BOOK CLUB — Summer Reads

by Melanie Jane Parker

When it comes to reading, I’m an all-season athlete. I take pleasure in books on a crisp fall day just as much as I do in the deep dark belly of winter or the brightly manic first weeks of spring. But after twelve-odd years of public school institutionalization, I still get a special thrill out of putting together a summer reading list. Here are some recommendations for the cloyingly humid afternoons and sweet merciful nights to come.

 

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I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

“I had to find these ciphers for myself because whenever I tried writing in the 1st Person it sounded like some other person, or else the tritest most neurotic parts of myself that I wanted to badly to get beyond. Now I can’t stop writing in the 1st Person, it feels like it’s the last chance I’ll ever have to figure some of this stuff out.”

Six years ago, one of my writing mentors encouraged me to read this book, but I didn’t get to it until recently, and thank goodness. It came back around at a moment where I was feeling extra self-conscious about writing autobiographically (or even semi-autobiographically), and was surrounded by cultural dialogue that criticized women for producing literature and art that was too intimate and revealing. I Love Dick begins as a pushback and ends as a big fuck you to all that, and for that I bow down to Chris Kraus.

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The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

Ferrante’s Neapolitan tetralogy is superb, but her shorter works are just as devastating. The Lost Daughter’s Leda is brilliant, sensitive, and full of rage, and spends most of this book in a seaside sun-drenched delirium.

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A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

“And then the pure, melancholy, first blue of morning begins. The air one can bathe in. The electric shriek of a train. Heels on the sidewalk. The first birds. I cannot sleep.”

All the refined tautness of Fitzgerald and Hemingway with a generous dose of 1960s angst and eroticism.

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Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

In my last two years of college, I lived in an apartment in Northampton, Massachusetts, worked up the street at a head shop, and entertained the daily fantasy of bumping into Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore at the bookstore or farmer’s market. Kim and I, we didn’t bump into so much as stroll by each other (it was midday, she was crossing the street in one direction and I in the other, there was eye contact). Thurston and I ended up in line together at a print shop (he with an entourage of hipsters and I with a fifty-page thesis under my arm and heart palpitations). When I heard they’d split up I was totally bummed, but when I saw Kim perform as half of Body/Head at St. Mark’s Church in 2014, I saw a woman firmly rooted in her artistry and strength, and it’s from that place of power that she wrote this book.

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Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids by Meghan Daum, Ed.

If your head is saying no but your body’s saying let’s go, this is the essay collection for you.

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Yoga Mala by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

In a world gone mad with the capitalist commercialization and commodification of yoga, Yoga Mala is a salt of the earth practice manual by the late guru of Ashtanga yoga.

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