COVID Newsletter #3
Greetings from Three Lives & Company!
Has it really been almost two weeks since we checked in? Time flows strangely without the rhythms of the bookstore to guide us: opening the doors in the morning, the steady stream of book-lovers passing through, the conversations over the back counter, the evening twinkle of streetlights against the shiny new jackets in our window.
New rhythms have taken root, our work-from-home routines: calling customers, processing orders, writing email recommendations, and mailing gift certificates - and breaking up the work time with home-cooked meals and neighborhood walks. We have processed hundreds of orders via our online form, and each one feels like a gift from the most dedicated and thoughtful clientele we could ever wish for. We will keep saying it week after week: thank you, thank you for making the choice to get your books from us.
And those books have run the gamut: you have ordered brand-new titles and classics, staff favorites, mysteries and memoirs, picture books and poetry, bestsellers and some pretty obscure stuff. What will be hot in April? Start with new titles from Anne Tyler (Redhead by the Side of the Road, Knopf), Mieko Kawakami (a Toby favorite: Breasts and Eggs, Europa Editions), and Elizabeth Wetmore (Valentine, Harper), as well as fresh paperback editions from Madeline Miller (Circe, Back Bay), Ali Smith (Spring, Anchor), and Julia Phillips (Disappearing Earth, Vintage).
This week we have more updates from the crew - what we are reading, watching, baking, listening to - but first, some updates from you. We asked for your COVID-19 reads and hobbies, and we have excerpted a few of your responses below. Additionally, and very apropos of the times, we have TroyÕs first Cookbook Corner column of the year to help make home life a little more exciting. Read on!
~ News from You ~
In our last newsletter, we asked for the books you are reading and the ways you are filling your time during New YorkÕs shutdown. Here are a few of your responses.
I just finished reading Colin ThubronÕs fascinating book In Siberia. He ended it in the port city of Magadan. Yesterday I took an online trip to Magadan using Google Earth Street View and sketched a view looking down to the ice-filled harbor. – Neil
What IÕve been reading while on Ņstay at homeÓ: Lucky Per by Henrik Pontoppidan: phenomenal novel. A masterpiece, actually. I had read about it in the New Yorker when they reviewed it last yearÉ loved. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: really well-written and an interesting part of history with parallels about divided societies. Normal People by Sally Rooney: started it yesterday and will finish tonight. A good read. Next up? Letters of E.B. White and Raynor WinnÕs The Salt Path. – Brenda
IÕm reading Robert StoneÕs The Eye You See With: Selected Nonfiction, purchased at the store, and Madison Smartt BellÕs Stone biography Child of Light, purchased at BookHampton in Southampton. Despite the plethora of material in those volumes, and my taking Inferno from the shelf here this morning, I am a little curious about some other titles, or am giving in to my consumerist urge and wanting to put some money into my favorite bookstore. I look forward to shopping in person, and until then, to your email reports. Stay safe, stay sane, keep eating, and drink in moderation or to occasional excess as necessary. – Robert
We (my husband and our cat Kafka Barack) are now at our house on the Cape. We just finished our first week of quarantine, but have been able to walk on the beach, and feed the many birds in our backyard, including wild turkeys. While I am grateful to be here, it was very hard to leave our city. I brought my two bags of books with me that I accumulated in the last days of your being open. I am reading a great deal, and will soon be in touch with requests. – Elisa
IÕm reading War and Peace with A Public SpaceÕs #TolstoyTogether online group that Yiyun Li is leading. IÕm also reading In The Company of Men by Adrienne Miller. Just trying to stay sane and healthy amidst a cloud of uncertainty. – Ben
~ News from Us ~
I am continuing my daily walks to Fort Tryon Park (and am happy to see more tulips and bold squirrels – one was even nibbling on a visitorÕs pant leg!) and travelingÉ from the comfort of my apartment! 4K Relaxation Channel on YouTube offers birdÕs-eye-view videos of places all over the world (Ireland, Iceland, Lithuania, Africa, etc.). When IÕm not flying over the North Cascades, I have been reading, most recently Catherine LaceyÕs stunning upcoming novel Pew (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and Teaching the Trees (University of Georgia Press), a book of natural history essays by biologist Joan Maloof. – Nora
As a big fan of James McBrideÕs Good Lord Bird, I have started the authorÕs latest novel, Deacon King Kong (Riverhead). It promises to be another raucous, big-hearted romp, stuffed with shaggy-dog tales and ebullient Americana, set in a microcosmic Brooklyn housing project in the late 1960s. I have also been indulging in the most feel-good television imaginable: NetflixÕs HyoriÕs Bed & Breakfast, a reality show about a former Korean pop star inviting strangers to stay in her secluded home on beautiful Jeju Island. There is almost zero conflict. (I admit it: this is, in fact, a rewatch.) – Ryan
