a reading list for spring

I spent the better half of the morning lost in a pile of books stacked on my bedside table. I recently read Diana Abu-Jaber’s novel Birds of Paradise and was reminded once again how much I loved the book.

bedside table reads
shot with FujiFilm Instax 200

If you haven’t read one of her books you should. Start with The Language of Baklava, then read Birds of Paradise, a spellbinding novel set in beautiful and culturally diverse Miami about a 13 year-old girl, Felice Muir who runs away from home and lives on the streets in search of food and drugs as self-punishment for something she has done.

The rest of the Muir family, including: Avis, a perfectionist mom and superb pastry chef; Brian, a quiet, hardworking dad; and Stanley, a committed brother and health food storeowner, are forced to look at their personal shortcomings after Felice leaves. On her eighteenth birthday, when Felice becomes an adult, she and her family must decide what’s truly important to them.

Birds of Paradise explores larger social and cultural issues, such as teen runaways, adolescent cruelty, parental self-absorption, histories of political violence and tragedy, and the politics of sugar and food production. Abu-Jaber’s sumptuous prose, complex characters, vivid imagery, and suspenseful plot captivate—you won’t be able to put the book down once you begin.

Maira Kalman’s And the Pursuit of Happiness is a beautifully illustrated book documenting the author’s yearlong study of democracy and how it works. Part artist’s journal, history book, and snapshot of contemporary America, Kalman’s visual and written observations made along her national tour are smart and witty.

I only made it through the first four pages of The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt in this sitting, but it’s one I’m excited to read. Hewitt examines how the rural blue-collar community of Hardwick, Vermont developed a local, sustainable food system in the middle of an economic crisis threatening to sideline smalls businesses and privately owned farms.

A group of young and innovative entrepreneurs bring change to the area new food-based start-ups and agricultural models and must find a way to work with long-established farmers cautious of the region’s speedy growth. If you’re at all interested in the future of food in the U.S., you’ll want to read this book.

What are you reading now, any recommendations to add to this list?


  1. says

    i love reading about what other people read, then going in search of those books. i’m sort of fanatical about it.
    right now i’m re-reading Just Kids by Patti Smith, because well, it’s worth re-reading. Also re-reading Chocolat because…i mean, c’mon. the book is WONDERFUL.

    • ArtandLemons says

      Thanks for sharing your reads Brittany! I almost included Just Kids on my list as one of the books I’ve been meaning to read. The Mister has recommended it as well, on more than one occasion and it’s still on the lower shelf of the bedside table. A definite must read soon and yes, Chocolat always.

    • ArtandLemons says

      Christina, Thanks for the link—it’s a great story. I’ve wanted to take a trip to Hardwick and particularly Jasper Hill Farm since I first heard about the book…road trip?

  2. says

    I work at a publishing company so am surrounded by such a constant source of books it’s difficult to choose! But I would recommend a wonderful book called The Paris Wife if you can get your hands on it. It’s a fictional story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife and will make you laugh, cry and relive each moment until the very last page!

    • ArtandLemons says

      thelittleloaf, Thanks for the recommendation. I looked at The Paris Wife in the bookstore last weekend, but resisted buying it so that I could finish the growing stack of unread books by the bed. Excited to read it now.

  3. says

    Having just returned from my first trip to Washington D.C., I’m drawn to “And the Pursuit of Happiness.” Right now I’m reading the book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. It’s one of those books I’ve had to push myself through, with lots of facts and history, but the most interesting part for me is how the olive tree is caught in the middle of the conflicts between Israel and Palestine. I love when my love of food leads me to deeper understanding of current events in the world.

  4. says

    Thanks for the recommendations! I love seeing what people are reading. I am rereading Sherlock Holmes – I have the complete works in two books, and never read all of them, so thought it would be a good time to. I am also in the middle of Blood, Bones and Butter for a book club, but having a hard time getting through it.

  5. Amy (Jo Steele) Woodruff says

    The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.

    Thank you so much for your recommendations – definitely adding these to my list!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *