It’s finally getting hot out there. With summer on the horizon (seriously, it’s so close), thoughts turn to our fave summer destinations, exciting cities with chic restaurants, hot clubs and maybe even cool waters. Let this week’s book club take you from Brooklyn to Barcelona, from the back kitchen to the bar to the beach.
1. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler ($15): There’s a common piece of dating advice: Your date is only as nice a person as he/she is to the waiter. Wait staff and the food service industry make up a huge part of the economy, and we’re fascinated by what’s going on behind the scenes (or maybe we don’t really want to know). The buzz surrounding this debut novel is extreme; word has it that Danler, an MFA grad working as a waitress, successfully pitched her coming-of-age waitress story to an editor sitting in her section (Best. Tip. EVER).
Sweetbitter tells the story of Tess, a young woman from the Midwest who moves to the big city and finds work waiting tables at a very strictly stratified restaurant in Union Square. She navigates the bizarre rules of conduct, drugs and inevitable relationship drama and, oh, the strange customers. Tess develops a more sophisticated palate for food and life in general, as the restaurant stands in for her experience of the world.
Lovers of The Food Network rejoice; nibbles are lovingly described in a sensual way — “the caressing sting of food that’s alive” — that might make you reach for a menu. Just remember to be kind to your server.
2. Brooklyn Bartender: A Modern Guide to Cocktails and Spirits by Carey Jones ($15): After following Tess to her apartment in Williamsburg for all the gossip, you’ll probably need a drink or two. Or maybe you’re celebrating a special occasion this summer… like, y’know, Tuesday. Carey Jones, former editor of Serious Eats, takes a tour through the wilds of Brooklyn speakeasies and social clubs to bring you a book about that most enticing of libations: the cocktail.
The word “Brooklyn” may put images of angry hipsters into your head, but the book itself is pretense-free. You don’t have to grow a moustache, don suspenders or participate in an artisanal fair-trade sneaker experience to enjoy it. You just need to enjoy a good story and a good drink (or just reading about a good drink). In fact, Jones focuses on the bars that embody the most important part of Brooklyn spirit: fun and comfort.
The book features more than 300 recipes sorted by spirit type for easy searching, but the recipes are interwoven with interviews and stories, alongside profiles of 25 of Brooklyn’s hottest spots and coolest cocktails. Coverage includes the classics (with a few twists) and modern creations, old standbys and drinks involving unusual ingredients. Ingredient lists are easy to follow and land nicely between “gin straight from the bottle” and “we need a new shelf.” You’ll pretty much be able to run your own pub trivia night with this one.
3. This Too Shall Pass: A Novel by Milena Busquets ($17): Next, whip up a sparkling Sangria or a Barcelona Fizz and plunge into this short novel from one of Spain’s hottest new writers. This Too Shall Pass is a love letter steeped in grief, addressed to a lost mother and spoken via internal monologue.
“For some strange reason, I never considered what it would be like to be forty… and yet here I am. It’s my mother’s funeral, and if that’s not bad enough, I’m forty.” When Blanca, a 40-year-old divorcee with two sons, is orphaned after the death of her mother, she retires to her birthplace of Cadequés, a beach town outside of Barcelona. The return to her childhood home in order to reflect results in her repairing some old connections, including two ex-husbands, two best friends and a married lover. “The problem with families of choice is that they disappear more easily than the blood ones,” Blanca muses.
Just as Sweetbitter features impossibly delicious descriptions of food, This Too Shall Pass gives us beautiful descriptions of the Spanish coast. The book was a megahit in Europe and is only now crossing the pond to North America. The French versions of Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire call it “the book of the summer,” “luminous and profound” and “a pure concentrate of emotion and intelligence.” Read it on the beach.
What books are you sweet on? Tag us in your next tasty read @BritandCo.
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