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★ From Harvest to Home

Let me be a voice in passionate support of relishing all things fall: Pile those pumpkins! Bust out the mums! Go big on apples and cinnamon! I am here for it. With From Harvest to Home, lifestyle blogger Alicia Tenise Chew speaks right to the deepest autumnal cravings with recipes, low-key crafts and lists of scary movies and top Thanksgiving TV episodes. Nachos get a fall twist (and healthy upgrade) with sweet potatoes, French 75 cocktails go goth with the addition of activated charcoal, and there’s a pumpkin gnocchi with cinnamon sage brown butter sauce that I most certainly will be requesting of my home-cook husband. Chew provides checklists of activities you might enjoy during each of the three fall months, a welcome inspo tool for us easily overwhelmed types, as well as self-care tips for the return of short days and cold weather. You don’t have to do all the fall things, of course. But you can more deeply delight in a few faves with the help of this book—and feel not a shred of shame for loving flannel and pumpkin spice lattes. 

An American in Provence

Perhaps you’ve heard this story: Highly successful urban professional departs the rat race, decamps to the countryside and achieves a slower, simpler, even more beautiful life. But you’ve never seen rustic expatriation evoked quite so lusciously as it is in An American in Provence, artist Jamie Beck’s pictorial memoir. Beck is a photographer, and alongside romantic self-portraits, still lifes, sweeping landscapes and tablescapes, she shares generously of her expertise. There are tips for photographing children, getting the most out of your smartphone camera and working with natural lighting. Along the way Beck writes of settling in the small French town of Apt, giving birth to her daughter, Eloise, and leaning into the seasonal rhythms of the region. Recipes are sprinkled throughout like herbes de Provence: a violet sorbet, daube Provençale, wild thyme grilled lamb. In total, the effect is bewitching and immersive, and quite the motivation to save for one’s own dream trip to the hills, fields and ancient villages of southeastern France.

How to Be Weird

In high school, I was often told that I was weird. I took it as a point of pride, and still do. Weird is a thing to strive for in my book, as it is in Eric G. Wilson’s How to Be Weird, which amounts to an Rx for the rote life, an antidote to crushing mundanity. The small actions and thought experiments compiled here, 99 in total, are intended to disrupt dull thinking, to help us see our world and ourselves in fresh ways. They could be applied usefully in many settings, from classroom to cocktail party to corporate retreat. And as the veteran English professor he is, Wilson connects many of the actions to history, philosophy, literature, the sciences and so on. If you don’t end up weirder in the best ways from sniffing books or inventing new curse words, you’ll at least have gleaned some solid knowledge along the way.

Set up the perfect gourd-themed tablescape, photograph it like a pro, and then invite all your weirdest friends over to partake of autumn’s bounty. If this sounds like your definition of a good time, read on.
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Following a breakup with his fiancée, “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Conor Knighton sought distraction in travel. He spent a year touring the nation’s 63 national parks, and in Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park, he provides a funny, fascinating account of his trip. Knighton, who started his trek at Acadia National Park in Maine, shares hilarious anecdotes from the road and provides insights into the history of the park system. Reading groups will enjoy digging into themes of nature, conservation and the allure of travel.

In The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America, Elizabeth Letts chronicles the extraordinary travels of Annie Wilkins. In 1954, Wilkins learned that she had only a few years to live. Determined to see the Pacific Ocean, a lifelong dream of hers, the 63-year-old set out on her horse, Tarzan, riding from Maine to California and attracting national attention along the way. Letts brings Wilkins’ adventures to vivid life in this unforgettable book.

Mark Adams’ Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier is a spirited tribute to one of America’s most idiosyncratic states. Inspired by Edward H. Harriman’s famous 1899 exploration of the Alaskan coastline, Adams (Turn Right at Machu Picchu) traveled the same route as Harriman and his crew. He documents the ways in which Alaska has changed in the intervening years and crosses paths with an array of colorful characters, providing astute observations about environmentalism, Alaskan history and the oil industry in the process.

Kate Harris was a Rhodes scholar studying at Oxford and MIT when she set out to travel the Silk Road by bike, an excursion she recounts in Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road. Harris, who had long dreamed of exploration, was accompanied by her best friend, Mel. Together, they cycled their way into Turkey, India, Nepal and China, traveling for nearly a year. Harris mixes history, geography, travel writing and personal reflection to create a richly detailed narrative that’s a testament to the transformative power of travel.

