Posts in Literary Lifestyle
Cheers to the Weekend 9.21.18
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Annnnnnnnd we’re only a week away from October??? But seriously how!? Regardless, we are loving every minute of watching the trees burst into glorious fall color and are over here seriously anticipating our favorite month (and a new dinner party!). This weekend has been low key for the both of us, just taking care of the dreaded “adulting” and spending time with our families. Anyone do anything fun this weekend?

Around the Web

Did you guys see the Man Booker shortlist? I’m impressed with the representation of independent publishers and it also includes the youngest nominee ever!

TBR toppling? Let’s talk about the merits of erasing it.

We aren’t the only ones excited about fall reads, and for good reason.

Do you follow any authors on Twitter?

We love our banned book club, and these are some of the most beloved books that have been banned.

If you’re struggling with historical fiction, you aren’t alone + some recommendations for unconventional ones you might try!

I’m OBSESSED with this concept and though I’d never fire Gatsby, I do love some of the suggested alternatives.

 

Instagram

Stephanie’s feed features lovely photography + great reads; what more could you ask for? 

We love the travel + lifestyle vibes on Tim’s feed!

Need some autumn coziness? Head over to this gorgeous feed.

What We're Reading

Michaela - I’m settling in with The Lies of Locke Lamora, but I’ve also got my eye on Warbreaker for book club!

Rikki - I’m still immensely enjoying The Picture of Dorian Gray, satirical and hilarious! I’m also reading Autumn and As I Lay Dying. We have a lot of working going on around our homestead, so reading is getting neglected a bit, I’ll likely spend the rest of the month finishing these novels.

What We're Excited to Read This Fall

There’s about a two week transitional period here in the Pacific Northwest that sees us through the last heat wave of summer and into the inevitable, seemingly abrupt, turn to autumn. It’s a welcome time, as we’re so accustomed to our often mild weather and dressing in layers, plus one can only read so many fun beach novels before craving something different. At least, that’s the case for us. This time of year, as we slide back in to misty mornings, shorter days, and brilliantly colored trees, we find ourselves drawn to atmospheric campus novels, classics, fantasy, and usually a good door stop or two as we cozy in with warm blankets and tea.

After much debate and scouring of shelves, these are some of the many books we’re most looking forward to reading this fall.

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Rikki

There are a few novels that I’ve simply been meaning to read until the weather shifted and the slow, dark prose was well-suited to the overall mood and atmosphere of the season. When you fully immerse yourself into the atmosphere of a novel, matching the weather, the seasonal food, the clothes, etc., can all be felt in a greater context. I’ve started most of these actually, seeing which ones I really wanted to commit to, and well, they all made the cut.

Michaela turned me on to Oscar Wilde a few years ago with The Importance of Being Earnest, and after needing a palate cleanser, I started The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’ve been making my way through this book this past month, and have found myself laughing out loud on so many occasions. It is a hysterical. While also craving something slow and intentional, Karl One Knausgaard’s Autumn was a no-brainer! One of the most charming stories of simple every day things that one may or may not ever reflect on as they go about their day, raise their children, meander through orchards, and watch the sun set.

Needing even more mood, I can’t resist Faulkner, whom I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time. As I Lay Dying is the deeper, make-you-think type of novel I can easily get lost in on a rainy day. A perfect compliment to Faulkner is Leaf Storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I’m excited to explore both author’s work.

I’m keeping the rest of my options open for campus novels and moody books, so if you have recommendations, feel free to send them my way! Speaking of recommendations, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon was recently recommended to us as a “hard to put down campus novel. I’m really looking forward to reading this! The reviews are quite controversial and all over the place, which is all the intrigue I need.

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Michaela

The colder the weather gets, the more I crave fantasy, big tomes, and atmospheric reads. I seek this same mood every year, I know, but I can’t help it! Nothing goes better with a steaming mug of tea than richly drawn worlds and dark atmosphere.

Fantasy

For fantasy this fall I’m kind of running the gamut this season. I’m picking up Diane Setterfield’s (The Thirteenth Tale, anyone?) forthcoming novel Once Upon A River, which is a all myth and fairytale and mystery; you know, the good stuff. I’m also reading the third installment of Becky Chamber’s Wayfarers series, Record of a Spaceborn Few. If her past books are any indication, this one will be a warm cozy hug of a sci-fi novel and I can’t wait to just be wrapped in her magical world building and characters.

