Monday, May 25, 2015

What You Should Be Reading This Summer

Summer reading list.  These three words used to instill panic.  What began as a manageable three books in three months would inevitably become three books in three days.  But somehow in abandoning the "mandatory" title, summer reading has become something I look forward to.  Rather than be holed up watching Netflix, I'd rather be in the park or on the beach curled up with a book (rosé also welcome).  So let's toast to summer water and summer reading!

For suggestions, here are a few of my favorite books I've read this past year.

Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement
Let me begin by saying this book is quite unusual in its structure.  Written as a collection of memories from the perspective of Suzanne Mallouk, Basquiat's former lover, author Jennifer Clement describes in haunting prose and poetry various encounters of the tragic young couple.  Peppered throughout, Suzanne writes in first-person her experiences of the same events.  The compilation of stories provides insight into Basquiat's life and New York during the 1980's but also something of a glossary to digest his work. 

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Wolitzer follows a group of kids from a youth arts camp throughout their adult lives, revealing the trajectory of friendships and the manifestation (and lack there of) of creative potential.  She eloquently portrays each individual’s stories and in doing so reveals some of the uglier sides of human nature: jealousy and the role of money and class.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I found myself highlighting several passages throughout my reading of Americanah because of how spot on Adichie is in her discussions of race through her fictional character’s wildly popular blog.  She distinguishes between African-Americans and American-Africans to an audience who typically only conceives of black and white.  She does so without feeling preachy and layers these racial insights with a love story between the two protagonists.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
“To read The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, a meticulous and heartfelt account of a brilliant black student from the poverty-stricken streets of Newark, is to see the best of the American dream lived and ultimately, tragically, lost.”  This is the story of an outsider -the resented geek in the hood and the inner city black kid in the Ivy League.  Unfortunately, he never manages to rectify this duality, which contributes to his untimely death.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Isaacson manages to tell the riveting story of one of the most interesting personalities and icons of our generation.  He provides extraordinary detail and access into Jobs’ relentlessness and pursuit of perfection.  A personal favorite line is where Isaacson tells the story of Bill Gates visiting Jobs’ Palo Alto home.  “This is where you all live?” Gates says, in awe of its quaintness in comparison to his 66,000 square foot mansion in Washington.

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