Weirdly, one of the questions I’ve gotten most consistently from APWers over the years is: What are you reading? And these days: What is the staff reading? Reading lists are fascinating because they’re not just a place to cull recommendations, but they’re also a little window into someone’s personality. If I know what you’re reading and why, I immediately feel like I know you a little better. So when APW writing intern Rachel suggested that we do an APW Summer Reading List post, it seemed like one of those good ideas so obvious that… why hadn’t we thought of it earlier?? (Thanks, Rachel!) Of course, this is not just a chance to paw around in our brains, it’s also an open thread about what you books you recommend. I’m looking for my next good read, so I’ll be paying attention.
Meg (Founder/ Executive Editor)
Before we get to it, confession time. While I present a pretty good front for new motherhood, there is hidden darkness. My reading habits have really slipped. I read every night, but I’m burning through periodicals while the books languish a bit. I’m up-to-date on my standards: New York Magazine, New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker (in bits), and Esquire (just to have one thing without New York in the title). But novels… well… my brainpower isn’t totally back, thanks to lack of sleep. So please forgive me if my recommended reading list is much longer than my current reading list. But brass tacks. Here is your glimpse into my psyche.
Great With Child: Letters To A Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly. I rarely say things like this, but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have a babe in arms. I would have been an eye-rolling machine if I’d read it earlier. Now, every other page is turned down.
Might read next:
Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin. I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s happening in the media universe and what’s next. That, and we’re very serious about TV dramas over here. So I may well dive into this discussion of the third golden age of television, and the power of the showrunner. Anyone read it?
Read recently and recommend:
11/22/63 by Steven King. If you haven’t read this yet, you have to. I have a habit of reading much of the ten best books list that the New York Times puts out every year, and this book made all the lists in 2011, so I read my first Steven King book. It’s time travel about the JFK assassination, but it’s powerful and moving and… really fun. I ripped through the 880 pages in a few days, and then I was just angry it was over. Perfect to read on that vacation where you want to ignore your family. Achem.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. I had to pace myself on this because it was too beautiful to read in all one go. Besides, the tears.
Moranthology by Caitlin Moran. It’s not How to Be a Woman, that’s for sure. But this collection of her columns is fun and light, and perfect for when you need to read in short bursts. This was my go-to in the second month of the kid’s life.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Dear lord, this book is hard to get into. I forced myself through the first twenty pages because David was going to murder me if I put it off any longer. Good thing too, it didn’t get that Pulitzer for nothing. One of the best, most fun, and most touching books I’ve ever read (except those first twenty pages).
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Apparently my idea of good summer reads varies between essays and tomes. This is another one to lose yourself in, and then ponder the themes for weeks.
Reread every summer:
Um. The end of the Harry Potter series? Is this a trick question?
Maddie (Managing Editor)
Right now the only book I’m reading is The Yard by Alex Grecian, which I got on recommendation because I loved In the Woods by Tana French (IRISH CRIME DRAMA FEMALE AUTHOR YES PLEASE). Next on my queue is to reread Like Water for Chocolate. I also got really into audio books when I started shooting weddings because I do so much driving. The audio recording of Middlesex might be the most amazing thing ever.
Just about every year I reread 100 Years of Solitude (though I kind of want to challenge myself to read it in Spanish) and this terrible Dean Koontz book called Lightning which is a romance about time-traveling Nazis. Please don’t ask. My dad made me read it when I was little and now it’s just habit.
I’m much better at the “things you should definitely never read” list.
Emily (Associate Editor)
Like Meg, I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like to. The general theme of this list is “books I found while I was moving that I have been meaning to read/been in the middle of reading for ages.”
You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers, which I bought in an Italian train station in 2008 and lost once I got back home. Also, because I love autobiographies about old movie stars, Ava: My Story by Ava Gardner.
Excited to read:
I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman, Cemetery Girl by David Bell—another book that I got halfway through and lost—and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
Recently read and recommend:
The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, set in 1930’s Manhattan; I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits, which follows a Hasidic family through four generations; and You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations by Michael Ian Black, self-proclaimed “very famous comedian.”
Best for rereading:
I find myself picking up The New American Poetry, 1945-1960 ed. by Donald Allen frequently. I don’t reread fiction often, but I like to read She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb and Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham after major life-changing events. I read both of them for the first time when I was a teenager, and it’s nice to see how different they are now.
