Current Reads: Thirty-Six

Hello Mom and the two other dedicated readers of this corner of the internet where I write about the copious amount of books I read on the F train. Hope you’re well. I am starting my MFA this summer which means many, many books, but less time for these little lineups. Expect a bumper crop at the end of each term. Because sharing books is one of my favorite parts of the writing life. So read on! Email me with any suggestions. And mom, I’ll talk to you tomorrow morning on my walk.

1. Normal People: A Novel by Sally Rooney It’s hard to go anywhere, let alone scroll anywhere, without seeing this novel. And for a good reason! Sally Rooney is a genius. This book explores social classes and coming of age and all with the now iconic Rooney dialogue. It’s the safest recommendation for any fiction lover.

2. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett Speaking of masters of genres, enter Ann Patchett. I love her nonfiction writing, definitely more than her fiction, but that’s a hot take. This book is a blend of literature and memoir. It uniquely speaks to all the roles she plays in her life—daughter, friend, writer, wife. I loved reading about her relationship to her father, specifically.

3. L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making Paris my Home by David Lebovitz It feels like this book is a result of an algorithm of my ideal memoir. David Lebovitz is such a delight to read. His adventures as an expat are always charming, even in their darkest hour. I’ve never made a recipe of his, but plan to test one out at an upcoming dinner party.

4. Selected Poems by Mary Ruefle Mary Ruefle is a Bennington graduate and a total obsession of mine, as of late. I read My Private Property a few years ago, loved it, and seemed to have left it there. Her poetry has reinvigorated my adoration. I recently read her book of essays, too.

5. The Miracles by Amy Lemmon Professor Lemmon was one of my English professors at FIT (Go tigers.) She has been so generous and helpful in my journey to getting my MFA. I couldn’t wait to start her new book of poetry, so I ripped it out of its package and started it on the bus home from work. The book has a strong narrative flow to it, making it easy to lose oneself in. I found it to be brilliant and I feel lucky to count her as a mentor.

6. Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik Another memoir set in Paris. I won’t admit I have a problem, yet. This was an entirely different speed than the food memoirs I devour at lightning speed. I picked up the book at a church book sale with my mom in Park Slope and forgot about it for months. As soon as I started, I wondered what kept me from this book for so long. Gopnik is a nonfiction master. I especially loved the essay on the pool at the Rtiz. It was also interesting to read about life in Paris through the lens of parenthood. It gave a sort of a grounding effect.

7. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou The Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos pop culture moment underfoot is very much up my alley. I love a signature outfit (black turtleneck: check), some drama in the romance department (Hi, Sunny), and an iconic voice. I consumed most of the other media on the scandal before reading the book, but sort of wish I did it in reverse. The book is so well written, especially toward the end.

8. Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky Nanny thrillers are a very specific genre, to begin with. Being a sitter myself, sometimes they can read a little too creepy, but when Ruby stuck this in my hands, I trusted her like I do with everything. And Ruby Smith is never wrong. I read the book in a fever dream of one night. It’s sexy and fast-paced and absolutely terrifying, but in a good way.

Absolute Loves: May 21, 2019

Lots has happened over at Chateau Veurink since my last list of arbitrary obsessions. I surprised my mom for her birthday in Iowa, was surprised by a stolen wallet at Granty’s regatta in Philadelphia, and, no surprise here, hosted about sixteen wonderful guests nearly every weekend.

I’ve been dying to get this off my chest and into the internet ether for a week: American Girls podcast. My sister, Jim, sent this to me and Ruby. I was skeptical, but reader, if American Girl dolls were a thing for you, trust me. It’s part history, part pop culture, and all nostalgia.

The Longform is a perennial podcast favorite, but I recently listened to Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s episode for the first time recently. I’m all the way in to her writing, especially this piece on Goop, this one on Tom Hiddleston, and of course this one on Hillsong.

It’s summer in the city, like it or not. Do you have your SPH of choice on dock? Might I recommend EltaMD, the tried and true classic. Also a summer essential, in a different way, picnic blankets! This is my trusty dusty version I’ve been hauling to the park most weekends.

My last visit to Iowa was eating out heavy, which was a fun way to try places I never did living there. Cheese Bar did not disappoint, esp in the drinks department. University Library Cafe is the official Plan B Brunch Spot and I mean that as a compliment. Please do not read the title and expect a literature theme, as I did.

Walking to breakfast at La Mie, I spotted a new vintage spot called Rumors. Lydi and I stopped on the way back. It’s well curated, cool, and has a surplus of good t shirts. Plus the connected parking lot is the best kept secret for the Saturday morning breakfast rush. You heard it here first!

Lastly, I wrote a piece for Quarterlife Magazine! I wouldn’t say the crushing doubt and anxiety that came with post grad is an “absolute love” but it was good to think about it in hindsight. Also, a website I love, in general. An absolute love would be using the term “uni” over “college,” certainly.

Current Reads: Thirty-Five

1. The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison I still remember when Ruby called to tell me I had to pick up The Empathy Exams. I take all her recommendations with extreme seriousness and purchased the book immediately. At the time, I wasn’t reading a lot of essays. The book was the perfect introduction to the genre/sort of ruined lots of other mediocre collections for me. It’s that good. So when Ruby brought me Jamison’s most recent book, I immediately dropped all my to be read titles and settled in with it one Saturday. It’s long, but worth lugging in a tote, of course. I can’t really say much other than Leslie Jamison is a master of nonfiction and this book is pitch perfect. It’s about addiction and recovery and history and I’m counting down the months until her new book comes out this fall.

2. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart This book came via a recommendation on Instagram (yikes, what a sentence.) It’s a small book, one I opened unassumingly on a Tuesday afternoon. But half an hour later I was bent over, crying, and in shock. Published in 1945, the book documents the love affair between journalist Elizabeth Smart and poet George Barker. It’s as gut wrenching as it gets, filled with small devastating quips that feel impossibly romantic. It’s also one of those books that feels like it will stay with me forever, be revisited a hundred times. It’s so brilliant, but not for the romantically faint of heart.

3. Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds Another read inspired by On Being—I can’t get enough. Sharon Old’s episode with Krista was funny and insightful. I finished it when I got home and was able to take notes. I had read some of her earlier work, but went to Greenlight with the intention of picking up her most famous collection. I found her writing on relationships to be some of the most honest ever. I’m a verifiable fan, now.

4. The Hours by Michael Cunningham This title was given to me as a thoughtful birthday gift. For some reason, I’d never heard of the book, despite its popularity and adoration from readers and critics. The story draws deeply from Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. It follows the lives of three women, incredibly different drawn unexpectedly close by the end of the book. It’s as much about death (following Woolf just days before her tragic suicide) as it is about friendship.

5. An Abbreviated Life by Ariel Leve I picked up this memoir during the madness that was a local book sale at a church. Tables of nonfiction buckled at the hinge with loads of books. The usual suspects—seven copies of Eat, Pray, Love and WW2 biographies—were present. But this cover caught my attention. It had many of the elements I adore in memoir: life in New York, complex parent-child relationships, and a fast pace. I read it in a few days, mostly on the train. The book was an exercise in empathy, as Leve speaks of being raised by a mother more akin to a child than a parent in the swirling art scene of Manhattan. In contrast to her slow paced, rural life now, her stories read somehow with ease and pain.

Erin Wakeland and Youth Well Spent on The Young

Looking at my Backyard Fields , 2018

Looking at my Backyard Fields, 2018

Witches , 2018

Witches, 2018

Bodies , 2018

Bodies, 2018

For most people, imagining themselves in the middle of undergrad is an exercise in time travel related wanderlust or deep, searing regret. It’s about going back and changing things, in both cases. But when I spoke to Erin Wakeland, her soft, steady voice on the other line, all I felt was settledness. Even the way she spoke about having to study alone versus in groups moved me. I was speaking to a woman familiar with herself.

She lives in Michigan, in house shared with other artists and students, a hub of forward thinking and endless community. I hear a door creak open, quiet pattering of feet, and I imagine myself as one of them--dressed in vintage, tacking Sharon Olds to the wall, humming a song I started writing the night before.

Erin’s existence is pure potential energy. To be that young, to be that open to the world, to be transfixed already by a vocation--magic. She is generous, easy to talk to, and gentle in the way of the Midwest.

Her vision is uninterrupted by flights of fancy, coming from a long- before place. Her voice, soft and certain, like the lead in an indie film about an artist coming of age on the painted shores of Michigan. Her perspective on social media is thought out, convicted, certain. She and I muse on the art we create for the sole purpose of sharing, if sharing any part of the creative process is worth it, etc. I take notes in my journal, smile and nod as she pieces apart a theory on capitalism and art eloquently.

Speaking to her art is like speaking to a memory--clear but faded by time, by space. It is self preservation just in its existence. Everyday objects are holy artifacts.

Her work feels retrospective, as if looking back with the certaintude that comes only from time and trial and seasons. There is a fortitude in her vision. Seasons don’t come easily in her part of the country, lingering winds from the lakes and thick humidity long into autumn. But nestled in the endless blue skied winters of Michigan is an artist. Becoming, yes, but already.

Erin Wakeland

Erin Wakeland


From A Spring Skeptic

Celery crisp air & the pounding of baseball cleats on the crosswalk--

It’s no small thing, the tectonic shift of spring.

Something cracked, dribbles down the hard edges of brownstones,

and puddles in the streets.

Bike wheels trace ribbons of its remnants, unaware of the gift they leave.


The park is littered with the small fires of first loves.

Blades of grass bend, offering their front row seat to the renewal of all things.

They are just happy to be green again, animated by the sun,

stirred to dance by the wind.

They know this is no time for answers.


Cube-like brushstrokes color in her face,

And to see her laugh is to see God in a dozen shades.

Come tug the edge of the picnic blanket.

Lay here, soften, think of all that has resurrected, just in the last hour.

Who could earn even one wild flower?


Absolute Loves: April 10, 2019

It’s been a season of visits, with two more coming up before a weekend trip to Philadelphia in May. It’s nice to have an excuse to try new spots and stay out on weekends.

I copied down this manifesto and taped it to my wall this morning. All On Being, all the time. See this article.

Lydia and I saw Better Oblivion Community Center in concert this weekend. I’m still on my Phoebe Bridgers kick, only this time it’s boygenius, specifically this Tiny Desk performance.

In the market for new breezy summer dresses? Look no further than The Summer House, my new go-to for sustainably and ethically made clothing. Plus, the designs are all very chic and ideal for daydreaming about a trip to the coast or at least out of Park Slope.

Vera Iliatova is a Brooklyn based artist I wrote about for the Red Hook Star Review. Her work is perfect for spring and just generally an absolute love of mine.

I’m a Shinola notebook obsessee, but all sometimes I miss a good old fashioned spiral. I’ve been using this as my journal and am very jazzed by it. Modern and affordable, plus available in two days!

Everyone should be using Brandless, especially in New York. It’s the easiest, most cost effective way to buy the most boring things; read: toilet bowl cleaner and maple syrup. I usually place a big order every other month or so.

I could talk endlessly about vintage. I could also talk endlessly about the lack of good vintage shopping in the city. After five years of searching, I declare No Relation in Gowanus the best that can be expected without renting a car and getting out of dodge.

Current Reads: Thirty-Four

1. Cherry by Mary Karr Cherry was the last book of Mary Karr’s I’d yet to read. I idolize her work, especially her poetry, and this was the work of hers I was least familiar with. It’s a funny, in that dark, sharp humor Mary Karr invented way. She recounts her sexual coming of age with unflinching detail. The women she writes on later in life is seen in flashes in this stubborn, yet tender Texas girl. Her relationship to her mother is explored in great vulnerability, allowing the reader greater insight into the ways they grew alike over time.

2. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney This is the sort of novel I would feel excited about recommending to almost any reader. That’s not because it’s simple or pedestrian—it’s just that good. Sharp, effortless to read, and complex at all the right turns, Sally Rooney perfectly paints portraits of relationships. It’s a coming of age story, but even more so a story about the people we come of age alongside. I can’t wait to pick up Rooney’s new book this spring. Until then, this podcast will do.

3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt A modern classic and a true brick of a book, I think I’ve moved The Goldfinch into every apartment I’ve lived in without opening it. It’s divisive--a friend found it too intense to read and another begged me to start that very night. I love Donna Tartt, a Bennington grad, and finally committed last week. My reading experience was much like The Secret History or A Little Life. I would stuff the book into my tote bag at the start of the day, reading at any chance I found and looking up bleary eyed, totally immersed in the atmosphere of the novel. This podcast by the BBC on Donna Tartt was fascinating to listen to before starting. Novels this transporting are a gift; And always worth the time/carrying around.

4. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg When it comes to books on writing, I’m willing to take just about recommendation. The result? A pile of writing books I read once and forget about. While Bird by Bird remains my all time favorite, this book is definitely up there. The structure is very conducive to revisitation—lots of essays on the craft, some with prompts, others a mere half page long. The book is honest, just the right amount of woo woo, and at points, downright practical.

5. Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill My year of short stories continues with a book recommended to me by at least three authors I adore. Turns out it’s a sort of pillar of the genre, published in 1988. Lots of the stories are about neurotic New Yorkers, in love or something close to that. It’s an honest look at our expectations and disappointments in relationships. Each story is propelled by perfectly rounded characters, muddling through.

6. The Latest Winter by Maggie Nelson You can imagine my surprise when I met Arielle for breakfast and saw an unfamiliar Maggie Nelson cover on the table. “What is that?” I asked almost accusingly. She laughed and graciously told me she got it at Greenlight. All roads lead to Greenlight, especially for me and Arielle. I immediately picked up a copy. It was a delight to read a work of Maggie Nelson’s for the first time, again. This book, her second anthology of poetry, is playful, testing out forms of poetry, traversing with ease from light hearted topics to an incredibly heartbreaking account of 9/11. It’s electrifying, inspiring, and so very Maggie Nelson.

Weekend Rewind: Sister Time

I’ve been working on the itinerary for Jim’s visit for months. Itineraries are my love language, it turns out. Hers, not so much. Time together is precious, so easy, and is always bookended with a late night dessert run to the bodega.

Being the thoughtful sis she is, Jim picked up groceries for dinner after a quick pastry at Gather. I came home to dinner on the table and Kacey Musgraves on the stereo. We made vegan cookie dough and settled in.

Chic baby sis

Chic baby sis

The next morning, we rode the G to Greenlight and got breakfast at Maison May in Fort Greene. I kept telling Jim about this cafe, so it was special to be there with her. It wouldn’t be a visit without some vintage. Turns out L Train Vintage has a better location in Brooklyn. Shopping with my sister is such a simple delight. She keeps me in line when the prairie dress I’ve fallen in love with reads a bit too Laura Ingalls—well, most of the time.

Then it was off to work for me. Jim graciously made a post office and flower run for me. I mean, she is the most generous. We met Rubes for dinner, always a highlight being with my two favorite people.

Thanks, Jim x

Thanks, Jim x

Then it was Thursday, a massively packed day including breakfast at Brunswick, lunch with Danielle, and every stop in Soho in between. Plus it was raining. But we were together! Jim learned the merit of ordering in Thai after a day of running around.

Maison May

Maison May

Friday was the King’s visit. We went on a tour and listened to some panels before meeting up to babysit together that night. Pizza, talking about the day, and nothing else to do was the perfect Friday night.

Saturday was full, too. We went to the farmer’s market, back to Greenlight, and back into Manhattan. We saw Five Feet Apart at the new theater in Park Slope. The movie was devastating, or maybe I was just emotional about Jim leaving. Either way, we chased it with some rom com I had missed from last summer in bed on my laptop.

My dream girl and baby sis. Love you, Jim! x

My dream girl and baby sis. Love you, Jim! x

Almost Spring

Surrendering an afternoon to a foreign film is an excellent loss. Sharing popcorn is a non-negotiable. Whispered five second reviews of trailers are crucial. Refrain from talking during the movie, but not after. Order cocktails and do your best film critic impression with whatever buzz words you remember from your Intro to Film class. Discuss the costuming, the soundtrack, but realize that sitting next to someone in a cinema is the real magic.

You’ll always make too much pasta, so it’s best to preemptively invite friends over. Light some candles and put on your best playlist. If a game of Bananagrams breaks out, so be it. Misery loves company, but so does joy and heartbreak and general ok-ness. Life and online streaming accounts are both better shared.

Build a fort out of throw pillows and read until you go cross eyed. Remember the reading glasses on your side table and squeeze in another chapter. Use Polaroids and theater programs as bookmarks; anything that’ll make you a tiny bit happy as you drift off mid-paragraph.

When waiting in line at the post office, offer to drop off the frantic woman’s package. When she accuses you of attempting robbery, shrug, and resume your podcast. For every mean person there is at least one unreasonably kind one. VIsualize yourself being one of the unreasonably kind ones.

Try a new cafe in the neighborhood. Complain about the lack of alternative milk options. Leave for your favorite spot and vow never to branch out again. Trying new things is hard and sometimes pans out but other times is just a pain--like bangs or hot yoga. But then consider all the times a new thing turned out to be the best thing. Running the risk beats never knowing.

Absolute Loves: March 6, 2019

It’s very much still winter in New York. Nights are long and even the walk to the subway feels like an arctic adventure some mornings. Regardless, lots of favorites to share and plenty of cozy nights in with friends to come.

No secret here, I’m vintage denim obsessed. While in Vermont, I took Ruby to my favorite spot for vintage jeans in the world. A wall of jeans organized by size and cut made trying an assortments of styles simple. I picked up Levi 505’s, which was a departure from my beloved 501’s. This blog post is helpful for understanding the difference.

