Books + Reading Lists
It all started with a website, where photographer Todd Selby posted shots of his friends in their homes. Next came a project with Louis Vuitton, a spin-off book, and, most recently, a column in The New York Times T Magazine. It’s this latest development—scrapbook-y pages of playful illustrations, hand-written notes, and photographs of people in the food world—in which Selby seems to have found his calling. It even inspired his second book, Edible Selby, out this month. Here’s an inside look:
How did you end up focusing on food-related spaces? My first book, The Selby is In Your Place, did well, and I started thinking about what I wanted to do next. My passion has always been food and cooking and eating and restaurants and chefs, and I thought I could figure out a way to approach the food world in a new way.
How would you describe the book? It has a feeling of a photo book meets a cookbook, but more than anything it’s a travel guide. You can look through it and get fun ideas for places to visit.
How did you discover the places? The best stuff in the book was very much word of mouth. I talked to chef Ignacio Mattos at New York’s Il Buco Alimentari, and he knew all these people who were connected to Chez Panisse. From them I met this guy who told me about this fisherman who told me about the guy who does Japanese catering.
What was one of your favorite finds? Hartwood in Tulum. The chef ended up being on the cover. I would call this a chef’s fantasy. It was so DIY—just the him and his wife creating the ultimate chef’s table, piled high with vegetables from the jungle.
What was your most memorable meal from the road? This old man has a restaurant on a cliff in Mallorca, and he makes paella over a fire. You can only get there by boat. Actually, you can also hike down to it, but the chicer way is to take a boat. He’s had it since the 70’s. One of the people there said Halle Berry and Tom Hanks had recently visited, so it’s not a secret anymore.
What about back home in New York? I’m an investor with Mission Chinese, and I’m obsessed with the catfish soup. It has pink peppercorn, so it’s a bit numbing; I just get into this zone where I’m eating it and I’m sweating, and it’s just incredible. I also love the bakery Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn. The sad thing is I’ve seen what they put in the pies. With pastry it’s better to never know. I got the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving this year; if you’re not on the waiting list right now then forget it.
Brooke Porter is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure
Photo of Todd Selby courtesy Hadassa Haack
Four memoirs tell of lives informed by travel.
Ghost Milk by Iain Sinclair (Faber & Faber): The author, the foremost chronicler of contemporary London, interweaves personal reminiscences with history as he laments how corporate forces are transforming the city.
The Last Bohemia by Robert Anasi (Farrar, Straus & Giroux): This autobiographical account begins with Anasi’s arrival in the industrial wasteland that was Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 1994 and charts the area’s chaotic evolution into a hipster haven.
Diaries by George Orwell (Liveright): The first-ever U.S. edition illuminates how Orwell’s travels to North Africa and elsewhere nurtured his political conscience. Meditations on food, people, and beasts hint at the beginnings of Animal Farm.
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson (Random House): The African-born chef behind the Harlem restaurant Red Rooster recalls cooking with his adoptive grandmother in Sweden and returning to Ethiopia to meet his birth father.
Photo by Whitney Lawson
Svelteness, style, and sex appeal: why do the French so effortlessly possess these qualities, and why can’t America get on board? Harriet Welty Rochefort knows the tricks of the French trade. A native Iowan who moved to Paris after college and married a Frenchmen, Rochefort is the author of French Fried: The Culinary Capers of an American in Paris, French Toast: An American in Paris Celebrates the Maddening Mysteries of the French, and the soon to be released Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French (St. Martin's Press, October 2012, $24.99).
She spoke with Travel + Leisure about not being an Ugly American, the best way to exercise in Paris, and why being a little “off” in considered sexy in Pah-ree.
Q: What advice do you give people traveling to Paris?
A: There’s three things. One, you should hang out in cafés as long as you can. Two, don't be loud, whether you’re on the street or in a restaurant. And three, get out of the Left Bank rut and try the 10th arrondissement (Canal St. Martin) or the 11th where all the savvy chefs have emigrated.
Attention summer travelers, these titles will put your extra free time—on the road, in the air, or poolside—to good use.
If you’re…Craving a Beach Read (but don’t want it to be so embarrassing that you have to hide it on an e-reader).
Read…Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf, $25.95)
Because…Forget Fifty Shades of Gray—Shipstead’s tale feels salacious enough to satisfy while still allowing you to maintain your literary standards. Shipstead, a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, chronicles a family’s retreat to a fancy New England beach town amidst their daughter’s fast-approaching wedding day. You know it’s a WASP satire when the characters names are Winn, Daphne, Livia, Greyson, and Biddy.
