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Whether you’re brightening up your space or toning it down, you’ll need a sandwich after all that hard work. These three lifestyles books have you covered on all fronts.

 The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less

Christine Platt never imagined herself as a minimalist. A deal-hunter? A clotheshorse? Yes and yes. But when circumstances demanded she pare down, Platt found that a conscious, intentional approach to consumption had its pleasures—and didn’t have to mean white paint everywhere and surfaces whisked free of treasured belongings. In The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less, Platt, who has amassed more than 50,000 followers on Instagram, shares her story and espouses living with less, starting with doing the tough work of examining one’s deeply ingrained feelings about spending, saving, self-worth and joy. Another aspect that makes this a standout in the world of minimalism guides: Platt speaks directly to and for her fellow Black readers in sections throughout the book labeled “For the Culture.” As she notes, the “simple life” has been projected as white for too long—in more than one way.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: For the audiobook edition, Christine Platt’s calm, careful narration is both relatable and reassuring.

Just a Few Miles South

Who doesn’t love a really good sandwich? At Wallace Station, the Windy Corner Market and others in the Ouita Michel family of Kentucky restaurants, guests come back again and again for the life-changing sammies, and now they can create them at home. Just a Few Miles South features next-level fixings such as pimiento blue cheese, bourbon white cheddar cheese spread, Benedictine (a Kentucky staple) and bourbon mayo, sure to jazz up even the most desultory work-from-home lunch. Also in these pages are recipes for biscuits and gravy, po’boys, burgers, quiche, quick breads and other sweets, as well as for the sandwich bread itself. Brenna Flannery’s line drawings make this a strikingly beautiful book in black and white, but it’s also as deliciously down-to-earth as can be.  

A Room of Her Own

A Room of Her Own is something of a fever dream dance through luxurious trappings, a lush portraiture of the “personal and professional domains” of 20 extraordinary women, all of them powerhouse artists who “share a drive to infuse all aspects of their lives with their creativity.” With author and photographer Robyn Lea as your guide, step into their colorful palaces, ateliers, closets and studios. Gasp quietly at wall murals, enormous picture windows, rococo furnishings, gardens and courtyards. Imagine yourself into these rarefied settings in Milan, London, New York, Florence and Auvergne. This is a look at great privilege, to be sure, as much as it is a showcase of artists’ habitats, though many of these women have lived through great trauma, some facets of which are revealed in short narratives. The book’s feast of visuals—pattern, color, texture, light, symmetry, juxtaposition—suggests, in the end, the regenerative energy of the creative spirit.

Whether you’re brightening up your space or toning it down, you’ll need a sandwich after all that hard work. These three lifestyles books have you covered on all fronts.

This month’s new lifestyles books are an eclectic mix that make quite a splash—from menopause advice to wild patterns of wallpaper to whimsical nudges to try new things.

 What Fresh Hell Is This?

Remember Gen X? No? That’s fine, no one does. But hey, we’re out here, and we’re heading into midlife and its many crises. Good thing we have Heather Corinna with us along for the bumpy ride, like the whip-smart, sardonic friend you used to hang with at punk shows who’s now armed with a metric ton of hard-earned wisdom about the endocrine system, advice for vasomotor freakouts and edibles. A longtime champion of feminist health, Corinna has previously written books for teens and tweens about bodies, sexuality and relationships. Their new book, What Fresh Hell Is This?, is a brilliantly irreverent and disruptive addition to the menopause survival/triumph category. Corinna writes forthrightly about their own experience, describing it as “not great in the way that, say, the 2016 US presidential election was not great.” They put their activist mojo to use in a guide that argues forcefully for new thinking about perimenopause, with a lot of laughs—and comics and Mad Libs!—along the way. Game changed.

Jungalow

Have you always been a sucker for luscious displays of color, pattern and texture in your personal space? Or, after a year of staying home, are you fed up with your minimalist, white-walled temple and ready to splash bright shades and wallpaper everywhere? Maybe you just need a gorgeous, aspirational coffee-table book to page through while you wait for the takeout to arrive. If your answer to any of these possibilities is yes, then the new Justina Blakeney will be your jam. Fans of her wildly successful The New Bohemians (I am one) will swoon over Jungalow: Decorate Wild. Never afraid to go big on a multiplicity of patterns, Blakeney asserts that “mixing is magic” and shows us how it’s done. Biophilia gets a loving nod here, too, with a chapter on how to work houseplants into your wild style. Prepare to be dazzled.