Have I talked about Skin Food enough? Will my love for it ever wain? Not to get dramatic, but it’s the product single handedly getting me through the winter.

I had a moment with bullet journaling last year. It was fun while it lasted, loved the flexibility, but needed something with a bit more structure. Enter, the Shinola Runwell Planner. It’s perfectly minimal while remaining really lovely to reference every day. (Do I even have to mention it’s monogrammed?)

The Drop Out is the perfect podcast to devour in a weekend. It’s fast, so interesting, and dark without being too heavy. Also tres into The Robcast, as of late.

I made this chocolate olive oil cake for a dinner party last week. It’s GF, dairy free, and basically a new staple. I was sent on a whipped cream acquisition mission as it was being served. Thankfully I live on top of a grocery store.

When I miss Jim lots, I put on Kacey Musgraves’ album, which she turned me on to. Jim got me this speaker for my birthday which makes blasting “Space Cowboy” even better. There was a summer I played this song by her every time I got into the car.

Lastly, I’ve been rereading Mary Oliver every night from her book Devotions. It’s sort of the perfect way to end the day and has become a permanent fixture on my bedside table.

Current Reads: Thirty-Three

1. You Are Not a Stranger Here: Stories by Adam Haslett And so continues by recent short story obsession. Adam Haslett’s collection focuses on the lives left behind, the space that grief opens up and what eventually fills it. Each story opens on a new kind of sadness—some quiet, others deafening. I read this on the subway, the way I usually read most short story collections. Each ride/story felt new, but connected.

2. White Houses: A Novel by Amy Bloom There is a certain kind of novel: The Paris Wife, The Nightingale, for example, that reimagine a historical happening for the sake of story. I find this kind of book so relaxing—the worldbuilding familiar and the characters flawed but with a clear trajectory. I had the same experience reading White Houses, a telling of the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok from the White House to later life. It was a touching, quiet portrait of romance. Exactly the sort of novel I love to cuddle up with when winter evenings feel endless.

3. Five Plots by Erica Trabold There’s something magic about books that just find you. I get so many of my recommendations from my best friend, from magazines, and local bookstores. It’s a delight to end up with a book with no real sense of how it got there. Trabold’s debut collection is seeped in space—a study in the ways the land we come from shapes us as we shape it in return. Her portrait of Nebraska is loving, poetic, and honest. I can’t wait to read whatever she write next.

4. Blue Dusk by Madeline DeFrees A former nun turned poet, Madeline DeFrees is an acclaimed teacher and writer. This book, a collection of her work over the span of decades, balances in contradiction. Whatever identity was lost in her 36 year stint as a sister is ruefully reclaimed in later work. Her understanding of the spiritual realm colors her observations, no matter how commonplace. This would be a perfect place tos tart after re-reading all of Mary Oliver’s work.

5. Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash I picked up this book from Beaverdale Books over a year ago, based on enthusiastic recommendation. A novel set in North Dakota, centered on a college wrestler was a tough sell, but I love Coffeehouse Press and trust Hunter’s picks. A coming-of-age story of sorts, the book follows said wrestler in his senior season. Physiological, fast paced, and totally original, the main character’s thoughts morph from outlandish to disturbingly understandable. The book seems to move with a force of its own—all set to the static of the American West.

6. Up, Up Down, Down, Down: Essays by Cheston Knapp A blurb by Leslie Jamison and a prominent placement at Greenlight are basically all I need to be convinced to pick up a book. This collection of essays is strange, unexpectedly insightful, and easy to read. That’s not to say Knapp’s style of writing is simple, actually the opposite. His stories feel huge, massively important but are grounded in the bizarre reality of life. His history as a frat brother and white Christian male color the collection in a refreshing light.

"I Love You" in Chocolate Chips

Thank God Valentine’s Day is only once a year. More than annually and we all might lose our minds. It’s hard to opt out of, even if red looks awful on you. It’s especially hard to opt of when you think of all the ways you felt love, just on your walk this morning.

Writing sonnets is a good place to start, but so is leaving sprawling voicemails with no clear outline. True love is a conglomerate of talking in circles and best intentions. Love notes are the number one reason for the US Postal Service, any way. Ask your mom for stamps. Stay up late spilling your heart on paper, then lick the seal.


May I suggest fashioning a meal entirely of chocolate and a second course of just champagne? May I also suggest reckless abandon in the punctuation department? This just might be the most socially acceptable day of the year to go overboard with exclamation points. Try it!


There are a thousand ways to say I love you. Turn to the best of the 80s for inspiration. Get distracted. Remember you secretly love Duran Duran. Saying “I love you” can be singing “I love you” in an acapella choir. It can be texting “I love you” in the perfect emoji code. It can be spelling “I love you” in chocolate chips on top of boxed brownies.


Stack compliments on top of each other like the Leaning Tower of Please Feel. They’ll topple, inevitably. But when they do, it’ll feel warm and safe. Sigh and stare lovingly into the eyes of something. You’ll feel better for it.


Your Winter Reading List

Earlier evenings and lower temperatures combine for optimal reading weather. Tucked inside walk ups and brownstones, lining the snowy streets of Park Slope, are toppling bookshelves. They boast buzzy new novels with stunning covers, forgotten required reading from undergrad, and beloved favorites with turned in pages. Even the most seasoned of readers can feel the all too familiar uncertainty of what to read next. There’s nothing like the perfect recommendation to get you out of the decision slump. That’s where local bookstores come in. Chris Molnar from powerHouse on 8th was happy to share his thoughts on what’s to come and where to begin your winter reading adventure.

What new novels are you most excited about carrying this winter?

I can't wait for Tessa Hadley's Late In The Day. In my opinion she's without peer in the New Yorker-approved mainstream of literary fiction. Her short stories have always been marvels of concision, depth, and atmosphere, but lately has her longer work gotten just as good.  With a book club ready plot (two couples that are old friends; one dies and secrets emerge) and coming off 2015's career-best The Past, I think this has the potential to be a real breakout for her.


