We’ve further expanded the definition of AVQ&A—our Monday and Friday discussion prompts—by asking you (and two of our regular contributors) a simple question once per month: What have you read in the past month, or what are you currently reading? If you have suggestions for AVQ&A questions, big or small, you can email them to us here.
July is offering a wide spectrum for book releases, so there’s a little something for anyone who wants to bury their nose in a book during vacation instead of enjoying the sunny weather, beautiful locales, and quality family time. Several established comedic voices released books this month: Chuck Klosterman’s I Wear The Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real And Imagined) examines pop-culture bad guys; Aisha Tyler enters the books game with her collection of essays, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales Of Epic Humiliation; Jack Handey published his first novel, The Stench Of Honolulu; and the posthumous novel from This American Life contributor David Rakoff, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, is finally available as well. There are several debuts building some buzz as well, specifically Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P. and The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth. New novels from award-winning authors include Susan Choi’s My Education and Tash Aw’s Five Star Billionaire. There was also that matter of discovering that a crime novel published in April was actually written by über-tale-spinner J.K. Rowling.
The return of Back Issues has me up to my neck in Watchmen right now, so I’m finding very little time to read much else. However, there is one other book that I’m finishing up: Lindsay Hunter’s short-story collection, Don’t Kiss Me. I started this book on a whim (it was sitting on my desk and I’d forgotten to bring something to read during a lengthy transit to meet friends), but it didn’t take long to get really into it. While on the surface these stories seem to be simple, borderline-gross-out curiosities (there is an awful lot of vomit), there is also a layer of tragedy or heartbreak that stopped me in my tracks—so much so that I missed my train stop. I’d say the best stories are frontloaded in the first half of the book, but each one has a little something that’s funny or jarring or incredibly messed up.
Spy Rock Memories began as a series of lengthy blog posts on Larry Livermore’s website, chronicling his time spent in the Northern California mountains. But he expands those snapshots into a sort of punk-rock Walden, detailing Livermore’s migration from San Francisco in the early ’80s to a mountain near Laytonville, a place he’d inhabit on and off for 22 years. The book unfolds into a document of his life following the move, his adaptation to the tight-knit culture, and the formation of The Lookouts—a band that featured a 12-year-old Tré Cool on drums—which led to founding of legendary label Lookout Records. Livermore writes with deference for his time spent on Spy Rock, finding a way to keep nostalgia from clouding his experiences, and the book’s breezy nature finds its middle ground between music memoir and personal essay. Spy Rock Memories paints its characters in lush details, allowing for readers to be welcomed into the culture of Iron Peak, just as Livermore was all those decades ago.
I went on vacation in June, and since we spent so much time lazing around, I blasted through the two beach reads I brought with me. Luckily, there was a Half Price Books nearby, so I picked up a couple other books that I’ve read since. Coming off vacation, I didn’t really want to read anything too heady, so I grabbed two books that I thought I could learn a little something from, while still remaining appropriately titillated. While Eleanor Herman’s Sex With Kings: 500 Years Of Adultery, Power, Rivalry And Revenge was sufficiently sordid, it was also a little repetitive, with each chapter going back to talk about the same famous royal mistresses. I’d be more likely to recommend my other pick, Janet Wallach’s The Richest Woman In America: Hetty Green In The Gilded Age. Detailing the life of the notoriously stingy Green, the book inspired me to not only lock down my personal finances, but to—in theory—actually start figuring out how things like bonds and mortgages work. Now that’s what I call edu-tainment!