The director of Julie & Julia recommends five of her favorite books.
Olive Kitteridgeby Elizabeth Strout
“I loved it so much that when I finished reading it, I started at the beginning and read it over again.”
I was in the middle of reading Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge the day Strout won the Pulitzer Prize, and I almost felt I’d won a prize too. This is a magical, powerful book—13 stories linked by a completely problematic, prickly, complicated woman named Olive Kitteridge. I loved it so much that when I finished reading it, I started at the beginning and read it over again.
Back to Basicsby Ina Garten
“She knows exactly how to write recipes for people who love to cook but who aren’t crazy.”
There’s a reason why Ina Garten’s books sell so many copies, and it’s not just that they’re beautiful: She knows exactly how to write recipes for people who love to cook but who aren’t crazy. I can’t stand cookbooks by restaurant chefs who have no idea how people cook or what home cooking consists of; they’re so used to having sous chefs and dishwashers that they have no idea how to write recipes for people who don’t. Ina Garten writes for those of us who cook regularly and who look for intelligent shortcuts and simple cooking techniques. This is my favorite cookbook since Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques (Goin being a perfect example of a restaurant chef who knows how to write for home cooks).
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
“It’s the real Slumdog Millionaire....I read it in a gulp, and bought it for a dozen friends.”
This is a brilliant comic monologue that never lets up, right to its divine, dark ending. I read it in a gulp, and bought it for a dozen friends. It’s the real Slumdog Millionaire—the story of a poor Indian boy who becomes a rich man—but it doesn’t have a sentimental moment. My friends who know India say that it’s a brilliant look at that country, but for me it was mostly a joyride with a hilarious and brilliant writer.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Every time you read it, you see something new in it….It’s a masterpiece. And it’s short.”
What I love about this perfect book is that every time you read it, you see something new in it; every time you read it, you think it’s about something other than what you thought it was about the last time you read it. It’s a masterpiece. And it’s short.
Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich
“I hesitate to say anything so positive as that this book will change the way you see absolutely everything.”
It’s Ehrenreich’s belief that almost everything that’s wrong in this country comes from an addiction to positive thinking. She takes on all the hucksters who travel the country insisting that optimism will cure you, change your life and/or make you rich. She then proceeds to the economy and devastates all the people who were unable to conceive a crash might be possible. Ehrenreich convinced me so completely that I hesitate to say anything so positive as that this book will change the way you see absolutely everything; but it just might. (I read this in galleys; it’s due to be published in October.)