Sign Up

Get the latest ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

All Cooking Coverage

The best lifestyles books of the month will give you a creative boost from the workplace to the kitchen.

 Creative Acts for Curious People

Tell the story of your worst first date using only LEGOs. Design an ad campaign for bananas. Describe an ability you'd use to survive a zombie apocalypse. Ask someone to tell you the story of their name. These are but a few of the assignments in Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways, developed from the teachings of Stanford University's well-respected design school (known as the d.school), where students collaborate and innovate in fresh, surprising ways for the greater good. Need a change of perspective on a project or an escape hatch from routine thinking? Want to encourage your team to loosen up, give helpful feedback or challenge biases? Look no further. "In the face of current challenges—those here today and those yet to come—we all need ways to prepare to act even when we are uncertain," writes d.school executive director Sarah Stein Greenberg. Whether you're an independent artist seeking new approaches to your work or a leader aiming to mentor and galvanize your people, this book has an experience for you. I plan to put it to use in my own nonprofit leadership and personal creative projects.

The Tiny Kitchen Cookbook

Annie Mahle spent many years cooking for groups of 24 in the galley kitchen of a schooner, so you could say she's earned her small-space stripes. In The Tiny Kitchen Cookbook: Strategies and Recipes for Creating Amazing Meals in Small Spaces, Mahle gathers recipes requiring little cookware or fuss, including one-pan dinners, toaster oven-friendly bakes and small dishes that can serve as snacks or light entrees. She shares tips for making the best of your (limited) workspace and, in a genius section called "Use It Up," offers ideas for what to do with ingredients that tend to linger, like buttermilk, cauliflower and pumpkin puree. In the tiny (vacation) house of my dream-future, this will be the only cookbook on hand, but for now it will be a welcome addition to my home kitchen, with its charming lack of counter space.

Sandor Katz's Fermentation Journeys

I happen to live in the same state as Sandor Katz, and he's the sort of fellow Tennessean that makes me proud to call this place home. Katz gained an international following with his 2003 bestseller, The Art of Fermentation, the success of which took him across the globe. Now he's back with Sandor Katz's Fermentation Journeys: Recipes, Techniques, and Traditions From Around the World, which explores microbial activity in the culinary traditions of China, Peru and other places far, far from Cannon County, Tennessee. Think tepache in Mexico, sour cabbages in Croatia, pickled tea leaves in Burma, koji in Japan and much more. Part travelogue, part cookbook, part chemistry experiment, Katz's new book is a fascinating look at fermented foods the world over, and it aims, always, to be a respectful one.

The best lifestyles books of the month will give you a creative boost from the workplace to the kitchen.

Take a journey around the globe via the bookstores, recipes and fruits featured in this month’s lifestyles roundup.

 Bookstores

For a bibliophile, it doesn’t get any better than Bookstores: A Celebration of Independent Booksellers, a coffee-table stunner featuring images by London-based photographer Horst A. Friedrichs. With every turn of the page, you’ll take a journey around the globe and through the stacks—from Spoonbill & Sugartown in Brooklyn, New York, to the curious Baldwin’s Book Barn in Pennsylvania, to idiosyncratic shops in the U.K., Germany, Austria and more. Along the way you’ll meet the owners who have made bookselling their lives’ work and art. They share how they came to the trade, what makes their shops unique and why the work—and the books themselves, of course—continues to matter so darn much in an age of, well, you know. I want to visit every single one of these bookstores, but that’s probably a tall order. Just knowing they exist, and holding this gorgeous artifact in my hands, feels like enough.

The Kitchen Without Borders

The other night my husband fixed a delicious Syrian meal: ma’areena soup, a bit like pasta Bolognese but decidedly different thanks to a seven-spice blend common to Middle Eastern cooking. We found this dish in The Kitchen Without Borders, a cookbook from Eat Offbeat, a New York City-based catering company that works with immigrant and refugee chefs. Eat Offbeat honors and shares the “special food memories our chefs have brought with them,” write Wissam Kahi and Manal Kahi, Lebanese siblings who began their careers with the simple wish to share their Syrian grandmother’s hummus. The book features dishes from Iran, Iraq, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and more. Profiles of the chefs appear between recipes for dishes such as fattoush, musabbaha (chickpea salad) and chicken shawarma. It feels like a true global community endeavor.

The Book of Difficult Fruit

Twenty-six fruits, A to Z, form the basis for poet and pie-maker Kate Lebo’s lovely, meandering essays in The Book of Difficult Fruit. Beginning with aronia, or chokeberry, Lebo weaves personal stories with facts from nature and science, resulting in a difficult-to-classify literary and culinary exploration—the best kind, in my opinion. Ever wondered what exactly a maraschino cherry is? Lebo will tell you, and then she’ll tell you about the almond flavor of stone-fruit pits, and then about cherry trees in her backyard, and about a strange brush with new neighbors, and about how to make real maraschino cherries. And on you go, through durian and elderberry, through Norton grape and Osage orange, all the way to zucchini—a curious, lyrical, alphabetical adventure.

