The Breakfast at Tiffany’s Party

I can’t remember exactly why I decided to throw the first Breakfast at Tiffany’s party. It was August, and I was about to start my sophomore year of college, and it had seemed like a waste to let Truman Capote’s birthday party go by without a party. I handwrote invitations, asked people to dress up, and prepped my dorm room for a cocktail party. Because back in college, a cocktail party was exotic. Twenty-five people crammed into my tiny dorm room. My room was in the basement. Exposed pipes ran along the ceiling. We didn’t care. Most of my friends adhered to the theme; the guys from my freshman dorm showed up in flannel. I hosted the party as Holly Golightly. We had an amazing time.

I was abroad junior year, so I waited until senior year to throw the party again. This time, I held it in the living room of French House. More people showed up. Everyone dressed according to the theme.

For a long time, I dreamed about throwing a Breakfast at Tiffany’s party in New York. After all, this is where the book and movie are set. But it took until now to have the space. So last Friday, on the 92nd anniversary of Truman Capote’s birth, I hosted my first Breakfast at Tiffany’s party in my New York apartment.

It didn’t disappoint.

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In preparation for the party, I finally had the paintings I’d had laying around the apartment for months hung. I scattered my Capote memorabilia– first editions, a Breakfast at Tiffany’s poster, Tiffany & Co. catalogs– throughout the apartment. I spent a couple evenings baking what I called “breakfast-inspired desserts” aka maple bacon biscuits, cornflake-chocolate chip-marshmallow cookies, and lemon cornmeal muffins (my doorman refers to them as “cupcakes”).

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As usual, I dressed up as Holly Golightly. Cat was a Christmas present from my parents; he came with the poster at left. I’m particularly pleased that he comes from FAO Schwartz. He’s a real New Yorker, having been forced from his home due to sky-high rents.

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Friends from all different parts of my life showed up to fête the occasion. At least three friends had gone to the parties in college, but most hadn’t. I had friends from kindergarten, friends from high school, friends from college, friends from work, friends made living in New  York. It was sort of surreal to see them all together.

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My friend Nico was there for the first incarnation of my Truman Capote obsession, back when we were carpooling to choir together and I used to read Capote short stories out loud for the entire duration of our half-hour commute. Thank you, Nico, for still being my friend. I promise not to make you listen to “A Mink of One’s Own” ever again.

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My friends’ dog Bradley was the star of the evening. He was also terrified of Cat. He didn’t quite understand the concept of a stuffed animal, and the plastic eyes freaked him out. He eventually came around.

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Bradley and Cat face off.

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Flying Tiger, a Danish chain with a store near my apartment, had a package of 16 of these party props– glasses, mustaches, accessories, etc.– for $4. I’m pretty sure it is the best $4 I have ever spent. They will continue to make appearances at various functions at my apartment.

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We couldn’t let the night pass without an attempt at recreating that famous photo. Four people art directed this shot, probably because I don’t know how to hold a cigarette– even one that is actually a novelty party straw.

All in all, it was a fabulous night– the perfect way to ring in the first September 30 in my (somewhat) new apartment.

For me, Breakfast at Tiffany’s the book has always been about belonging. About finding a place in the world, about finding your people, about belonging somewhere, even if you don’t quite recognize it at the time. So it was really amazing for me to have a tribe of friends to come celebrate. Not all of them are die-hard Capote fans, not all of them have read the book or even seen the movie, but I am so grateful they humor me every year.

See you September 30, 2017!

xo Holly

Kait’s Vacation Reads

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I’m going on vacation soon, which pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to in the past month knows. I’m that excited. I’ve taken one day off work in all of 2018–and it was a “use it or lose it” carryover vacation day from last year. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to some quality time away from New York and my work email.

That has me thinking about what I’m going to read. I’m headed to Hawaii, which screams “BEACH” even if I’m not exactly a beach gal. I like the water, but I hate sand on wet feet. I have never tanned in my life, but I burn exceptionally well.