These true stories of national park-hopping and continent-traversing will inspire reading groups.
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If you enjoy hiking up and down remote mountains while laden with excessive outdoor gear, then The Hiking Book From Hell is probably not the travelogue you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you enjoy strolling through your city, hanging out in pubs or chatting with strangers, then author Are Kalvø is your man. Kalvø, one of Norway’s most popular satirists, is a cheerful urbanite with little to no interest in nature. In his mid-40s, however, he realized that many of his friends were joining the swelling ranks of people who subject themselves to deprivation and possibly even death in pursuit of an “authentic” experience with nature. This insight brought Kalvø face to face with life’s most profound question: Is it them, or is it me?

Kalvø also had serious questions about Norwegians’ mania for nature. As a committed extrovert, he found their quest for isolation and silence disturbing. Also, nature worship can be exclusionary; the high cost of equipment and clothing ensures that nature is reserved for the well-off, while proposals to make the outdoors more accessible to disabled people are vigorously opposed. And if people went into nature to lose themselves in a transcendent experience, then why were there so many nature selfies on Instagram?

Accompanied by his wife, the “Head of Documentation,” Kalvø went on two nature treks to see what all the fuss was about—but he never really found out. Climbing steep, fog-bound mountains in the rain is as much fun as you would expect. Skiing for miles can be pretty boring. And, as he discovered, there’s something about being one with nature that changes ordinary people into boastful, unbearably smug liars who tell you with a straight face that a hike is “lovely” when they really mean “likely to kill you.”

But Kalvø tells his story with such deft humor and affectionate irony, wonderfully conveyed by Lucy Moffatt’s translation, that all you can do is laugh at his misadventures—and be grateful that you’re reading The Hiking Book From Hell in the comfort of your home.

Are Kalvø, an urbanite with no interest in nature, tells of venturing into the outdoors with such deft humor that all you can do is laugh at his misadventures.

The tale of a British ship called the Bounty and the subsequent mutiny of some of its sailors has been endlessly scrutinized, romanticized and depicted ever since the event occurred in the late 1700s. With so many memoirs, historical accounts and fictional tales based on the Bounty’s story, it’s easy to assume that nothing new could be unearthed or written about it. But in his debut book, The Far Land: 200 Years of Murder, Mania, and Mutiny in the South Pacific, travel journalist Brandon Presser does exactly that, and brilliantly. By sifting through many of these prior texts, as well as other resources such as captain’s logs and interviews, Presser has managed to create a fact-based book that reads as grippingly as any thriller.

As a travel writer, Presser has crisscrossed the world to report on memorable locales and adventures. When he was offered the chance to do a story on Pitcairn, the tiny, isolated isle in the South Pacific that became the home of the Bounty’s mutineers, and where 48 of their descendants still live, he knew he had to take it, driven by his need “to know what happened when you fell off the map.” Visiting Pitcairn, a full month’s journey from his home in New York, certainly falls into that category.

Presser spent three years researching and writing this thorough account of the mutiny on the Bounty and its aftermath. In the process, Presser spent time on both Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island in Australia, where some of the mutineers’ descendants later migrated. His narrative toggles between past and present, fleshing out the timeline of events—epic in nature and sprawling in scope—and cast of characters, particularly the Tahitians who accompanied the mutineers to Pitcairn and whose roles have previously been underrepresented.

Although some facts remain a mystery (such as the breaking point that made Fletcher Christian snap and take over the ship from Captain William Bligh), Presser’s detailed interpretation allows many of the formerly fuzzy pieces to fall into place. His personal experience on the islands combined with fastidious research make The Far Land such an incredible, unforgettable tale that Presser had to stress in an author’s note that it is “indeed a work of nonfiction.”

Brandon Presser's brilliant book about the infamous 1700s mutiny aboard the Bounty is as gripping as any thriller.
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Journalist Karen Cheung’s intimate memoir of Hong Kong explores what it means to live in and love a complicated city. In The Impossible City, Hong Kong frequently appears as a temperamental partner described in body horror-like terms: It’s a city that’s dying, a city “on the verge of mutilation,” a city ready to disappear. But Cheung’s Hong Kong is also vividly multifaceted, at once marked by the constructed “Hong Kong cool” glamorized in Wong Kar Wai films and yet full of people yearning for a more equitable future built through collective action and protest.