I’m also picking up two, big hefty plot-driven fantasy novels: The Lies of Locke Lamora, because I’ve been meaning to read it forever (and it is soooooo delightfully sassy and fun so far!), and Warbreaker for book club, which sounds like it’s basically going to be kickass princesses and magic and gods. Obviously I am here for it, plus Sanderson is another author I’ve been meaning to read.

Atmosphere

I’m mixing up my atmospheric books this year, and instead of going and hiding in The Secret History forever and ever, I’m looking to a few authors I trust to give me that moody ambiance I crave. Lief Enger (of Peace Like A River fame) has a new novel out October 2nd called Virgil Wander, and from what I’ve read of it so far, it is just exquisite. The plot is nearly irrelevant, it’s enough to just bask in Enger’s writing, but it revolves around a man, his life changing accident, and his relationships with the people in his small town.

Speaking of exquisite writing, I just finished reading Claire Fuller’s forthcoming title Bitter Orange, and was so blown away by the level of skill and atmosphere, I was immediately inspired to pick up her previous works Swimming Lessons and Our Endless, Numbered Days. Though the plots are all different, I’m hearing she has that moody undercurrent I love in all her books.

I’m also excited for The Essex Serpent, which has been on my TBR for a while thanks to everyone praising it’s atmospheric Victorian setting, spooky bits, and deep dives into the main character and her relationships. The last two novels I’m anticipating are Home Fire, which I’m sure you’ve seen absolutely everywhere thanks to it winning the women’s prize for fiction and getting long listed for the Man Booker, and Gentlemen and Players, which should fulfill my Secret History cravings quite nicely with it’s campus setting and murder-y vibes.

Doorstopper

Call me crazy, but I am head over heels in love with War and Peace. It’s famously enormous, of course, but whenever I pick it up I always, ALWAYS get sucked into it and end up reading for an hour—or three. I’m currently about 300 pages into it, and you can read a bit about why I decided to read it and how I chose the translation I’m reading right over here.

Also, maybe this will sound silly, but it’s really helped me to watch the mini series as I make my way through this behemoth. I’ve been watching an episode, reading up to where the episode cuts off, and then watching another, then reading, etc. It helps me to know where I’m going in the book and the show is just so deliciously well done; it’s been a great companion to the novel. I’m hoping to finish this one well before the year ends, so wish me luck!

What are you looking forward to reading this fall?

Cheers to the Weekend 9.15.18
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 A very happy and lazy weekend to you! Our biggest plans include brunching on pumpkin pancakes, lighting our seasonal candles, drinking plenty of hot tea, and curling up with our books while it stays windy and gray and cool outside. What are you guys up to?

Around the Web

It’s getting to that time when the seasons shift and we feel drawn to more dark and gothic-style stories. We’re preparing a few for the coming months, and I just picked up the first one on this list! Have you read it?

A good dose of shelf inspiration/envy from real people. These shelves are all GORGEOUS, and I love that they’re in real people’s homes and not just styled for a shoot.

We talked a little this week about Michaela’s struggle with grief novels, but if you enjoy them, or need literary help with coping with loss, here’s a great list of books to try!

Headed to the Brooklyn Book Festival? Here’s everything you need to know.

Did you see the National Book Awards longlist??? Have you read any of them yet?

I love love LOVE this booksellers lament!

 

Instagram

For all of the loveliest flowers and books your heart desires

I dream of living in the English countryside, and Kayte’s lifestyle photos are so charming

An entire family of readers?! Yes, please! We’re participating in their #readwhatyouown September challenge 

What We're Reading

Michaela - Honestly, I’m focused on The Mobius Strip Club of Grief as a buddy-read with my brother this weekend! I do have Record of a Spaceborn Few open as well, because I can never just be reading one book :) I’m definitely ready for some heavy fantasy after these, because that’s my favorite kind of fall read. I’m thinking The Lies of Locke Lamora; anyone read it?