It has taken me a while to find my reading groove (I count at least three books attempted and discarded), but finally!, something has clicked: The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black (Picador), the pen name of novelist John Banville. The second in BlackÕs series starring the Dublin pathologist Quirke (Christine Falls is the first), The Silver Swan has Quirke again poking his nose into a case he knows he should leave alone. The body of local beautician Deidre Hunt has been fished out of the water (suicide? accident? foul play?), and Quirke is soon following leads and suspecting that his estranged daughter may be more involved than he would like. If you are more in a watching mood (but still want your mystery fix), my partner and I have been devouring the television series C.B. Strike, based on Robert GalbraithÕs novels. Seven hours of blissful, suspenseful escapeÉ now if only they would broadcast the next season! – Miriam
Postcard from Park Slope: one day blending into the next. Not unpleasant, just odd. Re-reading from my shelf circa 1974: Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (Penguin). Feels right for this moment. Ozark, season 3 is chilling and so darkly satisfying. Just added Susannah McCorkle (remember her?) to my playlist – what a gorgeous voice. New skill acquired: plastering the water-damaged bedroom wall. Life goes on! Missing you all. – Joyce
I picked up Letters of a Woman Homesteader (Mariner) a few months ago in a used bookshop, simply because of its intriguing title, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it these past few days. In it, Elinore Pruitt, a young widow who moved out west in 1909 to try her hand at homesteading, chronicles her life on the frontier. Her letters are warm, witty, and a welcome escape to another world. – Ruby
Now that I am restraining myself from near-constant news-refreshing, I have found some time for reading. (I still have to work on easing the all-day lockdown snacking.) I finished Breasts and Eggs, the novel by Mieko Kawakami and translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd (Europa Editions), and found the author a refreshing voice offering a rich and original portrait of contemporary Japanese women. After reading an appreciation of Don DeLillo by an old colleague, Gerry Howard, in the latest issue of BookForum, I decided to pick up White Noise (Penguin) – what a book for these times! DeLilloÕs depiction of mid-eighties America through the blended Gladney family felt, at first, like vaguely archaeological reading, but his rollicking and often funny commentary of exuberant mass culture and disillusionment blossomed in the context of our coronavirus pandemic crisis that is brutally exposing this countryÕs vast social inequities. – Toby
Recently I finished Kate Elizabeth RussellÕs My Dark Vanessa (William Morrow), a really fast read. I quite liked it, although I wish there were a couple more chapters! Now I am reading Anna K by Jenny Lee (Flatiron) – a young adult retelling of Anna Karenina about Upper East Side teenagers – and despite the Gossip Girl vibe, it is a fun retelling of a popular (and daunting?) classic. Next will be to finally finish Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami (Europa Editions). Another way IÕve been passing the time is by baking! I made my famous chocolate chip cookies and upped the flavor by browning the butter, and also baked lots of muffins: banana nut with chocolate chips and blueberry oatmeal with a streusel topping. Lastly, I have been making sure to journal daily, putting my thoughts or worries or whatever down on the page so they are not overwhelming me. – Tatiana
Proving that an overflowing and unrealistic bedside heap of books is worth keeping, I pulled a book from the middle of a stack that I have been wanting to read since last summer: Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury by Sigrid Nunez (Soft Skull). Virginia and Leonard Woolf, the Bloomsbury group, MonkÕs House and 52 Tavistock Square: Nunez drops the reader right into their lives as they go about their writing, running Hogarth Press, gardening, socializing with friends and family, all while taking care of Mitz, a friendÕs monkey. Mitz is a pure pleasure to read, illuminating and often funny. It is the kind of book about which I keep saying, ŅJust three more pages, okay, three more.Ó Someday, when I finally visit MonkÕs House in Sussex, I will most certainly think of Mitz and the impact she had on the Woolfs. – Troy
~ TroyÕs Cookbook Corner ~
What kinds of cookbooks do we need now? It is tempting to say: just give me what is practical, doable, and easy – but there is room for more. Why not a cookbook that will teach? Tell a story? Take us on a journey and inspire us to dream, so that we can make something delicious while nourishing ourselves and our families? The spring cookbooks have arrived and these are the ones IÕm most excited to share with you, and to cook from myself!
