One could argue that what a person reads in their leisure time is their truest reflection. Their id. Their guilty pleasure. What they want, not what they need. Maybe. My beach read this year is Dune. So maybe I like to escape the realities of our world for the fantasies of another. Maybe it was that I recently read an article about Jodorowsky’s Dune — a film that was never actually made — and thought that with the recent trend of sci-fi miniseries (see: Stranger Things and the upcoming American Gods), a Dune remake probably isn’t far off. And I really like to read the book before the movie. (I raced through The Martian at the first whispers of the Ridley Scott film.) So: Dune says I’m an OCD, forward-thinking escapist? Probably.
I asked around the office to see what beach-read advice I could glean from my coworkers (and what judgements I could make). The list is more diverse than I expected, and very revealing. You might not know us, but the good news is these books won’t show up on any other “best of” lists. It’s an insidery list, full of surprises. Our associate designer reads cartoons. Our copyeditor reads the exceptionally copy-light genre of manga. Our style writer reads a $200 book on poetry. Go figure. Read on to see the entire list.
‘The Fiddler in the Subway’ by Gene Weingarten
Chris Wright, Associate Editor: My girlfriend got me this book because she is a genius and recognizes very much what I love to read: longform journo shit. Gene Weingarten is a columnist and humor writer for The Washington Post. I’d never heard of him before I read this. Practically no one has. Such is the life of a two-time Pulitzer Prize Winner for Feature Writing. He wrote what is arguably the best feature ever, “The Great Zucchini,” about a children’s party performer in Washington D.C. That story’s a perfect microcosm of his writing: The premise is simple, his writing clear and casual — and then the plot unfolds in such a shocking direction that it seems made up. It’s not. Weingarten makes longform seem easy, which inspires in me both immense awe and immense jealousy.
Oh, and his short story about his father, which is less than 1,000 words, turned me into a sobbing heap. — @wrightswriting
‘The Essential Calvin and Hobbes’ by Bill Watterson
Chase Pellerin, Associate Designer: Calvin and Hobbes sums up my childhood. I credit this book as an early introduction into visual storytelling and how best to argue the terms of my curfew. I reach for it in the summer as a reminder to remain playful as a semi-functional adult. — @chase_pellerin
‘The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food’ by Dan Barber
Matthew Ankeny, Senior Editor: I didn’t so much choose this book as it chose me. After a love of Michael Pollan fizzled with Food Rules and his laborious Netflix show, Cooked, I waited in the wake of Chef’s Table to let further food inspiration find me. My Dad wanted to visit Blue Hill Stone Barns, and after doing a short walk around the farm, the old man needed to rest in the shade. We entered the gift shop, I picked up the book, and haven’t put it down since. — @ankenymd
‘Galapagos’ by Kurt Vonnegut
Andrew Connor, Associate Staff Writer: Last summer, I picked up Infinite Jest, got about 100 pages in, put it down and read Cat’s Cradle instead. Nothing against David Foster Wallace, but Infinite Jest felt like reading a mildly amusing textbook in comparison. A couple chapters in I remembered why Vonnegut has recently been a go-to for me: Even though his musings on life are pointed, thoughtful, clever and unique, he doesn’t forget that a good book should be accessible and fun to read. (The man once said: “Literature shouldn’t disappear up its own asshole.”) That’s why, after reading six of his books, I’m continuing to go through his full bibliography, and moving to Galápagos, which has been recommended to me multiple times. A summer read shouldn’t feel like coursework, after all. — @andrew_m_connor
‘Isn’t It Pretty to Think So?’ by Nick Miller
Tucker Bowe, Associate Staff Writer: One of my best friends, who was an MFA student at Columbia at the time, gave me Isn’t It Pretty to Think So? He actually met the author, Nick Miller, at a wedding. They got talking and Miller gifted him a copy of this book, which had just been released and was his first-ever novel. After reading, my friend handed it me and said, “just read it.” The book is a coming of age story about a young writer. Sex, drugs, travel — it’s all there. Think a hybrid between The Catcher in the Rye and Anthony Kiedis’s Scar Tissue. It’s fast, fun and intelligently written. I’ve read it twice. — @j_tb3
‘Yotsuba&! Volume 13’ by Kiyohiko Azuma
Nick Milanes, Associate Copy Editor: As a teenager, this slice-of-life manga about an adopted little girl who’s perpetually delighted by her surroundings helped me through some difficult times. With 2016 going how it’s going, I could use some of that positivity, so I’m revisiting the series with Volume 13, which dropped stateside a few months ago. What is summer but an opportunity to see life through the eyes of a child again? — @ndmila
‘A History of Ancient Rome’ by Mary Beard
Jeremy Berger, Senior Editor: I started reading the stoic philosophy of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, both Romans, as a way to prevent myself from turning into one of those mad New Yorkers who snaps when the subway is delayed because of train traffic and is never the same again, muttering curse words and pushing his way onto the train before letting people off. Filling in the history was the next step, and this book — which I found at the beginning of the summer by searching on Amazon — is great so far. The language is easy to digest, but Beard is a respected Classics scholar, so you’re getting the real deal. What I’m enjoying most about the book is that so much of the United States was modeled after ancient Rome, so reading about how they dealt with issues like citizenship and terrorism helps me understand our world better.
