The summer heat is (thankfully) on its way out, and warm and comforting dishes are coming back around. Let Heidi Swanson's recipe for Baked Oatmeal ease you into the fall season. Her vegetarian, whole foods-focused cookbook, Near & Far is our Top Pick for September.
pluots ° kefir ° almonds
I suspect the baked oatmeal recipe in my last book made it into more kitchens than any other recipe I’ve ever written. It’s still a regular here at home, in various guises, and this is a version worth celebrating. Made with crimson-fleshed Dapple Dandy pluots, it rides the line beautifully between the sweetness of the summer fruit and the tanginess of the kefir or buttermilk. Other stone fruit can be substituted.
Preheat the oven to 375°F | 190°C with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously butter the inside of an 8-inch / 20cm square baking dish (or equivalent), then sprinkle with lemon zest.
In a bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, kefir, water, egg, half of the butter and the vanilla. Arrange the pluots in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the kefir mixture over the oats. Gently give the baking dish a couple of raps on the countertop to make sure the liquid moves through the oats.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining melted butter on the top and serve. Finish with a bit more maple syrup if you want it a bit sweeter, and a thread of cream to bring it all together.
Ted Kosmatka's latest novel, The Flicker Men, touches on the role that genetics plays in the age-old argument of free will vs. fate. In this gripping sci-fi thriller, disgraced scientist Eric Argus begins to explore the paradoxical double-slit experiment, and his explorations lead him to the conclusion that only humans possess souls—but not all humans. In a guest post, Kosmatka details how quantum physics inspired The Flicker Men.
Weird doesn’t even begin to cover it.
I remember the first time I heard about the two-slit experiment—that classic illustration found in many science textbooks that delineates so clearly the boundary between that which makes sense in the world of physics and that which does not.
The experiment was originally designed to answer whether light was a wave or a particle, but instead proved it was both. I recall first reading about it in high school—photons changing from waves, to particles, then back to waves—and thinking that it couldn’t possibly really work that way. How could the mere act of observation change the outcome?
The seeds for my novel The Flicker Men were probably sown in my first brush with this strange line of research, but over the years I’ve come to suspect that quantum mechanics isn’t just strange; there’s something fundamentally transcendental about it. To look deeply into quantum mechanics is to look beyond the bounds of ordinary experience. You’re treading on territory where even scientists throw up their hands. Not because they don’t know the answers anymore, but because they do. You can’t argue against quantum mechanics. To be a physicist arguing against quantum mechanics would be like a geneticist arguing against an observable phenotype. It just is. You have to deal with it, make sense of it somehow, even if it can’t possibly be right. And in the end, it all circles back around again to the observer. But what is an observer, exactly?
The Flicker Men began as a way for me to explore this question and was a challenge to write precisely because the answer hinges so clearly on results which have been tested and retested, but which lack an intuitive base from which to extrapolate. Quantum mechanics, to some extent, is a descriptive science. It can be used to predict phenomena, and yet at its core, what it says about the macro world remains unclear. This is perhaps why there are so many different interpretations, so many different theories about what is really going on behind the curtain. In its own way, this book is another one of those theories, though with a healthy dose of storytelling and artistic license tossed in for good measure.
One of the major themes of the book is the revelation of hidden knowledge. There are certain truths that can be explained in different words, and with different frames of reference, and yet still produce a spark of recognition among people as diverse as quantum physicists and gnostic philosophers.
The more I’ve learned over the years, the more I’ve come to realize that different systems of thought behave like the golden ratio found in nautilus shells. Once you see the pattern, you begin to see it other places, too, as if there was some hidden structure to the world all along—and it’s only gradually being revealed to you. The world is a jeweled box. Quantum mechanics is one of its stranger keys.
BookPage is thrilled to reveal the cover for There Is a Tribe of Kids, the upcoming new picture book by Lane Smith! It will be released next spring from Macmillan Children's. Click to view larger.
