BOOK | A Russian man, an American woman and a Japanese man volunteer for 1½ years of isolation that will test whether they have what it takes to be the first people on Mars. Like the astronauts at the center of its story, the writing in THE WANDERERS, by Meg Howrey, is at once sensual and jilting, awkwardly robotic and then totally human. The would-be planet explorers, hyperaware that their every movement, breath and word is being monitored, must remain in control in an environment totally out of their control. With each chapter told from the perspective of a different character, you also follow a daughter worried that her mother's achievements will overshadow her own life, an adolescent son discovering his sexuality, and a wife who has spent more time away from her husband than with him.
ALBUM | You know when you've been living through a dark, unending winter and need a pick-me-up? In times like these, turn to albums like STADIUM CAKE, last summer's debut from Oh Pep! The Australian indie-pop duo takes inspiration from folk, jazz and electronic music, creating an expansive sound with uplifting and catchy beats. "Doctor Doctor," the track that introduced most of us to the Nova Scotia-recorded album, is addicting and strikes a nerve with lyrics like: "I went to the doctor and the doctor said, 'To fix the pain, you're gonna have to change.' I kind of try but I don't succeed. I know what I want and it's not what I need." Other top tracks: "Bushwick" and "Only Everyone."
RECIPE | If you're still trying to eat somewhat healthy but want something that will satisfy your sweet tooth, Smitten Kitchen food genius Deb Perelman's recipe for APPLE SHARLOTKA is tasty and simple. Sort of a cake, sort of a custard, sort of a great way to use up a lot of apples, I've made it with great success for potlucks and when invited to dinner. While the original is really focused on the apples, I like to double the amount of batter, which adds to the height and cakey-ness of the treat. Finish the crisp, caramelized top with some powdered sugar, and for those who aren't counting calories, drizzle with some salted caramel sauce if you dare. ♦