Liz (Ask Team Practical)
I just finished the new David Sedaris book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. (He’s always good for summer reading—easy to pick up, put down.) I have the new Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, on reserve at the library. I picked up Zadie Smith’s White Teeth at a garage sale a few weekends back. And I’m hoping to reread Emily of New Moon because it’s my comfortable book.
And then (should I admit this on APW?) Josh and I sometimes try to read the same book at the same time and chat about it… like a little married book club (omgggg so cheesy). This summer we’re picking up The Great Gatsby because we saw the movie and I went English teacher throughout the whole thing, and he couldn’t remember any of it from high school.
Kate (Copy Editor)
The newest X-Men comic book series, starting with X-Men #1. Part of the reason I love it is that it’s the first time Marvel has put out a book with an all female team of X-Men. It’s a very welcome contrast to my really dense class reading this summer. Waiting impatiently for #3, out at the end of July.
Excited to read:
The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld by Herbert Asbury. A history of San Francisco’s seedy underbelly from the Gold Rush through Prohibition, written by the author of Gangs of New York? Awesome. San Francisco has some fascinating roots, and the history is everywhere (playing unofficial tour guide is my favorite). After the book, I’m doing the Barbary Coast Trail.
Recently read and recommend:
I’ve been reading school and business books far too much lately, but I’ll recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I read it a few years ago, and it’s really stuck with me. It’s a British murder mystery (the dog in the title is the murder victim) from the perspective of a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. One part whodunit, two parts interpersonal relationship exploration, it’s simultaneously a light but thought-provoking read.
Reread every summer:
A few years ago I was really annoyed I couldn’t remember the details of a particular short story about a certain consulting detective, and after rereading, I was inspired to devour all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books and stories. (I actually can’t bring myself to finish reading the final novel, The Valley of Fear, because I don’t want it to end! I’ve read the rest of the canon.) After that, I thought it would be interesting to keep working my way through a series or body of work by a deceased author, and I’m still going.
I love a good intrigue! I recommend Ian Fleming’s 007 series (start with Casino Royale), Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series (start with The Big Sleep), and Graham Greene’s novels (start with Travels with My Aunt… That’s not his first or part of a series, but it’s a fun read. Definitely one of his thematically lighter books, it’s still suspenseful with sinister undertones). Oh, and obviously Agatha Christie’s… everything. Agatha Christie and Nancy Drew get the credit for my obsession with mysteries.
Lucy (Graphic Design Intern)
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind. Bryan and I read this particular series in tandem and discuss, though we tend to pass back and forth rather than reading aloud or listening to audiobooks (I zone out). We also read the last three books of Harry Potter this way.
Excited to Read:
In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell. (From the synopsis: “A powerful exploration of the limits of parenthood and marriage—and of what happens when a marriage’s success is measured solely by the children it produces, or else the sorrow that marks their absence.”)
Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson (a new favorite I just added to my Southern Lit collection) and Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, one of the most unique and raw urban fantasy novels that I’ve read in quite a while.
Joanna (Business Intern)
The Story of Sushi by Trevor Corson (he also wrote The Secret Lives of Lobsters which is an all-time favorite), Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future by Jonah Sachs (on how we should make a move to empowerment marketing vs. marketing that makes you feel terrible about yourself), and The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillipp Sendker (a quick one).
Rachel (Writing Intern)
Catfight: Rivalries Among Women—from Diets to Dating, from the Boardroom to the Delivery Room by Leora Tanenbaum and I’m listening to the audiobook of Bossypants with Eric.
Excited to read:
Gulp by Mary Roach (I love all her books!), The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel, and The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan, and The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction by Rachel P. Maines.
Read and recommend:
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I tend to prefer non-fiction but I absolutely loved this book. By the time I hit the second half, I truly couldn’t put it down. For non-fiction, I really enjoyed Emily Matchar’s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling.
Reread every summer:
My go-to summer reads are The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Elisabeth (Writing Intern)
Beware, I have no standards or taste, and will read anything I can get my paws on. Here’s what I’m devouring from the funny little island library!
The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian (I love everything he’s written and this one is particularly good and spooky.)
Fever by Mary Beth Keane really good fictionalized account of Typhoid Mary, a typhoid “vector” in NYC.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (I unabashedly love this time traveling Scottish romance series. It’s good! Really!)
Also, I just reread The Clan of the Cave Bear and that shit is crazy.