Things to Read - Autumn Reads (for Adults) - Goons, Grids, and Seventies-Style Drama

1. (Goons) - I read Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad because Amazon insisted that I would love this book. After debating whether an algorithm could accurately predict my literary taste, I decided to give it a try (the novel's long list of literary awards - National Book Critics Circle Award Winner, PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist, A New York Times Book Review Best Book - bolstered Amazon's credibility). And, I must admit, Amazon knows me really really well (scary, huh?) because this was probably the best book I've read this year (I already updated my favorite books list to include it). The novel chronicles - somewhat loosely - people in the music industry, but the true joy of reading it stems from the fact that each chapter is told from a different perspective, often really random and unexpected perspectives, as minor characters from one chapter appear as narrators in subsequent chapters. The novel jumps around in time as well, so you see punk kids in the 1980s become drug addicts and/or music executives. Everyone has a story to tell. And, as a reader, all you can do is wait and hope that your favorite characters survive. Seriously, if you read one book in the next year, this should be the book.

2. (Life Off the Grid)
- I'm somewhat fascinated by people who live off-the-grid (remember this post?), so when I read about Melissa Coleman's memoir - This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone
. I bought the book immediately. Coleman grew up on a self-sufficient farm in Maine, in a small house that her father built using only a handsaw, hammer, level, measuring tape, and carpenter's square. The farm had no electricity, refrigeration, or running water. Coleman and her younger sister spent their childhood running naked through the fields "dancing on the blanket of apple blossoms, skipping along wooded paths, catching frogs at the pond, eating strawberries and peas from the vine, and running from the black twist of garter snakes in the grass." Hippies showed up every summer, eager to help to run the operation. Beautiful naked hippies. Which (not so surprisingly) took their toll on the marriage of Coleman's parents.

Coleman's memoir reads like a fall from paradise. After her younger sister drowns in the farm's pond her parent's relationship goes from bad to worse. And eventually their whole lifestyle is lost. At times I wondered how Coleman could remember her childhood so vividly, but still the book reads well and the story itself is fascinating, though incredibly depressing. Coleman does a wonderful job trying to empathize with everyone's situation (from her mother's near breakdown and desertion of Coleman to her father's abandonment of the farm and family).

The book ends without Coleman ever explaining how her unique childhood affected her adulthood (does she eat organic? is she a vegetarian? is she now religious?), perhaps another memoir is in the works? A farm-based Mary Karr? Regarding others pioneers of the sustainable movement, Coleman has this to say - "[m]any families, like us, would succumb to divorce or separation, and as [our neighbor] had long ago predicted, those who stayed put were generally the homesteaders without children." So much for my off-the-grid dreams.

3. (1970s Fashion Drama)
- I'm not particularly into high fashion (to put it mildly). Lately I'm lucky if I have occasion to ditch the sweat pants for awhile. I decided to read Alicia Drake's The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris solely because of a review stating "It's like US Weekly, 1970s style." (With a review like that how could I NOT want to read it?). And I have to say, the book was quite a page turner. Mainly dealing with the endless feuds between Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld this book also dishes the dirt on Paris in the 1970s - cocaine, nightclubs, trips to Morocco, and fabulous parties with really obnoxious people. If you've ever wondered if people become famous because of who they know, then this book will convince you that without a carefully chosen entourage one's future in the fashion industry is doomed. As much as I hated most of the people in the book, I couldn't put it down. And now I keep googling Yves Saint Laurent in an attempt to see all his couture collections (I can't find anything, any advice on how to see runway collections from the 70s?). An addictive read.


  1. Try pinterest! http://pinterest.com/pin/264206506/

  2. good idea! i still can't find much, but it's better than google!



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