Summer Reading: Jessica’s Picks

June 10, 2014

Summer is upon us! T’is the season to rush in droves to the coastline, countryside, poolside, park, parking lot or maybe just the balcony to celebrate the sun and luxuriate in longer days.

Should you unexpectedly lose electricity, forget the password to your computer, tablet, or cell phone, misplace the remote, find your friends and family have deserted you and the climate unresponsive to your demands, run out of snacks and conversation, a book or two will help you through the season! Guaranteed!

Remember, books:
·      double up as clever accessories and conversation starters.
·      placed on top of one’s face, can protect one’s skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
·      can be used as a booster seat for one’s offspring or oneself if one has accidentally acquired very short chairs.
·      make for excellent fly swatters.
·      can, in a bind, be used as ping pong paddles if the urge for doubles overcomes one.
·      in sets of multiples, make serviceable step ladders if one needs to change a light-bulb.
·      can always be used as clever receptacles for dried flowers and other secret objects, like notes and foreign currencies.

Here, in no particular order, are a few books I find always work…

If you have a short attention span and a non-linear thought process:

Harold Brodkey’s short story volume “Stories in an Almost Classical Mode” (1988, Knopf) is one of my favorite books. I can pick it up anytime and anywhere and be surprised. One of the greatest short stories ever written about sex — “Innocence” — is the jewel in its crown.

Find out more about Harold Brodkey in The Paris Review. 

If you are interested in the darker side of beauty and the fashion industry:

pick up a copy of Mary Gaitskill’s “Veronica” (2006, Vintage). Gaitskill is by far my favorite writer, she writes like no one else about being alive, not a single word is false or redundant. You will find yourself tearing through this book and grateful that there are three volumes of short stories left for you to devour.

Jennifer Egan’s “Look At Me” (2001, Nan A Talese) offers a glimpse into the same world. Both she and Mary Gaitskill examine the experience from the point of view of a model whose career is behind them but each author takes that story in a very different direction.

If you are an insomniac and would like to put those extra hours to use:

you will almost definitely finish “Some Hope: A Trilogy” by Edward St. Aubyn (2003, Grove) this weekend. These are the first three in the Patrick Melrose series, Edward St. Aubyn’s thinly veiled autobiography of excess. Everything that can happen between birth and death on the axis of drugs, sex and a modicum of rock n’ roll happens here with an abundance of hilariously snobbish and accurate observations about the human existence.

If want to do something meaningful while you’re reading:

get yourself a copy of Kevin West’s “Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home-Canning, Pickling and Preserving” (Knopf 2013). Kevin and I became friends over our passion for jam-making, and the only trouble you’ll have is which of the 220 recipes to start with first. Summer fruits and vegetables are excellent raw material so drag that ladder to the closest tree and get going.

If you prefer pictures over words:

“Carlo Mollino: Polaroids” (Arena 2002) by Fulvio Ferrari and Napoleone Ferrari is a collection of private erotic photographs the great Italian architect and designer took during the last fourteen years of his life in Turin. The photographs are intimate and beautiful, reproduced on the same scale as a polaroid photograph, and possibly the most inventive form of photo editing.

If you want to understand why anyone really went to the Met Ball but can’t get to the museum before the exhibit closes:

“Charles James: Beyond Fashion” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014) is a beautiful book that does a wonderful job of showing exactly what made this untrained and exceptionally gifted designer such a pivotal figure in fashion. To understand his designs is to understand almost every designer that followed in his footsteps.

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