These 6 cookbooks are your ticket to the cheapest vacation ever

The best new international cookbooks for cooks who love to travel!


 

How was your Labor Day weekend?

Jarrett and I spent the long weekend in Chicago, and it was an amazing one: we did The Bean, Lakeshore Drive, Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago, a river cruise architectural tour, the Chicago History Museum, and we even had enough time to relax and enjoy time with some family & friends.

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Our gorgeous view of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan from the top of The University Club.

But is it weird to say that I’m ready for a vacation, even though we just had one?

Usually I love getting back to my own home and routine, and I love feeling productive after a few days off. But there’s something about that August to September transition…

If you’re also daydreaming about a vacation but have to sit tight through September, here’s my little secret: a cookbook staycation!

After all, the best part of getting away is eating like a queen, right?

best cookbooks for cooks who love travel

And there are some pretty great cookbooks out this year that will help you cook straight past that wanderlust and make you feel like you’re right in the thick of dinner at that dream destination. According to my calculations, it’s approximately 785% cheaper and easier to do a cookbook staycation than a real-life, haul-yourself-to-a-plane-train-or-automobile vacation.

So here’s what I would do: Cancel everything on a Saturday or Sunday. Fake sick if you have to. Tell the kids/spouse/dog that it’s Cookbook Staycation Day, and they’re going to be part of it. Then wake up at a luxurious hour, have some coffee, read your cookbook in bed, make your shopping list, then stroll—don’t rush—through the store until you’ve piled up everything you need.

Then come home, find an on-theme Pandora station, put any willing hands to work at prep, and cook, cook, cook. Eat, eat, eat, exhale happily, and (if you’re feeling ambitious) watch a movie themed around the destination. Or just go to bed and dream happy, faraway dreams.

But before we can get to all that, start with this list of the best new cookbooks to take you away—with one of these on their way to you, you’ll soon be just as relaxed, rested, and gloriously well-fed as post vacation you has ever been.

6 new cookbooks for cooks who love to travel

Excerpted from The Kitchn.

With the last days of summer still ahead of us and the heat sticking to our backs, you might think grilling, grilling, and grilling are your only options for dinner. But picking at grilled chicken while scrolling through everyone else’s vacation photos is a straight path to lunacy.

So put down the grill tongs, step away from the envy, and have yourself a deliciously rollicking staycation, where you can be eating salsa-dipped chorizo and potato sandwiches in Mexico one day and Streuselkuchen in Germany the next.

Bangkok cookbook review

1. Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand by Leela Punyaratabandhu, $35

Bangkok is one of the top-ranked travel destinations in the world, and this book will slip you into the busy city and take you on the food tour of a lifetime. The beautiful photography captures a busy city — a monk looking out the window of a commuter boat, hands turning skewers of grilled meat at a market stall — but leaves out the over 16 million tourists that crowd the city each year.

Opt out of the tourist herd and opt in to a staycation with Punyaratabandhu, who will guide you through the essential and the innovative recipes and show you the pleasures of sourcing and cooking Thai ingredients every day, instead of just vacation-binging on them.

Nopalito mexican cookbook review

2. Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen by Gonzalo Guzmán and Stacy Adimando, $30

Admit it: You may be in a taco rut. But you don’t have to save the diverse miracles of Mexican food for nights out — Nopalito will usher you into a kitchen in Mexico, where anyone can master the fundamentals and extract them into unexpected and delicious weeknight dinners.

Let this gorgeous book pull you into the food and culture of Mexico, then walk determinedly into your kitchen and make those salsa-dipped chorizo and potato sandwiches.

taste of persia cookbook review

3. Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by Naomi Duguid, $35

Not every revered cuisine has a pin-on-the-map destination, and Persian food is one of those. Persia was once the world’s largest, most powerful, and intellectually advanced empire, and although Persians as an ethnic group are now mostly in Iran, it’s a culture and a cuisine that flaunts modern borders.

It’s hard to find a more ancient or humbling culinary tradition than this, and just a few nights eating at the table with Taste of Persia will inspire the same feelings of awe and curiosity that only the world’s greatest wonders can.

Click here to keep reading this list on The Kitchn!


