Julie’s Summer Reads

white cat

I like to do my summer reading in one of two places: either sitting on my front steps hanging out with the neighbor’s cats, or lying on the couch while my rabbits hop about and try to escape their pen.

1. Legs Get Led Astray by Chloe Caldwell
This collection of essays made me believe in creative nonfiction all over again. Caldwell’s energetic, open style feels like listening to a friend tell you stories at a bar. And let me tell you – these are exactly the kinds of stories my friends would tell. Love, mothers, drugs, masturbation, intense friendship, a bleu cheeseburger after an orgy; Caldwell holds nothing back. This is the life of a young woman laid blissfully bare, from her conversations with the kids she’s babysitting (hilarious and poignant) to parties with Strand booksellers (there’s really no party like a bookseller party). Caldwell’s honesty is so welcome, so fun, and so touching.

2. Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee
I won’t shut up about this book, because here’s the thing – these stories are good. Rebecca Lee is the new love of my reading life. I read the whole book on a flight from Kansas City to Austin. Sharp writing, unconventional scenarios, characters who are real. Lee’s sentences excited me. I’ve twisted the arm of everyone I know to read this collection. Lee’s talent will knock you over the head. You’ll be asking yourself the same thing I did when I finished this book: Rebecca Lee, where have you been all my life?

3. American Dream Machine by Matthew Specktor
Holy crack book, Batman! This is one addictive read. Specktor moves between modern day Los Angeles and L.A. in the ’60s and ’70s to tell the story of two Hollywood agents and their sons. From page one, I was absorbed by the shifting industry, its struggles and rewards, the egos of its players and the way those egos shaped their children. This book kept me up past my bedtime. Specktor is a terrific writer, managing to move loosely through his characters’ perceptions and motives with tight, engaging descriptions. It’s no surprise Showtime is turning American Dream Machine into a series. This book is fun. It’s well written. You cannot beat this book when it comes to beach reading.

4. Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
This book is unlike any writing guide I’ve read, and the first in a long time that has proven useful. (Why is a writing guide summer reading? Because I read it during the summer, when it was hot out.) Klinkenborg is all about sentences. Don’t you dare ignore the faintest clunk. Don’t you dare move on without knowing exactly what that sentence not only means but actually says. Make every sentence stand up for itself and justify its existence. This book is written in what I can best describe as free verse. There are no solid paragraphs, instead sentences whose line breaks come at Klinkenborg’s discretion. The result is a fluid reading experience that demonstrates what Klinkenborg preaches. (Oh, also, I should mention that I discovered this book at the fabulous Word Brooklyn on a hot day in early June right before I sat down at a bar to trade Caldwell-esque stories with one of my best friends. Summertime reading! BAM!)

5. Rabbits for Dummies
On the Fourth of July I was kicking back at a friend’s house with a celebratory gin drink when I looked down and there was a bunny in my lap. Two bunnies on the couch, total, in fact. (See totally gratuitous bunny photo below.) Maybe it was the gin drink, or the swell of independence (I can do anything!), or the gin, but I agreed to take them home. That bunny sitting on my lap was the first bunny I’d ever held, so, as you can imagine, I had a lot to learn. Rabbits for Dummies saved my life. This is absolutely the most important summer reading I’ve done this year. If you find yourself at home with two rabbits, a sack of hay and no idea what it means when they twitch, jump and spin around in the air, get yourself a copy of this book!



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