Vacation, for me, means time to get swept up in a good story: sometimes it’s the real one right in front of me, and sometimes it’s many miles or centuries away.

And that makes me think about “beach reads.” I’m not a fan of the moniker, which is a demeaning term meant to belittle women’s stories and their reading habits simultaneous. It conjures froth and frivolity–a breezy read with little substance. But who cares? Sometimes I like a light read, something to lift my mood. I believe that reading–no matter what the genre–should be fun. I read for entertainment and edification. Every book I’ve read has taught me something. Books without substance rarely get published.

But I also rail against the concept of a “beach read.” I don’t always love a fast, quick read on vacation. I want something immersive. Men read at the beach, too, and no one has ever referred to my dad’s military history books as “beach reads.” And this year, the books I plan to bring on vacation don’t strike most people as “beach reads.”

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles- I’ve written (and spoken) extensively about how much I loved Rules of Civility, and I’ve been saving his sophomore bestseller for the right time. Days (in a hotel) overlooking the ocean feels like the right time.

Perfume by Patrick Suskind- Obsession? Murder? Historical setting? Sign me up!

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami- I am deeply embarrassed to have never read any Murakami, so I’m looking to fix that.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer- The most recent Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner! And the rare comic novel to win. Plus, travel is essential to the plot and structure of the book, so it seems like a perfect travel read.

The Three-Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway- My mom and I will be taking part in a book club in Maui, and this is our read. It’s fascinating and engrossing so far.

The last time I visited Maui, I brought only four books with me, and I finished them all before the long plane ride home. I won’t be making the same mistake this time! My iPad with Alexander Chee’s Queen of the Night, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and Dana Schwartz’s Choose Your Own Disaster will be coming with me. (I’ve always said I had eclectic taste.)

Sunday, June 17- Lolita

Good morning!

Here is my book: The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman

Here is my breakfast: Balthazar croissant

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My Book Expo loot

Getting back into the groove of reading and writing here! After a frenetic few weeks, it feels like summer is finally upon us here in New York City.

Two weeks ago was Book Expo, publishing’s big trade show, where publishers promote their late summer and fall titles–fall being the biggest season in publishing. For people like me, it’s a chance to pick up galleys of buzzed about upcoming titles. One of those is The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman, out in September, which I’ve been enjoying. A work of true crime, it toggles between the real-life kidnapping of Sally Horner in in 1948 and Nabokov’s writing of Lolita, a novel arguably influenced by Sally’s much publicized story and rescue. It has me reaching for the copy of Lolita on my shelf. Lolita has always been a book whose language is so masterful, so captivating, that it shrouds and distorts the subject matter. The Real Lolita has me thinking about Lolita in a way that I haven’t for years.

Yesterday, I headed to Central Park, crowded with tourists and residents strolling on the paths. I took some of the little known walkways down by the lake and into the Rambles, where everything was much calmer–although in the process I managed to crash two weddings and an engagement.

Last night, I headed to the opera house to see ABT’s Romeo and Juliet starring Isabella Boylston and David Hallberg, which was stunning. I had never seen Isabella perform in person, and was surprised by the joy that emanated her dancing (and those perfect bourées!). David and Isabella made a lovely pairing. I now can’t seem to stop listening to the Prokofiev score.

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Happy reading!

Sunday, May 6- Less

Good morning!

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Here is my book: Less by Andrew Sean Greer (the winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)

Here is my breakfast: coffee and a baguette from Eric Kayser

I’ve been on a great book binge recently, and Less is no exception. I’m embarrassed to say I’d hardly registered the novel before its surprise Pulitzer win last month. It had great quotes, great reviews, but it hadn’t appeared on a lot of awards lists (probably in part because of an annoying bias against comic novels). In any case, it has been an absolute delight so far. I’ve already noted several lines for my quote book, including two below:

“There were the politicians sizing him up as for a suit fitting. There were the actors trying him on the red carpet. There were the photographers getting him in the right lighting. They might have done, many of them. So many will do. But once you’ve actually been in love, you can’t live with “will do”; it’s worse than living with yourself.”

and

“New York is a city of eight million people, approximately seven million of whom will be furious when they hear you were in town and didn’t meet them for an expensive dinner, five million furious you didn’t visit their new baby, three million furious you didn’t see their new show, one million furious you didn’t call for sex, but only five actually available to meet you.”