Take a journey around the globe via the bookstores, recipes and fruits featured in this month’s lifestyles roundup.

Whether you need to get your home office in order, need to shake things up in the kitchen or just need a laugh, this month’s Lifestyles column has got you covered.

Notes From the Bathroom Line

The beautiful thing about some books is their time-capsule quality, how they perfectly preserve a cultural moment between two covers. For Amy Solomon, one such life-changing title was 1976’s Titters: The First Collection of Humor by Women. Now Solomon has created that book’s contemporary analog with Notes From the Bathroom Line, an eclectic mix of writing, art and “low-grade panic,” to quote the subtitle, from a large and rowdy cast of very funny women who are here to entertain you on the subjects of Goop vaginal eggs, missent text mortification, lies told to get out of things, dads’ girlfriends, advice not taken, instructions for the cat sitter, groveling and . . . well, a lot more. Comics and art nudge up against short essays and, maybe my favorite content category, collections of short answers to prompts such as “Slang That You Made Up That Will Never Catch On But It Should.” A consistent theme across it all: the ways in which we all squirm and sweat within our minds. I feel seen.

Work-From-Home Hacks

As a seasoned WFH-er, I’ll be the first to admit my habits aren’t always high performing or sustainable. If that sounds familiar, a weekly visit with Aja Frost’s Work-From-Home Hacks can gradually set you on a smarter course, whether you’ve been couch (slouch) typing for years or are still configuring your (bedroom) corner office. The book is handily sectioned into more than 500 bite-size, numbered nuggets. While some will no doubt be familiar, these tips—from ergonomics to what to wear, from battling distraction to unlocking the holy grail of work-life balance—constitute a treasure trove for anyone riding the WFH wave of 2020 and 2021. But the lasting value of this book is its broad usefulness no matter where you clock in. After all, email hygiene, scheduling boundaries and regular exercise are proven hacks for any work habitat. (Note to self: Wear shoes at your desk, and swap that shawl for a sweater before you Zoom!)

The New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes 

So, the title is clever but not quite accurate, at least to my mind. What Sam Sifton dishes up in The New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes are flexible recipes in a nonchalant narrative format with no numeric measurements. (Nope, not a one.) The improvisational approach will prove quite pleasing if you, like my husband, have little use for the specificity of most recipes and enough kitchen acumen to feel comfortable with glugs and splashes and dashes. These recipes may be simple in some ways, but they do require a certain I’ve got this culinary cool. I love reading them almost as much as I love eating the finished products. For kaya toast and eggs, you “add a healthy shake of white pepper” to the eggs and then “get to ’em with the toast.” Of split pea soup: “When you’re done eating you’ll be bowing like Hugh Jackman at curtain call.”

Whether you need to get your home office in order, need to shake things up in the kitchen or just need a laugh, this month’s Lifestyles column has got you covered.

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.

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.

Creativity, cheese and words—oh my! Curious minds of all stripes will find something wonderful to ponder in this month's best lifestyles books.

The Listening Path

Back in the early 1990s, a book called The Artist’s Way changed the creativity how-to scene forever and paved the way for countless guides to come. Author Julia Cameron preached the practice of “morning pages,” a daily stream-of-consciousness writing ritual. Since then, countless readers have found this practice to be a useful tool for self-understanding. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—and so we find morning pages and the six-week program framework from Cameron’s earlier book at the heart of her new one, The Listening Path. Designed for a world in which attention is our collective deficiency, The Listening Path focuses on tuning out cluttering noise and redirecting attention constructively to release creative blocks. Quotations from respected writers, thinkers and spiritual guides travel like softly shining stars alongside Cameron’s storytelling and prompts to nurture conscious listening. If this all sounds too woo-woo for you . . . then you probably need it.

Stuff Every Cheese Lover Should Know

One of my favorite comforts of quarantine has been a biweekly cheese box subscription, offered by a local cheesemonger. So it’s no surprise that I’m smitten by Stuff Every Cheese Lover Should Know by Alexandra Jones. This tiny book—it’s the size of a classic Moleskine journal—is like a nibble of an artisan bleu, rich and satisfying even in the smallest portion. You’ll learn about microbes, moisture and “cheese outerwear”; how to create the perfect cheese board and pair cheese with drinks; just what the heck raclette is; and more. If a cheese-loving friend is in the throes of the COVID-winter doldrums, perk her up by leaving this diminutive but delightful guide on her doorstep with a wedge of fromage.

So to Speak

I’m letting my word-nerd flag fly with this one: So to Speak is a compendium of 11,000 expressions organized into nearly 70 categories, including a bonus, “Our Favorite Family Expressions and Nana-isms” (e.g., “He’s a stick in the mud”). Why do you need this, you ask? First, it’s the largest collection of its kind. Second, it’s “a catalyst for endless conversations among people of all ages—and some of the most fun can be had by reading it aloud with friends and family,” writes co-editor Harold Kobliner, who worked steadfastly on this book with his wife of 65 years, Shirley, until she passed away in 2016. The result, he tells us, is a “true celebration of the love of language with the love of my life.” Third, 25 games such as a rhyming game, an expressions improv game and one based on “The Newlywed Game” are included. It’s a must-have for any language lover’s library.

