Things to Read - 10 Books I Want to Read This Summer


1. The Romanovs: 1613 - 1918 - On the way back from NYC, I listened to an interview with the author on NPR and was immediately entranced. According to Antony Beevor's review, this is "[a] story of conspiracy, drunken coups, assassination, torture, impaling, breaking on the wheel, lethal floggings with the knout, sexual and alcoholic excess, charlatans and pretenders, flamboyant wealth based on a grinding serfdom, and, not surprisingly, a vicious cycle of repression and revolt. Game of Thrones seems like the proverbial vicar's tea party in comparison."

2. The Girls - The New Yorker gave The Girls, Emma Cline's first novel, a huge write up. The book takes place in Northern California at the end of the 1960s and centers on a teenage girl's obsession with a Charles-Manson-like cult.

Apparently the characters, at times, seem a little removed (according to the review, "Cline has a habit of reaching for glamorous phrases, even if the glamour blinds the meaning. When she writes that 'the air was candied with silence' or that Evie’s father’s breath was 'notched with liquor,' she evokes little, except an anxiety to be stylish), but the writing is amazing.

3. Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer - I always have mixed feelings about Arbus's amazing, but oh so creepy photographs. I think I prefer happier things (or, I believe, that life really is mostly happy). But this biography sounds fascinating.

For example, Arbus "once said that she had sex with any man who asked for it, and described a pool party at which she worked through the various men, one after the next, as if they were canapés." According to the New Yorke article, "[w]hat’s remarkable is that such liberty extended to her pictures. An orgy counted as work and leisure alike. Look at a contact sheet of young lovers, a black man and a white woman, from 1966, and you notice that the naked figure sprawled across him, in frame five, is Arbus."

4. The Little Red Chairs - Edna O'Brien has been written a lot of great books, but several critics are calling this her masterpiece. The novel centers on a small Irish town learning that a notorious war criminal and mass murderer is living among them.

5. Before the Fall - I learned about Before the Fall through the Book of the Month website. Judge Liberty Hardy summarizes the plot:"[o]n a foggy summer night, a small private plane departs Martha's Vineyard bound for New York City. Sixteen minutes later, the plane is in the ocean. Nine lives are lost. The only survivors are a four-year-old boy, now the sole heir to a huge fortune, and a down-on-his luck painter named Scott. Immediately, there are questions: What caused the crash? How did a poor artist end up on the private plane of a wealthy media mogul? Does he know what caused the crash? Did he cause the crash?"


6. Another Brooklyn - Jacqueline Woodson is one of F's favorite young adult authors, so when I learned she recently wrote an adult novel about childhood friendships, I knew I had to read it.

7. The Nest - Another Book of the Month club recommendation the Book of the Month website. Judge Ellie Kemper describes the Nest as a book that "does not meander gently through the paths of four troubled siblings and their various problems; it flies." Kemper goes on to rave, "I apologize for the bird pun in the very first sentence of this review, but what can I say? I'm giddy. I could not put this book down. The Plumb family is a messed-up, dysfunctional, self-obsessed unit full of messed-up dysfunctional, self-obsessed members – much like your family or mine. What makes their journey a delight to read is the way that Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney seamlessly and artfully weaves their stories together."

8. My Family & Other Animals - I learned about this memoir through Miss Moss, as the story was recently adapted as a TV show (doesn't it look awesome)? The book tells the story of a family who moves from Britain to Corfu, Greece in the 1930s. And nothing says summer like a book about Greek island life.

9. Sex Object, A Memoir - I'm on a feminist reading kick lately, so this seems right up my alley. "A memoir that Publishers Weekly calls “bold and unflinching,” Valenti explores the toll that sexism takes on women’s lives, from the everyday to the existential. From subway gropings and imposter syndrome to sexual awakenings and motherhood, Sex Object reveals the painful, embarrassing, and sometimes illegal moments that shaped Valenti’s adolescence and young adulthood in New York City."

10. The Tin Drum - Because this is the classic novel that Gunter Grass basically won a Nobel Prize for and I haven't read it.

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