Though Cheung was ambivalent about Hong Kong as a child, an outsider in both the elite international school and public secondary school she attended, she eventually embraced her hometown as a second family after her beloved grandmother died and her father’s home became too abusive to remain in. Alongside her evolving personal relationship with Hong Kong, she narrates the city’s most significant and turbulent moments from her lifetime, including the Handover in 1997, when the United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to China; Occupy Central in 2014, also known as the Umbrella Movement, when crowds occupied Hong Kong for 79 days to demand more transparent elections; and both the SARS and COVID-19 pandemics. In Cheung’s hands, the problems, charms and complexities that characterize the city are illuminated with grace and intelligence. She refuses to write from a distance or cater to a white audience, dismissing the bland both-sidesism of modern journalism.

Cheung explores gentrification not just through statistics and citations but through a summary of the six different residences and 22 different roommates she lived with in just five years. An ongoing and citywide mental health crisis is discussed through her own struggle to access reliable psychiatric care. Most powerfully, The Impossible City asks how we can belong to and believe in a city and world that are frequently disappointing, and how we can continue to care about a future we may never see.

Cheung’s luminous memoir will appeal to both those familiar with Hong Kong and armchair travelers hoping to better understand the roots of the city’s political movements. Beyond that, The Impossible City will resonate with anyone who has struggled to love their city of residence in a time characterized by political dissent, racial strife and pandemic.

In Karen Cheung’s luminous debut memoir, Hong Kong’s problems, charms and complexities are illuminated with grace and intelligence.
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★ Grist

James Beard Award-winning chef Abra Berens and her collaborators have created a most magical combination of aesthetics, soul and practical guidance in Grist, a cookbook focused on humble stuff: beans, legumes, grains and seeds. Let it be said that I love beans, and I really love the way Berens provides, along with specific recipes, a number of templates to follow for any combination of ingredients you crave or happen to have on hand. For example, a bean + vegetable + flavor + texture chart starts with beans (any kind), then lists four suggested ingredients for each step: add veg, add flavor, add extra texture and serve. Elsewhere, she walks us through a week’s worth of lentils without boredom, and her recipes regularly include three or more variations. Topping it all off are Lucy Engelman’s beautiful illustrations, which make this a true work of cookbook art. 

Where They Purr

A bedroom decked out in lush linens and pillows—and a cat, luxuriating on the bespoke duvet. A kitchen with floor-to-ceiling windows—and a cat, nonchalantly surveying the room from atop the dining table. This is the fabulous world of Where They Purr: Inspirational Interiors and the Cats Who Call Them Home, in which images of sleek interiors foreground the homes’ feline overlords. Photographer Paul Barbera got the idea for a cat-centric home design book while working on a previous project, Where They Create, and the result takes those “how they styled it” shots we’ve all seen while shopping online—a sofa, say, captured with the owner’s pet proudly lounging—to the next-next level. The homes featured here are mostly high-end and very modern, full of sharp angles and long lines. You might be inclined to call some of them cold, except how could you when fluffy Pud or Pippi or Gustov is lurking or perched or sprawled in their midst? As a cat lover, my only quibble with this purrfectly delightful book is that there are too few orange tabbies in the mix. I suppose we all, like our cats, have our own prefurences.

Wanderess

As I prepare for a solo journey to the Southwest, I’m happy to have in my pocket Wanderess: The Unearth Women Guide to Traveling Smart, Safe, and Solo, a guide for women, by women, and geared toward solo travelers. Whether you’re going it alone for the first time or planning a girls’ trip, the editors from Unearth Women have assembled in this colorful book all the resources, hacks and advice you could ask for, including tips for traveling while pregnant and specific recommendations for women of color and travelers who are trans, lesbian or queer. The writers also offer an outline for creating your own Feminist City Guide, which centers women-owned businesses; if you like, you can pitch your guide(s) to Unearth Women for possible publication.

