Greetings from Three Lives & Company!
This time last year we were preparing for one of our oddest holiday seasons ever, with the bookshop limited to a few customers at a time and vaccines still over the horizon for most. We are happy and relieved to say that this December should feel much more normal (if not completely normal quite yet). It has been a long and taxing twelve months, but authors at least are rewarding our perseverance: it has been years since there has been a season filled with as many new titles from top-tier writers as we are seeing now. Everybody seems to have a new book out, and many of them you can read about in our traditional end-of-the-year staff writeups below. We are also including a section from you, our stalwart newsletter-readers, with some of your own favorites of 2021. And rounding out our last missive of the year, we have the update you have all been waiting for: TroyÕs Cookbook Corner, stuffed with great new books on cooking and food.
We know this has been drilled into your brains already, but once more and then we will pipe down: please try to order your holiday books as early as possible. So far we have kept up with demand, and the inventory/supply chain/delivery issues you have heard so much about have not emptied out our shelves. But there is no telling what will happen when the holiday crush really descends, and we want to make sure you get everything you need, so give us a call or send us an email and we will get to work.
In addition to our standard years-in-review, our staff also submitted some of their favorite gift books – titles that have resonated for us over the years. Ryan thinks that Beth Ann FennellyÕs memoir Heating & Cooling, a favorite of many on the Three Lives crew, would be a lovely (and concise!) treat for nonfiction readers. MiriamÕs recent discovery of Wildsam guidebooks has planted the seed of many future holiday and birthday gifts, and Abbeville PressÕs quaint Almanac of New York City for the Year 2022 (which doubles as a daily planner) is perfect for the person in your life who needs to know sunrise time for every day of the year, or when pumpkin-picking in Historic Richmond Town begins. Echoing TobyÕs recommendation below, Miriam also thinks that we will giftwrap many copies of Claire KeeganÕs Small Things Like These, a slim holiday novel of profound impact.
On a slightly different tack, Joyce recommends Cabin Porn, a photographic collection of gorgeous and quaint cabins around the world – because, she says, ŅWho doesnÕt love taking a long walk just to peek into all the windows along the way? Turn the pages and daydream as you covet the lives of others who live so creatively in tiny spaces deep in the middle of nowhere. Guilty pleasure!Ó And if youÕre a fan of beautiful pictures, Sonny LiewÕs stunning graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a favorite of RyanÕs from a few years back, would be a striking (and historically educational) thing to unwrap.
NoraÕs gift picks include two little hardcovers: Amy LeachÕs Everybody Ensemble, an indefinably wide-ranging collection of brief nature essays, and E.B. WhiteÕs classic sketch of our timeless city, Here Is New York. She also has two selections for the poetry reader in your life: Tracy K. SmithÕs Such Color and Michael Kleber-DiggsÕs Worldly Things. Troy recommends a little old and a little new: LiverightÕs beautifully produced Annotated Mrs. Dalloway, with notes by Merve Emre, and Peter HoffmanÕs WhatÕs Good?, a memoir of the chefÕs storied restaurant, Savoy, and the state of food in New York City. And finally, a book that has had front-of-shop placement since its publication in April: Reggie NadelsonÕs Marvelous Manhattan, a collection of pieces about the cityÕs most storied and beloved shops and restaurants. (Reggie acknowledges in her afterword that a New YorkerÕs favorite pastime is arguing, so her selections will surely be a great topic of discussion around the holiday table!)
For gift ideas, we would also invite you to peruse our list of signed editions below – we have had quite a few authors drop in recently, and our stock of signed books is more extensive right now than it has been in a long while. And a related reminder: we are still taking orders for signed and personalized copies of Amor TowlesÕs Lincoln Highway (which we can have ready by Christmas if you order soon), as well as Bill HayesÕs Sweat and Hanya YanagiharaÕs To Paradise, both of which go on sale in January. (We can also order any of these authorsÕ previous titles to be signed.) For the forthcoming books, please send us your request by January 1, so that we have enough time to arrange it with the authors. Happy holidays, and happy reading!
