Books I Read This Summer

After four years of book overload in college, this summer was my first opportunity to read whatever I wanted (!), as much as I wanted. Although I generally loved the books my professors chose, the freedom to jump randomly from reading about MTV’s The Real World to a fictional Jewish settlement in Alaska to 19th century Russia and back to California highways in the 1960s was wonderful. In the past, I’ve written up lists of books I hope/plan to read during a season, but inevitably I get sidetracked and end up down a rabbit hole of related reading far from what I originally intended–so, this season, I decided to put together a retrospective list of texts I enjoyed.

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls / David Sedaris
This one sparked a lot of conversations about the widespread addiction to Fitbit buzzing my friends are currently experiencing. I’m also looking forward to attending his reading in DC this Thursday!

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius / Dave Eggers
What is real, and what is imagined? Is there any real benefit to drawing strict lines between our imagined and experienced lives, or are both necessary for survival?

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union / Michael Chabon
Gritty, suspenseful, made me crave latkes.

Anna Karenina / Leo Tolstoy
Kind of a cheat, as I only had about 300 pages left. Luckily, that last hunk of prose ended up unfolding in a series of rapid, devastating turns.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? / Maria Semple
Took me out of my mind during a particularly difficult few weeks, and actually managed to make me laugh. Wildly creative and surprising.

Swann’s Way / Marcel Proust
Another cheat–I only had the last 50 pages to go. Wistful and made me crave madeleines.

Consider The Lobster / David Foster Wallace
“Host” made SO much more sense when I discovered that it had originally been published online by The Atlantic. “Up, Simba” was a terrific read as the presidential debate season kicks off. Just full of curious ideas and creative phrases.

Hell’s Angels: A Strange And Terrible Saga / Hunter S Thompson
I was shocked by how quickly I devoured this one–two plane rides, and that was that. Uneasy, ambivalent look at a group of unusual people, with an appearance by Ginsberg and some great commentary on 1960s politics that still feels fresh and relevant.

I’ve started my fall reading with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me, which is as excellent as I knew it would be from following his work in The Atlantic. I have a feeling that this will send me back to Angela Davis’s first autobiography, which I partially read for class during my last semester of college, and from there, who knows? I’ll write up another list in December.

This Week in Delgadia: The Toast, Swann’s Way, and Buffy Trivia

This past week marked the start of chilly mornings, which made me equal parts happy and distressed by how much time has already elapsed since graduation. But: Job interviews and writing tests have been are things that are happening, freelance things (about Angela Lansbury!) are also happening, and I even got scooped on a story last week which seems like a sign that I’m onto something with this writing thing. Overall, I’m still waiting for the next chapter to start, and eager to find the job that will take me there.

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In the meantime, I’ve been spoiled by all of the good books that I didn’t have time to read while I was still in school. Nearly a year after I started, I finally finished reading Swann’s Way. It’s an understatement to say that the book is lovely, just like it’s probably cliche to praise the dreamy rhythm of Proust’s endlessly stacked clauses. I feel pretentious even admitting that I read it, even though most of it was for a modern lit class last fall semester. But for real: The plot is spellbinding, Proust has a lot of interesting things to say about art and the senses, and it’s one of the best explorations of memory ever committed to paper (or Kindle, if that’s your thing). Be warned, though, that Proust probes the fact that love has a tendency to make people very sad.

I’m still working through Consider the Lobster (a collection of David Foster Wallace’s essays), currently midway through the uncut version of his report on John McCain’s presidential campaign against W. in 2000, a version of which appeared in Rolling Stone. After spending most of the summer reading fiction, it’s refreshing to read nonfiction that pushes the boundaries of the form with DFW’s iconic use of footnotes, charts, and other interruptions.

I also visited Barnes and Noble today for the first time in ages, and after months of weeding through disorganized used book stores I have to admit that it was refreshing to find the books I was looking for in predictable places, clean and in stock. I bought Hunter S. Thompson’s book about Hell’s Angels and The Crying of Lot 49 and then put myself on a strict diet that will hopefully prevent me from OD-ing on white male authors.

Trivia of the week: I revisited The Elected while working on a cover letter this week, which naturally got me onto an internet tangent that ended on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer wiki. Did you know that Blake Sennett (lead guitarist, Rilo Kiley; lead vocalist, The Elected) played warlock Michael Czajak in that episode where Buffy’s mom goes into PTA-nightmare-mode trying to stamp out witchcraft in Sunnydale? Me either, but it’s true nonetheless:

Blake Sennett was one of the first musicians I saw perform a live show, with Rilo Kiley while they were touring with Coldplay. I was 13 years old and sitting next to my dad, and I remember being mortified by the way he introduced the band: “Hey there, all you sons of bitches!” The curse words were electric, and at the time I was terrified that my father would know I thought so.

Internet gems: This wild longform story about a girl who pretended she was in high school for over a decadeThis beautiful old Dear Sugar letter about jealousy, which every unemployed person should be politely asked to read. Ann Friedman’s take on Kim Davis. What actually happened when Liberty University felt the Bern. Why reading online is different. Scottish illustrator extraordinaire Anna Doherty, who is a friend of one of my old roommates and almost certainly doesn’t remember meeting me, just launched a bookshop and I want to buy every adorable-yet-decidedly-off-kilter thing in it. Kyle MacLachlan’s use of puns and this emoticon —> ; – ) make his Twitter officially the best on the internet. Did you know that standard shipping from Top Shop is free?

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I took this photo back in the beginning of August, near the end of our interview after a leisurely brunch at Can Can, on Cary Street. Moments after this was taken, my hands were covered in red clay.

And finally, I wrote some new things! I’m thrilled to be on The Toast for the first time this week, and many thanks go out to Malena Magnolia for giving a lovely interview and just generally making damn good art. I also wrote about snack guilt and was surprised by how many people ended up reading it.