Modern Country Cooking: Kitchen Skills and Seasonal Recipes from Salt Water Farm (on sale April 21)
Annemarie Ahearn has been teaching at her cooking school, Salt Water Farm in Lincolnville, Maine, for over a decade, and this is her second cookbook. Part cooking class, Modern Country Cooking is organized by month, taking us through the seasons in Maine: asparagus soup, blueberry buckwheat pancakes, a Maine Coast bouillabaisse, and a bread recipe that even I can do (olive, lemon, and herb focaccia). AhearnÕs philosophy in the kitchen is helpful in these times: ŅThere is no need for discouragement or disappointment in a home kitchen. There is always another path to feeling satisfied and accomplished with the meal you lay down on the table. Indulge your sense of culinary exploration and find comfort in the forgiving nature of home cooking.Ó (Roost Books)
Dimes Times: Emotional Eating
Alissa Wagner and Sabrina de Sousa
This is not a conventional cookbook – it is rather artful and true to the spirit and vibe that Dimes has fostered on the Lower East Side. Dimes started as a wedge of a restaurant on Canal Street, with colorful tables and distinct flavors and dishes. In my mind, I have thought of them as our East Coast Sqirl. This is a cookbook to have fun with, to help you discover new ingredients and new combinations, and one that will (as the authors put it) give you a Ņdreamy and organic approach to cooking.Ó You will be making delicious smoothies, sweet porridge, cornbread (a Dimes-y version of the one once made at Angelica Kitchen), and with its ŅHandy Dandy Fish ChartÓ you will be broiling, poaching, baking, and sautˇing all types of fish with a new freewheeling confidence. Best of all, the Dimes Hot Sauce recipe is in this book! We may not be able to visit the Dimes Market, but we do not have to go without its hot sauce. It will make your breakfast tacos or scrambled eggs sing with joy. (Karma)
Falastin (on sale July 14)
Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley
This is a cookbook about Palestinian food – its history, future, produce, people and voices. For all the Ottolenghi fans out there, the arrival of this cookbook is reason to rejoice, for it continues the great journey of cooking that started with Plenty and proceeded through Jerusalem and Plenty More. Tamimi and Wigley have set out to give us recipes that are practical and doable for the home cook. They give us their definitive recipe for hummus (yes: warm, creamy hummus, at home!), spicy roasted new potatoes with lemon and herbs (late spring!), prawn and tomato stew with cilantro pesto (summer!) - oh, and Tamimi shares his fatherÕs easy zaÕatar eggs (a game changer!). ŅOur hope with the recipes is that they will bring you lots of great meals, good times, and a strong connection with Palestinian cooking. Our hope with the stories is that they make you want to find out more, talk more, question more, ask more.Ó Certainly this is what we hope happens, even just a little, every time we sit down at the table. (Ten Speed)
Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France
Melissa ClarkÕs most personal cookbook yet, I think. Every summer when she was a child, her family decamped to a different region in France. Practical and dreamy for sure, this is ClarkÕs love letter to the nation, and the photographs capture the beauty of its unmistakable Parisian style. Shaved zucchini and melon salad with mint and almonds... just try not to drift off to summer and better days! Dinner In French inspires me to dream of walking through the outdoor markets in Paris. Yes, I would quite happily settle for a sit in Central Park with a warm croissant, and I long for a visit to the farmersÕ market sans mask and trepidation. But until those better days, we have MelissaÕs new cookbook to entertain, guide, and inspire us to bring French cooking into all of our homes. (Clarkson Potter)
Always Home: A DaughterÕs Recipes and Stories
Anyone who knows me also knows my great affection for all things Chez Panisse, and how much I treasure the cookbooks Chez Panisse Fruit and Vegetables. So you can only imagine how excited I am to read Fanny SingerÕs new book. Singer is the daughter of Alice Waters, and this is an intimate portrait of their lives – spent largely in Berkeley, California, inside Chez Panisse on Shattuck Avenue. Alice Waters puts it perfectly in her introduction: ŅThis is FannyÕs story, distinctly and utterly her own. And itÕs a story about our family, and our larger Chez Panisse family, La Famille Panisse. But I think itÕs also a story about the universal power of real food - how it knits us together, and how deeply our lives and relationships can be enriched by the ways in which we nourish ourselves.Ó It is a book for the current time, in which we are all thinking very deeply about family and what defines our homes. (Knopf)
Lastly, do me a favor and pull your copy of Samin NosratÕs Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering The Elements of Good Cooking (Simon & Schuster) from your shelf, for it will serve you very well during these times. It is SaminÕs mission to teach us the knowledge that allows us to not be beholden to recipes – to cook with our senses and instincts. And while you are chopping, squeezing, peeling, and stirring, I leave you with the gift of SaminÕs podcast, Home Cooking. Good company, great instruction, and lots of laughter.