Ruth Reichl, author of three beloved food memoirs, has just expanded the series with Save Me the Plums, which covers her decade as editor of Gourmet magazine. Below, she recommends the recent novels she's most enjoyed listening to while cooking.
Circe by Madeline Miller (2018).
Miller's subversive retelling of the Circe myth is hypnotic and spellbinding. Listening, I found myself transported to a timeless and magical place, but also thinking about what it means to be a mortal woman. The prose is so poetic, the story so compelling, that I wished it would never end.
A modern-day scholar discovers an ancient manuscript, and as she ponders its many mysteries we find ourselves transported to London's Jewish community during a 1660s plague year. Two women in different centuries are at the heart of the book, and this is the best kind of historical fiction: While introducing you to a culture of the past, it poses questions about the present.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2013).
I love everything Atkinson writes, but this tour de force makes you ask yourself, how did she pull it off? She considers the effect of every decision, every twist of fate in her heroine's life. Stunning, inspiring, it is the ultimate what if book, examining the impact one person can have upon the world.
Mislaid by Nell Zink (2015).
A book about a woman on the run, Mislaid takes in every important issue in American life: gender, race, power, success, parenting. The novel's twists and turns keep you guessing, but Zink is such a wonderful, imaginative writer that you stay with her throughout this fantastic journey.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (2018).
Kushner takes us inside a prison, giving voice to people we too rarely hear from. She obviously spent a long time doing research for this book, and we intimately get to know killers, other convicts, and guards. What makes this book so extraordinary is that the author condescends to no one. She respects all of her characters, and because of that, we do, too.
When an upwardly mobile African-American man is wrongfully incarcerated, we expect the usual courtroom drama and prison horror. Instead, we get a thoughtful examination of what happens inside a marriage — any marriage — when two people move in different directions.