Rikki - After The Kitchen House gave me a serious book hangover, I’ve been moving back and forth between books to see what sticks. I started The Picture of Dorian Gray and didn’t expect to find it as satirical and hilarious as it is, but it’s brilliant.

 

Cheers to the Weekend 9.7.18
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A quick one today, friends! We've been spending the weekend with our families celebrating the birthdays of our sons (3 days and several years apart!) so it's been pretty packed. Despite how busy it's been, we are still finding time to break into our fall decor and pick up some good books. What are you reading this weekend, friends? Anything good?

 

Around the Web

Did anyone else have the same experience discovering the beauty of language through Francesca Lia Block as a tween or teen?? I definitely did.

Loved the Crazy Rich Asians movie?? Here are some books you should read next!

A book list based on the Rory + Jess ship? Um, yes please! Team Jess forever, and I could use some books with that dynamic, for sure.

If you're looking for some solid recs for character driven novels, Sarah has a great list of some she couldn't put down. We see a few that are on our TBR's!

I love seeing small presses highlighted, and this one looks fabulous.

 

Instagram

Alexa has the loveliest feed and shares thoughts on well-known books you're bound to be curious about

Making NY look so good through her literary lifestyle lens

Lottie has all the books, school distractions, and appreciates the seasons through literature like us

 

What We're Reading

Michaela - I've had a slow reading week between company and birthdays, but I'm finishing up Where the Crawdads Sing, and also getting into Gentleman and Players to satisfy my campus novel craving.

Rikki - I'm currently enjoying a much anticipated read of The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, she's so good, oh my gosh. Slow reading through Leaf Storms and As I Lay Dying, which were coincidentally, perfect for the seasonal shift. 

 

Cheers to the Weekend 8.31.18
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September, here we come! We are downright giddy about entering into the -ber months and welcoming fall and a school routine back into our lives. Both of us had a really amazing reading month in August, and are hoping to keep up the momentum. Fall is our favorite reading season anyway, when the best place to be is on the couch with a hot cup of tea and a good book, and we're thinking about some bigger classics we want to start into. Our summer is decidedly ending, the last heatwave has past, and the mornings are gray and misty again, so we'll be using the mild weather this weekend to be outside as much as possible. What about you?

 

Around the Web

Did you know this place existed?! If you need us, we'll be planning our trip.

If you need more classics in your life, but are filled with dread at some of the heftier tomes, here is a great list of quick ones for busy adults! #7 is one of my favorite books of all time for it's sharp wit and hilarity. 

Are you looking forward to any of these books that will release in September? I'm impressed with how many indie titles are on there! And there's a YA list, too!

Have you seen Bookriot's fall readathon? It's great because it's going to focus less on hours read, and more on the seasonal shift to fall reading and will be full of activities, giveaways, and cozy tidbits. Count us in!

This article series is our favorite, and they're back with a fresh interview with a bookseller from my hometown!

You had me at "Shakespeare retelling".

 

Instagram

The loveliest at home lifestyle feed that keeps us constantly inspired 

Friends with a simple, cozy vibe, and books mixed in with all the real life moments

The beautiful Irish countryside and charming bookstores has us wanting to hop on a plane right now

 

What We're Reading

Michaela - I went on a complete reading tear the past few days to hit my Goodreads goal for the year (yay!) and polished off Windhaven, The Best We Could Do, and Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows in a single day so honestly, I might just take a breather this weekend. I know that finishing Where the Crawdads Sing is next, though!

Rikki - I just finished Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, and I'm still reeling in that story. It was so good! I'm also currently, and still, reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond (almost done!) and Cinder. This has been a really great reading month and I'm even more surprised how much I ended up being able to read!

 

Wrap Up | August 2018
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Michaela

I Believe in a Thing Called Love | Maurene Goo- A fellow kdrama fan recommended this to me, with fair warning that it was cotton candy level fluff, and she was right. Super fun to catch all the kdrama references, and had a cute, quick plot, and that was about it. Good fun if you need a light YA novel!

Social Creature | Tara Isabella Burton- Ugh. One of the worst books I've read this year, it was just trying wayyy tooooo hard. Trope filled and not particularly good, while also being just stuffed with useless shock-value things in an effort to be edgy. It was a vaguely interesting look at social media in society on a very specific level, but that's about it. Blah. Thank you to Doubleday for gifting us a complimentary review copy. 

