The Billionaire’s Vinegar (Three Rivers, $14.95) is at once a captivating labyrinth of upper-crust secret-keeping, a deeply researched journalistic endeavor, and an exquisite glimpse into the tiny world of rare wine. Benjamin Wallace’s book begins with the sale of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine, purportedly owned (and mislaid) by Thomas Jefferson. Much like Jefferson’s own wine-fueled orations on the merits of wine, The Billionaire’s Vinegar is incredibly wide-ranging and entertaining. Wallace’s tale of oenophilic suspense leads us down a path of deception and fraud that shook the world’s wine cellars to their foundations.
Marjane Satrapi follows her Persepolis volumes with another beautiful chapter of her family’s history. Chicken With Plums (Pantheon, $12.95) tells the story of Satrapi’s great uncle, the celebrated Iranian musician, Nasser Ali Khan. When his beloved tar is damaged beyond repair, Khan decides he’d rather die than take up a lesser instrument. Satrapi’s sparse narration and distinctive black-and-white illustration guide us through his final weeks. Over those seven days, Khan looks back on a life filled with passion and regret, fixating on lost loves, family legacies, and favorite dishes.
With his new novel, That Old Cape Magic (Knopf, $25.95), Richard Russo takes us back to New England and the intimate details of family life. Told through the filter of wedding weekends a year apart, this story unfolds like the best memories, simply at first, then quickly turning in on itself. Russo plays with dualities of all orders and, perhaps most strikingly, manages to capture the essential quandary of summer—the feeling of endless possibility mixed with inescapable impermanence. He shows us that experiences are almost always sweeter in the remembering; and that, for many of us, it’s the looking back that matters most.