Fall is generally considered the beginning of the cultural season, but in April and May there’s a special tingle in the air in New York City. It could be the warmer temperatures and sunnier, longer days. But for me, the creative energy emanates from new plays and musicals opening on Broadway—the actors, musicians, designers, directors, and producers involved with them—just in time to be considered for various theater honors that culminate with the Tony Awards in June.
Much of what visitors and New Yorkers experience today in the theaters and streets around Times Square is owing to the vision, passion, know-how, and work of Gerald Schoenfeld, the legendary chairman of the Shubert Organization for more than 35 years. His recently published memoir, Mr. Broadway: The Inside Story of the Shuberts, the Shows, and the Stars (Applause Books; $27.99), finished shortly before his death in 2008, is an absorbing page-turner. For those interested in Broadway history, it provides an insider’s view to the world of the fractious Shubert dynasty and the key role it played in theater in the 20th century in New York and beyond.
The chances of running into the likes of New York City resident Hugh Jackman or Sarah Jessica Parker in one’s lifetime are—let’s face it—slim to Fat Chance. Getting to strike up an illuminating conversation with them about Gotham's charms over a cappuccino? Fuggeddaboutit.
Oh, the dreams of knowing our stars’ favorite city haunts. If not just to up the odds on a little celeb sighting, at least so we, the humble many, can discover the side of New York loved by the famous few.
Luckily, Jeryl Brunner has done the work for us. The author had the pleasure of discussing with some of New York's most beloved residents exactly what it is they adore about their home city—all their wonderful secrets are amassed in the recently launched book My City, My New York.
This is hands down the most electrifying book cover that’s come across my desk in my recent memory: the words Love, Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women emblazoned over lacy lingerie tantalizingly dropped on an unkempt bed. If Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, the editors of this intoxicating compilation of 25 personal narratives, are to be believed, Muslim women flirt, date, have sex, and fall in love, just like everyone else. Who knew?
The essays range from hilarious (a 14-year-old being given a crash course in the birds and the bees by her mom in a movie-theater parking lot) to heart-wrenching (a woman who realizes that her non-Muslim fiancé has an insurmountable disdain for her faith); from chaste (an endearing tale of a girl passing up a chance to make out with her model-hot trainer) to steamy (a bittersweet retelling of a passionate weeklong affair with a Muslim punk rocker). Premarital sex, arranged marriage, online dating, polygamous relationships, date rape, lesbian romances—everything is recounted with refreshing honesty and courage. My favorite section was, unsurprisingly, International Habibti: Love Overseas, full of enticing encounters in the Andes, Sri Lanka, and Cairo—who hasn’t fantasized about meeting a mysterious, accented, handsome stranger in an exotic, faraway land?
As you’ve no doubt heard, today marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. Besides being a great writer, Dickens was a believer in travel. He did not always put a happy spin on his voyages (On crossing the English Channel: “I am bumped rolled gurgled washed and pitched into Calais Harbour..” or on the world’s great capitals: “Naples is hot and dirty, New York feverish, Washington bilious, Genoa exciting, Paris rainy…”), but he is just as eloquent about the joy of experiencing the world around you:
He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and for, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness.
And the enduring benefits of travel:
The more man knows of man, the better for the common brotherhood among us all.
Happy Dickens Day!
Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo of Dickens World, a theme park in Kent, England, by Robert Bird/Alamy.
Hot off the release of the second edition of best-seller 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (Workman; $19.95)—featuring 28 new countries, including Ghana, Nicaragua, and South Korea—the globe-trotting author sat down with T+L.
Q: What can readers expect this time around?
A: No sooner was the ink dry on the 2003 edition than I saw destinations that were on their way to being better equipped for visitors: former Soviet-bloc countries and war zones, places like the Balkans and Colombia. Now is their moment.
Q: Is there someplace you wish you could have included?
A: Libya would have been great for armchair travel. Its future looks just too unstable right now.
Q: What were some of your best discoveries?
A: Ireland’s Aran Islands are remote and otherworldly. And it’s hard to believe you are still in Europe in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains and the pristine swath of Transylvania—one of the most untouched corners left on the continent.
Q: Where are you going next?
A: Turks and Caicos, for my annual luxury-on-the-beach reprieve. Grace Bay Club and Parrot Cay, here I come!
Photo by Diana Allford
How’s this for a flame of the month? Paris-based ceramics company Astier de Villatte recently unveiled a range of scented candles inspired by some of the world’s loveliest locales. With hints of, say, the wisteria-covered trellises of the Grand Hôtel in Cabourg, France—where Marcel Proust penned part of his classic Remembrance of Things Past—and a patina to match, they’ll surely transport you to another time or place.
Candles from $75, astierdevillatte.com
Christine Ajudua is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo credit: Lars Klove.