I’ve had a pretty stellar month in reading. Among the highlights: Rules of Civility (the book I’ve been joking I was born to read), The Rules Do Not Apply (a pattern emerges!), I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and now Less. I was disappointed by Behind Her Eyes, mostly because I found it such a slog to get to the twist ending, a twist that made me want to hurl the book across the room.

Most of my weeknights and weekend have been taken up with editing and submissions, which I need to get back to, no matter how much I’d like to continue with my recreational book today.

Happy Reading!

Books for a Long Plane Ride

An old friend texted me out of the blue a few weeks ago. We live in different cities, so we don’t see each other often, but last summer we were both in New York for several months, and I lent her some of my favorite recent reads. A month ago, she was traveling and had several long plane rides. She liked my recommendations last summer, did I have any more for her?

I tried to keep my reads within the last year (with an exception for a series). And two books that I recently read and wanted to recommend aren’t yet out, but are listed below.

EDUCATED by Tara Westover- This memoir had been on my radar for a while before it was released in February, and I’d heard from a number of readers I trust that it was a gripping read. The general premise is almost hard to believe–a young woman from a survivalist family in Idaho, whose homeschooled education has been largely ignored, teaches herself enough math, science, and English to take the SAT and get into BYU. From there, she goes on to get graduate degrees from Harvard and Cambridge while struggling to reconcile her new intellectual life with her upbringing. I found the latter half–her (fraught) assimilation into higher education–most interesting, but Westover’s writing about the rural landscape around her and the complicated dynamics of her family is worth the read alone.

THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin- I read this over my holiday break–another book that had been on my radar for a long time. Another startling premise (this one fictional): four siblings visit a fortune teller on the Lower East Side and learn the dates they will die, with huge implications for how they live their lives. I fell hard for the Golds. Simon and Klara, the youngest siblings, move to San Francisco in the ’80s and find work as a dancer and magician, respectively. The elder two siblings, Daniel and Varya, finds respectable jobs in science. I was most drawn to Simon and Klara, younger and more vivid in the novel itself, but I wonder if that’s more a symptom of my age and experience than anything else. This is a spellbinding novel about fate, purpose, and how to live a meaningful, engaged life, whether or not you know exactly how much time you have.

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman- The joy in this novel is in how it all unfolds for the reader. I have to confess to have mixed feelings about this one; I loved it all the way until the end, when one twist made me throw the book across the room. But the read was good enough to make it on here. It’s hard to talk about this book without giving much away; Eleanor Oliphant lives a very ordinary, solitary life (with the exception of phone calls from her “mummy”), that is never better than “fine,” until she falls in love with a musician who doesn’t know she exists and meets a new friend from IT. The plot doesn’t sound like a page-turner until you realize that the real story is Eleanor’s mysterious past. I had some doubts until I got about 40 pages in, and it slowly dawned on me–oh, this is going to be messed* up.

*Fine, I used a different term, but my parents read this blog

CRAZY RICH ASIANS Series by Kevin Kwan- My CRAZY RICH ASIANS (and CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND and RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS) obsession has been well documented on this blog. These books are perfect plane fare: funny, smart, jet-setting. They’re not slim tomes, so one volume might last you one cross-country flight, but if you’re headed to Asia, I’d go ahead and bring the whole set.

BONUS: The two books I wanted to recommend but are not yet out:

THE LOST QUEEN by Signe Pike (pub date: Sept. 4, 2018): Full disclosure, I work on this one, and when I describe it to people I always start out the same way: Did you know that Merlin of Arthurian legend had a twin sister? This is historical fiction set in sixth century Scotland–I time I’ll admit I’m not particularly passionate about, except here–about Languoreth, the twin sister of the man who served as the historical inspiration for Merlin. The children of a powerful chieftain, Languoreth went on to become a powerful queen in her own life, but has gone mostly unnoticed in history.

