The Inviting Life by Laura Calder (Appetite, $30)

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to see friends more often, this is the book to read. Grand hosts like Bunny Mellon can no longer flourish in these times, but the gracious one can. "Standout entertaining doesn't begin with a butler and three-star canapés, but with a state of mind, something that more or less anyone with the will to do so can adopt."

The bestselling Canadian cookbook author Laura Calder trained at Le Feÿ in France and in this encouraging guide to hosting, discusses the how-to practicalities as well as the philosophy. From figuring out what kind of host personality you are - seated dinner, buffet, canapés/cocktail party - to planning meals and table seating. All of it to maximize enjoyment. And that the nervousness that comes with hosting is a good thing because it suggests we know we're dealing with something in life that matters.

There are reassuring lessons about what cannot be bought: "imagination, a generous spirit, a genuine interest in other people, a willingness to be vulnerable, and an ability to put people at ease."





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