Darius James' Negrophobia isn't technically new, but the upcoming NYRB re-release will be a high profile event, reintroducing a brilliant satire on racism that casts a long shadow over everything from The Sellout to Atlanta to Sorry to Bother You.

Are there new authors you think would have special appeal to the Brooklyn reader?
Like a garage rock revival band, Andrew Martin's debut novel Early Work is a book out of time, a total throwback despite all the current references to Kanye West or Only Lovers Left Alive.  The obvious heir to Philip Roth or David Gates and their cosmopolitan antiheroes, not to mention dishy literary world rom-coms like The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., it's the kind of book that used to be omnipresent in Brooklyn, but which now has the field to itself.  It is so blithely against the topical trend that it somehow feels bold despite being a breezy, almost guilty pleasure.  Not to mention that beautiful, Balthus-featuring, Rodrigo Corral-designed cover.

Classically, is there a type of novel you find Park Slope residents are drawn to? An all-time favorite author of the neighborhood?

Ferrante's Neapolitan novels and Knausgaard's My Struggle series are both standards, and it makes sense - their mix of epic sweep and quotidian warmth is perfect for such an iconic yet family-oriented neighborhood.  It's no contest, though; the all-time favorite is Haruki Murakami. No matter the month, he's always in the top ten bestselling authors here. I'm not completely sure why that is, but I can definitely see something about those vanishing cats and women fitting in perfectly with the neighborhood, the mystery you feel looking down a row of beautiful, secretive brownstones at dusk.

Along with new novels, are there any classics you can recommend readers revisit in the winter months?
You can never go wrong with Denis Johnson's Train Dreams.  It's so short that you can read it in one sitting, but his mastery of late-nineteenth, early-twentieth century American history is so complete that you feel transported to another time, the action so liquid, so organically strange, so true-to-life in a way that historical fiction rarely is.
Between that and Robert Caro's riveting (and much, much longer) biography of master builder Robert Moses, The Power Broker, you can pretty much get a full curriculum in the development of America's wilds, even if it's just through the eyes of a fictional character and an unelected parks official.


For more recommendations, stop in the store located at 1111 8th Ave Brooklyn, NY 11215 (718-666-3049) or www.powerhouseon8th.com online. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your literary inclined friends. I’m excited for The Au Pair, a debut by Emma Rous and The Care and Feeding of of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray. Perennial winter favorites I find myself returning to include Fates and Furies by Lauren Gross and Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard.

Lastly, don’t forget to check Instagram or as the book inclined community using the app refers to it as, #bookstagram. Follow @powerhouseon8th for booksellers’ most recent loves.

(This article originally appeared in the winter issue of The Park Slope Reader)


Current Reads: Thirty-Two

1. Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and The Secret History of L.A. by Lili Anolik Given to me by my beloved friend, Danielle, this book was the book I never knew I needed. While biographies can feel stuffy or hard to get through for me, classically, this was such a different story. Sometimes books like this, especially set to the tune of Hollywood in its heyday, can feel like a long list of B list celebrities doing “crazy” stuff. The book was carried effortlessly by the author’s personal relationship to Eve herself. There was so much I didn’t know about the crowd Eve Babitz ran in as young as her time at Hollywood High. Reading about her through the eyes of her younger sister was particularly fascinating. I think Black Swans is certainly coming up on my to be read list.

2. Joy Enough by Sarah McColl I was lucky enough to attend Sarah’s book talk in Dumbo a few weeks ago. Her interview with Melissa Clark was lovely. I couldn’t wait to get home and start her book. The book is a stunning tribute to the author’s mother. It’s a recounting of loss—both of her mother’s death and the falling apart of her own marriage. It feels optimistic in the way memoirs on grief so commonly don’t. I can’t wait to read whatever Sarah McColl writes next. This book is such a gift.

3. The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso I’m on a Sarah Manguso bender. Her book Ongoingness: The End of a Diary was the first of her books that I read. I adored it, but forgot about it until a recent reading of 300 Arguments. And now, I’m quite a fan. This memoir was incredibly interesting to read as it documents her health complications during college. What is already a fascinating stage of life is made more complex by an unexpected illness. She writes about her time in the hospital and out in a way that is often lost when medical jargon comes into play. I finished it in an afternoon, reading to order the rest of her body of work immediately.

4. The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch Another recommendation from my writing class, this book finally arrived from whatever used book warehouse I ordered it from weeks ago. In the middle of reading, I texted a photo of the cover to two of my good friends with just the text, “urgent!” It’s not for the faint of heart, considering its an extremely visceral recounting of a colorful life. Also, it’s really not a PG-13 book, either. But caveats aside, it’s my favorite memoir I’ve read so far this year. Yuknavitch recounts life as a competitive swimmer, speaking honestly of her desires and the ways she left that life behind.

5. The Houseguest by Amparo Dávila Short stories were a first for me in 2018. My goal, this year, is to read way more. It’ll be hard to live up to this near perfect collection. The Houseguest reads like modern Poe—creepy, eerie, and totally captivating. The stories are deeply psychological and rely on the author’s expert ability to build an shatter worlds in just a few pages. I had to stop reading the book at night because of my inability to fall asleep after. I opted for strictly subway reading, instead. But don’t let that deter reading! It’s creepy in the best way.

6. How to Leave: Quitting the City and Coping with a New Reality by Erin Clune Reading about those who come home to the Midwest is certainly a niche genre choice. It used to be hard to read without carrying my own reasons and justifications to the text. But now I just enjoy lamenting about craziness of living in a city like New York with someone who was raised in a totally different place. This book is a breeze and very humorous. Plus, such a good cover.

Absolute Loves: January 18, 2019

I’m back in Brooklyn and almost back in the swing of things. Looking forward to a relaxed weekend. Wishing you the same. Let’s get to the loves.