I'd Rather Be Reading | Anne Bogel- We got to read this a bit early thanks to Anne and Baker Books, and we are so glad we did! This essay collection spoke to my bookish heart. All of them were relatable, a couple were funny and warm, and some were seriously interesting. Like have you ever thought about what the author acknowledgments reveal about the author and the work? It's a quick read and will make you feel like someone really gets you and your bookworm-y ways.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before | Jenny Han- Yes, I gave into the hype! I decided I wanted to read the book before watching the movie on Netflix, and I'm not sorry about it. Basically this is a heartwarming rom com with a really relatable heroine. Reading about ladies kicking ass and being spunky is awesome, but it's also nice to see a lead who just loves her family and wants to chill and knit and read like most of us. An interesting shift, and the series is a fun one. My one complaint is that the narrator is supposedly sixteen, but seems very juvenile. 

Girl, With Guitar | Tracy Young- What a smart piece of YA, and with such a refreshing lack of romance! This was frankly a cut above the other YA I've read recently for it's wit, humor, and heart. Young has crafted a fierce, but entirely relatable narrator and her motley crew of friends and bandmates, who is out to win her town's Battle of the Bands. The plot was fun and engaging, and the characters were well developed and interesting, all backed by a solid message of empowerment and swathed in dry wit. Thanks so much to the author for the gift of a review copy. 

Bitter Orange | Claire Fuller-Hands down the best book I read this month, and one of the best of the year so far. I can't thank Tin House enough for sending us an early review copy, because holy crap. Bitter Orange is like if Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and Du Maurier’s Rebecca had an eerily atmospheric, glittering book baby. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such an atmospheric novel, and it was such a clever, clever twist on the unreliable narrator thing. It’s subtle and layered and builds so thoroughly and smoothly, and the ending just got completely under my skin. It is going to make such a perfect fall release, with it’s creepy vibes and sinister drama under it’s sunny facade. A stunningly written and complex mystery. Slow clap, Ms. Fuller, that was amazing.

The Best We Could Do | Thi Bu- I am decidedly not a crier, but this graphic memoir was so impactful it had me misty eyed at the end. The focus is on one family's immigration story from Viet Nam, but manages to wrap in so much history and culture and personal history and relationship drama so elegantly and meaningfully. I loved this so much, I immediately bought myself a copy after returning it to the library. No question, this was one of the best books I've read this year. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows | Balli Kaur JaswalThank you Bad People Book Club for a complimentary copy of this book. I have to say this book surprised me; I definitely did not expect it to be as layered and well developed as it was, and found myself really enjoying the story. There is a lot packed in here about feminism, immigration, insular expat communities, the duality of community, the struggle between tradition and modernity, all brought out through a group of widows writing steamy stories. Just really unique and chock full of good stuff. 

Windhaven | George R.R. Martin + Lisa Tuttle- This was a graphic novel adaptation of the existing novel, and honestly I think some of the complexity and nuance were lost in translation. While the story was good, there were points where it felt jarring, and distinctly like you were missing something, and made it harder to follow than it should have been. Decent, but honestly I just want to go read the novel now and see what pieces were missing and experience the full extent of it's power. Thanks to Random House for the complimentary review copy!

What We Were Promised | Lucy Tan- I did not finish this one. I got a little over halfway and gave up on it. It simply wasn't strong enough to be such a character driven novel, and I found myself actively bored and frustrated with the writing, so it wasn't worth finishing for me. Thanks to Little Brown for gifting us a review copy. 

 

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Rikki

The Lover | Marguerite Duras - I was really unsure about this story while reading it, but I loved Duras' writing. She has a beautiful and sparse prose that often had me rereading passages. The story took me off guard, even more so when I learned it was autobiographical, but I found her reflective format a perfect way to write a memoir. 

Listen, Slowly | Thanhha Lai - Adding to my diverse ya reading, I used one of Lai's books for my thesis project, and wanted to ensure I was familiar with her work. This is definitely a middle grade novel, but it was considerably well done. I didn't care for the tropes added in for the benefit of the main character to match her age, but otherwise, it was a great story of a young girl exploring her Vietnamese culture and learning about her family's history, all while getting over herself. 

