Our top picks this fall: food writing, peace quests, a sexy detective and some feedback on feedback

Here's some of what we've been streaming, listening to and reading this fall.

We’re back with another installation of reading, watching and listening recs this fall.

Jen

I’m a food nerd (matched only by my language nerdery). My husband and I catered our own wedding of 70 people, including 14 pies, a custom cocktail menu and an assortment of his homemade bread. In fact, 90% of the reason we left Michigan in 2010 and drove a U-Haul to New York was the food to be found here. (For the record: it was worth it.) Feeding people is a creative and expressive outlet for me, and I love to read about the culture, history and weird mysteries of food.

Jen likes food books and also pie
Jen with oh, so many pies at her wedding (she ran out of time so most of them were open face)

If you’re into that kind of thing, I’d recommend checking out Taste Magazine for food nerdery in the shape of, for example, an exposé on how olive oil infiltrated an America obsessed with low fat in the 90s. 

The United States of Arugula by David Kamp is another fantastic read. It’s about the history of the “gourmet” food movement in America, shepherded in by our pioneer food celebs, Julia Child, James Beard and Craig Claiborne. 

Up next, I’m psyched to read Adam Leith Gollner’s The Fruit Hunters. Gollner penned one of my all time favorite pieces of food writing, The Glabrous Fruit of Samarkand (< full article — read it!), about a quest to find good apricots — the kind the author remembers from his youth, ripe and full to bursting with heady, fragrant nectar. The article was published in New York restaurateur (Momofuku restaurant group) and chef David Chang’s quarterly Lucky Peach magazine, back when it was still in production. (The experimental, often wonderful, boundary-pushing James Beard Award-winning food and culture publication closed up shop in 2017, but you can still get old issues on Amazon at the link above if it sounds up your alley.)

Alyssa

When Alyssa not listening to books with existential life questions, she enjoys reading potty and animal books with her nephew, Max.
When Alyssa isn’t listening to books that ask existential questions, she enjoys reading potty and animal books with her nephew, Max.

One of my favorite books in life is The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman because I am obsessed with peak performance. Playing sports competitively in high school and college, I constantly thought about how to train my body but rarely thought about training my mind and harnessing something more spiritual. I recently read the sequel, The Hidden School, and it did not disappoint. Dan travels from Hawaii to the Nevada desert, Hong Kong, China and Japan in search of “more” — an elusive journey for meaning and purpose that deeply resonates with me. I often feel like I need to leave New York to live in the mountains or go on a quest to East Asia to find purpose, ground myself and be at peace. The Hidden School reminded me that there are ways everyday to train my mind to be attentive, focus and let go, even in a crazy city like New York. Meditation has helped, but how do I take it to the next level and incorporate mindfulness in my daily activities? I learned Dan Millman lives in Brooklyn. Maybe I need to reach out to ask him more?

Braving the Wilderness and Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Brown writes about shame and vulnerability. At The Juggle, we aim to be vulnerable and bring our whole selves to our work, creating an inclusive space for people to juggle their life in a way that makes sense to them. Brown’s work has made me realize tough conversations (even with The Juggle co-founders) are necessary to grow a business in a thoughtful manner. Personally, her reflections on loneliness really resonated with me. She writes: “When we feel isolated, disconnected and lonely, we try to protect ourselves. In that mode, we want to connect, but our brain is attempting to override connection with self-protection. That means less empathy, more defensiveness, more numbing and less sleeping…this state can exaggerate our worst fears and insecurities. To combat loneliness we need to identify it and then find connection. That doesn’t mean joining a bunch of things or checking in with dozens of friends. It’s not the quantity of friends, it’s the quality of a few relationships that actually matters.” Her words hit home. This year my husband started a new job that requires long hours where he has little control of his schedule and ability to make plans with me. It has fostered a sense of loneliness in me, and I can see where I’ve built up walls.   

Sarah

Sarah cuts her teeth into some Zadie Smith
Sarah cuts her teeth into some Zadie Smith.

If you’re late to the Zadie Smith party, as I am, you need to GET IN HERE. I was totally blown away by White Teeth, Smith’s first novel, published in 1999. The story centers on three families, each with their own painful internal dynamics, who are convinced their way of life is superior, whether it be centered on scientific experiments, extreme religiosity or the pub down the road. Yet the more the families interact, the more their assumptions about the correct way of life are challenged. I was particularly impressed that she wrote the book in her early 20s because she managed to convincingly take the perspectives of a host of complex characters of various ages, races and nationalities. This story of the complexities of home, family, loyalty and faith made me understand why she is Britain’s literary darling.

Killing Eve

I never understood the lure of crime shows and now I know why — the roles given to women are often non-existent or boring. Killing Eve is the opposite. Villanelle (code name) is a beautiful, young hit woman based in Paris. She travels the world killing people for Russian gangsters and, an obvious sociopath, feels no remorse and uses her earnings to live in luxury. Eve is an M15 security operative in London who becomes obsessed and titillated with the prospect of finding Villanelle. What unfolds is a sexy, complicated game of cat and mouse. I didn’t realize how much fun it would be to watch a show with female protagonists in the role of both detective and criminal.

Amy 

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

“The feedback fallacy” is the stickiest thing I’ve read this year. Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall make a case for revamping how we give feedback at work. Spoiler alert: It’s totally at odds with the performance review processes and tools that many of us use today.

The premise: It’s well documented that our brains start to shut down when someone tells us to correct something or highlights our shortcomings. Feedback focused on our deficits inhibits learning, whereas feedback focused on the areas in which we excel supports growth. Yet another reason to invest in identifying and nurturing our strengths instead of remediating our weaknesses. 

There are two particular takeaways I’m working on: (1) I need to frame my feedback as personal (“When you did x, I didn’t follow.”) instead of a universal truth (“That didn’t really work.”). Humans are unreliable raters of each other’s performance, so I can’t assume you know why that didn’t work for me or that it wouldn’t work for others. (2) “Great job” is the beginning of a conversation, not the end. It’s an opportunity to dig into the why and how of what worked (or didn’t). There’s a 22-minute podcast episode called “What managers get wrong about feedback” (#679) that summarizes the article if you prefer to listen. 

My Brother, My Brother and Me

Shoutout to my friend and co-worker, Kasey, for turning me onto this hilarious podcast. Three exceptionally clever brothers talk about whatever comes to mind. They spend at least half of each episode responding to questions from listeners or Yahoo Answers, like, “Amazon delivered a package to my house and I opened it before realizing it was addressed to our neighbor. It’s lube. What should I do?” Or, “I found a photo of my husband’s neck on his phone. There wasn’t anything on it. Can somebody help me?” It’s complete nonsense and I laughed out loud multiple times during the first episode I listened to. Looking forward to downloading more for those commutes when I need something silly.

What are we missing?! Tell us what you’ve been enjoying lately in the comments below.

(While we are still not sponsored for anything we write and recommend, we are testing Amazon Affiliate links out. So if you end up liking one of our book recommendations and buying it through our Amazon link, you will be supporting our work here at The Juggle. Thank you!)

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