Baking these gf cookies tomorrow. I’m already hungry. They’re so easy, super decadent, and 100% Nigella Lawson all the way through. Plus I ordered buckwheat flour is bulk this week. I have a shelf of gluten free flours that’s basically a dusty graveyard of baking, but feeling very into buckwheat at the moment.

About to re-read The Complete Artist’s Way, which is a massive book chalk full of practices for artists or artist adjacents. Highly recommend if you’re in a creative slump or like toting around a very dramatic, serious looking brick of a book. Turns out I identify with both.

Ok, no one talks about how hard it is to find a good place to dance in Brooklyn any given night. I spent probably a year hopping from bar to bar, praying for a decent DJ, maybe some early Rihanna if I was lucky. No more. My neighbor/beloved friend Eva and I have commited hard to Friends & Lovers.

I was totally gutted by both Cold War and If Beale Street Could Talk recently. January feels like the perfect time to warm up in a theater with stunning films like these.

The album Stranger In The Alps by Phoebe Bridgers has been playing nonstop in my apartment. It’s perfect. And also, I’ve been on a huge Desert Island Discs kick.

Lastly, are you putting tahini on everything? I am and it’s really working for me. I’ve been sticking to salads, mostly but some cookies and maybe even oatmeal are on the horizon.

Current Reads: Thirty-One

1. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld Prone to nonfiction, sometimes weary of a page count over 400, it’s no surprise I put off reading American Wife. What I don’t put off is a recommendation from Ruby. She suggested Prep for Jim and You Think It I’ll Say It for me when we visited her at work this summer. Of course, she was spot on. When she put a copy of this book in my hands on a recent trip to DC, I trusted her fully. The novel tells the story of Alive Lindgren, a quiet only child growing up in suburban WIsconsin. A tragic accident changes her at age 17. Her life shifts dramatically again in her late 20s when she meets the charismatic, charming son of a famed Republican family. In a blur, he becomes governor and then president. Alice is confronted with the reality of her conflicting beliefs and increasingly public persona.

2. Glass, Irony & God by Anne Carson It’s not that I dislike Anne Carson’s writing. She’s one of my favorite authors. I’ve read probably six of her books. But I’ll be the first to admit that I have a hard time connecting to the level of intellect some of it boasts. Once, I was reading Eros on the subway and the man next to me asked what I was about. I looked at him and shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine,” I said. This book, though by no means a quick read, felt more digestible. “The Book of Isaiah” was my favorite essay.

3. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee With Roxane Gay’s stamp of approval, what more do you need? I picked up this book after seeing it on a list of books that inspire good writing that aren’t necessarily “writing books.” It’s a collection of essays on writing, yes, but also on politics, on place, and on the way all these intersect. His writing is wry, funny but loaded. Highly recommend reading after Heavy , as I did, in the lobby of BAM before a film.

4. Silence, Joy by Thomas Merton I can still remember reading my first Merton (No Man is an Island) about three years ago. Alone, in my bedroom, I felt his perspective crack open all I thought I knew about Christianity. He’s pretty much everyone’s favorite monk. This beautiful copy of his fifty-year-old classic caught my eye at Greenlight. It’s been a delight to carry in my bag for in-between moments. And I think that’s how Merton would have wanted it to be read. Reflections on solitude, tangents on ecstacy, and notes on stillness meet in this perfect collection.

5. She Wants It by Jill Soloway My good friend, Arielle, gave me this book at a party I was hosting a month ago. Prior to reading, I was embarrassingly unfamiliar with Jill Soloway, except for I Love Dick. Cut to present day and I’m a bonafide super fan. I watched all of Transparent in two weeks (record time) and listened to every podcast I could find with Jill in it. Oh and of course, loved Afternoon Delight (on Netflix.) Reading the book with limited familiarity with her work was interesting, although I think I would enjoy it even more now. Not to say I didn’t the first time around! Soloway writes brilliantly on gender, love, her craft, on how it all changes and that’s ok.

6. 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso Ongoingness was my first introduction to Manguso, thanks to Ruby’s direction. I loved the book, but it somehow fell off my radar. This book was part of the reading list supplied for the memoir class I’m taking. I ordered it, read it in one afternoon, then ordered a copy for Lydia. I joked it was our new Bluets, a book we both adore and connects us deeply. Leslie Jamison describes it as “distilled.” And in the book, Manguso writes that she hopes it reads like the best parts of a longer work. Mission accomplished. She writes about power, love, aging, really so many topics, with the precision of a surgeon. I also find books like this or Silence, Joy are so fun to give as random gifts because of their size.

Consider Dry January

Ditch the resolutions and imagine what Julia Child would say about your unused baking tin. Imagine it in her perfectly pitched tone. Attempt a souffle or tarte or anything with a French twang to it. Delight in the stained edges of your cookbook. Call your mom and tell her she was right: about the apple crisp needing lemon juice and about mostly everything else.

Always pack a hat, even if your hair looks good. Expect delays on the A train. Feel delighted when you land the trash in the basket first toss. When things go your way, remember they don’t always stay that way. Spend your laundry quarters on arcade games. Because your whites can wait until next week. Rally X cannot.

Consider “Dry January” and then remember champagne exists. Celebrating without bubbles is just a meeting. And meetings are for finance bros. Find friends who opt for pizza over a proper sit down dinner. Keep them. Shower them in book recommendations and sappy emails. They’ll show up to dinner parties with cheese, even if it’s raining.

Wander through your neighborhood listening to jazz. Get bored and put on Prince. Get bored at least once a week. Keep a notebook close for the inevitable strike of inspiration. So much happens when we slow down. So slow down, and be amazed.

Across the table from Haverlee

Oh, Haverlee, where to begin? We’ve known each other for years, but only recently have we really gotten close. And it’s been magic. She and I speak the same language-most of our conversations are “yes” and “same here.” Haverlee is a generous listener, a creative visionary (her photography is here), and adventurous spirit. I could go on, but I’ll save it for the voice notes we send back and forth.