SOCIAL CREATURE by Tara Isabella Burton (pub date: June 5, 2018): I’ve been recommending this book to almost everyone in New York. Pitched as a Mr. Ripley for the digital age, it delivers exactly that. It’s effervescent, beguiling, almost aspirational until it isn’t. The New York references (some lightly disguised) make you feel like you’re in on some inside joke. It’s unlike anything else I’ve read recently.

Sunday, April 8- Rules of Civility

Good morning!

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Here is my book: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Here is my breakfast: croissant and coffee

In our last installment, I was reading Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, which I highly recommend. I don’t want to spoil the novel, but as the end neared, I realized just how much I had become invested not only in these characters lives, but in their happiness, which hasn’t happened to me in some time.

Recently, in my submissions pile, I’ve been finishing full manuscripts to realize I don’t have “that feeling.” I don’t want to talk to someone immediately about it, I don’t feel my heart race, I don’t think “I need this book now.” It’s the reading equivalent of a shrug–and a shrug isn’t enough to acquire a book. It’s disappointing, but I’m optimistic something that makes me feel bright and shiny and awed and jumpy will come around soon.

You know those books that are just pure magic? The ones where you read one sentence and know that you’re in. The ones that make your heart flutter and your eyes linger over a single page. The book you’re convinced was written just for you?

Well, that’s how I feel about Rules of Civility. Except I’ve taken it a step further: this book wasn’t just written for me; I was born to read this book. After many years staring at and referencing this cover, I finally bought myself a copy. (Whoever recommended this to me about two weeks ago, please make yourself known! It gave me the push I needed.) This does have an exemplary cover. It tells you everything you need to know: sophisticated, aspirational, slyly sexy historical fiction. And the inside delivers.

I will probably have much more to say about it soon, but for now I’m savoring each word.

Sunday, March 25

Good morning! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these.

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Here is my book: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

And here is my breakfast: Coffee (and baguette, not pictured, from Eric Kayser)

I’ve had this ARC of The Miniaturist since 2014 or 2015, swiped from the free take shelf at work. I remember thinking it was such a prize. I don’t often keep books from the take shelf around for long; if I haven’t read them or added them to my home collection within a couple months, I usually put them back. I have enough unread material at home and a pipeline of submissions on my iPad to keep me reading until the world ends.

But I love this cover so much, I couldn’t bear to get rid of it. I was going to read it someday, I promised myself. Because who wouldn’t love a novel about a dollhouse during the Dutch Golden Age? I’ve never been to The Netherlands, but I’ve armchair traveled there plenty (The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Goldfinch–just putting those in the same sentence makes me laugh!).

I’ve been reading a lot of great historical fiction on submission recently, which makes me wonder if a renaissance is on its way (pun intended). Much of it has been set in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, all with a mystery or thriller component. World War II fiction has dominated for the past several years, and the rest of the historical fiction market has stagnated. I think fondly of the authors I read as a teenager–Sarah Dunant, Tracy Chevalier–and the historical thriller period I went through– The Rule of Four, The Shadow of the Wind–and wonder if those books would have found their audience today. I hope that the great rash of submissions in the category means that great writers and readers have renewed their appetites for these kinds of books. I’m certainly ready.

In the meantime, I’ll be savoring The Miniaturst.

Happy Reading!

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

I’ve been in something of a reading slump this fall, and I was counting on my winter vacation to pull me out of it. The last novel I read I had loved–until I got to the last five pages, when a late (unnecessary) plot twist had me ranting for days. But that’s a different book.

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The Immortalists at The Magic Castle

The Immortalists had been sitting on my shelf since BEA way back in June, and by the time I reached the end, I wondered why I waited so long. (But a note of warning: reading on an airplane while trying not to cry is perhaps not the best place.)