~ Your Recent Favorites ~
Top read of 2021: The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina (Overlook). ItÕs about the ways we grieve and recover. ItÕs about the restorative power of our connection with the people weÕve lost, and the people we find. And above all, it is about the necessity of moving forward with a belief in the promise of the future, however altered that future has become. – Chris
Some faves of the past year include The Promise by Damon Galgut (Europa) – wow! – and A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders (Random House). Some lesser-known delights: The Scapegoat by Sara Davis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; only for those who can tolerate unreliable narrators, shifts in temporality and states of consciousness - a fever dream of a novel!); The Art of Losing by Alice Zenitel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; good old-fashioned historical fiction); How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones (Back Bay; a thriller and much more); and The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures by Jennifer Hoffmann (Little, Brown; superb). For nonfiction, some of the essays in Girlhood by Melissa Febos (Bloomsbury) are eye-opening, even to this old feminist. – Carol
IÕve taken to reading international authors (in translation, of course) who write about characters in places with which I am unfamiliar. Budapest by Chico Buarque (Grove, translated by Alison Entrekin) is wonderful – IÕm sure one of your fabulous readers is familiar with him and this novel. – Joe
I re-read Louisa May AlcottÕs Little Women – I needed some comfort and love. I received it by the ton. – Maria
My best read from 2021 is Red Ants by Josˇ Pergentino (Deep Vellum, translated by Thomas Bunstead), the first work in Zapotec to ever be translated into English. Every piece from this brief collection of short stories is a surprise. I read the book marveling at the dark atmosphere, the lush images, the never-ending quest. – Ludovica
I wanted to put a vote in for a book I recently read that left an enormous impression on me: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Milkweed). It is an incredibly insightful and thoughtful book about the ŅreciprocityÓ that exists within nature, and should better exist between humans and the rest of nature. There is a particularly moving section that focuses on developing a culture of gratitude within this world of commerce and capitalism that I found so timely, in this period after the worst of the pandemic and as we enter the holidays, and as we think about the state of our society. – Bernice
I have spent all year recommending Anthony BourdainÕs Kitchen Confidential (Ecco) to anyone and everyone. It transported me into the depths of the restaurant industry, giving me many chuckles along the way. It made me oh-so-appreciative that after many long months of pandemic carryout, we get to enjoy the experience of indoor restaurant eating again! – Sarah
~ Recent Staff Favorites ~
Another year (almost) gone, and as usual, what surprises me about my reading year isnÕt what I liked or disliked at the time that I picked it up, or how much I read – or how little – but rather what has stuck with me over the past twelve months. Almost as soon as I cracked Hilary MantelÕs Wolf Hall (Picador) as my first book of 2021, I knew I was going to love it, and I did. (Late to the party as usual, I know.) But who could have guessed that Chaney KwakÕs funny, snippy little disaster-travel book The Passenger (Godine) would have made such an impression? Or that Jonathan LeeÕs novel The Great Mistake (Knopf), historical fiction about a man I knew absolutely nothing about – Andrew Haswell Green, shaper of modern New York City – would end up being one of my most consistent recommendations through the summer and fall? Or that the quiet acuity of Katie KitamuraÕs narrator in Intimacies (Riverhead) would burrow into my head so insistently?
And then there are my standbys, the authors IÕve come back to repeatedly over the years, who came through for me yet again in 2021: Paul Theroux (Under the Wave at Waimea, Mariner) and Ruth Ozeki (The Book of Form and Emptiness, Viking). And a late entry: recent Nobel laureate Abdulrazak GurnahÕs Paradise (New Press), which I finished over Thanksgiving. GurnahÕs novel, originally published in the mid-90s, is a small epic of colonial-era East Africa and a satisfying cap to the year. – Ryan
The end of the year inspires reflection, and IÕm thankful for another rich year of reading. Though I came to Dantiel W. MonizÕs Milk Blood Heat (Grove), a pitch-perfect Florida story collection, when summer was in full swing, it has not faded from my mind. The stories thrum with wit, wisdom, and life, exploring family, collective history, and the far-reaching shadow of loss.
Other fiction standouts include Andrew OÕHaganÕs affirming and touching Mayflies (McClelland & Stewart), a story of two lifelong, music-obsessed friends in contemporary Scotland, and Eva BaltasarÕs temperamental Permafrost (And Other Stories, translated by Julia Sanches), a shocking gut-punch – a character study of a dangerously unhappy woman who somehow remains open to love, art, and life even as they disappoint her. Two not-so-new books also deserve a shoutout: Catherine LaceyÕs The Answers (Picador) changed the way I look at love, in all its disappointments, joys, and pain; and Denis JohnsonÕs perfect novella Train Dreams (Picador) is a slim yet electric epic of Robert Grainier, a railroad laborer in the American West, haunted by grief and a changing world.
But top prize goes to nonfiction, as my favorite of the year is George SaundersÕs A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. I opened this book and was rewarded with a funny and insightful ode to reading and writing through the works of the Russian greats (Tolstoy, Gogol, Turgenev, and Chekhov). The experience felt like sitting around with a friend, swapping stories and nerding out over the power of literature. Another highlight: Hanif AbdurraqibÕs autobiographical essay collection Little Devil in America (Random House) dissects and honors Black art and performance with poetic verve and intimate observations.
