PODCAST

Episode 371: Best May Books with Aimee Nezhukumatathil

BY MEGAN LABRISE • May 7, 2024

We’re celebrating the best books of May with special guest Aimee Nezhukumatathil.

On this week’s Fully Booked podcast, we’re kicking off the merry month of May with an episode highlighting some of our editors’ favorite late spring books.

First, we’re joined by editors Mahnaz Dar, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick the month’s most noteworthy titles.

Then poet and essayist Aimee Nezhukumatathil joins me to discuss one of the best books to read this May: Bite by Bite: Nourishments and Jamborees (Ecco/HarperCollins, April 30). This delightful essay collection is the follow-up to 2020’s World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks and Other Astonishments, which was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction, a New York Times bestseller, and the Barnes & Noble Book of the Year.

Kirkus calls Bite by Bite, “a graceful memoir centered on 40 different kinds of food, some exotic, some familiar, all evoking recollections of childhood, family, travels, friendships, and much more.”

Here’s a bit more from our review: “‘This book is a bite of personal and natural history,’ [Nezhukumatathil] writes, ‘a serving if you will—scooped up with a dollop of the bounty and largesse of the edible world.’ With a father from India and a mother from the Philippines, some of the author’s memories center on traditional food such as kaong, the fruit of the sugar palm, prized in Filipino salads; jackfruit, her favorite fruit, which she first tasted during a visit to her grandparents in Kerala; bangus, the national fish of the Philippines, served fried as part of breakfast; and loom-pia, a deep-fried Filipino finger food, with a crisp outer skin filled with chicken, ground beef or pork, carrots, and green beans.…Her memoir is not unlike halo-halo, a mixture of unexpected ingredients that make for a delectable dessert.”

Nezhukumatathil and I express our happiness to be reunited after meeting in 2020 (via Zoom), when World of Wonders was nominated for the Kirkus Prize. She shares a bit about how Bite by Bite came to be, and we launch into a discussion of the collection’s artful consideration of some significant foods (apples, halo-halo, etc.). We applaud the illustrations by Fumi Mini Nakamura, who also illustrated World of Wonders, as “a feast for the eyes,” and declare ourselves advocates for a multiplicity of voices in memoir. Nezhukumatathil shares why she’s “not fond of sugarcoating the past” and how she aimed to incorporate bitter with sweet in sharing complex memories. We consider whether Bite by Bite could be made into a deck of cards from which one might draw daily inspiration; talk a little bit about the subtitular words “nourishments” and “jamborees”; and explore much more.

 

BEST BOOKS OF MAY 2024:

Mountain of Fire: The Eruption and Survivors of Mount St. Helens by Rebecca E.F. Barone (Henry Holt)

A Walk in the Park: The Truth Story of a Spectacular Misadventure in the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko (Scribner)

The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley (Avid Reader Press)

 

THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS:

The Fragility of Light by Heather S. Lonczak, PhD

The Giant’s Ladder: The Science Professional’s Blueprint for Marketing Success by Elizabeth Chabe

Of Vital Interest by Frank Demith

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

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