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The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.
The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of October 4 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, The Perishing, by Natashia Deón. For more Reviews of the Week and other exciting lists check out the always freely available Booklist Blog.
Monday, October 4
★ One: Pot, Pan, Planet; a Greener Way to Cook for You and Your Family, by Anna Jones
When is a cookbook not just a cookbook? When it integrates instruction, inspiration, and a solid rationale that extends beyond dish preparation and gets to the heart of a particular culinary ethos. Jones’ approach emphasizes ecologically sound practices without sacrificing flavor, variety, or efficiency. Among recipes (from sides to sweets to mains) organized by method of preparation (baking dishes, pots, and sheet pans), she integrates sections that focus on how to approach food consumption in a conscientious, small-footprint, waste-less way. Of particular usefulness is the final section, delving into creative and simple ways to re-use and use up ingredients, reducing food waste. Having both the why and the how in one volume significantly increases the resonance of both—and the likelihood that home cooks will be able to follow through with these planet-friendly plans.
Tuesday, October 5
★ May Your Life Be Deliciosa, by Michael Genhart, illustrated by Loris Lora
Drawing upon their own Latinx family experiences, Genhart and Lora cook up a beautiful story of food and cultural identity, rooted in family recipes, storytelling, and togetherness. The book begins as a family arrives at Abuela Pina’s house for their Christmas Eve tradition of making tamales together. The large, happy group gathers in the kitchen, with everyone at a prep station, chopping garlic and onions, cleaning corn husks, roasting chilies, making corn masa (dough), and cooking the seasoned meat filling. When it’s time to build the tamales, Abuela explains each step while also sharing its symbolism. Thus, the softened corn husk carries a reminder to be flexible, the masa, to “stand tall and proud,” and so on. Each piece of advice evokes a memory in Abuela that is rendered primarily in grays, distinctly contrasting with the vivid colors used throughout the rest of the book.
Wednesday, October 6
Taste: My Life through Food, by Stanley Tucci
Prolific actor for stage, screen, and television; director and star of the classic foodie film Big Night; cookbook author and now memoirist Tucci (The Tucci Table, 2014) does exactly what this book’s subtitle says he will. From his childhood in the suburbs of Westchester, New York to his present in pandemic-altered London, Tucci reenvisions his life in a parade of meals: those cooked by his Calabrese Italian family, his mother in particular; memorable restaurant experiences while on location for work; the food he lovingly prepares for his family, and more. While his non-food-related life happens in the background—being young and broke in Manhattan, finding acting success, losing his first wife to devastating cancer, falling in love and expanding his family anew—food takes center stage. Lest readers drown in Tucci’s mouthwatering food descriptions (minus that one, ill-advised French sausage), plenty of recipes appear for reproducing everything from his family’s Sunday ragù to his English wife’s crispy roasted potatoes and a cocktail or three.
Thursday, October 7
★ The Island of Missing Trees, by Elif Shafak
An immigrant fig tree narrates key passages in British Turkish writer Shafak’s latest imaginative, provocative, witty, and profound novel. We first meet the philosophical Ficus carica as she is being buried in a garden in England to protect her from the coming winter. This hibernation inspires her to reflect on her long, keenly observant life on the island of Cyprus as the arboreal guardian of a popular taverna named The Happy Fig in her honor. There she witnessed the forbidden love between two teenagers—Kostas, Greek and nature-enthralled, and brainy and Turkish Defne—and the civil war that so cruelly separated them. Decades later in England, Kostas, a prominent ecologist and botanist, is mourning forensic archaeologist Defne and trying to care for their skeptical 16-year-old daughter, Ada. Help and comic relief arrive with Ada’s proverb-spouting aunt, Meryem.
Friday, October 8
★ The Sour Cherry Tree, by Naseem Hrab, illustrated by Nahid Kazemi
This touching story examines grief from one child’s perspective after she loses her beloved Iranian grandfather, Baba Borzorg. The little girl visits his now-empty home with her mother. Objects in different rooms stir up tender memories of her grandfather, which help the little girl process her grief. She recalls her granddad snoring during a nap and remembers jumping on his bed to wake him up. She thinks about the mints he always kept in his pockets. She remembers how her grandfather shared fig cookies with her, even though she didn’t care for them. Although the grandfather spoke Farsi and the granddaughter does not, they found special ways to connect and bond. The soft-colored, wispy drawings created from chalk pastel beautifully capture the tenderness of the story.
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