Weekend Recs #25: Rom coms, reads for different moods, and more holiday treats
Plus: The best celeb memoirs of the year
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This is Weekend Recs, a weekly send of ideas and diversions for your downtime. Not subscribed yet? Here you go:
Editorial note: Alisha is on maternity leave. In the meantime, Downtime is edited by Aliza Abarbanel.
Hello, beautiful people! I’m Thao Thai, a devoted Downtime fan and your link concierge for this issue. I’m the author of Banyan Moon, the first-ever Downtime Book Club selection, and I occasionally muse about life on my own newsletter, Wallflower Chats. So happy to be here! It’s one of those strange purgatory weeks where everyone is unmoored from reality—am I supposed to be sleeping? Watching endless Hallmark movies? Consuming my weight in leftover stuffing? Obviously: All the above.
If you, like me, are planning to spend your weekend in pajamas, here are a few more recommendations to fill up those hours. No pants required.–Thao
Four ideas for your weekend…
📚 Three book recommendations for three moods:
Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle, one of the funniest and most offbeat romcoms I’ve ever read, with an epic scene at Cracker Barrel that still makes me giggle. A spoiled grump named Betty gets visited by a (very cute) happy-go-lucky holiday spirit whose sole purpose is to bring the magic back into her life. Hearts lift; worlds collide!
Lone Women by Victor Lavalle, a horror Western about a group of early-19th-century female homesteaders who struggle against the untamed Montana landscape and their own inherited burdens. I’ve never read anything like this novel; it will tear your heart open and tenderly piece it back together.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, a book accurately described as a “murder mystery inside a great American novel.” In Chicken Hill, an impoverished community of Black and immigrant Jewish residents, a brutal mystery unfolds through the perspectives of a handful of unforgettable characters, each adding their own voices to a symphony that’s both gripping and deeply moving. It’s one of my favorite books of the year and has been sweeping awards categories across the internet.
🍇 Two recipes to try:
I’m a big fan of mixing roasted chicken and fruit, so this Sheet-Pan Chicken with Shallots and Grapes was a must-try. The sweetness of the grapes and caramelized shallots worked so well with the richness of the chicken thighs.
You know those thin little cookies you get at Subway shops? The buttery ones that manage to be crispy and soft at the same time? This chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe replicates that taste sensation perfectly. My daughter and I make it nearly every week, and we’ve convinced ourselves it’s a valid breakfast option.
📺 One movie to cry over:
I didn’t have a chance to see Past Lives in theaters, but I’m certain it’s better this way, because now that it’s streaming on Apple TV, I can sob in the privacy of my own bed. This movie beautifully traces the contours of grief, longing, and those alternate lives that continue to haunt us. Spare in composition, yet emotionally lush, Past Lives is a movie that touches on the melancholy nostalgia of first love.
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A grab bag of links and reads worth sharing with the group chat.
“You Only Like the Beginning of Things” [Culture Study]
A fascinating and timely exploration of why some of us are so invested in the Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce romance. Peterson frames the relationship partly as a carefully articulated narrative, which is spot on, and presents a compelling analysis of collective longing. And then there’s this dynamite last line: “We return to fantasy not to forget, but to remember: other futures are possible.”
The Plight of the Oldest Daughter [Atlantic]
I’m an only, but I often see my eldest-daughter friends struggling against gendered caregiving expectations. (This is often amplified in immigrant family systems.) Does this piece ring true to you eldest daughters out there?
Mere Belief [Harpers]
This is a long one, so bookmark it for a coffee break, but I promise, it’s so worth the time. Author Sallie Tisdale examines the psychological term “curve of forgetting,” which details the way we lose memory while at the same time, never being able to admit those losses to ourselves. I found myself thinking about the way false memories can inform our histories—a pertinent topic in this time of contemplation.
The 7 Best Celebrity Memoirs of 2023 [Washington Post]
From Britney to Paris to Minka (my current read), this has been a halcyon year for the celeb memoir. But aside from the dishy gossip we expect, each of these also provide a narrow light into the pressures of being a public figure dragged in scrutiny.
🌼 And more fun fluff…
One way to respond to belligerent relatives over the holidays. // A peaceful Spotify playlist for those winter reading marathons. // Marriage as play. // Is there any gift more luxurious or romantic than a personalized stationery set? // Thrilling to learn new words! // Let’s snerdle. // Would you try cold-plunging? My Floridian constitution could never. // But wait, I want to be Evelyn too! //