that we requested from publishers will be coming in soon, so going forward we will definitely be showcasing what's new and awesome. I have several titles on deck that I am really excited about and can't wait to share with you all.

Give @theindiebiblio a follow if you're interested in diversifying your reading life or checking out what smaller presses have to offer. We'd also love you to tag your indie or small press reads on instagram with the hastag #indiebiblioreads so we can share the love! 

 

If you ever have any recommendations for us, or know of any accounts/blogs that focus on independent publishers, please send them our way!

Literary Dinner | This One Summer
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This One Summer remains, hands down, one of my favorite graphic novels, and I finally convinced Rikki to read it! The story focuses on the friendship of two girls at their annual summer vacation spot as they come of age. The story mixes in family drama, the awkwardness of being on the cusp of the teenage years, friendship, growing pains, and the complexity of inner life. Some panels are heart-stopping in their elegant blending of text and art to create something meaningful. I especially love how the concept of memory was handled, but it captured so many hard to define emotions so, so beautifully. It embodies my favorite moods of bittersweet and nostalgia, and I haven't ever seen this level of layering in a graphic novel, which makes it extra special. Okay, enough gushing. On to the dinner!

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The novel is set at a vaguely rural lake house, and most of the outside scenes are of beaches, family BBQ's, swimming, and the girls walking through the forest. Because the setting is so natural and un-fussy, we simply cut some of Rikki's dappled willow in her yard, stuck the branches in mason jars, and lined them up along the length of the table. We love how they look floral, but aren't.

Also, the collection of pebbles play a big role visually and thematically in the book, so rocks on the table were a must. Candlelight was another must, as many scenes include candles, or outside fires, so we wanted to represent that on the table. Place settings were kept intentionally neutral, highlighted with striped paper napkins to match the aesthetic of the novel. 

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Junk food is central to the novel. The girls visit a convenience store, where a lot of the plot is set in motion, to buy snacks for their horror-movie binging. We played with our usual format of charcuterie boards, but instead of fancy ingredients, used junk food and our favorite camping foods. We honestly love the juxtaposition of the elegant and the fun, and this appetizer board was a hit with our kids. 

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Of course there was wine! All the adults in the novel are pretty much constantly imbibing wine or beer, and we loved the label on this one for our dinner with it's plants and bugs; so fitting. We think a chilled rosé is the perfect summer wine, don't you agree?

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As we discussed the novel, we brought out more fun food. Honoring the recurring BBQ's in the novel and the fact that pizza is a perennial favorite of teens everywhere, we broke out the pizza stone and baked ourselves some deliciousness. Rikki made the pizza dough from scratch, nailed simple sophisticated toppings, and got the perfect amount of bubble and char on the crust. It was just absolutely delicious and fitting. 

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S'mores were specifically focused on in one of my favorite scenes, and so while we were finishing dinner, we got a fire started, then broke out the supplies (and Twizzlers, which are repeatedly mentioned) and toasted some marshmallows. It was my 4.5 year old's first time making them and he was completely delighted. Everyone was relaxed and happy, finishing off drinks, casually chatting, and helping the kids assemble their s'mores. It was truly a perfect reflection of the book's overarching theme of family. 

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It gets dark pretty late around here, but when the sky began to deepen, it also deepened the beauty of our tablescape. It was a fitting end to the night; the dramatic backdrop enhancing the effects of the warmth of good conversation with friends and nostalgic food.

Another beautiful summer night talking books and enjoying good company. These are the days. 

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