What To Read This Week

3 Lesser-Known Books to Help You Understand, Manage, and Overcome Anxiety (Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy): Anne struggled with anxiety onset by 9/11, and here are the 3 books (originally recommended by mental health professionals) she wishes she’d had when she was stuck in the mess of anxiety. I’m a big believer that books can help us heal and untangle ourselves, and these 3 books are a great start for uncovering what’s really going on with anxiety.

8 Ways to Spark Agent & Editor Interest in Your Book (Linda Sivertsen of BookMama): “Other than writing a RIVETING page turner of a book, no matter your genre, you can guess my answer. Uh huh. Build. Your. Platform. But before you head for the fridge, hear me out. The process will grow you and your writing and make you infinitely more magnetic. Here are eight of my favorite things you can do, including resources and tactics I’ve tried that have made a big difference in my career.”

How to Run a Successful Blog as a Partnership (Rachel Tiemeyer and Polly Conner on Food Blogger Pro Podcast): My smart and sweet authors, Polly and Rachel, are chatting with Bjork of Pinch of Yum about how they run their blog together. And yes, they wrote their book together, too! (You have preordered your copy of From Freezer to Table, right?) 🙂

You Can’t Edit Your Own Book and Here Are 7 Reasons Why (Blake Atwood on The Write Life): Yes, yes, yes. You really can’t edit your own book. I’ve been an in-house editor at book publishers, and I still want someone else to look at anything I write. It’s not about skill—it’s about perspective. Fresh eyes are the best eyes.

The Odor “Wheel” Decoding the Smell of Old Books (Eric Grundhauser for Atlas Obscura): “It’s official. Science has decided that old books smell ‘smoky,’ ‘earthy,’ and more than anything, ‘woody.’” It’s almost like they’re made from trees, right?


What We’re Eating This Week

As an act of mercy (i.e. so I don’t bore you to death), let me tell you about what we ate in Chicago instead of the nonexistent dinners I’ll be having in NYC this week.

Friday: We had the most spectacular meal at North Pond! I loved the Arts and Crafts feel of the dining room, and we had a perfect view of Lincoln Park and the pond from our table. The staff even gave us a little shout-out on our version of the menu for our anniversary! Aren’t we spoiled?

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Saturday: I love, love, love when good friends cook for us, and we had some amazing Ropa Vieja at our friends’ Charley and Catherine’s house. Also, there were Hemingway Daiquiris. I felt both literary and literally stuffed.

Sunday: Again, we were treated to a great home-cooked meal of grilled salmon and potatoes and broccoli and salad by our friends Rob and Sherry. It was that perfect mix of last-bit-of-fresh summer cooking yet buttery enough that we knew we were still on vacation. It felt indulgent, so I did, in fact, indulge.

Monday: Well, we might have eaten a meat-lovers pizza and then Chicago-style Char Dogs with all the fixin’s at Midway. But don’t we all need one last binge before we’re back to the real world of respectable eating?

Tuesday-Friday: Respectability ensues. (Just kidding. I want tacos.)

Cheers!

Get one tip for upgrading your literary life sent to your inbox each week!

5 YA books to read if you love John Green

I don’t do the whole post-book hangover thing well.

I finished this book last year and stared off into space for a good 30 minutes before I could process that it was over. I kept thinking about it day after day, looking up from my computer screen to remember a funny line and laughing like a lunatic to myself. I started asking friends and family if they’d ever heard of Guernsey, and wouldn’t it be nice to take a family vacation there?

I also seriously considered taking up letter-writing so that my future grandkids would have something physical to hold of my daily life. (“Dear Future Grandkids, Today I got up and went to work. I had a coffee while I answered emails.” Can’t you just hear the snoozing!?)

But I was just so gut-wrenched that I couldn’t live in the world of that book anymore.

Heartbreak over lost book worlds is real, and I know I’m not the only one who roams the house, kicking the pillows, glaring at the plants, and feeling annoyed that I’m not, in fact, living a magical character’s life in a magical place.

I know a lot of people felt this way after they read John Green’s The Fault in Your Stars–has there ever been such a heartbreaking and collective book hangover? And the bad news is, we still have to wait two more months for Turtles All the Way Down, John Green’s first book after The Fault in Your Stars phenomenon.