And for the animal lovers, Mary RoachÕs latest, Fuzz (W.W. Norton), is an uproarious book of essays exploring animal-human encounters around the world, heightened by RoachÕs curiosity, empathy, and passion for preservation. – Nora
Are we already recapping our best-of-the-year reads again?? DidnÕt we just do this?! For nonfiction, I canÕt shake Tove DitlevsenÕs dark, riveting coming-of-age memoir Copenhagen Trilogy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, translated by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman) and Ann PatchettÕs stunning (is she ever not?) recent collection of essays These Precious Days (Harper). My fiction standouts include four very different reads: Mayflies by Andrew OÕHagan (a fiercely alive and moving account of two menÕs friendship over thirty years and their reckoning with mortality); The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal, translated by Jennifer Croft (Bloomsbury; a tense, compact tale of an Argentine man navigating his life going awry professionally and personally); Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; nothing I can say here will add anything new to the Rooney conversation, so just read it); and Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer (Bloomsbury; funny and brilliant short stories that illuminate the domestic lives of women over the past half-century).
And an account of my reading year would not be complete without an expression of gratitude to two deceased authors who have added immense pleasure to my life: Laurie Colwin and John le Carrˇ. I made it my mission of 2021 to work my way through their oeuvres, and I can heartily recommend ColwinÕs Happy All the Time (Vintage) and Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (Harper) and le CarrˇÕs Call for the Dead and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (both Penguin).
I close with a thanks to all of you, who make reading and bookselling such a sustaining and joyful pursuit. A customer (shout-out to Deborah!) recently encouraged me to pick up The Other Language by Francesca Marciano (Vintage), and I am so glad she did. A short story collection that would have passed me by were it not for the dialogue that takes place daily within these four walls. – Miriam
This summer Sam and I took a trip to California and stayed in a house in the wooded hills of Lagunitas – a magical setting of redwoods, deer, and wild blackberry bushes. I arrived with books, but it was a copy of Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren (Imperfect Publishing) on the front table that caught my eye. I read it every morning during our stay, and it has made a lasting impression. ŅThe wabi-sabi state of mind is often communicated through poetry, because poetry lends itself to emotional expression and strong, reverberating images that seem ŌlargerÕ than the small verbal frame that holds them.Ó Wabi-sabi certainly captured the California I was experiencing along the coast and backroads.
An unexpected highlight of my reading year has been Feline Philosophy by John Gray (Picador). Easy to roll oneÕs eyes at this one, but for those of us who have been fortunate enough to share a home with a cat, you know what extraordinary creatures they are. Gray explores the nature of cats, their history, and how we can learn from the way they go about the everyday.
Lastly, All In (Knopf), the autobiography of the great Billie Jean King, is all about the pursuit of meaning and creating a better, more equitable world in which people can be their true selves. When I was a teenager, I had three minutes on the court with Billie Jean, and after we hit a few balls, I ran up to the net to shake her hand, and she gave me one of the biggest compliments of my life: ŅWhen I see Chris Evert next, IÕm going to tell her there is a boy in Dayton, Ohio who plays just like her.Ó The poetry in life: one can plan, but most of the memorable stuff just happens along the way. – Troy
This year I dropped the newspaper and took along a book for subway reading to my early-morning Rockaway wave sessions. It isnÕt easy for this reader to fully engage with a book outside the quiet of home – too much of a bird-brain, head bobbing up and down reacting to any noise or activity – so itÕs been a bit of a revelation to find all this additional reading time on a half-empty subway car.
Before reflecting on 2021, a few books to highlight from recent weeks. Claire Keegan, author of one of my favorite short story collections, Walk the Blue Fields, has a new novella, Small Things Like These (Grove), that showcases her glorious writing in an Irish Christmastime tale. In Ganbare! (Open Letter, translated by Mark Ordon), Polish journalist Katarzyna Boni travels through the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster zones of Japan in the years following the 2011 events and creates an affecting arc from chaos and destruction through grief to some sense of acceptance of lifeÕs precariousness. And the recent publication of Gayl JonesÕs first novel in twenty years (Palmares) had me pick up her heralded 1976 first novel, Corregidora (Beacon Press), the story of Ursa Corregidora, a blues singer in Kentucky, and the profound impact of enslavement through generations. A fierce knockout.
