Joan Didion’s The White Album + Slouching Toward Bethlehem: Everything from Didion’s writing process to water plants and Haight Ashbury, her essays are biting and will propel your own personal velocity | Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her: on adultery, love, heartbreak and the spaces in between | Claire Watkin’s Battleborn: dark, mythic, glorious and severe short stories focusing on the Nevada landscape | Claire Messud’s The Hunters + The Woman Upstairs: a novella and a novel that speaks to brilliant women the verge | Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go: a family wrestles with the death of its patriarch | V. Nabokov’s The Eye: what happens after an affair jolts you into the afterlife | Krys Lee’s Drifting House: unflinching and graceful stories centered on the Korean-American experience | Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove: magical stories that test your imagination and suspend disbelief | Nick Flynn’s The Reenactments: a meditation on memoir, movie-making and memory | Alice Munro’s Dear Life: this is her final book and it needs no introduction | Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home: how a disturbed interloper interrupts a fragile house | Lauren Grodstein’s A Friend of the Family: a swift, enveloping novel centering on the bomb that is the next door neighbor | Sarah Manguso’s The Guardians: a graceful meditation on loss |
love.: After working in book publishing, a beastly business that shows the unseemly side of publishing art, I found myself paralyzed — unable to read books for pleasure as I once did. It took years to undo this unraveling, but it’s worth it because I feel as if I’m in a bit of a literary renaissance. No longer do I care about the big books, the punch of the Believer-reading lot, I visit bookstores as if I’m a normal sort of person looking for something to read, and believe me when I say the ride has been nothing short of thrilling. I’ve discovered two extraordinary books this past month: Krys Lee’s story collection, Drifting House and Deborah Levy’s remarkable Swimming Home. While Krys Lee’s stark story collection focus on Koreans — emigrating (or fleeing) North Korea — coming undone, Deborah Levy presents us a family unraveling at the seams once a strange, fiery interloper is found floating in a pool. As Francine Prose so astutely reveals, “Swimming Home is unlike anything but itself. Its originality lies in its ellipses, its patterns and repetitions, in what it discloses and reveals, and in the peculiar curio cabinet Levy has constructed: a collection of objects and details that disclose more about these fictional men and women than they are willing, or able, to tell us about themselves.”
Next up I’m diving deliriously into Sarah Manguso’s The Guardians (update: read it in one sitting + it’s magical) and Alice Munro’s latest story collection. I’ll let you know how it goes.
life: The new year holds so much promise, and I’m diving in, feet first into a bevy of culinary adventures. After a year of trepidation, I’m finally taking my first Sunday Suppers class. Consider this a cooking class cum dinner cum gathering with strangers who share one common passion: food. I’m also taking a puff pastry + eclair class at The Brooklyn Kitchen with a sweet friend, and I’ve signed up for French classes at the Alliance Française (FIAF). And if I ever tire of New York, really tire of it, I’ll remind myself to tick off items on my dear friend Mary Phillip’s Sandy’s list.
eat.: If I could have any kale salad right now, this Christmas version would just about do. These pistachio, dark chocolate and olive oil muffins are calling my name in the worst way, while these orange cardamon scones will have me rethinking my almond croissant affliction. I’ve never met a bread I haven’t adored, so color me smitten with this simple olive version. Finally, you haven’t LIVED until you had the pillowy donuts from The Fat Radish, and here’s the recipe. YOU’RE WELCOME.