Two. Whole. Months.

Is eternity stretching before you yet?

Luckily, I came up with a handy coping mechanism for you: Step 1: lock self in house. Step 2: burrow into bed. Step 3: take a nap for the next 1,440 hours.

OR.

Just in case you’re more of a read-to-pass-the-time type (and something tells me you are), I have a back-up plan. It goes like this:

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to fill the next two months with books that would bring us back to the glory days of first reading The Fault in Our Stars? Books that would remind us of the thrill and heartbreak we felt when we first met Augustus and Hazel? Books that would reignite our John Green fandom and fill The Fault in Our Stars sized hole in our hearts?

If only there were FIVE such books. Because after all, two months is a long time, and our next John Green inspired YA reads are going to whiz right by.

IF ONLY.

You know I’ve got your back, right? Well, more specifically, our wonderful Stonesong intern, Lydia DuBois, has our backs! Here’s Lydia with the YA book recommendations you need to tide you over until Turtles All the Way Down releases:

5 YA books to read if you love John Green

books to read if you love John Green

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6 books to read if you’re obsessed with ‘Hamilton’

 Do you read the same things as your husband or wife? Jarrett and I can both get into old classics like E.B. White, but most of the time, we’re reading on different ends of the nonfiction spectrum.

Jarrett reads what I call doorstoppers–1,000+ page books on historical figures and events. I can’t even find a comfortable way to position myself on the couch with one of those books. (On your back with the book resting on your chest? Leaning it against your legs? Asking Pepper to hold it for you?) It’s just too heavy, and it’s not all that interesting to me, either.

Instead, right now I’m dipping in and out of How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly. Every last one of those is light-as-a-feather and perfect for hammock reading over the long Fourth of July weekend.

But if you’re looking for something a little more appropriate for Fourth of July, and you’re less of a wimp than I am, I’ll point you over to Jarrett, who has 6 of the best books to read if you’re obsessed with Hamilton and still can’t get Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics out of your head, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen the musical.

Even if you haven’t seen Hamilton, these are still some great patriotic books to read for the 4th of July, as well as some of the best books about America’s founding fathers. And I don’t say that lightly–Jarrett does a lot of research before choosing which biography to read about each of America’s founding fathers, and he always picks one that’s widely considered both the best work and a single-volume, yet comprehensive, treatment of that founding father.

But enough from me. Here’s Jarrett with 6 patriotic books to read this 4th of July if you’re obsessed with Hamilton.

Best books if you love Hamilton

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The 5 best books for writers

Jarrett came home from work the other day waving a new book, which one of the editors at his office said was essential reading for writers. Excuse me, I said, but we have that book already, and I could have told you all about it if I had known you wanted more reading assignments.

(I’m always telling Jarrett, “You really should read this book—you’d like it!” when I finish a book. I think his backlog of books I really, really think he should read is really, really long and really, really ignored.)

I was in such a huff that someone had beat me to recommending On Writing Well that I pulled out my yellowing copy from the shelf and forced on him a dramatic reading of my favorite quotes as we ate dinner. (I’ve learned that the best place to trap someone is at the dinner table, and I think this is a free and fair trade for all the cooking I do.)

Anyway, as Jarrett sat rapt, or maybe bored, I told him all about how, at my first job as an editorial assistant at a NYC publisher, one of the executive editors had called me into her corner office, handed me a stack of 10 books about writing, and told me to start there, but that I could come back for more soon.

I had been working as a paralegal at a law firm beforehand, so I thought it was the coolest thing ever that I got to read books about writing instead of police reports. But 10 books is no small stack, and I didn’t know where to start.

best books for writers

So consider this my starter stack for you—these are the 5 books I’d most recommend to any writer, whether an aspiring writer, an established writer, or anyone who has to write or blog for a living. These are the best books for writers; the best books to teach you how to get published; the best books to make you feel less alone and hair-pull-y all the time.

Maybe others have beat me to recommending some of these books on writing to you, but I promise not to get huffy about it, and I hope you’ll still find one or two new gems here:

 

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