The writing workshop, the cottagecore aesthetic and, that’s right, the humble bean all get exciting updates in this month’s crop of lifestyles books.
★ Craft in the Real World
Matthew Salesses’ Craft in the Real World is a book whose time has come, and not a moment too soon. A critique of long-held assumptions about how creative writing should be taught, it is “a challenge to accepted models,” including “everything from a character-driven plot to the ‘cone of silence,’ ” which silences a manuscript’s author while their piece is being workshopped. Salesses, who is the author of three novels, invites the reader to rethink the very notion of what constitutes craft and offers alternatives to a workshop model proliferated by, and largely for, white men. The world has changed, and the writing workshop must catch up. An essential addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in creative writing, Salesses’ text provides a compassionate approach sure to bring a new generation of authentic voices to the page.
The Mighty Bean
All hail the humble bean: Nutrient-rich, central to cuisines worldwide, inexpensive, easy to cook and with a low carbon footprint, beans are truly a power food. With her new book, The Mighty Bean, Judith Choate, author of An American Family Cooks, is our guide through the vast world of legumes, beginning with a bean glossary. (What wonderful names these little guys have: Rattlesnake! Eye of the goat! Black valentine!) With recipes ranging from Texas caviar to West African peanut soup to white bean gnocchi with bacon and cream, this cookbook travels the globe through “pulses” (another name for beans, and a tidbit I’m delighted to have picked up here) and encourages experimentation. I’m feeling inspired to shop the Rancho Gordo site ASAP.
The Little Book of Cottagecore
I first heard the word cottagecore from my 12-year-old daughter, likely my informant for all trends henceforth. For the uninitiated, cottagecore is a way of being—an aesthetic, a vibe, if you will—exalting the soothing textures and gentle rhythms of pastoral life. “It focuses on unplugging from the stresses of modern life and instead embracing the wholesomeness and authenticity of nature,” explains Emily Kent in The Little Book of Cottagecore. A cottagecore existence might include relaxing tasks such as baking bread, gardening and pouring your own candles—though I have to wonder how truly calm one may feel when feeding a sourdough starter or smoking the hives or coping with tomato blight. (Forgive me. I’ve suffered my share of frustrations during various vaguely cottagecore endeavors.) But simply brewing a cup of proper English tea is entry-level cottagecore that anyone can enjoy.