Shared booklist

BKLYN BookMatch for West Elm: Picnic Reads

This list was created by a librarian in partnership with West Elm ( Would you like your own personal list of reading suggestions? Visit Bklyn BookMatch at

10 items

Yes, chef

Marcus Samuelsson. |

The 'New York Times' bestselling memoir by the chef behind Harlem's acclaimed Red Rooster restaurant. Samuelsson, a native Ethiopian, writes of losing his mother and sister at a very early age, his adoption by a Swedish family, and the events which subsequently led him to a life preparing food for celebrities, Presidents, city employees, and pretty much anyone else you could name in Europe and America.

The Portlandia cookbook

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, with Jonathan Krisel ; photographs by Evan Sung. |

Much more than a mere cookbook, this cookbook also features advice from your favorite "Portlandia" characters, including "Kath and Dave's Guide to Picking a Table at a Restaurant," Peter and Nance's list of "Bed and Breakfast Requirements," and a "Note on Authenticity and Getting the Gear" which every serious amateur chef must read.

Blood, bones & butter

Gabrielle Hamilton. |

It's difficult for me to write about Gabrielle Hamilton's book without thinking of Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential": the 2 are friends and admirers, they had similarly adventuresome youths filled with drugs and sex, they both married Italians...the comparisons go on. We learn a bit more about Hamilton's early family life, particularly her imposing French mother. The chef and founder of the acclaimed Manhattan restaurant Prune, Hamilton is also a gifted writer (she has an MFA) and so has the ingredients for a good memoir: a great life-story and the ability to tell it well. Highly recommended.

Skinny dipping with murder

Auralee Wallace. |

Erica returns to Otter Lake, the site of her mother's celebrated spiritual retreats for women and, years earlier, her humiliation at the hands of cruel pranksters. Now those pranksters are being killed off, one by one, and Erica is the prime suspect. I hadn't realized murder could be so funny until Aurlalee Wallace paired it with skinny-dipping. Perfect mystery for the picnic blanket.

The singer's gun

by Emily St. John Mandel. |

Anton's family has dealt in illegal goods since he was a toddler, and now his cousin has built a lucrative business supplying fraudulent documents to desperate people. About to be married, and legitimately employed for the first time in his life, he thought he had escaped his family's dysfunctional hold until his cousin blackmails him into running one more criminal errand. This tale of crime is far less amusing than "Skinny-Dipping with Murder" but it's a compelling, brilliantly-plotted story of familial betrayal, so it'll keep you on your toes if your picnic companions roll that way.

Picnic at hanging rock

Joan Lindsay. |

This is the tale of a party of college women who go missing after a picnic in the Australian woods. The ambiguous ending has fascinated readers since its publication, as has its mood, which is often (and accurately) described as "haunting" and "erotic".

Garlic and sapphires

Ruth Reichl. |

When Ruth Reichl was offered the job of Restaurant Critic for the New York Times, she knew she wanted to remain as anonymous as possible - and she went to considerable (at times considerably amusing) lengths to do it. Particularly fascinating is Reichl's experience of dining at Le Cirque, first disguised as a timid tourist, and later as part of a party with the Times' assistant managing editor, a major player; guess which version of herself was ignored, forced to surrender her wine menu, seated in "smoking" (this was the early '90s) against her requests, and offered less desirable menu options? An entertaining, thought-provoking book.

Eating Korea

Graham Holliday. |

The author, an "avid eater," has a special affinity for Korean food. In this book, he describes his travels through South Korea, seeking out the best, most authentic cuisine the country has to offer, occasionally venturing into dicey locations and sampling "the exquisite, the inventive, and sometimes, the downright strange."

The vacationers

Emma Straub. |

Franny and Jim Post have brought their family and friends to the Spanish island of Mallorca to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary - but Franny isn't speaking to Jim, furious over his career-ending affair with a much younger employee. Their just-graduated daughter, Sylvia, is in love with her Spanish tutor and determined to lose her virginity. And then her older brother Bobby shows up with his much older girlfriend, a personal trainer who is counting on Bobby to finagle some money from his parents for her dream business. A funny, sad, and moving read - not too heavy, but far from fluff.

Picnic in Provence

Elizabeth Bard. |

A New York woman visiting France falls in love with a native Parisian. With his assistance, she becomes pregnant. Then a fateful trip to the countryside leads them to say, "Goodbye, city life!" and go "Green Acres" European style: they start an artisanal ice cream shop in which they experiment with such Provencal flavors as "saffron, sheep's milk yogurt and fruity olive oil." Includes recipes.