The (Almost) Summer Reading List

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I know, friends that it's not yet summer. Trust me, I know. Boston
has apparently decided that Mother Nature's iPod is going to play the
Make it Rain (remix) over and over, and it is forcing me to stay
inside, which is making me cranky and nearly translucent. And while
I've been sitting here in my room amongst my boxes of (limited
edition!) sneakers and Island Spa scented Yankee Candles, I've been
staring at all of the books that I'd been meaning to read whilst
slaving away on my thesis. And I've decided that it is time that I
got off my (well-toned!) literary duff and started reading again lest
I forget how to properly use nouns. So here is a list of some of the
books that I'm going to tackle over the summer, the reasoning for
doing so, and the song from 1988 that comes closest to characterizing
what I think the point of the book is.

All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen
The new new Benjamin Kunkel, Gessen is the editor/founder of n+1 lit
mag and I'm supposed to read this book because it's by a youngish guy
who writes about guys, but kind of in a literary way, which is what I
always thought I was going to be when I grew up. I am also supposed
to have strong feelings about this book one way or the other and
express those feelings to people who ask in aggressive and
exaggerated tones. Obviously, this book is putting a lot of pressure
on me.
Most fitting song from 1988: Man in the Mirror by MJ

De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage
This book came to me highly recommended by my dad, someone who no
longer reads American fiction because it is "boring" or "not by
someone Scottish." This book isn't by a Scott either as Hage is
Lebanese, lives in Montreal and writes about civil war torn Beirut.
Maybe my dad didn't know. A review from some Canadian newspaper on
the back of the book reminds someone Canadian of Hemingway. This
appeals to me, because I like Hemingway and Canadians. A potential
win-win.
Song from 1988: I Don't Want to Live Without You by Foreigner (more
for the band than the song)

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by David Samuels
I am a sucker for collections of essays by journalists I dig. And I
dig David Samuels. He's the dude who wrote the story about Britney
Spears and the Papa Razzi for the Atlantic. He also writes for The
New Yorker and Harpers, which makes him automatically obnoxious to
talk to at dinner parties. Despite this potential downside, I love
his work and celebrate collections like this, because they remind me
that I should be a better journalist if I'd only get over my fear of
hard work.
Song from 88: Everything Your Heart Desires by Hall and Oates

Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willet
Something you may not know about me: I don't like funny books. I like
books that have humor in them, but I need a point to the story. I
can't stand humor for humor's sake. I just get upset about it, in
some sort of meta-outside-the-Matrix type way. This should explain
why I have a piece of paper taped above my desk that says "Forced
Humor= Kill Yourself." Regardless, this is allegedly a hilarious book
with a point. I am nervous because of the hilarious title, but more
than willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Plus I understand
it has a decent amount of stuff about weather, which is interesting
to someone who has to stay inside all day thanks to Mother Nature's
insufferable inclination to drop April Showers in May. Wow. Sorry you
had to see that.
Song from 88: Devil Inside by INXS

The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier
This is a serious look at "why the poorest countries are failing and
what can be done about it." It takes care of two gifting birds with
one stone for me. One, it momentarily neutralizes my occasional bouts
of terrible liberal guilt, which I assuage by giving away things or
reading intellectually heavy books like this one. And two, it
fulfills my insecure notion that I need to be educating myself
through whatever I'm reading as if I might be tested at any moment in
some sort of impromptu Jeopardy match. Market research tells me
otherwise but hey! It's fun to be prepared.
Song from 88: (Not so) Perfect World by Huey Lewis and the News

And that is that. More songs will come as time passes and the weather
thaws, but please drop your own fantastic pseudo summer booklists in
the comments portion of the show, and try and avoid operating heavy
machinery while ingesting le music de 1988.

Catch Me,
(I'm Falling)

Pretty Poison