Staff Pick

In a world of ever-expanding ethnic cuisine frontiers, specialty diets, and foodie trends, Deb Perelman’s “Smitten Kitchen” is as close as modern American cookery gets to a universal. Perelman is a home-cooking everywoman with indefatigable rigor, irrepressible enthusiasm, a tiny Manhattan kitchen, and great wit. Her massively popular blog and one previous cookbook boast an incredibly deep bench of cult-status recipes.  Her Butternut Squash Galette is the millennial Chicken Marbella. And now, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy Favorites (Knopf, $35) follows the birth of Perelman’s second child and a busy season of life, and is Exhibit A of Perelman’s appealing approach to “everyday”: never over-precious, but never, ever, simply rote. You’ll find street-cart style chicken and rice, dry-rub sweet potato steaks, a sushi cobb salad, polenta-baked eggs, and a number of other mains, vegetarian or no, that are eminently scalable. There is a whole passel of inspired sturdy salads that are just as easily served at a dinner party as they are taken to work every day for lunch.  And of course, confident, cheeky desserts: caramelized plum tartlets, “bake sale winning-est gooey oat bars,” chocolate pecan slab pie.

Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites: A Cookbook Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101874813
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Knopf - October 24th, 2017

Hanya Yanagihara's riveting, devastating, A Little Life introduces four college roommates entering adulthood together in New York City, navigating identity politics, class, careers, and one another, arcing onwards through the ensuing decades of middle age. JB is a doted-on Haitian immigrant with art world ambitions. Wilhelm is handsome and phlegmatic, the orphaned son of Scandinavian ranchers, and eventually, an A-list actor. Black-ish and privileged, Malcolm is putting in time at a major architectural firm and fretting over his parents’ expectations. Last there's Jude, a polymath with a crippled gait and a penchant for baking gougeres, as well as alarming, venomous skill as a litigator. Illumined by their own fictive creations in paint, film, edifice, and legal argument, Yanagihara’s way with these characters is complex, memorable, and delightfully bright. But the vast holes of Jude's personal history take on dark presence for all four, and for the reader. "Unflinching" is a word that gets thrown around a lot in book reviews, but it may never be more fitting than here. Actually, A Little Life should come with a trauma trigger warning. It’s almost unbearable. I read it months ago and still weep each time these characters come to mind. Rarely is that power of literature to drill wells of empathy within a reader more at play than in this unrelenting contemporary tragedy.

A Little Life: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385539258
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday - March 10th, 2015

A Little Life Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804172707
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Anchor - January 26th, 2016

Annie Dillard’s second novel is set in mid-century Cape Cod. Working with empathy and insight, Dillard creates characters configured by bold ideas and studded with telling detail. Throughout, her writing—as if by osmosis—insinuates itself into the reader’s consciousness. Choppy but profoundly suggestive, the novel’s prose is in deliberate imitation of the sea. Likewise, the plot—an intimate history of the marriage of the eponymous Maytrees—unfolds itself in small waves. The Maytrees is a truly vivid, if subdued, instantiation of grace.

The Maytrees: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061239540
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - June 10th, 2008