Lucky devils that we are, we were granted a sneak peek of the book, and readers can expect a rich and absorbing—and very funny—exploration of collective nouns. Smith answered a few questions about the new book:
BookPage: What inspired your new picture book?
Smith: In the summer of 1969 I was an 8-year-old boy living in the foothills of Corona, California. One evening after several hours of exploring caves and climbing rocks I found myself lost and unable to find my way home.
That night I stumbled onto a herd, also called a tribe, of goats. Mostly kids, as their young are called. They shared their food with me and led me to water. If it had not been for these goats who knows what might have happened to me. As the night grew colder, I found warmth in their fur as we huddled together to sleep. In the morning, they led me home.
I never saw them again.
Over the years the memory of this night faded, and I haven’t thought much about it until your question, ‘What inspired There Is a Tribe of Kids?’ I wonder, could There Is a Tribe of Kids have something to do with that time so long ago, that dreamlike night under the stars with that other Tribe of Kids . . . ?
NAH! I think I just wanted to make a book with lots of different animals.
In choosing groups to feature in the book, what do you think is the silliest group name? Most unfair?
I’ve always thought a Murder of Crows was both the coolest collective noun ever and the most unjust. I love crows. I feed them every morning and could watch them all day long. They are smart, clever and funny and don’t seem the slightest bit murderous.
Why is this book important to you?
I don’t know if important is the right word. I try to avoid “statements” with my books. But the fun thing about picture books is you can do something wildly, stylistically different with each one: sometimes realistic, sometimes cartoony, sometimes goofy, sometimes abstract. I wanted this one to be dreamlike but also a believable journey, so the art is a mixture of the scribbly and the rendered. It’s probably the loosest book I’ve done.
What are you most excited about for young readers to discover with your new book?
I think it will be a good book for group discussion. I never really say if the boy in the story is lost and trying to get back to his “tribe,” or if he was born alone and looking for acceptance with different animal groups. It will be fun to hear what young readers think.
If there were a large group of Lane Smiths, what would that group be called?
My wife Molly said, “an Annoyance of Lanes,” but I think she only said that because she wasn’t sure how to spell “an Adorableness of Lanes.”
Picking this book up, I thought I was in for another fluffy novel about an overworked woman who finds herself and starts really living life. But thankfully, Moulin's book has more heft than that. Sure, Ally Hughes, a college professor and single mother, finds herself—in bed with a younger man, Jake. Who is also her student. And then her newfound ‘freedom’ starts to look like a mistake. The narrative flashes back and forth between this realization and 10 years later, when Jake reenters her life on the arm of her now-grown daughter. Moulin has written a funny, breezy debut, but with the added weight of mother-daughter dynamics and difficult choices, it’s not so light that it will blow away.
She hung up as Jake knocked. She turned and froze. Could it be Meer? “Yes?” she called. “Who’s there?”
He had called Monday and booked twenty minutes of office hours to talk about his failed final paper.
She moved to the door and opened it. When she saw him, she drew back, surprised. “You’re Jake?”
“I have an appointment.”
“Yes! Okay!” She moved aside so Jake could step in. “We’ve never met.” She closed the door. Jake turned and held out his hand. Ally shook it. “Sorry. With two hundred students—I can’t always put a face to a name.” Ally had thought that “Jake Bean” was the big blond guy who smiled all the time and sat down front.
She couldn’t believe it. This was Jake?
Jake Bean was the boy in the back?
They hadn’t talked, but the boy in the back had haunted Ally for three years.
What are you reading?
Sara Humphreys' new contemporary McGuire Brother series is a step in a different direction for the award-winning paranormal romance author.
In this guest post, Humphreys to tell us about what inspired the new series, her fears about switching genres and more.
When people ask me where I came up with the idea for The McGuire Brothers series, I always wonder if I should admit the truth.
Here goes . . .
If you’re familiar with my previous work, then you know that I write steamy paranormal romance. Vampires, witches, shifters, demons and dragons inhabit the pages of my books. A few years ago, at the RWA National Conference in California, I pitched a new series idea to my editor, Deb Werksman. It was called Angels in Uniform and would feature angel-human hybrids that were all men in uniform.
