Heather Greene has the best job ever: she’s a professional whiskey taster! She travels all over the world tasting whiskey, scotch, and bourbon. She has received a lot of attention for being one of the few women with expertise in this field. When she’s not sipping scotch at the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society in Edinburgh, she’s attending to her duties as a whiskey sommelier and teaching classes at a Manhattan restaurant. Now, with the publication of Whiskey Distilled (Penguin Press, $25), Greene can add author to her resumé. The popularity of the whiskies is on the rise worldwide and so is the demand to understand and appreciate them. Whiskey Distilled gives whiskey lovers (or those who aspire to be whiskey lovers) everything they need to know to understand the “water of life.” Greene guides you through the whiskey-making process, outlining how to taste whiskey, how to distinguish and select the right brand for you, and even how to mix cocktails and stock your home bar.
In Susan Choi’s fourth work of fiction, Regina recounts the lessons she learned outside of class. My Education (Penguin, $16) starts with the twenty-one-year-old graduate student enrolling in a course taught by the magnetic, roguish, English Professor, Nicholas Brodeur, whose non-academic reputation precedes him. Hoping to learn more about him, Regina soon manages to become his graduate assistant. Choi lays the ground for a classic naïve student/older professor affair, but Regina instead falls in love with Brodeuer’s wife, Martha. The women embark on a reckless, passionate relationship that threatens to overtake not only Regina’s education, but her very life and sense of self. Yet as Regina gets more obsessed with Martha—a process Choi evokes with vivid and steamy detail—she loses perspective of what love means. It ‘s not until fifteen years later, when she looks back to tell the story, that Regina fully understands what she experienced—and learned—with Martha.
The poor Dashwood sisters—deprived of their rightful living, they are forced to leave their home and live sparingly. Marianne is passionate and impulsive, Elinor is calm and contemplative. In typical Jane Austen style, Sense and Sensibility is not just about the story itself, it is also a comment on the society in which its author lived. Is there any better social critic than Austen? I’m always amazed by the way she subtly weaves observations and critiques into an engrossing story. She is a master at creating characters you care about and root for but who are human and fallible. Each year Harvard University Press publishes a gorgeous annotated Jane Austen. This year’s Sense and Sensibility ($35) is not to be missed by Austen fans. As always, the annotations add layers of understanding and context to Austen’s story. If you are collecting these, as I am, you will want to add this one to your collection.