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Julie's Picks of 2017!
A comedy of manners and subtle one-upmanship, like Chekhov in India. This bubbly, satirical novel draws you into the Jha family's home--both their old home in a rundown, cramped apartment in East Delhi, and a new, lavishly expensive one in Gurgaon. With warmth and humor, the novel traces the Jhas as they attempt to keep up with the Jones' in their new social circle. Conventions of dating, professional mobility, and family dynamics are in flux, creating tension at times, but always with a wink to the absurdity and necessary surrender that comes with change. A fun, beautiful debut.
I keep pushing this book and I will continue to do so. Though written over 20 years ago, “Them” feels more relevant than ever. From a 2017 perspective, it is chilling how the “extremists” Ronson interviewed in this quirky, illuminating account are now the mainstream. This book is provocative (read the chapter entitled, “The Klansmen Who Won’t Use The N-Word”) and so funny. Ignore the hideous cover! Read this book! You’ll want to pass it along to everyone you know.
Jesmyn Ward is my literary crush. When she spoke about Sing, Unburied, Sing at the store earlier this year (before it won the National Book Award--her second!) Ward was luminous, vulnerable, graceful, and captivating. Her book is all of those things, too… with the irresistible addition of family drama, a sense of place, and lyrical prose. This book is the literary equivalent of a sunburn… The warmth feels good, but it gets into your skin, and it hurts you. But damn if it isn’t worth it for some time in the sun.
On its surface, this cookbook is understated, with a sleek gray cover and watercolor illustrations that provide an artful, delicate touch. But in content, it offers a level of detail and planning that many cookbooks miss. Each recipe is presented as part of a multi-course menu. Menus are divided into seasons, and seasons are further divided into “early” or “late” depending upon when the ingredients are most fresh and when the dish will deliver maximum enjoyment (almond and apricot tart with vanilla and apricot swirl in summer, for example, or plum pudding with Armagnac custard in late winter). Most helpful of all is the timeline that accompanies each menu, breaking down the cooking process from preparation (a week before, an hour before), to the moment of serving. This practical detail makes multi-course menus with several moving parts totally approachable for the home chef. Some of these menus are time intensive, of course, but they can also be taken in bits and pieces--a quick salad here, a simple fruit dessert there. But the holidays call for slowing down, for enjoying time in the kitchen, and, above all, maximizing time at the table to relish in good food, good company, and good conversation.