My editor said, “Well, what if they were just people? You know, everyday heroes.”
To be really honest, I was afraid to try contemporary romance because the real world rules would have to apply. The hero can’t telepath with the heroine and he doesn’t have supernatural strength. In a contemporary romance, the men have to be . . . real men.
But it didn’t take long for me to get past my fears, and with Deb’s encouragement, The McGuire Brothers series was born.
First of all, I absolutely adore a man in uniform. They are alpha to the core: protective, loyal and steadfast. Secondly, there is something innately appealing about the bond between brothers. Maybe it’s because I have four sons or because I’ve seen the close relationship my father shares with his brothers, but I am a sucker for male-bonding.
The McGuire Brothers series features five brothers from a close-knit New England family, and all of them are men in uniform. Their devotion to each other is matched only by their commitment to service and eventually, to the women they fall in love with.
Readers will meet all five of the boys in Brave the Heat, but this love story belongs to Gavin. He’s the oldest in the family and the fire chief in their hometown. As with many first-borns, he is the caretaker and feels it’s his responsibility to keep an eye on his aging parents, to say nothing of the town he lives in.
After getting his heart broken by his high school sweetheart, Gavin swore off love and devoted his life to his career. However, when Jordan returns to town after a nasty divorce with two little girls in tow, the walls around Gavin’s heart begin to crumble.
One of my favorite moments in Brave the Heat includes all five brothers. They’re in the kitchen during their parent’s big anniversary party, and even though there’s a tent full of finely catered food, they’ve all come inside in search of their mother’s homemade cookies. Needless to say, there are only two left and a mild scuffle ensues.
If you ask me, there’s nothing sexier than a man who is devoted to family and living his life in service of others. Oh, and if he loves his mom’s cookies, that’s hot too.
Looking for more romance? Sign up for our monthly romance newsletter, Smitten!
A riveting real-life survival story and an inventive debut novel by a musician are among the paperbacks on sale today:
Deep Down Dark
By Héctor Tobar
Picador • $16 • ISBN 978125007485
Championed by novelist Ann Patchett, among others, Tobar's account of the 33 Chilean miners trapped more than 2,000 feet below the surface is meticulously researched and often heartrending. Antonio Banderas will star in a film adaptation, The 33, set to debut in theaters on November 13.
Wolf in White Van
By John Darnielle
Picador • $16 • ISBN 9781250074713
A finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction, this wildly original novel from the singer for the indie band the Mountain Goats explores the aftermath of trauma through the experiences of a reclusive game designer.
By Amy FitzHenry
Berkley • $15 • ISBN 9780425281116
When Emma's career-minded mother announces that she's too busy to attend her daughter's rehearsal dinner, the bride-to-be finds all her doubts about marriage and forever overcoming her hopes for a happily-ever-after. Taking the advice of her best friend, Emma heads to San Francisco to track down the father who skipped out on her and to confront at last the emotions she can no longer hide. This charming debut novel by a Los Angeles lawyer is a trade paperback original.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones
By Charles M. Blow
Mariner • $14.95 • ISBN 9780544570115
In a powerful memoir, the New York Times columnist recalls the poverty and abuse of his Louisiana childhood and reveals the echoes of his tramautic past in a long, painful search for his personal and sexual identity.
Our month-long celebration of debut fiction may be ending today, but there are plenty of new voices to look forward to this fall. Read on for some of 2015's remaining First Fiction highlights.
The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo (Harper)
When you’re down on your luck, sometimes you have to look to the past for answers. At least, that’s the plan for Mattie Wallace, the resilient heroine of this sparkling debut.
A Bright Moon for Fools by Jasper Gibson (Viking)
This debut from the cofounder of a British comedy website (The Poke) follows a man with some serious trouth issues as he tries to outrun his past mistakes in Venezuela.
