Today's releases include the unlikely story of a woman who was one of the Allied forces most feared secret agents, the Kitchen Confidential of the catering world, and an absorbing debut set during a turbulent time in Palestinian history.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
In this fast-paced biography Sonia Purnell tells the story of Virginia Hall, an American spy who worked undercover in France during World War II for Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). Hall’s story is a surprising one: she began her life in the United States with a mother who wished for the perfect debutante. Hall, however, was more comfortable studying languages, and found herself living abroad and working for the State Department when she lost half her leg in a hunting accident. This setback didn’t slow down Hall at all: she named her wooden prosthetic Cuthbert, drove ambulances in France, and was recruited by a recently formed SOE as a spy in occupied France. Hall posed as a newspaper reporter, enlisting civilians for the French Resistance and establishing an underground network of allies and becoming one of the most important spies during World War II. Purnell does an amazing job bringing Hall’s exploits to life and has crafted a gripping and cinematic biography for an unsung hero of wartime espionage. --Alison Walker
In Hotbox, Ted Lee and Matt Lee, established food writers and cookbook authors, take readers behind the pipe and drape and into the fast-paced world of New York catering. The Lees became catering insiders, learning about the hacks chefs routinely use to produce high quality, specially crafted meals to hundreds (and even thousands) of diners without a restaurant kitchen. A catered event is a finely choreographed dance between chefs, kitchen staff, rental supply companies, and the demands of the client. Nerves of steel are a must in this business, because something--be it a missing garnish or lost tablecloths--always seems to happen. An incredibly entertaining read that lets us in on the magic behind the scenes, Hotbox does for catering what Kitchen Confidential did for restaurants. --Seira Wilson
You could label The Parisian as historical fiction, but it seems silly to limit it that way. This is just a great novel, and Isabella Hammad is an ambitions, sensitive, and abundantly talented writer. The Parisian is the story of Midhat Kamal. We first meet him in 1914 Marseilles, while he is on his way to Montpelier to attend medical school. He is also about to fall in love for the first time. Within a year, he is studying in Paris, absorbing the culture; but as a Palestinian living in France, he is always an outsider. Eventually, Midhat returns to his hometown of Nablus, where his father, a wealthy textile merchant, rules his days, and where Britain now rules the land. Midhat must answer to his father’s expectations at the same time that he is trying to make his way in a changing Palestine—and still there are tendrils that reach back to France. The Parisian is, almost unbelievably, a debut novel—a moving personal story set against a sweeping historical backdrop—and Isabella Hammad is an exciting new voice in literature. --Chris Schluep
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