Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour
“Time is the enemy of coffee,” write the editors, “you can buy specialty coffee online easily enough, but you are never going to get the same result as having it prepared for you by expert hands close to where it was roasted.” The book features brief overviews of the coffee scene in 37 countries, identifies the best cafes, roasteries, and plantations by city, and points out nearby attractions to help you justify a special visit to any decaffeinated fellow travelers.
In Hanoi, Vietnam try ca phe trung, or egg coffee: “part drink and part dessert, with a fluffy head of actual whipped egg along with condensed milk, cheese, and butter”; at Amsterdam’s Scandinavian Embassy café, the owners recommend intriguing pairings of coffee with bits of cured elk, moose, and bear meat. The book also includes opinionated lists of the Top Five Coffee Towns in different parts of the world—for the Americas, it’s Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Mexico City, and Vancouver.
Pop Culture New York City: The Ultimate Location Finder
Want to lurk around the apartment Peter Parker called home in Spiderman 2? Did you know that, over the years, Edward Albee, Kahlil Gibran, Dashiell Hammett and Emma Lazarus had apartments on the same block? Would you like to pose for a selfie where album covers by Blondie, Billy Joel, or LL Cool J were photographed? Prepare to geek out!
The Art of Gay Cooking
The book incorporates dozens of recipes, but many of its pages are vivid memoirs of the occasions on which these dishes were inspired or consumed, along with a whimsical narrative of Isengart’s life with his husband, artist Filip Noterdaem, whose clever pen-and-ink illustrations provide occasional grace notes to the text.
A companion volume of philosophical musings, Queering the Kitchen will soon be published, and may shed additional light on this already oddly brilliant concoction.
Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity
Now, at long last, in Arlene Stein’s Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity (Pantheon, $27.95. www.arlenestein.weebly.com), we are offered a similarly sensitive and intimate look at transitioning transgender men.
While described by its publisher as a “sociological portrait” and researched with academic rigor, Stein writes in a highly accessible style to help readers connect with subject matter that might initially strike them as remote from their own experience.
While presenting the nuanced stories of four distinctly different people scheduled to have “top surgery” performed by the same doctor, Stein generously puts her own identity (she’s cisgender female, feminist, and lesbian) and preconceptions up for examination as well. Unbound lays bare both the gains and the sacrifices in identifying as transgender, from perplexing relationships with one’s parents to the sometimes slippery interface of gender-identity and sexuality. At a time when the queer community needs to stand together for social and political change
AIRPLANE READ OF THE MONTH
Welcome The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (Penguin Books. $27, www.rebeccamakkai.com), an engrossing, decades-long story of love and loss in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. Unlike so many books with gay characters at their center, The Great Believers doesn’t take place in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, its set in Chicago (as well as Paris).
The story is told in alternating chapters: In the first, which begin in 1985, we spend time with the friends and lovers of recently deceased Nico Marcus, a still unformed artist who has died in his early twenties; in the second, set thirty years later, we follow Nico’s younger sister who has travelled to France in search of her estranged daughter.
There’s suspense within each strand of the well-plotted story, and even more as the reader wonders how they will eventually come together. The Midwestern roots of Makkai and her characters seem to suffuse the book with a stolid, gentle kindness that counteracts some of the more harrowing episodes it chronicles. Absent is the bitchiness and severity that made A Little Life sometimes feel as repulsive as it was compelling. There’s an undeniable warmth to Makkai’s storytelling, and that, ultimately, is what makes The Great Believers a great read