Creativity, cheese and words—oh my! Curious minds of all stripes will find something wonderful to ponder in this month's best lifestyles books.

With home cooking on the rise, has there ever been a better time to switch up the energy with a new cookbook?

★ In Bibi’s Kitchen

Perhaps the freshest cookbook of the season is In Bibi’s Kitchen, even though “this is an old-fashioned cookbook that has nothing to do with trends or newness,” as editors Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen write in their introduction. The book features recipes and stories from grandmothers (bibis) from eight African countries, all introduced through Q&A interviews. Each chapter shares basic information about one of the featured countries, all of which touch the Indian Ocean (two are islands), and “offers a range of perspectives that clearly illustrate how food changes when it travels and how it can also help to keep a connection to home.” Don’t feel the least bit wary of recipes featuring hard-to-find ingredients. Almost all the spices called for are readily available in American supermarkets, and many of the condiments included here (like Somali cilantro and green chile pepper sauce) can be used on nearly anything. A beautiful example of how food is culture, history and one of the most powerful forms of connection we have, In Bibi’s Kitchen feels at once deeply famil- iar and powerfully eye-opening.

Tequila & Tacos

Do I love Tequila & Tacos because it’s compact and bold in color, or do I love it because it’s all about tacos? Yes. Katherine Cobbs’ latest in the Spirited Pairings series is an irresistible tour de U.S. taco joints in points north, south, east and west. Each location reveals the recipe for one signature taco and cocktail, from cauliflower tacos with fennel and ramps (Salazar in Los Angeles) to a Monte Cristo taco (Velvet Taco in Atlanta) to a lamb carnitas taco (Quiote in Chicago), and on and on the delicious armchair exploring goes. You might feel a twinge of grief right now, thinking about all these beautiful restaurants and their brilliant creations—but then you get to make the tacos and agave-spirit libations at home, and you’re sure to feel happier after that.

Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple

Even if you’re not a foodie, you’ve probably heard the name Jacques Pépin. The renowned French chef and TV personality has a wonderful smile, and as such, I take great joy in the many photographs of him sprinkled throughout Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple, which has a pleasingly retro feel thanks to its cheerful illustrations, vintage typeface and decidedly unfussy recipes. These really are quick and simple dishes with common ingredients and instructions that rarely extend past a paragraph or two. In fact, “mix all the ingredients together” is a common refrain. There are even lots of shortcuts, such as brown-and- serve French bread (!) or pre-made pizza dough and puff pastry. If a famous French chef tells you to do it, it’s totally OK, right? Packed with more than 200 recipes, this book would make a great resource for busy young people who are just beginning their kitchen adventures.

The Good Book of Southern Baking

Kelly Fields brings 20 years of pastry chef know-how to the pages of The Good Book of Southern Baking. She developed these recipes in restaurants, including her own New Orleans joint Willa Jean, and her thorough overview of baking ingredients—11 pages’ worth!—signals that honed expertise. But it’s her South Carolina upbringing that provides the bedrock for this sumptuous collection of sweet treats. Fields’ baking is deeply rooted in childhood experience, and she invokes her mama regularly in her treatment of classics like banana bread, haystack cookies and warm chocolate pudding. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a traditional Southern dessert not covered here, and you’ll want to devour every single one. (I’m especially drawn to the bourbon-butterscotch pudding, a twist on one of my own mama’s favorites, and Grandma Mac’s apple cake.) This is the perfect gift for the dessert person in your life. 

The Kosmic Kitchen Cookbook

The Kosmic Kitchen Cookbook cozies up at the three-way intersection of herbalism, ayurveda and seasonality, making it a fascinating, not to mention beautifully designed, guide for thinking about how to support your health holistically. Herbalists and pals Sarah Kate Benjamin and Summer Singletary ground the book in elemental theory, the idea that the five elements—ether, air, water, fire, earth—must be balanced in our bodies. They connect this theory to the four seasons, helping the reader to identify how the elements are at play, inside and out. A section on herbal preps, such as herb-infused ghee, honey and turmeric tahini dressing, begins the culinary exploration, followed by seasonal recipes like lemon balm gazpacho and spiced mulled wine with hawthorn berries. If you’re new to herbalism, it may seem like a lot to take in, but Benjamin and Singletary are wonderful guides, and the book also provides a link to their free online minicourse on the subject.

With home cooking on the rise, has there ever been a better time to switch up the energy with a new cookbook? Here are five that breathe fresh life into kitchen duty.

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!

Recent Reviews

Taking obvious cues from Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and postmodern tech thrillers, Marie Lu presents an exciting, immersive world with interesting and developed characters the reader will care about. While definitely a can’t-miss for fans of Lu’s Young Elites series, Warcross offers something for readers across all genres.

Author Interviews

Recent Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!