‘The Autobiography of Charles Darwin’ by Charles Darwin and ‘The Master and Margarita’ by Mikhail Bulgakov
Caitlyn Girardi, Editorial Apprentice: Studying literature killed my love for literature, so nonfiction or magical realism are now my go-to genres for relaxing. Darwin’s personality — the stuff beyond the science — fascinates me, so I’m re-reading his short but interesting diary at the moment. Studying literature also killed my attention span (never get to read a book all the way through), so I usually bounce between a couple of books at a time. I just started The Master and Margarita, a Russian, magical-realist novel that I bought purely because a brilliant friend told me it was hilarious. Russian literature is not usually hilarious to me (see: Dostoyevsky), and I didn’t know that a cat was a character in this book before I bought it (I don’t like cats), so it should be interesting. — @heyitscg
‘My Dear Bomb’ by Yohji Yamamoto
John Zientek, Associate Staff Writer: Nothing pulls me away from the realities of the office like Yohji Yamamoto’s poetic vignettes. The meditation by Yamamoto on clothing and life acts as a gateway into my own daydreams and reflections. Plus, his illustrations are top notch. — @sieben_tagen
‘Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life’ by William Finnegan
Matt Neundorf, Contributing Writer: Surfing is a sport that, as I live near no tides whatsoever, continues to tease and elude me. I always figured I’d end up a Johnny Utah type and be a mid-twenties kook getting knocked off a local’s wave. I’m in my late thirties now and have only had feet on a board a handful of times, in terrible conditions. I’m reading this to keep the flame burning until I can paddle out and give it another go. — @mattneundorf
‘Without a Doubt’ by Marcia Clark
Hayden Coplen, Contributing Writer: Haven’t hit Peak OJ yet? Let the issues of the New Yorker pile up for a couple weeks and grab this breezy insider account from the badass prosecutor in the Simpson case. Yeah, she lost, but her postmortem of how and why makes for a fascinating read. The book was published in 1997, but the issues Clark examines — a broken justice system, sexism, race and inequality in Los Angeles — are still remarkably prescient today. — @haydencoplen
‘The Industries of the Future’ by Alec Ross
Michael Finn, Intern: I was recommended this book by someone way smarter and wealthier than I will likely ever be. You know, one of those Eric Schmidt types who’s always speaking prophetically about the next big thing, and always the first one to rake in a shitload of cash from it. (As it happens, Eric Schmidt also recommends this book). The “next big thing” is the whole premise of The Industries of the Future — the future of technology, business and trade, where and when new developments will occur, which countries will prosper and which will fall behind. During his four-year run as Hillary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation, the author, Alec Ross, traveled the world studying emerging technologies. The Industries of the Future is the amalgamation of his observations. If Ross’s predictions are true — and I’m convinced that they are — the future will look a lot like a fantastical sci-fi movie. I find that incredibly exciting. — @rhiner
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