SUMMER READING 2018
With the recent heat wave it would appear summer is finally, truly, oppressively upon us. Here are some books that got us through the worst of it, even if your fan is on the fritz, the beach is impossibly far away, or you work somewhere (gasp!) without air conditioning.
You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman, published 2015
I read this book during one of those summers that seem to last forever, where you’re miserable every second you’re not ten yards or less from a body of water. Smart enough it didn’t feel like a trashy beach read, but not so smart I had to bring another book to give my brain a break; Kleeman built a world so similar to our own the bizarre events that take place on the pages left me feeling unsettled well after I put it down. A book about missing dads, late night television and navigating changing relationships.
The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit, published 2010
During the summer months I love going to farm stands and markets to buy tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, sometimes I get ahead of myself and buy way too much of one thing or something I’ve never had before and realize I have no idea what to do with it. The Flavor Thesaurus is a great resource for me because it lists many different foods and what they pair well with. It gives multiple options for each food so I can use up everything I bought without too much repetition, and not feel like an idiot when the winter rolls around and I remember those beautiful heirloom tomatoes I literally let rot on my counter. The book is super easy to navigate and full of useful information, simple recipes, and fun asides that makes it feel more personal and less like a manual. Plus the cover design is really great.
–Heather Clark, Associate Editor
Love in a Dish… and Other Culinary Delights by M.F.K. Fisher, published 2011
M.F.K. Fisher's Love in a Dish...and Other Culinary Delights is the perfect length for a good sit in the park or beach-day read. She raises a fist up for homecooks saying, "It seems incredible that normal human beings not only tolerate the average American restaurant food, but actually prefer it to eating at home. The only possible explanation for such deliberate mass-poisoning, a kind of suicide of the spirit as well as the body, is that meals in the intimacy of a family dining-room or kitchen are unbearable." In our over-Seamless'd society of 2018, I share her sentiment!
The Breakfast Bible by Seb Emina and Malcolm Eggs, published 2013
Summer is the season for eating brunch outside and you should make it your own dang self. he Breakfast Bible by Seb Emin and Malcolm Eggs contains thorough and funny takes on the full English fry-up breakfast. My favorite line from this book advises you not to "humiliate" or squeeze your tea bags; let them steep in peace.
–Jenn de la Vega, Editor at Large
The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky, published 2009
The story of how the food writing in this book came to be is so dreamy that reading it can at times feel like fantasy — a fan-fiction take on the history of the United States. For this collection, Kurlansky compiled the work of the America Eats project, which I will describe, though I can still scarcely believe: After the Depression, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the W.P.A. to put America's unemployed back to work, he didn't just fund industry or construction. He also allocated funding for out-of-work artists and tasked the writers with chronicling our national foodways. The country's wealth of regional food traditions had never been recorded, and whether FDR knew it or not, those traditions were about to be turned upside down by microwaves, refrigerators, and the changing gender demographics of the workplace. The writers went everywhere, interviewing whoever would talk to them about how they ate. In this book, you'll find recipes for hoecakes and fried beaver tail, alongside stories from small towns across America. When the swelter is killing you, escape to the page about Vermont sugaring parties, where maple sap was poured onto fresh snow and scooped up with forks.
The Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book by Frank Caiafa, published 2016
This book won me over before I even opened it, with its elegant pine-green cover decorated in gold Art Deco lettering. I borrowed it from the NYPL the summer it came out and never returned the copy, which is now dotted with liquor-drop stains, the edges yellowed by egg yolk (there are a LOT of eggs in these recipes). The design would honestly be enough to sustain a lesser book, but this bar bible is as riveting as fiction. Bartender Frank Caiafa includes a story before nearly every recipe, which he collected by scouring the legendary handwritten recipe books passed through the bar for generations. Caiafa dissects how the amount of sugar in cocktails varied by decade, explains why the ratios in a Manhattan have changed over time, and includes fun snippets about old-world celebrities who passed through the bar (and their drinks of choice). Pretty soon it'll be too damn hot to turn the oven on, but this book'll keep the experimental spirit alive in your kitchen all summer.
–Linni Kral, Copy Editor, Contributing Writer
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, published 1989
This novel tells the story of Tita, a women who can transfer her emotions into food and affect people’s moods with her cooking; like the day that her sister married Tita’s love, everyone became sad while eating the wedding cake that Tita cooked with tears. I love the way this book shows how intimate the relationship we have with food is, and describes the beauty of Mexican cuisine and ancestral cooking that has been passed down many generations.
–Stephanie Del Carmen, Intern
Hunger by Roxane Gay, published 2017
A gripping, amazing memoir about food, weight, desire, taking up space, simultaneous visibility and invisibility, safety, love and more.
Easy Rawlins Series by Walter Mosley, published 1990-2016
These detective novels are set in South Central Los Angeles starting in 1948 and continuing into the 1960s. The detective, Easy Rawlins, is a classic hero: a strong, smart, charismatic, flawed fellow, following his own moral code. I’ve almost finished reading them all and would read them again. Each mystery is engaging on its own and you learn about black lives in LA from the '40s through the Watts riots, the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. There are 12 of them, so get started. You have a lot of work to do.
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, published 2013
The second in a four-part series about the friendship between two girls in post-war Naples. These books are crazy absorbing, apply sunscreen before beginning one or you may burn up.
A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion, published 1977
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, published 1987
Somehow I’ve managed to read every single Murakami novel except this one. Now I’m about to fix that.
Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz by Cynthia Carr, published 2012
This is a biography of one of my favorite artists. As soon as Ralph McGinnis, my co-editor, hurries up and finishes it, I can get started.
Superiority Burger by Brooks Headley, published 2018
I love this place. Not only are the burgers divine but they have this burnt broccoli thing with a deep smokey eggplant spread and I cannot live without it. I just got their cookbook and the recipe for the burger looks like it takes quite some time with many steps and many dishes — so naturally I’m thrilled to make it! (Sorry, Jen and anyone else who has to help clean up!)
I think that big novels which contain entire complex universes are the best for beach reading. Here are some I’ve read during long hot summers past: Stoner, by John Williams; 100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I’ve read this twice so far); Of Human Bondage, Somerset Maugham. Also would like to read this: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy.
–Sarah Keough, Editor