A Year of Weeks

Seven days is a short but solid amount of time to try something new—too brief, perhaps, to lead to a new habit, but sure to bring a sense of accomplishment, or at least satisfied amusement. Can you commit to doing one new thing for a single week? Sure you can, says Erica Root in A Year of Weeks. Cute as can be, this fully hand-drawn interactive workbook contains 52 prompts, from whimsical to practical, nudging us to draw, put on our thinking caps, be kind, follow our curiosity and so on. Show gratitude, notice everyday beauty, clean one thing, help someone or write someone a note. Design seven new socks or bookmarks or coffee mugs or hairstyles! In each case, you’re aiming for seven consecutive days of trying out your selected task, and Root’s drawings invite you to record evidence of your efforts right in the book. Pick up two copies: one for you and one for a pal or family member, because a little friendly accountability will only make the challenges sweeter.

This month’s new lifestyles books are an eclectic mix that make quite a splash—from menopause advice to wild patterns of wallpaper to whimsical nudges to try new things.

This month’s selection of the best new lifestyles titles offers gentle reminders to connect to the earth, ask for directions and breathe.

The Healing Garden

Two of the first things you’ll see in The Healing Garden are a close-up of a hummingbird cupped in author Deb Soule’s hand and an acknowledgment that her herbal farm occupies Indigenous people’s ancestral lands. Together, these things set a lovely tone for her new guide to herbalism. The founder of Avena Botanicals and author of How to Move Like a Gardener, Soule has cultivated healing plants and worked with them for medicine and wellness for more than four decades. Her wisdom comes with a gentle summons to mindfulness and a plea to embrace a broader awareness of nature’s cycles. She walks us through drying herbs for teas and infusions and guides us in making tinctures, vinegars, honeys, oils and more. Individual profiles of 18 healing plants dig deep into the history and properties of each, along with tips for growing and processing. Both practical and mystical, this is a beautiful, heartfelt guide to an ancient field of study that is experiencing renewed interest.

Directions

I almost let Hallie Bateman’s Directions slip past. What can I say? I’m a Taurus, and I don’t always love being told what to do, so affirmations in large quantities make me queasy. But once I started paging through this colorful, scrappy little book, I couldn’t stop, and I might have even smiled. A few personal faves:

“Dance and encourage dancing but don’t force anyone to dance.” 

“Apply lotion regularly and generously. Get old anyway.”

“Conjure specialness from thin air. Invent holidays, traditions, and surprises. (Duck Day, Ice Cream Tuesday, etc.)”

This would be a fun one to leave by the bed in a guest room or an Airbnb, since almost anyone will find a direction or two that resonates with them. Happily, Bateman’s book has prompted me to explore her larger body of work; her Instagram account is one to follow.

Simplicity at Home

I’ve been daydreaming about travel; haven’t we all? I yearn to wander a new city, to chance upon an exquisite shop where the artfully arranged goods and decor and lighting and background music all work in tandem to create an immersive experience. Yumiko Sekine’s shop in Tokyo, Fog Linen Work, would surely fit the bill, but for now we have Simplicity at Home, which presents Sekine’s “joyful minimalist” way of living and thoughtful devotion to reusing, repairing and creating harmony with the seasons. The pages are filled with neutrals, spare arrangements of housewares like small ceramic bowls and wooden spoons, neatly folded cloths, bright bunches of vegetables, tiny seeds on white plates, a clutch of flowering branches in a clear glass jar—and of course, delicately rumpled linen for days. If home is a bit suffocating lately, take a trip through this book, make some cold noodles for lunch, fold your socks and breathe.

This month’s selection of the best new lifestyles titles offers gentle reminders to connect to the earth, ask for directions and breathe.

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.

Three books invite you to bake delicious, vegan treats; learn to walk more lightly on the planet and travel by tent with children in tow.