For favorites of the year I return to one of my first books of 2021, The Light of Truth (Penguin Classics), a collection of Ida B. WellsÕs uncompromising frontline reporting from 1883 to 1931 that reveals the broad, brutal extent of lynching/murder in America. I was dazzled by the mind and prose of Hanif Abdurraqib in A Little Devil in America, essays on music, culture, and race. Chang-rae LeeÕs My Year Abroad (Riverhead), a wildly entertaining picaresque, and Secrets of Happiness (Counterpoint), the latest from a favorite novelist, Joan Silber, were other notables. For sheer reading joy and satisfaction, Crazy Sorrow (Simon & Schuster), Vince PassaroÕs rich, ribald novel about Anna and George and our New York City across four decades, was a standout of the year, told with crackling verve and intelligence. – Toby
Sitting down to write this roundup, IÕve just finished W. G. SebaldÕs Rings of Saturn (New Directions). In one scene, SebaldÕs narrator takes shelter from an unexpected sandstorm. Surveying the destruction in the stormÕs wake, Sebald remarks that this, a dust-colored waste, Ņwill be what is left after the earth has ground itself down.Ó This is the world Joy Williams calls forth in Harrow (Knopf), her latest novel, which is the best piece of fiction IÕve read in many years. Williams follows her protagonist, Khristen, from an inauspicious childhood – she may or may not have died, briefly, an experience that may or may not have given her second sight – through an unspoken apocalypse, the death of everything beautiful on the planet. It is a nightmarishly funny farewell to the Anthropocene, with all its myths and madness.
This year I was drawn to books like WilliamsÕs, books that move toward disorder, catastrophe, and failure. There was Olivia ManningÕs Great Fortune (the first part of The Balkan Trilogy, published by New York Review Books), a charmingly civil account of people living on the brink of a horrific war; there was Fyodor DostoevskyÕs The Idiot (Vintage, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky), a violent and outrageous novel about society types going to dinner parties. And there was Justin BealÕs nonfiction Sandfuture (MIT Press), in which public housing and modernist optimism crumble under the weight of neglect, while thin skyscrapers bloom over the new Manhattan.
One book was the exception: a novel about hope and perseverance that still remains unsentimental. In The Bridge of Beyond (New York Review Books, translated by Barbara Bray), Simone Schwarz-Bart gives us the lives of the Lougandors, five generations of Black women in Guadeloupe. Filled with wisdom and grief, Schwarz-BartÕs book becomes Ņa great and mysterious celebration, a silent argument for the continuation of life, in all its forms.Ó I will cherish it for a long time. – Lucas
For someone as full of years as I am, asking this brain to retrieve a yearÕs worth of reading really is a foolÕs errand! Book titles and author names – well, forget that too! Those of you who are lucky enough to be Ņa certain ageÓ (i.e. old) know exactly what IÕm talking about, am I right? Ah, but itÕs the holidays, and lists and best-ofs have become the charming custom of bibliophiles everywhere! So I did give it a go: here are a few things happily well-remembered.
Deesha PhilyawÕs short story collection The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (West Virginia University Press) is exactly what the title suggests, and it jolted me right out of end-of-winter reading doldrums. ItÕs bold, tender, raw, perfectly pitched! Eula Biss is someone IÕve been meaning to read forever, and her new essay collection, Having and Being Had (Riverhead), set me up very comfortably in her head. Reading her was like spending a rainy night at my local wine bar deep in conversation with good friends. She has two other collections, Notes from No ManÕs Land and On Immunity, which will be part of next yearÕs reading for sure.
A large chunk of what I read these days has to do with all things clay/pottery/glazes/color/techniqueÉ but though it is absorbing to me, well, I donÕt want to bore you! So IÕll leave it here and just wish you all the happiest of whatever holidays you choose to celebrate and a peaceful winter season. Oh, and be bold, take a chance, and read whatever strikes your fancy! The real beauty of our little shop is that there are no Ņmust readsÓ here, just shelves and shelves of well-curated books all waiting for just the right person to discover them. – Joyce
~ TroyÕs Cookbook Corner ~
Reading a novel can be an extraordinary experience – a luxury of solitary time in the busyness of our modern world. But I think reading a cookbook is way better. Not only do we get storylines, family history, travel, cultural lessons, an exploration into an unknown world and cuisine, but cookbooks also let us bring recipes to life, sharing them with family and friends.