The setup requires you to suspend disbelief for a while, but it’s simple enough. Four siblings, ranging from ages 7 to 13, visit a fortune teller and learn the day that each will die. From there the story spins off into four parts, following each of the Gold siblings as their lives diverge and intersect in places you might not have expected. The narrative runs chronologically from 1978 to the present day, but so much of it feels timeless. But the big questions always have a way of feeling present, don’t they? This is a novel about how we live our lives in the face of inevitable loss; about how we tether ourselves to our families; and how we grapple with knowledge we’d rather just forget.

I was most drawn in by Simon and Klara, the two youngest siblings, who narrate the first half of the novel. Creative, unconventional free spirits, I thought they made for the most intriguing characters. Once I finished, though, I wondered if I might identify more with Daniel or Varya if I read this at a different point in my life. That’s some of the magic of this novel.

And speaking of magic–as a longtime lover of magic, having spent many evenings at The Magic Castle–I’m a sucker for a novel about magicians. Klara begins as a close up and parlor magician, but makes her name as a mentalist, specializing in a trick called Second Sight (which I’ve seen done at The Magic Castle), which she and her partner perform by using synchronized counting. Her narrative offers some of my favorite passages in the book, including this one:

“Most adults claim not to believe in magic, but Klara knows better. Why else would anyone play at permanence–fall in love, have children, buy a house–the the face of all evidence there’s no such thing? The trick is not to convert them. The trick is to get them to admit it.”

But the magic in this book, like so many books I love, is in the telling. It’s perfect for those who love a family saga, nuanced characters, and an elegant structure. It’s the “what if” that matters here–what if the psychic was right?

 

The Exterminating Angel and Bel Canto

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On Friday, I went to see The Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel. I was initially a little nervous. The Met performs a contemporary opera each year, and although I love trying new works, the results tend to be controversial. Some of that could be ascribed to the older audience and some of that could be due to the (possibly outsize) expectations for each new production.

I did (some of) my homework before I went. The production received a rave in the New York Times. I read about the unusual instruments in the orchestra and watched all of the promotional videos. I studied the Wikipedia page for the source material, Buñuel’s surrealist film of the same name. The only thing I didn’t do was watch the film itself.

Some friends who went to the dress rehearsal warned me that they had had trouble distinguishing between some of the characters, which was helpful to know so that I could pay greater attention to it.

I bought a ticket through the Fridays Under 40 initiative once I realized that I wouldn’t be able to make the performance date I had previously planned to attend (Nov. 7). I’ve been to a few Fridays Under 40 before, and I enjoy them. Although I’m more accustomed to the Young Associates evenings (friends! prosecco! fellow opera lovers!), Fridays Under 40 has given me the chance to introduce a number of my friends to opera, and the pre-performance talks and demonstrations are always interesting. In this case, members of the Met Orchestra came by to play and discuss some of the unusual instruments used in the show, including—but not limited to—a slamming door, 1/32 size violins, and the Wagner tuba. (I have a feeling I’ll force everyone at the office to listen to a portion of Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” played on the tiny violins.)

I knew also from articles and the pre-show talk that repetition is an important part of the opera. I’d never before seen the sputnik chandeliers inside the hall lowered and raised as part of the production itself, which was a real treat. It helped to have the repeated portions obviously signaled.

Although I don’t want to delve too deeply into the production here, I greatly enjoyed it. Best of all, no one told me it was funny. Not just comic opera (it’s certainly not a comedy), but laugh-out-loud funny.

The crux of the plot is this: after an evening at the opera, a group (including an opera star, a pianist, a conductor, a doctor, a colonel, and assorted others) attends a dinner party at the home of their hosts. The servants all mysteriously flee as the dinner begins. And as the night wears on, the guests realize that they cannot leave. Some strange force keeps them from crossing the threshold of the drawing room. While Acts I and II take place over the first two nights, Act III takes place two weeks later, as the group has descended into illness and madness, and as those on the outside try to find a way into the house.