From the humble bean to the high and mighty feline, the books in this month’s lifestyles column colorfully celebrate the joys of food, art and travel.
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Jordan Salama, a 2019 Princeton University graduate and journalist, comes by his travel instincts honestly. His great-great-great-grandfather led a thousand camels along the Silk Road to trade goods in Iraq, Syria and Iran; his great-grandfather, a Syrian Jewish immigrant to Argentina, rode on horseback through the Andes as an itinerant salesman; and his father became a physician in Buenos Aires before migrating to New York City. Their stories, passed down through generations of a family that spoke “a spellbinding mix of English, Spanish, and Arabic,” have inspired Salama’s own explorations, including the one he describes in Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena.

The Magdalena River, which is over 900 miles long and Colombia’s principal waterway, links the country’s diverse interior to the Caribbean Sea. It has long been a vital transportation mainstay, used and abused by the Colombian government, global industry, paramilitaries, guerillas, migrants, fishers and environmentalists alike. In 2016 the government signed a wobbly peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and other guerilla armies, but the river’s future viability remains as unclear as its sediment-stacked waters. Salama is intent on learning everything he can, while he still can, about this endangered, legendary river that threads its way through Colombia’s history and people.

The Magdalena is central to many tales, both in fiction, as in the novels of Colombia’s revered author Gabriel García Márquez, and in the true stories Salama hears as he follows the river’s course from beginning to end. The people he meets and travels with share their experiences—from a jeweler selling silver filigree flowers, to a teacher delivering books to rural children via his two donkeys (Alfa and Beto), to the ill-fated anthropologist and activist Luis Manuel Salamanca, to Alvarito, the village kite master. They are, Salama writes, “ordinary people working tirelessly to preserve the natural/cultural treasures of a country much maligned by war,” and their fates are interwoven with the Magdalena.

Then there are the runaway hippopotamuses. Imported from Africa for the private zoo of notorious drug king Pablo Escobar, the hippos fled after Escobar’s murder in 1993 and now make the Magdalena and its tributaries their home. They have multiplied and spread over the past three decades, and they will pursue and attack any intruders. As Salama ventures deeper into Colombia, he can’t wait to find them.

By the time Salama ends his riveting journey, scrambling across the treacherous rocks where the Magdalena River meets the Caribbean Sea, he has already enticed readers to follow him on his next one.

Jordan Salama is intent on learning everything he can about the legendary Magdalena River, which threads its way through Colombia’s history and people.
Behind the Book by

Blame it all on Jane Austen. From the moment I gazed reverentially upon the three-legged writing table at which she pondered truths universally acknowledged and penned masterpieces like Persuasion, I became an unabashed literary voyeur. Standing in the modest red-brick cottage, I felt my pulse race and my skin prickle at the visceral sensation of inhabiting her world.

After that, it was no longer enough to merely delve into the pages of my well-thumbed classics and literary biographies. Instead, I had to follow a trail of ink drops to where the stories got their start. As an American newly transplanted to London, it was easy to fan the flames of my obsession.

Bypassing Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace (they could wait), I made a beeline to humbler destinations like the brick Georgian dwelling where Dickens penned Oliver Twist. I even stumbled upon literary riches while strolling my own neighborhood, once home to Victorian essayist Thomas Carlyle. Venturing into his quaint historic house, I found myself lusting after his soundproof attic study and cringing at a charred scrap of paper on display—all that remained of one of his lengthy manuscripts after a maid accidentally set it alight. 

These emotionally charged moments are what draw me time and again to the personality-filled homes and haunts where scribes once dreamed, dozed, drank and drew inspiration. Fortunately, my bibliophilic friend, Shannon, is equally afflicted by this compulsion. The mere mention of Wuthering Heights was enough to inspire her to pack a bag and book a transatlantic flight from New Jersey for a sojourn to the Yorkshire moors.

At the Brontë Parsonage Museum, we grew misty-eyed gazing at the black couch where 30-year-old Emily had gasped her dying breath from tuberculosis, and stared in disbelief at the tiny dresses of diminutive Charlotte, who succumbed to illness a few years later. Alas, we didn't meet Heathcliff while rambling across the brooding moors, though the atmospheric conditions did inspire us to contemplate future literary pilgrimages.

With our writerly imaginations fueled by a few pints of sturdy Yorkshire ale, we ruminated about creating a booklover's Baedeker that would take us from Steinbeck's Monterey to Dostoevsky's St. Petersburg and all points in between. But more than just crafting a bibliophile's Life List of must-see literary locales, above all, we wanted to illuminate the behind-the-scenes stories that captured the magic and romance of places famed novelists had once made their own.