Across from Haverlee.

EV: What do you want to do more of?

HC: First of all, I’m terrible at answering questions on the spot.

EV: That’s the point.

HC: More of connecting deeply with friends. I tend to be a recluse, especially in the winter. I want more live music and great food and new cities, places. But that’s kind of always my goal.

EV: That’s perfect.

HC: Generally, I want more discipline to achieve some goals that I have in my head.

EV: Less of?

HC: Less of my phone. Less of staying up too late and sleeping too late. And less wasting time.

EV: And what do you have the perfect amount of right now?

HC: Drive. I see things in my future and I feel that they’re attainable. I have just enough discomfort and confidence to make those things happen.

Absolute Loves: December 28, 2018

Greetings from Iowa. This batch will be inspired by the things that make coming back to this lovely state, well, lovely. Wishing you a happy new year and lots of last minute holiday baking.

The Des Moines Art Center is a perennial favorite, but its late hours on Thursday are especially delightful. It stays open until 9PM, making it the perfect post dinner pit stop.

On the rare occasion I can’t convince my brother or sister to drive me, I’ve enjoyed the freedom of blasting whatever I’m in the mood for over the car speakers. This week it’s been Feist and this podcast on The Female Gaze by Jill Soloway.

Eden, oh Eden. I’ll risk beating the dead horse that is my unyielding love for this store any day. Jim gifted me Jao Refresher (a natural answer to hand sanitizer) for part of my Christmas gift. I picked up Sensitive Pit Cream from Fat and The Moon for my mom, which turns out to be the natural deodorant we’ve all been praying for. Endless thanks Josh for turning me on to it x

Coffee is a nonnegotiable part of my morning routine. This instant coffee from Laird Superfood has changed the game. Packed with nutrients, it mimics the effects of Bulletproof Coffee-sans dirty blender. The whole family has become properly hooked.

We threw a dinner party on Christmas Eve and this sangria recipe was a reminder of how easy and festive the drink really it. Also being at my mom’s house is a reminder of how easy and festive it is to prep a dinner for twenty with more than a foot of counter space, but I digress.

Shirkers was just as weird and captivating as I hoped. It’s about a road movie created by three best friends in Singapore. Part manhunt and part mystery, it’s a bright, reflective look at the loss and gain of trust and the unwavering creative vision.

Vintage shopping is just better in Iowa. Hot take, but the curated, overpriced shops of Brooklyn can’t compare to the rush of pulling out the perfect button up from a rusted rack and realizing it’s marked down to fifty cents. This week was no exception. I’ve already shipped back one box of sartorial gold. The best spots in Des Moines are Funky Finds and Salvation Army. Best paired with a coffee from Horizon Line.

Current Reads: Thirty

1. Jell-O Girls: A Family History by Allie Rowbottom Capturing both the evolution of the iconic brand of Jell-O and her own life within it’s “curse,” Rowbottom’s memoir is such a delight. Part history lesson and part exploration of feminism, this book speaks eloquently of typically taboo topics like inheritance, eating, and family. The whole story feels collective-so much bigger than just the author’s own life or loss. If you liked Educated this year, this memoir makes an excellent follow up.

2. The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank A much needed break from heart wrenching memoirs, this novel came at just the right time. I picked it up in DC, thanks Ruby, and stacked it by my bedside. This book reads so easily; I finished it in two days, without any effort. The voice is fun, smart, and fast. It centers on Jane, a woman living in the illusive world of publishing in New York. Coming of age has never been funnier, more relatable, and unforgettable than in this novel.

3. Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon Recommended by the teacher of the writing class I’m in, the next two picks were read in succession. They couldn’t be more different, but are both anchored in trauma. If memoir isn’t classically your genre, don’t fret. Heavy is poetry, story, anthology, and memoir all wrapped up in an honest, candid package. I can’t recommend this enough. It’s the sort of book that is best read with no expectations and someone you can discuss its poingancy with.

4. Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes Equally as emotional, but a little more sparse, is this sort of collection of grief. Barthes started a journal the day after his mother died in October 1977. The French theorist explores the way grief speeds up and slows down, its constant inconsistency. For two years, he records his day to day, the weight he carries, and the way his mother’s absence colors it all. This book is considered the key that unlocks all of his work-the core of who he was the the brilliant work he created.

5. The Odd Woman and The City by Vivian Gornick I picked this book up in Harlem half a year ago, drawn in by the concept of a memoir on walking and life in New York. As the weather drops the practice or walking I once worshipped can become a chore. This little book helped me to remember how special it can be and the connections it affords. The themes are really more focused on self discovery and friendship than walking, but imagining Vivian Gornick pounding the pavement from neighborhood to neighborhood is a dream.

I'll Have What She's Having: Joni Mitchell

Often pegged as the reigning queen of flowy, bohemian style, Joni MItchell lives a life more along the lines of punk. Her art, her wardrobe, and the persona she carefully molded are all comprised of moments of rebellion. Blue was unlike any album before. Her Laurel Canyon home was unconventional for the late 60s. And her way of dress was tethered to her unique, yet universal view of the world. The opening chords of A Case of You as hauntingly personal as her long, almost straight hair, parted in the middle, tangled in the strings of her guitar.

In the loose, floral world of 70s kaftans, Joni Mitchell’s draw to tailored menswear remains one of her less notable, but equally iconic, wardrobe choices. Suits always felt lived in, wrinkled perfectly, with just enough crop to keep them playful.

That being said, Joni has always been the authority on the statement dress. What I love is the detailing in every dress she wears that makes it memorable without making it fussy. Ruching or ruffles help the piece to stand on its own-coupled with loads of dangling jewelry, of course.

Speaking of accesories, let us not forget the magic of Joni Mitchell in her trademark beret. It might strike most as a surprising hat choice, especially in contrast to the floppy, woven looks common in the 70s, but it’s totally her. Quietly sophisticated in her interpretation of the style de jour, Mitchell made choices that spoke to her, not the zeitgeist.