★ Perfectly Golden

Angela Garbacz makes her cookbook debut with Perfectly Golden, a trove of treats from her popular bakery, Goldenrod Pastries in Lincoln, Nebraska. Garbacz became devoted to dietary-­inclusive baking after developing a dairy sensitivity, and her bakery uses nondairy milks exclusively (almond is her go-to). Here she reveals her top tricks for delicious sweets that are also gluten free and vegan, including decadent buns, cakes, cookies and more. (You can make any of the recipes in the traditional way, too, using cow’s milk and eggs.) While this bright and cheerful cookbook is decidedly contemporary in its methods, Garbacz bakes from a strong family tradition, and she includes tweaked versions of old favorites, such as her mom’s turtle cookies: cooked in a waffle iron and dolloped with peanut butter frosting. It’s truly a guide to sweets for all tastes and preferences.

An Almost Zero Waste Life

You probably think that a zero-waste life sounds appealing. You may also think it sounds exhausting to achieve. I’m with you on both counts, but after exploring the solutions offered by Megean Weldon in An Almost Zero Waste Life, I’m newly enthusiastic about my family’s ability to slash our trash. Weldon is practical in her guidance, and she urges readers to use up their disposables before replacing them with sustainable alternatives. After that, small changes start to add up: Snip old T-shirts into rags, start composting and cook more homemade food. I especially like Weldon’s weekly menu examples, designed to cut vegetable waste, and her section on holidays, which includes a list of 101 zero-waste gift ideas.

See You at the Campground

Though See You at the Campground was published earlier this spring, I think it deserves a shout-out now as we enter prime camping season. Parents and podcasters Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi lay out the pros and cons of vacationing via tent, RV or cabin and are forthcoming about their missteps as they learned to navigate the great outdoors with their three sons. Now seasoned experts, they share packing lists, choice campgrounds, campfire grub, campground etiquette and advice for exploring national parks. Armed with this book, even the most avid camper will be better prepared for the next adventure with children in tow.

Three books invite you to bake delicious, vegan treats; learn to walk more lightly on the planet and travel by tent with children in tow. ★ Perfectly Golden Angela Garbacz makes her cookbook debut with Perfectly Golden, a trove of treats from her popular bakery, Goldenrod Pastries in Lincoln, Nebraska. Garbacz became devoted to dietary-­inclusive baking […]

This month’s best new lifestyles books teach you how to enjoy the simple things in life, understand a new language and cook with a song in your heart.


 Meals, Music, and Muses

“Cooking without a song—in your heart, if nothing else—is like cooking without salt and pepper,” writes chef Alexander Smalls in Meals, Music, and Muses. Here, recipes grounded in the culinary traditions of the African American South are grouped according to the “seven styles of African American music that set the bass line for this medley of meals.” Fried sweet white corn and a salad of field greens and black-eyed peas are among the “green things” that Smalls associates with gospel music; rice, pasta and grits are the stuff of spirituals. Roast quail, pan-fried rabbit, pork loin roasts? Divas, all. There are biscuits and beans and pie to the tune of jazz, opera, jukebox music and serenades (sweet endings), with the pleasure of Smalls’ storytelling along the way to deepen the flavor.

How to Wash the Dishes

How is it that reading a book on washing the dishes could offer such pleasure? How to Wash the Dishes, by Seattle design and architectural bookstore owner Peter Miller, is a tiny, perfect book that offers just what its title proclaims, with a side dish of calm. In serene and measured prose, Miller reminds us that “washing the dishes in a sink, with clean, warm water, is a luxury” and “a task of order and of health and hygiene.” Also, to no small degree, “every time you wash the dishes is an opportunity to practice mindfulness and to reduce waste.” Great satisfaction can come from holding fast to these truths and focusing on the task at hand, not rushing, not thinking too much of other things.

The Complete Language of Flowers

Flower lovers will marvel at S. Theresa Dietz’s The Complete Language of Flowers, an A to Z of flowers and plants listing symbolic meanings, possible powers, folklore and facts. The flowers are alphabetized by Latin name, which lends this volume an air of the exotic, but the book’s handy index is probably where you’ll start when you want to find out what your snake plant might do for you (protection) or what bluebonnets represent (forgiveness, self-sacrifice and survival). This guide could be helpful for writers and artists seeking to infuse their work with floral imagery, or for designers and gardeners planning a project. But it’s also simply a gorgeous conversation piece, the perfect addition to a spring coffee table vignette.

This month’s best new lifestyles books teach you how to enjoy the simple things in life, understand a new language and cook with a song in your heart. ★ Meals, Music, and Muses “Cooking without a song—in your heart, if nothing else—is like cooking without salt and pepper,” writes chef Alexander Smalls in Meals, Music, and […]

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