The Courtesan by Alexandra Curry (Dutton)
Set during the legendary Qing dynasty, this historical novel tells the story of a real-life Chinese courtesan whose world opened up after a scholar chooses her as his concubine. Suddenly Jinhua has the opportunity to travel the world, something rarely afforded to Chinesewomen—or indeed, many men—in the 1880s.
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (Scout Press)
Already longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, this debut from literary agent Clegg (Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man) is a scorching depiction of a community's grief after a life-changing event.
The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young (Putnam)
A grieving mother starts experiencing visions after the death of her son, and wonders if she can solve a long-cold missing child case, in this Southern Gothic debut.
The Girl from the Garden by Parnaz Fourutan (Ecco)
The fortunes of a wealthy Iranian-Jewish family are explored in this poignant, accomplished and cinematic first novel from a recipient of the PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellowship.
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta (HMH)
When civil war breaks out in Nigeria, Ijeoma is sent away to safety and finds love—but with someone who is not only of a different ethnicity, but also another girl.
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan (Simon & Schuster)
An I Don't Know How She Does It for this digitally plugged-in decade, Egan's playful and provocative meditation on what it means to “have it all" is one of the fall's most charming releases.
After the Parade by Lori Ostlund (Scribner)
This gentle midlife coming-of-age story follows a gay man after the collapse of a nearly 20-year relationship who goes on a redemptive journey to his hometown.
Another Woman's Daughter by Fiona Sussman (Berkley)
Apartheid South Africa forms the backdrop of this powerful story of a mother and daughter who are caught up in the racial tensions of the day.
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson (Doubleday)
An elaborately designed novel that weaves a 19th-century manuscript into its pages, this story of a future dystopia created through an alternate past (Texas gained independence, for one) is an original and thrilling ride.
Cleopatra's Shadows by Emily Holleman (Little, Brown)
Did you know Cleopatra had a little sister? Neither did we, but this historically detailed exploration of life on the Nile during the Ptolemy dynasty feels like a breath of fresh air after the "Downton"-inspired wave of 20th-century historical fiction. Fans of Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles should take note.
City of Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (Random House)
This is probably the fall's most buzzed-about debut, and at more than 900 pages, it demands a significant time investment. But early word has it that the story, set in 1970s New York City and told by multiple narrators, is one that's worth getting lost in. Hallberg, a longtime contributor to the Millions blog, sold the manuscript for seven figures.
Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead)
Watkins, whose short story collection, Battleborn, was highly touted in 2012, is finally releasing a work of full-length fiction. Set in a near future where water has nearly vanished from the American West, it's a story of survival, weakness and cults.
The Marriage Pact by M.J. Pullen (Thomas Dunne)
A former therapist makes her fiction debut with a smart story of Atlanta 30-somethings coming to terms with life, careers and love.
Take a cross-country road trip with the father of pop art in Deborah Davis' The Trip. Our reviewer writes, "In Deborah Davis’ impressive recounting of this adventure, The Trip, Warhol’s experiences mark the turning point in his life between “Raggedy Andy” Warhola, a small-town kid from Pittsburgh, and Andy Warhol, filmmaker and pop art impresario." (Read the full review.)
We asked Davis to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
Readers and reviewers alike use one word, “unputdownable” (and I’m not even sure it’s a word), when describing I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes’ best-selling suspense thriller. I tore through this spellbinder so quickly and so compulsively that I was actually sneaking reads on my iPhone when I was supposed to be otherwise engaged. In addition to delivering a smart, inventive and involving story, this book offers a kaleidoscopic vision of global politics in the tense and terrifying world we occupy today.
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
The sensational sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan’s China Rich Girlfriend is a 24-karat exploration of money, mores and extreme affluenza in modern-day Asia. But Kwan delivers more than a panoramic portrait of fabulous excess (The clothes! The jewels! The cars! The homes!), and in the tradition of the very best social observers, he wisely reminds us of what’s truly important underneath all those intoxicating frills. His heart is always in the right place, yet he never denies us the thrill of our favorite new spectator sport: watching the crazy rich spend crazy amounts of money in crazy new ways.