We were fortunate that Novel Destinations soon found a home with an editor whose love for literary travel rivals our own (she once considered selling an organ to buy the Connecticut abode of Fitzgerald and Hemingway's legendary editor, Max Perkins!). Working together made the monumental task of researching hundreds of destinations seem manageable, and writing the book gave us the perfect excuse to visit more literary locales than we'd ever dreamed possible.

While my not-so-literary husband graciously tagged along to soak up the sun in Ernest Hemingway's Key West and tilt at Quixote's windmills in central Spain, it was more gratifying to travel with Shannon, who never tired of waxing poetic on Austen's heroines or Edith Wharton's impeccable taste. One of our favorite trips à deux was to Paris, where we luxuriated in the lavishly decorated Maison de Victor Hugo and were reprimanded for trying a little too zealously to find a secret staircase said to be used by his mistress. Later that night, we toasted Shannon's birthday at Le Procope, where Hugo and other scribes once dined. Despite the standoffish service, we refrained from behaving like former patron Oscar Wilde, who banged his walking stick on the table to attract a waiter's attention.

Since closing the final chapter on our literary labor of love, my book-stuffed suitcase continues to stand at the ready for more adventure. Just like the eager 10-year-old in me who always begged the librarian to take home "just one more book," I will forever be angling for my next literary fix. Back then, mere words were enough to transport me, but these days, traveling off the page is the way I prefer to see the world.

When not taking to the road, travel writer Joni Rendon resides in her adopted home city of London. The literary travel guide Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West is her first book, written in collaboration with longtime friend and fellow travel writer Shannon McKenna Schmidt.

 

Blame it all on Jane Austen. From the moment I gazed reverentially upon the three-legged writing table at which she pondered truths universally acknowledged and penned masterpieces like Persuasion, I became an unabashed literary voyeur. Standing in the modest red-brick cottage, I felt my pulse race and my skin prickle at the visceral sensation of […]
Behind the Book by

For mythological heroes “the call” comes as they are just entering manhood. I was rushing toward my 60s and trying to re-direct my life after 30 years in book publishing had hit a dry patch, a dry patch the size of the Sahara Desert. Maybe the Kalahari. I don’t want you to think I’m prone to exaggeration. In my rearview mirror, I’d been a vice president at Random House, the publisher of William Morrow, and established my own literary agency, Max & Co. In front of me were roughly sewn-together jobs as a tour guide, a concierge, ghost writer, barely a literary agent, receiving a few paltry royalty checks while failing to sell any new book projects. All of these piecemeal jobs, really gigs, were not so much to keep me afloat as to drown at a more leisurely pace.

“The call” usually comes in the form of a burning bush, or at least in the middle of the night. Mine was an email. On a Tuesday. The Norton sales department wanted an update of Eating New Orleans, a restaurant guide written by Pableaux Johnson in 2005. He didn’t want to do it. Ann Treistman, a senior editor at Norton and a former editor at Morrow (maybe she was an associate editor back then—I don’t want you to think I’m prone to exaggeration), (A) knew my love for New Orleans, (B) knew I could write. As an agent I’d sold her a book where we both learned my author couldn’t deliver a full manuscript so I jumped in. And (C) it wasn’t hard to detect my love of food. I tell people I’m the same size as LeBron James, just a foot shorter.

"At the time of Katrina, there were 809 restaurants in New Orleans. At the time I’m writing, there are 1,389. No other city has experienced this explosive growth of restaurants over the past eight years. I think no other city is so food obsessed that they actually count their restaurants each week."

I was pleased to read her email request, excited about the idea of getting an advance to drown at an even less hectic pace, but uncertain. Does the world need another book about New Orleans and food? I went to Amazon.com, brought up the books category, typed in “New Orleans food” and stared at 1,544 entries. Would there be anyone left to read my 1,545th entry? Then, I typed in “vampires” and saw 35,604 entries. Maybe.

My bigger concern was not if there was a market, but who am I to write a food book in this city of so many superior chefs, restaurants and critics? I hardly have the pedigree of an official foodie. I grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s and ’60s, raised on Shake ’n Bake and Chicken in a Biscuit.

