TEN BEST BOOKS WE’LL BE READING THIS SUMMER
1984, by George Orwell (Alex Ashe, editorial intern)
I’m admittedly not well read when it comes to novels. Like many my age, I gravitate toward film, TV and the internet when I want to consume a narrative. With so many classics I’ve yet to read, I struggle deciding which one to cross off my list. The ongoing NSA surveillance scandal makes this the perfect time to consume Orwell’s dystopian tale.
Paper Lion, by George Plimpton (Alex Ashe)
I’m not fishing for sympathy here, but I have and always will be a Detroit Lions fan. I’ve long been meaning to read Plimpton’s account of auditioning to be the team’s third-string quarterback. I haven’t seen the book’s film adaptation, so it should still be well worth the read. It’s imperative that I read this during the few months of the year when I can be somewhat enthusiastic about being a Lions fan.
The New Journalism, by Tom Wolfe (Alex Ashe)
This part-manifesto, part-anthology comes highly recommended to me by our editor Brian Clarey. It’s out of print, but reading it could only improve my own writing. Too often, I’m lazy about supplemental reading, but if I can track this down (half the battle), I’d be inclined to jump right in and absorb all that I can.
Walden on Wheels, by Ken Ilgunas (Eric Ginsburg, Staff Writer)
I have the misfortune of being an incredibly slow reader — not exactly a winning trait for someone whose job is all about communication — so when I say that I read half of Ilgunas’ memoir in a day, it’s worth being impressed. After acquiring $32,000 in student loan debt, Ilgunas struggled to free himself of it by taking jobs in places like Coldfoot, Alaska and hitchhiking across the country. Later he stuck to the newfound freedom of simplicity and frugality, living in a van during his time as a graduate student at Duke University. Igunas’ story and writing will grip you, but if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to reading it now.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo (Eric Ginsburg)
Easily the most impressive piece of journalism I’ve read this year. Boo —a Pulitzer Prize winner and staff writer for the New Yorker who got her start at an alt weekly — profiles the lives of Annawadi slum dwellers in Mumbai in this enthralling and deeply researched masterpiece. The care and detail devoted to depicting the precarious lives of a family and their neighbors doesn’t get in the way of the larger narrative of a transforming city and nation. I really can’t say enough to sing the praises of Boo’s execution — read this book!
JR, by William Gaddis (Jeff Laughlin, editorial intern)
Gaddis’ postmodernism and penchant for long novels — rarely broken for chapters — makes any of his work seem daunting, but I cannot remember a book more rewarding than his The Recognitions. His characters are often intelligent and unwittingly dangerous while moving through the world around them. JR places a young, like 10-years-old young, genius into the world of Wall Street moneymaking with (hopefully) hilarious and satircal results. Of course, this book is 900+ pages with small type, so don’t expect a report on it for a good, long while.
Jakob Von Gunten, by Robert Walser (Jeff Laughlin)
I’ve been plowing through the New York Review of Books series for awhile now. Essentially, they take semi-popular literary writers and ask them about their favorite out-of-print or scarce books and re-publish them with new forewards and artwork. Robert Walser makes the list twice which piques my interest. Having read a few of his short stories, I’m curious to see how his playful, sharp language translates to a longer form novel.
The Family, by Ed Sanders (Jordan Green, news editor)
I was hooked by the heading of the first chapter: “A poor risk for probation.” The dune buggies of the apocalypse also fascinated me in Ed Sanders’ peerless account of the Charles Manson cult. There’s something undeniably creepy and utterly terrifying about free-love-and-dope hippies setting off on a murderous and gory spree, perhaps because the idea is so counterintuitive. That aside, I’m utterly fascinated by the scheme Manson hatched, following what he thought were the directives of the Beatles’ White Album, to incite a race war and then lead his followers in a swarm of dune buggies from a secret city, known as the Pit, beneath Death Valley to conquer the earth. Follower Tex Watson’s explanation of his decision to break from Manson is priceless. The chances of finding the Pit seemed to diminish by the day. “We were short of food,” he added, “we were allowed only one cup of water per day and, worst of all the drugs were running out.”
Dishonor Everywhere But Who Cares?????? by Curtis E. Dixon (jordan green)
Yes, there really are six question marks in the title. I bought this book out of a lady’s trunk at city hall in Winston-Salem because, apparently, some parties have ensured through legal action or by buying up all available copies that it will not be stocked on local bookstore shelves. As an exposé of public corruption, it’s best regarded as a tip-sheet considering that its scope is more or less limited to the experience of the author, who portrays himself as a pure-of-character civil servant beset on all sides by tainted and treacherous colleagues. The book is mainly of interest because of the intersecting careers of the author, Councilwoman Vivian Burke and future Mayor Allen Joines in the late 1970s.
Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace (Brian Clarey, editor)
A former philosophy professor said to me of this work, “You don’t read this book, this book reads you.” So I got it for Christmas because I felt that a man like me ought to have read a book like this, David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece, the most significant thing he contributed to our culture before offing himself in 2008. I read through a few hundred pages of dense, luxurious sentences (he likens dust motes in a ray of light to the sizzling effervescence of a glass of seltzer) and excruciatingly detailed accounts of tennis, all the while flipping to the back to read the footnotes. Back in April I put it up and started reading comic books on my phone. I’d like to knock it off the list this summer. No promises.