Of Mice and Men | John Steinbeck - I can't believe it's taken me so long to read Of Mice and Men! I LOVED this story so much, and although it completely broke my heart, it was excellent! I never know what to say about Steinbeck's books, because they're so down to earth, but absolutely rich with detail, narrative, place, and solidly developed characters - I can scarcely articulate more than that.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince | J.K. Rowling - I don't want to talk about it! Why Joanne?! WHY?!

Fahrenheit 451 | Ray Bradbury - I went into this with absolutely no expectations, except that it's a well-loved book that has stood the test of time. I'm quite exceptional at avoiding spoilers. I was blown away from the beginning, being instantly pulled into wondering "what is going to happen?!" It's a grim look at a potential future of life without literature (NOOOOO) and how this overwrought community navigates the curiosity and laws surrounding that.

I'd Rather Be Reading | Anne Bogel  - A complimentary review gift from Anne, such a treat! This book is a small collection of essays detailing different facets of a reader's life. It's like a warm hug from an understanding fellow reader who gets all the quirks, dilemmas, and up-too-late-now-i'm-grumpy-and-tired scenarios. I really enjoyed this quick read, mentions of my favorite books, and moments that struck right in the heart. 

The Best We Could Do | Thi Bui  - A multiculturally diverse YA graphic novel that kind of blew my mind. There is so much packed into this graphic novel; it's full of history, generational family building, and the overall story of Bui's (very interesting) life -- I was really impressed.

Circe | Madeline Miller - Our August read-along. I was slow reading this in the beginning, as this book is so far outside of my usual reading style, but I ended up really liking it. Miller did a brilliant job weaving mythology into a fictional recount of Circe's life. The story spanned millennia flawlessly and painted vivid pictures, all while handling maturity, motherhood, and finding independence so well, you couldn't help but resonate with the all-too-real moments. Truly impressed by this one.

Inside Out & Back Again | Thanhha Lai - I didn't love this book as much as Listen, Slowly, but it was a really good, strong example of the struggles immigrants (particularly children) can have when adjusting to a new life and culture. This is a great middle grade read I'll be passing off to my kids.

The Pearl | John Steinbeck - Where do I begin?! Ugly crying over your broken heart maybe. The one thing I've always known about this book, is that the ending is scarring and brutal. So I'll admit that while I enjoyed this like I do all of Steinbeck's novels, I stopped before the very end. I'm reimagining a happier ending. Sorry, I just couldn't do it. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows | Ballin Kaur Jaswal - Thank you Bad People Book Club for a complimentary copy of this book. I loved this story! It is so down-to-earth and real, with great character voices and dialogue throughout the story, along with a little mystery, intrigue, and cultural awareness. It can make a modest woman blush, but all the things women tend to fear saying out loud was spilled wide open. Round of applause.

What did you read and love this month?

Bad People Book Club | August 2018
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*We were sent this box in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own. You can see our policy right here

The day our Bad People Book Club box arrives cues a flurry of texts between us trying to figure out the soonest possible date that we can get together to open it. Books + cocktails? What's not to love. You guys know how much we love to pair drinks with books we love! This month we received Homefire and all the ingredients to mix up a very tasty drink.

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We always have such a good time unboxing, reading about the book, and discovering the drink of choice and how it connects to the chosen novel. We thoroughly enjoy the taste testing part, too! We've said it before, and we'll say it again, our favorite part of literary dinner parties, or subscription boxes, or any of it, is the way they allow us to sit down together and connect over bookish conversation. Bonus points if we have a tasty food or drinks!

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This box is especially great because it's simple; we aren't left with anything we won't use, and their book choices are completely on point with what we've been loving lately: diverse books with strong ladies! Even with the best of intentions, many boxes are filled with goodies that have little utilitarian purpose. While it's fun, it adds up if you do multiple months of a subscription. Enter, The Bad People Book Club, because we are fully on board for a fun cocktail every month as we crack open a great new book!

If this sounds like something you need in your life, you can use our code ARDENT10 for 10% off your order. Cheers!

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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?