must reads: spring 2014

We are painfully overdue for a Must Reads, aren’t we? If I’m honest, it’s because the last few books I’ve read haven’t done much for me (and in some cases have been downright infuriating. Did anyone else read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle?!). But I’m pleased to tell you that I’m back on a literary high streak – a few of my favorites this month: spring 2014 books

must-reads-spring-2014, best spring books, best 2014 books, book reviews, book picks

To eat: I saw Suzanne Goin’s recipe for Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce in the NY Times not long ago, and knew I had to make it for dinner that night. After wiping the last bit of sauce from my chin, I ordered The AOC Cookbook immediately. The recipe was simple and straightforward, but the flavors were complex and utterly unlike anything I’d cooked (or eaten) before. My biggest problem now is deciding what to make next: the Frozen Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie with Gingersnap Crust or the Pork Cheeks with Cavolo Nero (kale) and Polenta. This is one of those read-like-a-novel cookbooks, so prepare to settle in. And if I haven’t convinced you yet, let me say this: there is a 57-page cheese glossary in the back. Suzanne and I are soulmates, I think. | The AOC Cookbook, by Suzanne Goin (Knopf)

To ogle: I thought by now I’d have all the Paris out of my system. But this book of Paris Postcards arrived, and I found myself on Kayak pricing tickets, like I’d been hypnotized by some Paris spell (I blame the sparkly lights on the Eiffel Tower). Jason Brooks does the most wonderful job of capturing the city (see eg, Paris Sketchbook)…each drawing is so quintessentially Paris, but still original – he focuses on capturing moments, rather than sights. Obviously, I can’t go back (yet). But I can flip through this book over and over again, consider framing a quartet of them, and send the rest to my friends. Maybe I can incite a 2015 girls’ trip to the City of Lights! | Paris Postcards, by Jason Brooks (Laurence King)

To read obsessively: McSweeney’s authors never fail to deliver on shock value – with Dave Eggers at the helm, it’s no wonder. But The Parallel Apartments (Bill Cotter) is a jaw-dropper even from them. I can’t even begin to describe this one, except to say this: Read the first line. Maybe the first two pages. You’ll either be completely sucked in, or completely repulsed. I was the former. But I suspect even if you’re the latter, you’ll be thinking about those two pages for a few days, at least…which is what a really good book is supposed to do, isn’t it? | The Parallel Apartments, by Bill Cotter (McSweeney’s)

To read a few pages at a time: Two Serious Ladies is not new. In fact, it’s practically a “modern classic” (or so says Tennessee Williams on the cover), but it was just re-released in paperback by Ecco, with a new introduction by Claire Messud, who is one of my favorite modern authors (don’t read her intro until the end, though…spoilers galore). Published in 1943, it is the only novel by Jane Bowles, a literary mystery figure you’ve probably never heard of (but worth Googling if you’re into lit history lore). Two Serious Ladies is…well, it’s a portrait of oddities. Oddball women being oddballs, doing and saying things you can’t quite believe are happening. You want to give up on these women, but – like Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina before them – they sneak up on you, and you find yourself sympathizing with the crazy. It’s a light, easy read with plenty of zingy one-liners to repeat to your significant other when the moment strikes. | Two Serious Ladies, by Jane Bowles (Ecco)

What are you reading, friends? I’d love some recommendations!

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5 comments on “must reads: spring 2014

  1. Elena

    Have you read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt? I saw she was awarded the Pulitzer for fiction and from the books I’ve already read (The Secret History and then her sophomore effort) it was well deserved. That woman is to the English language what Cesar Milian is to pitbulls. Even the most horrifying scenes are written with the most beautifully phenomenal words.

  2. Vanessa

    My absolute favorite this year has been A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Besides that I’ve also really enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, TransAtlantic by Colum McCann and Going Clear by Lawrence Wright (ok, “enjoy” might not be the best word for Going Clear but it was definitely interesting). If you haven’t, you should read The Fault in Our Stars before the movie comes out (it’ll only take you a day). Next up for me are Life After Life, Thirty Girls and Boy, Snow, Bird but I’ll add The Parallel Apartments to the list!

  3. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    Elena: Ha! I love your description of Donna Tartt’s writing…fantastic. I did read The Goldfinch, and absolutely loved it. Go buy it immediately! I might have to check out her other books now, based on your rec 🙂

    Vanessa: I think I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t like Tale for the Time Being. But it’s possible I didn’t give it enough of a chance. Adding the rest to my list…Life After Life is sitting on my “to read” shelf as we speak.

  4. Vanessa

    I listened to Time Being as an audiobook, and I don’t know if I would have been nearly as charmed by it otherwise. It took me a long time to get into it, but by the time it got to the part with her grandmother it was hilarious to hear the nun’s chants read out loud. Lately I’ve found myself seeking out fiction that I find endearing – I think it must be a reaction to reading all of Gillian Flynn’s novels in a row. The Ocean at the End of the Lane fell squarely into that category (it reminded me of a grown-up version of Roahl Dahl’s The Witches) as did Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child.

    On the other hand, I started The Good Lord Bird (which I have only heard other people RAVE about) and found it so utterly boring that I gave up less than a quarter of the way through. Taste is such a funny thing, you know?

  5. Shopping's My Cardio

    V: Totally agree – I think we all need a little more endearing in our lives. That’s why I always love anything Isabel Allende writes – she puts just enough of that “magic something” into her novels to keep you feeling like you’ve wandered into a world where anything is possible.

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