As I watched the beginning two acts and then at intermission, I couldn’t help but think of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. Bel Canto is one of those books that flits in and out of my awareness on a fairly regular basis. After all, it combines two of my great loves: books and opera. I think of it often while at The Met, but never has it seemed so relevant as it was when I watched The Exterminating Angel.

The initial premise is similar: a large group of diplomats, businessmen, and other guests gather in an unnamed South American country to celebrate the birthday of a Japanese businessman the country wants to convince to build factories to boost economic development. The businessman only agrees to attend because the country has hired his favorite opera singer to perform. As the opera star’s performance ends, the house (the residence of the vice president) is overtaken by a group of terrorists, and all of the guests are taken hostage.

Both parties are trapped, one force more obvious than the other. Both of these works, though, are about what unfolds between people when unable to leave. People fall in love, they grow mad, they rely on one another to ensure their survival.

I can’t remember exactly when I read Bel Canto; my best guess is around my freshman year of college (likely the summer before or after). All I know is that the book had been sitting on my shelf for a couple years at that point. My parents had purchased it at the end of one school year. It seemed made for me—all about opera and language. But I’m sometimes resistant to things that I will likely love (see: Crazy Rich Asians; also, if I had a therapist, this would really be something to unpack in therapy) and so I let it languish until I found the urge to pick it up.

After the opera, I came home and plucked the novel from my shelf, determined to reread it. I turned it over, pages facing toward me, to find them dog-eared.

I have a thing about making notes in books—namely, I don’t do it. Sometime when I was a teenager, I got it in my head that making notes, highlighting, or underlining is disrespectful to a writer’s work. It seems a little silly, but I’ve stuck by it for all these years. Instead, if I find a line I love and want to remember (usually to add to my quote book), I dog-ear the page to come back to it.

Except that in the case of Bel Canto, I never came back to it. No quotes from Bel Canto appear in my quote book; I only have dog-eared pages.

It was fun, going back and scanning the pages I’d noted. I wanted to see if I could pick out the lines that had resonated with me some five to eight years ago, and in some cases, I found the lines right away. They struck me now as clearly as they did then.

For example:

“Gen, in his genius for languages, was often at a loss for what to say when left only with his words.”

or

“‘People love each other for all sorts of different reasons,’ Roxane said, her lack of Spanish keeping her innocent of the conversation, slow-roasted guinea pigs on a spit. ‘Most of the time we’re loved for what we can do rather than for who we are. It’s not such a bad thing, being loved for what you can do.'”

But there were other pages turned down for reasons I couldn’t parse. Sometimes I thought I could pick out which line, but not why it felt important to me at the time. That’s part of the beauty, I think, of rereading. I’m a little glad these quotes never made it into my book, because I get to test my theory: do the things that resonated with me years ago still resonate when I don’t read them again on a regular basis?

I guess the answer is sometimes.

In any case, I’m glad to be rereading Bel Canto, which is even more beautiful than I remember it being. And I’m immensely grateful I took a chance on The Exterminating Angel, which I think will stick with me for some time.

 

 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

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For the past few months, the entertainment that has given me the greatest amount of joy has been Crazy Rich Asians. I consumed this trilogy like some terrible addiction (oh, we’re not talking about my caffeine problem?) and I’ve been powerless to stop babbling about the series in every social situation.

I remember reading about the first (eponymous) book in the trilogy when it was first published, but I had just graduated college and had lived in a house of foreign students and felt I knew everything I really needed to know about people with money to burn. Over the years, I heard from every possible source that the Crazy Rich Asians and its follow-up China Rich Girlfriend, were hilarious, smart, and ridiculously fun. But I’m known for being stubborn.

The final installment, Rich People Problems, came out in May, and the media attention it received finally pushed me over the edge. I bought a copy of Crazy Rich Asians and decided to give it a shot.

With books I love, I tend to have a moment where I’m “in it.” I’m invested. The moment I know that I’m going to savor what comes next, the moment I know that–soon–I won’t be able to put the book down.

With Crazy Rich Asians, that moment happened at the end of the prologue. I started the book on a week night, so I tried to ration the book at first (you know, so I could still do important things like go to work)–a chapter with breakfast one morning, another before bed the next night–but I read the majority of the novel is one large gulp on a slow Saturday.