On the one hand, a hand filled with vainglory, I felt “destined” to write this book. I first came to New Orleans in May of ’83 to work with an author, and by day two, I knew I was home. At first, (The Hook) was the physical beauty of New Orleans, all the cracked plaster and balconies ”sagging like rotting lace” (I steal that from Walker Percy). New Orleans looks like nowhere else in America. The second wave (The Line) was the people. People here are remarkably friendly and will bring you in on a very deep level very quickly. The third and love-you-forever wave (And Sinker) is New Orleans’ cray-cray history, filled with bizarre events and twisted stories. I tell anyone who will listen, “New Orleans is as far as you can get from America, and still be in it.”

Through a few traded emails, my editor, Ann, and I decided a mere update of Eating New Orleans wouldn’t do well in the current market. With Urbanspoon, Trip Advisor and Yelp, there’s no longer a need for a book that describes restaurants. We decided the new book, Eat Dat New Orleans, would be built around stories. And that perfectly fits New Orleans where everyone has a story to tell, and they’re really good at telling them.

In profiles for restaurants like Galatoire’s, Eat Dat would be light on its history since 1905 and its signature dishes like Crab Maison and Trout Almandine, and instead focus on waiter John Fontenot, who’s been serving food, drink and a steady diet of cornball Cajun jokes since shortly after the Earth cooled. John would ask diners at what level of bawdiness (1 to 10) they would like their jokes during dinner. I’d write about the time Charles De Gaulle visited New Orleans. When he tried to call for reservations and was told Galatoire’s did not accept reservations, the French president complained. “Do you know WHO I am?” They replied “Why yes, Mr. President. But, do you know WHERE you’re calling?”

The next big hurdle, and it was a major one, was to decide which restaurants to include and which to leave out. At the time of Katrina, there were 809 restaurants in New Orleans. At the time I’m writing, there are 1,389. No other city has experienced this explosive growth of restaurants over the past eight years. I think no other city is so food obsessed that they actually count their restaurants each week.

To include all restaurants would require a book the size of the old two-volume Oxford English Dictionary. I decided to stay within the city limits. Choosing the final list would test my integrity. What to do about Acme Oyster House, Cafe du Monde and Mother’s? These are far and away the most popular spots for tourists, recommended by every cab driver and tour salesperson huddled in a kiosk booth. But for most of us living here, they are no better than a local version of Applebee’s or T.G.I. Friday’s. They feel about as must-do as going to Vegas to hear Wayne Newton sing "Danke Schoen" one more time. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Acme and Mother’s, it’s that we can do so much better. A simple rule in New Orleans is that if you see a line waiting to be fed, don’t go.

I signed my book contract in mid-May. My manuscript was due September 15th. Forget about an intense writing schedule, that’s a whole lot of eating in a very short time. And this was New Orleans’ eating. Here we offer Praline Bacon at Elizabeth’s, Maple Bacon donuts at Blue Dot Donuts, Buckboard Bacon Melt at Cochon Butcher, Quail stuffed with Boudin, wrapped in Bacon at Atchafalaya, Bacon, duck and jalapeno poppers at Borgne, the Oysters Slessinger, grilled with Bacon, shrimp and Provel cheese at Katie’s, and for dessert, Praline Ice Cream with Bacon at Green Goddess. By the end of writing my first draft, I had gained 12 pounds and looked like a bearded Shelley Winters impersonator, or as I think they prefer to be called, Shelley Winters “tribute artists.”

My four-month journey through our culinary landscape also introduced me to many new favorite restaurants like Maurepas, Casa Borrega and Killer Poboys, renewed my vows to love and honor older restaurants where I’d eaten long before there was a book contract, and reminded me, in so many ways, why I love New Orleans.

Food here is not nutrition, it’s a lifestyle. It’s an art.

Having accepted “the call,” I am now in “the yelling” phase. My book is on the shelves. I’m doing all the usual things to let readers know it’s there: four bookstore signings, two panel discussions, annoying email blasts, shoutouts to meetup groups, an author page on Amazon and a Facebook page for the book. I was thrilled to get over 170 Facebook "likes" on Eat Dat’s first day. But then I saw that Jesus Christ had more than 12 million likes. The Beatles have more than 38 million. (John Lennon was right.) And Justin Bieber has 63 million. Competing with 1,544 other books about New Orleans food seems a lot less daunting than competing with Justin Bieber’s likes.