This fall/winter season has brought a bold and diverse mix of cookbooks with an emphasis on family history, personal narrative, and social awareness. Claudia Roden has been collecting recipes for sixty years and is largely responsible for bringing Mediterranean cooking to the western hemisphere. Now, with Claudia RodenÕs Mediterranean (Ten Speed), Roden gives us stories along with the dishes she loves most and cooks at home. Missy Robbins brings us Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of ItalyÕs Greatest Food, with Recipes (Ten Speed), showing us how to make and cook pasta. I know what IÕll be doing this winter! And then thereÕs Baking with Dorie: Sweet, Salty & Simple (Mariner), the fourteenth cookbook from Dorie Greenspan – so delightful, so smart, ever inspired, and always searching for a better way to make an already-good recipe by asking ŅWhat if?Ó
IÕve never heard Evan Kleiman from KCRWÕs Good Food rave so strongly about a cookbook as she did recently for Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora by Bryant Terry (4 Color Books). ŅThe book which sits on my lap now is jaw-dropping. It's a collection of verse, poems, photographs, paintings, and recipesÉ a rich shared history compiled in 309 of the most powerful pages IÕve read in recent memory.Ó
Like I always do, I invite and encourage you to come to the shop and spend time looking through our shelves at all the many cookbooks, each its own world with its own point of view, waiting for you to bring it home and learn to make a new kind of dish. Take a culinary journey with many hours of discovery, peace, pleasure, satisfaction and the thrill of making something new and delicious for others.
These are the new cookbooks that have caught my eye, with standout
recipes from each. I look forward to greeting you at the bookshop, hearing your
stories, and seeing what intrigues and speaks to you
Burnt Toast and Other Disasters: A Book of Heroic Hacks, Fabulous Fixes, and Secret Sauces by Cal Peternell (William Morrow Cookbooks)
Recipe: Nachos! Need I say more?
Mumbai Modern: Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by Indian Roots and California Cuisine by Amisha Dodhia Gurbani (Countryman)
Squash Blossom Tacos; Carrot, Pineapple, and Candied Ginger Muffins
Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love: Recipes to Unlock the Secrets of Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi (Clarkson Potter)
Recipe: NoorÕs ode to the Ņcreamiest dreamiest hummus that ever did existÓ
The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's Kitchen by Joanne Lee Molinaro (Avery)
Recipe: A new understanding and way of making kimchi with Joanne's vegan Ņfishy sauceÓ
Baking with Dorie: Sweet, Salty & Simple by Dorie Greenspan (Mariner)
Recipes: Miso-Maple Loaf and her Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies that are ever-changing with interesting additions
That Sounds So Good: 100 Real-Life Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Carla Lalli Music (Clarkson Potter)
Recipe: Double Roasted Winter Squash with Ginger Chile Brown Butter
Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora by Bryant Terry (4 Color Books)
Coconut-Curry Harvest Soup and Peach Hand Pies
Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple: A New Way to Bake Gluten-Free by Aran Goyoaga (Sasquatch)
Recipes: Lemon Curd and Honey Celebration Cake
Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of ItalyÕs Greatest Food, with Recipes by Missy Robbins and Talia Baiocchi (Ten Speed)
Ricotta Gnocchi with Broccoli Pesto, Basil, and Pistachios
Claudia RodenÕs Mediterranean: Treasured Recipes from a Lifetime of Travel by Claudia Roden (Ten Speed)
Recipes: Bullinada (fish soup) and a Lemon Tart inspired by a tarte au citron at a p‰tisserie on the Rue de Bourgogne around the corner from RodenÕs Paris studio
~ Signed Editions ~
Awake by Mags Deroma (Roaring Brook)
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Matrix by Lauren Groff (Riverhead)
Darling Baby by Maira Kalman (Little, Brown)
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Grove)
What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez (Riverhead)
Crazy Sorrow by Vince Passaro (Simon & Schuster)
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf)
Oh William! By Elizabeth Strout (Random House)
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking)
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Viking)
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Penguin)
Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer (Bloomsbury)
The Art of Walking Manhattan Sideways by Betsy Bober Polivy and Gabriella Sanchez (Polivision)
Little Pieces of Hope by Todd Doughty with illustrations by Josie Portillo (Penguin Life)
WhatÕs Good? by Peter Hoffman (Abrams)
The Other Talk by Brendan Kiely (Atheneum)
That Sounds So Good by Carla Lalli Music (Clarkson Potter)
Marvelous Manhattan by Reggie Nadelson (Artisan)
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (Harper)
Burnt Toast and Other Disasters by Cal Peternell (William Morrow)
Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell (William Morrow)
Graceland, At Last by Margaret Renkl (Milkweed)
Let the Record Show by Sarah Schulman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria (W.W. Norton)
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Knopf)
~ The Three Lives & Company Bestseller List ~
1. Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart (Random House)
2. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Viking)
3. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
4. Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King (Grove)
5. Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
6. Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri (Riverhead)
7. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Washington Square)
8. Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)
9. Taste by Stanley Tucci (Gallery)
10. Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Grove)