But quiet sophistication doesn’t mean boring, not by a long shot. Even in these four unique outfits, see how Joni Mitchell embraces a host of textures in a number of silhouettes. Somehow, every look feels anchored and completely like herself. That’s the magic of personal style.

So put on Blue (arguably seasonally appropriate) and dust off the beret in the back of your wardrobe. Book a trip to the Canadian wilderness or the island of Crete. Nothing is more Joni Mitchell than to run away, a flash of blond hair and flared dress, in the name of artistic discovery.

Absolute Loves: December 7, 2018

Welcome back! Another round of favorites, some of them linkable, others more conceptual, all of them a true obsession of mine. It’s gotten cold in New York and I’m feeling increasingly more festive. Let’s get into the loves.

I’ll open by admitting something. I’m a ponytail woman. It only took twenty-two years for me to embrace this fully and much of that is due to my recent discovery of silk scrunchies. I ordered them in bulk and doled them out to my closest friends, like chic friendship bracelets. Bonus: Less breakage and helps prep any outfit for impromptu appearance at an 80s themed party.

Mrs. Meyers might be the most notable celebrity from Iowa. I mean, really, put up a convincing argument for Ashton Kutcher or some president. She’s a cleaning icon (?) and the love of my adult life. The seasonal scents are a serious matter for me and my best friend, Ruby. She’s a Peppermint girl while I lean toward Iowa Pine. Listen, they sell out fast, so take matters into your own (clean) hands and make it happen. Your counters will thank you.

If you’re in the market for a great red for a classic pizza pairing, I’ve been enjoying Lacrima di Morro d’Alba 2015 Mario Lucchetti. Get over the pop art label and enjoy this medium bodied, floral delight. Is my wine store showing yet?

Speaking of beverages, oat milk. I know, I know! The trend is hardly a revelation, but Oatly is. For months, I’d been buying some weird brand from my bodega. One morning, I decided to splurge on Oatly. It’s been worth it and I’m now officially the kind of person who has an oat milk preference.

Lastly, it’s time for the recreation activity of the hour: shuffleboard. My neighbor-friend, Eva, threw her party here last week. We all sort of stumbled into a new hobby. I can’t wait to go back, maybe this time with a clearer understanding of the rules and one less martini?

Bonus: I don’t care about Christmas music. I do care about my brother’s music recs, so Thirdstory has been in heavy rotation.

Current Reads: Twenty-Nine

1. Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr When an author writes both poetry and nonfiction, I usually find myself prone to pick up her nonfiction first. I find it colors the writer’s poetry brillianty, in most cases, providing backstory and context to prop the more creative work against. After finishing Sinners Welcome in one weekend, part of me wished it was the first Karr I’d read. Her latest collection of poems, Tropic of Squalor, is a more focused, humorous feeling than this earlier work, but both read true to her iconic voice. She’s one of my top memoirists and now, favorite poets.

2. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr I swear, I’ll take a beat after this Mary Karr binge, although I think I might only have one unread book of hers left. Generally, reading the same author over and over can feel redundant for me, but I’ve been honestly addicted to Mary Karr’s work. This is my favorite of her nonfiction, plus her most popular. Becoming numb to her brutal honesty and backcountry brilliance was a fear of mine, but from chapter one, this book convinced me otherwise. It’s so easy to get drawn into, so natural to empathise with, and so impossible to forget.

3. Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic Another repeat offender, a book recommendation from The High Low, landed on my bedside table about a month ago. Reading about the internet has been a trend in my recent novel choices. It used to annoy me and send me back to Brontë or Babitz. But it’s a character in modern life, so I decided to embrace it, gingerly. This novel was a great place to start-part unwinding thriller, other part family drama. It unfolded the way the thrills of the internet often do-in a mundane, pedestrian manner. It explored the blurred line of online and offline personality with the true expertise of a young female author who could write about such a space from honest experience, without judgement or speculation. Dark, twisting, and set in New York, this book was the perfect start to my winter tendency of door stop novels.

4. He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art by Christian Wiman In the same vein of my unending love for Karr is my love for Christian Wiman. Both have informed so much of my spiritual understanding, giving names to impossible truths I held for years. And both write exceptional nonfiction on top of nonfiction. The latest from Christian Wiman reads like a well tended journal, a love letter to his favorite art form: poetry.

5. 10:04: A Novel by Ben Lerner A rec from Ruby, I picked up this book on a recent trip to DC. Reading it right before Sympathy made for a lot of modern fiction in a row, but felt like a sort of continuation. The story is narrated by an author with a new book deal and a host of massive questions about life, legacy, and the potential of love to change it all. It’s set in the erriest of dystopias, in near future Brooklyn. The warm temperatures and long walks moves the book through the familiar borough. Hilarious, disturbingly real, and unsettling, this book willingly dives into the conflict of considering a future when what’s to come looks unbearable.

Balancing Bird meets Bishop Dog; Gratitude Ensues.

Just this morning, while I was clomping in my dirty sneakers next to the recently closed baseball fields in Prospect Park, I partook in a small act of grace. Puddles had taken up residency along the coasts of the crooked sidewalks that plow through the park. Everyone was river dancing at 7 a.m., trying to keep their boots in decent shape.

A woman mimed desperately in front of me. I dropped my headphones between my puffer jacket and still sleep warm pajama shirt. She called me m’am, shrugged at a tiny red ball over the fence, and pointed to my height. A case of beloved red ball gone rouge, her yippy dog explained to me.

Too far to reach, we decided, after a sleepy effort. Then I felt mystic, considered the larger layers of meaning this might hold, and really went for it. The small part of my stomach teetered on the sharp edge of the wooden fence like a Balancing Bird. I finally scooped it up, triumphantly, reeling my body back to its locked and upright position.


The baseball cap the woman was wearing could hardly contain the sincerity of her gratitude. Even the dog shut up and bowed like a bishop at the communion table. “That’s your Mitzvah for the day,” she said as I walked on. Who knows what tomorrow’s will be.