From the ages of 5-15, my life was mainly defined by one thing: reading. I used to devour books, going to the library and taking out 5-10 novels on a weekly basis. I attribute all my academic and personal success to this early interest in the written word– I was pretty impatient and chatty as a child, but reading calmed me down and taught me how to focus. It was also where I learned to be a writer, and furthermore a DIY-tinkerer in many other fields: sewing, cooking, fashion and design. Without the help of books I really do not think I would be where I am today– literally. My entrance essay to Columbia was a narrative about growing up in the library, and I wouldn’t have gained admission without it.

Fast forward half a decade, and it seems that two things that seemed so plentiful in youth– reading and sleeping– has suddenly become a luxury, saved for long commutes, winter breaks, and post-exam recoveries. It’s sort of a shame that the book has to be put on the back burner, since there’s always so much to explore, but the reality is that when I pick up a book, I don’t stop till the last page, homework be damned. Still, I’ve been trying to reacquaint with an old friend, the Novel, ever since spring break. I figure some casual reading, in lieu of TV or Internet time, can’t be too much of a time sap, and is often much more relaxing and stimulating.

For those of you equally busy studying and working women and men, I urge you to join me! Here two fast-paced books that I really enjoyed to get you started. I’d love to hear recommendations of your own! What books have you read recently (or even old favorites)?


The theme this week is foodie reading. Some kitchen-centric books out there are just poorly written (I’m talking to you, Julie and Julia), and others are fun, but more cookbooks than novels. Here are two that are, in the eyes of this reading aficionado, true works of literature composed by authors who are craftsmen in the art of the pen as well as the cutting board. There’s something really addictive, gritty, and visceral reading about kitchen life. Food memoirs are often extremely vivid and almost erotic– as the co-owner of Mario Batali’s famed restaurant’s mother points out to the author– “What else do you put in another person’s body?” a great recipe for a testosterone-charged romp.

1. Heat, by Bill Buford

I’m currently working midway this novel, but have enjoyed it so much thus far that I present it to you with no qualms. Bill Buford, former fiction-editor of the New Yorker, decides on a whim to leave his position as a comfortable journalist to become Mario Batali’s newest kitchen slave. The writing is excellent and the duality between Buford and Batali’s own journey as a chef is fascinating. A must-read for anyone who’s ever enjoyed Iron Chef, especially if you’ve watched it in the originally dubbed-over Japanese.

2. Blood, Bones, & Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton

I have yet to check out Hamilton’s popular restaurant Prune, but my friend, who visited for brunch a few weeks back, told me that it was fantastic. With writing and passion like this, I have no doubts. Read an excerpt here for a sample of Hamilton’s great writing style– especially in her descriptions of a semi-charmed childhood, and rougher teenage years.




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