I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris 

Picking up I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, Amy Sedaris' new funhouse of recipes, crafts, social etiquette, and entertaining in general, is kind of like going into the apartment of a lovely, agreeably eccentric Greenwich Village shut-in: There are pantyhose craft projects and drawings of turtles scattered all over the place, and there are pleasantly surprising and hilarious treats (like a sheet cake that has the word "Stepmother" written on it with Red Hots) that beg you to return for another weird visit.

At the insistence of the author, however, I Like You is not a joke cookbook. The book is filled with real recipes: delicious-sounding recipes for fried chicken, a chapter on sweets called "The Cavity Hole," and simple (but still unavoidably funny) advice on texture: "If the texture of the food you are serving is creamy, flatter it with crispy. Crunchy will always punch up soggy. Prickly next to scaly? Not a good idea."

Every morsel of practical advice is accompanied by Sedaris' inimitable clowning. There's a chapter on how to entertain when a rich uncle comes to visit, and a section on what gifts to give to very specific types of people, like a divorced man who works in an office or a single girl in her mid-40s living alone. (The list for that last one is short: stamps or pink toilet paper.) A chapter on entertaining the elderly features a photo of three gin-soaked raisins. An introductory section on self-discovery advises readers to "make a self-esteem collage using pictures of other people you wish you were."

Alongside all of this are timeless photos of Sedaris taken by Todd Oldham. Sedaris revives a range of early '60s homemaker outfits, dons a Greek goddess costume, and leans against the wall in a sun dress with a far-off look in her eye, gracefully cradling a bong in her hands (this is for the chapter on the munchies).

I Like You is a party in itself, and Ms. Sedaris holds court as a gifted and hilarious host. In the end, it's a cookbook and guide to entertaining that achieves a rare, sweet balance: real advice that doesn't take itself too seriously. EVAN JAMES

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