I am so bad at remembering to write these wrap-up posts. Shame, shame. My intention was to do one each month, but after a few consecutive months with not much fodder to write about, I got complacent. And now this is late… A thousand apologies. Hopefully the books I have to describe will make up for the delay.

In May and June, I read three novels good enough to recommend. The first was Arcadia by Lauren Groff; set in a commune in New York State in the ’60’s, the story follows Bit and his parents through their time there and then catches up with them again years later. I am such a fan of Groff that I tend to give her glowing praise anyway, but I truly enjoyed reading Arcadia. There’s a twist at the end that I haven’t decided whether to love or hate yet, but the novel is certainly worth a read. (As are her last novel, The Monsters of Templeton, and her story collection, Delicate Edible Birds.) The second was The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger; this story follows Munni, a modern-day mail-order bride from Bangladesh, as she travels to the US to meet her husband and his family and then works to bring her parents to live with her. My only asterisk on this recommendation is that it really applies to the second half of the novel; the first half was dry and I had to force myself twice to keep going. In hindsight, I know why it was slow, but be forewarned. And then there was In a Temple of Trees by Suzanne Hudson. I had never heard of her, the book is nine years old, and I loved it. Devoured it. It was dark, gritty, difficult to read (the plot dealt with race relations, sexual abuse, adultery and all manner of not-nice things) and I couldn’t put it down. Fans of Larry Brown, William Gay and the like, take note.

Also in May, I read a book of short stories that is the single best collection I have come across in years: I am an Executioner: Love Stories by Rajesh Parameswaran. Some of the stories were, frankly, boring, but the ones that worked really worked, and there were two distinct themes or threads running through the entire collection. A theme, in a collection of stories! How refreshing. One was love, as you may have guessed from the title, and the other was psychology, at least to me. How do people think of other people, how do two beings (you’ll understand why I use that word when you read) learn to relate to one another, etc. The first story was from the perspective of a lonely tiger at the zoo; if that sounds silly, this book isn’t for you. But, if that’s intriguing, you may want to take a look, and it’s why I am an Executioner receives my highest recommendation for the month(s).

Now to cookbooks: I went on a binge, reading every canning/jamming book I could find that was new to me. I will spare you all the dirty details, as some were not great, but I did find several absolute treasures that made me put palm to forehead in disbelief that I had gone so long without reading them. The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich is a must-have for anyone interested in pickling or fermenting; it covers just about every vegetable, technique, etc. about which you could hope to have information. This book inspired me to make sauerreuben and lengthened my to-do list for summer vegetables significantly. I also found We Sure Can by Sarah Hood, replete with tips and recipes from some of my most-admired food bloggers for just about any fruit or vegetable you hope to preserve. Lastly, I finally got my hands on two extra-special volumes: Ripe and Tender by Nigel Slater, respectively about fruit and vegetables grown in his kitchen garden. These books are art: the recipes make you want to be in the kitchen right now, the photos are breathtaking and the accompanying text is both informative and entertaining to read. Sadly, I had to return both to the library so other cooks could enjoy them, too, but they’re on the wishlist for my home library. A girl can dream.

So, there you have my books for April and May. June is already off to a rollicking start, book-wise, and I hope the same is true for you. Please share any gems you’ve discovered lately!