The book reads like the best gossip you’ve ever heard about people you like (Astrid, Nick & Rachel) and hate (Edison, Colette) in equal measure. This is a series that takes you inside the salons of Paris couturiers and the estates of secretive billionaires. Every book features the society something (wedding, gala, funeral) of the year–each more over the top than the last. I couldn’t help but root for these people. Money doesn’t always free you; often, it chains you.

Crazy Rich Asians follows Rachel Chu, an American woman of Chinese descent, and her boyfriend, Nicholas Young–who, unbeknownst to her–comes from one of the wealthiest families in Singapore (actually, in all of Asia). Nick’s family is so rich they don’t appear on any list of rich families. Rachel and Nick are both professors, and Nick convinces Rachel to spend the summer with him in Asia, where he’s preparing for his best friend Colin Khoo’s wedding. Nick seems to be Singapore’s most eligible bachelor, and his family–particularly his mother Eleanor–has big plans for him. Plans that don’t include Rachel.

In China Rich Girlfriend, Nick and Rachel prepare for their wedding. Neither of them has spoken to his family since the engagement Nick’s mother and wealthy grandmother Su Yi tried to stop. Rachel, meanwhile, has grown curious about her biological father, and it turns out that Eleanor’s meddling will lead her straight to him.

In the final installment, Rich People Problems, Nick returns to Singapore after his grandmother’s health takes a turn for the worse. Her illness forces the family into a panic as everyone speculates about the contents of her will. With Su Yi estranged from her favorite grandson (Nick), several cousins jockey for position, hoping to inherit her grand estate in the heart of Singapore, which is worth billions.

Although Nick and Rachel provide a throughline for the series, I was equally (if not more) entranced by a number of other characters whose POVs are included. Astrid Leong, Nick’s favorite cousin, shops at the finest couture houses in Paris and mingles with nobles but lives in a comparatively small apartment in Singapore. Her home is a concession to her husband, Michael, an entrepreneur who insists on paying for their lifestyle himself (despite the fact that Astrid is worth hundreds of millions). When things go south with Michael, Astrid pines for her ex-fiancé Charlie, whose “new money” was looked down upon by her parents a decade ago. Astrid and Nick’s cousin Edison Cheng, whose insecurity about his wealth and his obsession with keeping up appearances (which involves forcing his wife and children to wear matching outfits) provides much of the series’ comic relief. And never underestimate the scheming of Eleanor Young, who has never felt fully accepted by her husband’s family and has all of her hopes pinned on Nick to inherit the bulk of his grandmother Su Yi’s estate–as long as he does exactly what’s expected of him.

When I finished Rich People Problems last week, I put the book down and thought “I would happily follow these people throughout the rest of their lives.” Three books in a series felt like too few, and I can’t remember the last time I thought that. I suppose there’s the movie to console me next year. But Kevin Kwan, if you’re reading, I’ll preorder books four, five, and six.

A Monday Breakfast: October 16, 2017

Good morning!

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Here is my book: The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

Here is my breakfast: Maple bacon biscuit (c/o Huckleberry cookbook) and coffee

It’s been an awfully long time since I’ve done one of these, and today I’m coming forward with a special Monday edition.

I’ve had an ARC of The Wangs vs. the World for a while now, but hadn’t cracked it. After getting sucked into Crazy Rich Asians, though, I decided I needed more in the same vein. The cover of the ARC and hardcover (the paperback cover is different) long perplexed me; I couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to represent, and I always believe that a cover should give you some indication of the story. I was about 20 pages in when the realization hit me–the Wangs made (and lost) their money manufacturing cosmetics; the dots on the cover represent lipstick swatches. I only wish I had known that from the outset! I would have thought it was terribly clever.

Now that fall submissions season is slowing down, I hope to get back to my regularly scheduled programming (reading recreationally) and posting here. In the meantime, you can follow some of my reads on Instagram.