Aiyah, Alamak! (that’s “OMG” to Singaporeans), Kevin Kwan has let the solid-gold, diamond-encrusted cat out of the Hermès Birkin bag, big time. His fabulous, over-the-top debut novel Crazy Rich Asians, read by Lynn Chen with just the right hint of a Far Eastern accent, is the romp of the season. We’re in Singapore in the super-secretive, super-snobby palatial inner sanctums of the super-rich, where families have intermarried for generations. Into this conniving society of splendor-soaked, couture-clad billionaires, where designer names pour down like the monsoon, walks Rachel Chu, a lovely, smart, 30-something Chinese-American professor from New York. She’s been invited to attend the “wedding of the century” by Nicky, her handsome, charming Singaporean boyfriend, who somehow neglected to tell her about his lineage-obsessed family, its staggering wealth and his position as heir apparent. Rachel’s OK as a girlfriend, but as the family realizes that Nicky might marry her, all the stops are pulled out to stop him. Super fun from beginning to end.
RETURN OF THE DEVIL
To be honest, Revenge Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger’s sequel to her best-selling, made-into-a-major-motion-picture debut novel, is not quite as delicious as its predecessor. But with Megan Hilty’s right-on reading, it’s a classic guilty-pleasure beach listen, a sandy soap opera with ongoing allure and appeal. Ten years have passed since the events of the first book, and Andrea Sachs, having survived the Prada-wearing devil with only minor episodes of PTSD nightmares, is the editor-in-chief and co-owner, with her former Runway colleague Emily, of a hit, hip bridal magazine. With a suave, sexy new husband—scion of a media empire himself—and a little bit preggers, Andy is on her way to having it all. Yet she isn’t totally happy; there’s a pea under this princess’ pile of luxurious mattresses, and it takes some time for her to find it. We’re back in that world of glamour and fashion, where the devil can still call the shots, everyone is gorgeous and shod in Christian Louboutin, and Andy can do her courageous, stand-up-for-herself shtick all over again.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
Michael Pollan has become our public foodie intellectual; drop the “foodie” and the title still fits. He’s made us think about food in new ways, about how the food choices we make impact our lives and our planet. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, the latest product of his boundless curiosity about what we eat, is leavened by Pollan’s companionable narration and his superb ability to synthesize huge amounts of information. Though he already had some kitchen skills, Pollan decided to really learn to cook, to master the four key methods of “transforming the raw stuff of nature”: fire, water, air and earth. His midlife culinary crusade, peppered with his encounters with gifted practitioners—a South Carolinian whole-pig-roasting pit master, a renowned bread baker, a cheese-making nun, dedicated fermentos, a young Chez-Panisse-trained chef schooled in the art of braising—prompts Pollan to delve into the culture and chemistry of cooking, and into its history, philosophy and politics—gender and otherwise. Cooking makes us human and, he suggests, happier and healthier. So, listen and learn. Or, in my poor approximation of a Pollanian maxim: Cook food. As often as possible. Reap the pleasure.