Helpful hints, recipes for throwing a successful party

Your trusty artichoke dip recipe — once regarded as the pinnacle of culinary innovation — has gotten a little, well, stale.

The realization hits just days before your annual holiday kickoff party.

Don’t worry: Help is on the way. And thankfully, it doesn’t involve confessing your frustration to an annoying “my casserole is better than yours” neighbor.

During months with busy social calendars, party planning books serve as support manuals for hosts and hostesses.

The genre has expanded in recent years — moving beyond the realm of stuffy, upper-class outsiders to include real-life tales of party frustration and survival.

Peruse one of the books when you need inspiration, or when you’re ready to refresh your recipe supply.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some of our top picks:

“Forking Fantastic!: Put the Party Back in Dinner Party” (Zora O’Neill and Tamara Reynolds)

O’Neill and Reynolds confess an often embarrassing reality: Party planning can be stressful.

They give readers a practical guide to entertaining, filled with tips and recipes as well as confessions of cooking blunders.

Nothing beats learning from women who admit to accidentally serving raw fried chicken.

“The Last-Minute Party Girl” (Erika Lenkert)

Your wallet and kitchen pantry are virtually empty, but a future as a successful party hostess is still within reach.

That’s Lenkert’s message. She fills her book with tips for entertaining on a budget and mapping out a party’s most important aspects — from the invitations to the menu.

Also, the manual includes 100 recipes, including some by notable chefs like Wolfgang Puck.

“The Vegan Table” (Colleen Patrick-Goudreau)

The book — subtitled “200 Unforgettable Recipes for Entertaining Every Guest at Every Occasion” — appears a sure-fire way to satisfy guests whose eating habits span the full gamut of dietary restrictions.

It delivers a comprehensive selection of entrees, featuring dishes like pumpkin curry and tofu spinach lasagna.

“Eat Your Feelings: Recipes for Self-Loathing” (Heather Whaley)

Ain’t no party like a pity party, right?

Whaley’s book, rooted in dark humor, includes a collection of recipes for the moments when a bleak life outlook warrants a plate of good food.

Nothing warms the soul like Sky-High Banana Cream Pie Because You’re Dating a Married Guy. Or, try Whaley’s Hamburger Casserole for when Nobody Loves You and Never Will.

Sonya Sorich, feature writer, can be reached at 706-571-8516.