Michael Murphy, a book publishing professional, has been a vice president at Random House, publisher of William Morrow, and founder of the literary agency Max & Co. By day two of his first visit to New Orleans in 1983, he knew he was home. He finally moved to New Orleans in 2009 and will never leave.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of this book.

For mythological heroes “the call” comes as they are just entering manhood. I was rushing toward my 60s and trying to re-direct my life after 30 years in book publishing had hit a dry patch, a dry patch the size of the Sahara Desert . . . “The call” usually comes in the form of a burning bush, or at least in the middle of the night. Mine was an email. On a Tuesday.
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Anchors aweigh! Have you ever wanted to chuck out all bills, meetings, deadlines, traffic and try a more rewarding lifestyle? One California couple, Eva and Ron Stob, had the courage to do just that, and they’ve written a guidebook for other dreamers who want to follow in their wake. Honey, Let’s Get a Boat . . . explains how the Stobs managed to quit their jobs, put their house up for rent, buy a boat and take off on a year-long cruise through America’s Intracoastal Waterway. "Many people talk about following their dreams, and don’t," the Stobs write. "We were intent on putting our Nikes on and doing it." With almost no boating experience between them, the couple spent more than a year learning everything they would need to know to purchase and pilot a suitable boat. When they found a 40-foot trawler (which they christened Dream O’ Genie), they borrowed money, cashed in their savings accounts, sold their truck and were off on a great adventure. Their 6,300-mile route on the Great Loop took them from Florida to New York, Canada, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and finally through the Gulf of Mexico back to Florida. The Stobs’ entertaining and honest account of this remarkable trip will leave you laughing, doubting, cheering and perhaps inspired to try such a journey yourself.

Anchors aweigh! Have you ever wanted to chuck out all bills, meetings, deadlines, traffic and try a more rewarding lifestyle? One California couple, Eva and Ron Stob, had the courage to do just that, and they’ve written a guidebook for other dreamers who want to follow in their wake. Honey, Let’s Get a Boat . […]
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ust as every school child in America knows who Columbus was, anyone in China with an elementary education knows the name Hsuan Tsang. A monk, Hsuan Tsang set out for India in 629 to search for the truth, returning 17 years later with original texts that he studied and translated to help Buddhism become the dominant religion in the world’s most populous nation.

Ultimate Journey takes the reader on two trips 1,500 years apart over largely the same route: the perilous trek of the ancient monk and the unpredictable travel of the modern journalist. Along the way, author Richard Bernstein seamlessly combines the lifelines of Buddha, Hsuan Tsang and his own. In so doing, he skillfully synthesizes religion, travel, history, geography, archaeology and even modern politics.

The memory of Hsuan Tsang is celebrated today by Buddhists worldwide for his journey of almost 5,000 miles to India on foot, horse, camel and elephant to amass hundreds of original Indian scriptures that he felt were needed to authenticate Buddhism as it underwent different interpretations and developed competing schools in China. While not a Buddhist, Bernstein is awed by the religion started 2,500 years ago by Siddartha Gautama, an Indian prince who became the Buddha ( Enlightened One ) by preaching that life is suffering, suffering can be eliminated by renouncing desire, and the way to salvation is through eight principles of behavior, including the practice of right intent, right action and right concentration. Of course, there’s a lot more to Buddhism than that, and Bernstein’s discussion of the religion is as intelligible a treatment as non-adherents could hope to read.

Bernstein shares insights into the lives and minds of villagers along the route. At the time President Clinton was enmeshed in revelations of embarrassing Oval Office activities, Bernstein was in a remote village. When he told a curious group where he lived, a native finger-traced the word Amirica on the dusty fender of a jeep. Right away, someone added the words Monika and MikelJordan. A New York Times book critic, Bernstein cannot, as a matter of conflict of interest, review Ultimate Journey. If he could, he would be justified in giving it a high mark. Alan Prince, a former newspaper travel editor, lives in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

ust as every school child in America knows who Columbus was, anyone in China with an elementary education knows the name Hsuan Tsang. A monk, Hsuan Tsang set out for India in 629 to search for the truth, returning 17 years later with original texts that he studied and translated to help Buddhism become the […]

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