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian is a classic shipwreck story with a very clever twist. This new millennium castaway has been abandoned in outer space, on the notoriously inhospitable planet Mars. I’m not a big science fiction fan, but Weir creates a completely credible “what-if” world, with a charismatic hero at its oxygen-less center. Time is astronaut Mark Watney’s enemy, as he confronts new and seemingly insurmountable obstacles every day. But our unlikely hero’s wit, intelligence, ingenuity and irresistible boy-next-door personality (although in this case, “next-door” is an angry red planet) have us hanging on his every action, rooting for his survival. Read it before the Matt Damon movie comes out in the fall!
Thank you, Deborah! See anything you think you'd enjoy, readers?
(Author photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)
Our final debut of the week is Erin Duffy's Bond Girl. Duffy spent years on the floor as a trader, and she knows the world her book is set in well.
I must confess to panicking when I glimpsed the shiny black Louboutin stiletto embellishing Erin Duffy’s debut novel, Bond Girl. Call me a snob, but I have no interest in reading anything remotely resembling an homage to "Sex and the City." Thus I was delighted to discover that Duffy’s maiden literary voyage has steered clear of the silly and sordid clichés of so-called “chick lit,” and instead delivers a delectable tale of a plucky female bond trader whose Wall Street escapades just happen to coincide with the economic Armageddon of 2008.
Read our full review here.
So you sped through All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr's riveting second novel set during World War II. Starring two teenagers—a French girl and a German boy—on opposite sides of the war whose lives become intertwined in surprising ways, this magical, almost fable-like story is a sweeping saga. If you're looking for a book worthy of following it, allow us to humbly present the options below.
If you were drawn to Doerr's not-unsympathetic portrait of German life during wartime—and the explanation of how everyday people could be caught up in the Nazi machine—pick up Hummel's realistic story of a German hausfrau on the homefront, which is based on the lives of her grandparents. Full of pitch-perfect details about the hardships faced by families as resources were diverted to the army, this novel "drive[s] home the humanity and suffering of the people who are frequently considered only as the enemy."
This moving debut, set during the Chechen wars, also features a cast of characters whose lives, at first, appear to have little in common, but are eventually shown to be linked in surprising ways. It also possesses the same emotional heft as Doerr's bestseller—and hey, we already know you like books by authors named Anthony!
Was it the peek at a lesser-known side of World War II that drew you to All the Light We Cannot See? Then you should pick up Jamie Ford's accomplished 2009 debut novel, which sheds light on the shameful treatment of Japanese-Americans in their own country during that conflict. "Ford aims to portray the Japanese-American internment with solid historicity, choosing to focus on how the events affected the course of real people’s lives. And he succeeds," according to our review.
If you thought that Doerr's portrayal of life in France during and World War II felt real, don't miss this long-lost masterpiece. Némirovsky's manuscript for Suite Française was written as the Germans rolled into France, and is that rarest of treasures: A fictional account of WWII as it unfolded. And it was only found some 50 years later, long after the author herself (a Jew) was murdered in Auschwitz.
Fans of the fable-like feel of All the Light We Cannot See should consider picking up The Illumination, which imagines that the physical and psychological pain of others is visible—shining like a beacon. Through this device, Brockemeier explores the links between suffering and beauty, using the stories of six different characters connected by a journal of love notes, with a wisdom and compassion that will be familiar to readers of Doerr's work.
So you loved All the Light but thought that maybe, just maybe, it could use a little more action? An illicit affair or two? Gillham's twisty debut is your best bet. Set in 1943 Berlin, it's the story of an ordinary German woman who somehow finds herself helping Jewish refugees—even as her husband fights for the Third Reich. The fact that her short-lived lover, whom she still longs for, is Jewish might have something to do with it.
What books do you recommend to readers of All the Light We Cannot See? Tell us in the comments!
RELATED CONTENT: Read our previous "Read it Next" posts.