We’ve expanded the regular AVQ&A discussion prompts to ask several of our regular contributors (and you) a simple question: What are you currently reading? If you have suggestions for future AVQ&A questions, big or small, email them to us here.
I have a tendency to read anything dumb, fluffy piece of (sigh) chick lit or girl-centered YA fiction that comes into the office, just because it’s mindless entertainment that gets me away from a screen for a little bit. (Plus, I like it, whatever.) That tendency has been amplified by the fact that it’s August now and I just got back from a vacation, meaning I absolutely needed some total shit to read on airplanes, trains, and in hotels. Yes, I have a non-fiction book about authenticity in music I’ve been meaning to read, but that kind of stuff puts me to sleep on the road. Give me a dystopian YA novel or some Shopaholic stuff instead.
This time around, that translated to Hilary Liftin’s Movie Star By Lizzie Pepper, a somewhat confusingly named book that’s ostensibly by a Katie Holmes-like celebrity who’s penning her tell-all after her Hollywood marriage dissolves. It’s a topic Liftin handles with aplomb, as she’s ghostwritten several celebrity memoirs, and it’s a quick, smart, and fun read. Pepper dishes on her conversion to the Scientology-like One Cell lifestyle and talks about clothes, premieres, and paparazzi, but the most interesting parts of the book are when Liftin lets the protagonist think a little deeper. She digs into how alone and bored celebrities must feel, as well as how the line between an actor’s life and work can occasionally get blurred. It’s an interesting look at celebri-culture, especially for anyone as fascinated as I am by People, Us Weekly, Dlisted, and all that other shit.
It took me a long time, but I finally finished Helene Wecker’s The Golem And The Jinni. My languid pace shouldn’t be mistaken for indifference: It’s a gorgeous book that benefits from a slow read, and its magnificent scope is reminiscent of something like Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay (though the two books have little in common besides a golem). The golem and the jinni of the title are products of history and magic that meet in turn-of-the-century New York, forge a strange friendship, and come together to fight something stronger and darker than either of them can face alone. It would be an extraordinary book regardless, but the fact that it’s Wecker’s debut is mind-boggling. Recommended for lovers of history, mythology, and gorgeous prose.
I also borrowed Laurie Sandell’s The Impostor’s Daughter from assistant editor Becca James, who wrote about it in this space last month. The graphic memoir is provocative and jarring but also funny and hopeful, as Sandell comes to terms with her father, whose wild stories she understood as truth as a child. As she grows up and starts questioning her larger-than-life father, those stories re-frame not just her relationship with him but also her entire existence.
I also tore through Asking For It: The Alarming Rise Of Rape Culture And What We Can Do About It by Kate Harding (full disclosure: I’m friendly with Kate and have been looking forward to this for a long time). It’s less depressing than it might sound, in part because of Harding’s funny and occasionally sarcastic style, and for something so full of facts and figures, it’s a pretty enthralling read. This book probably isn’t going to get through the thick skulls of true rape apologists, but it is a good read if you keep hearing the term “rape culture” and don’t really know what it means, or if you’re enraged by the media that calls Patrick Kane a “target” of a rape investigation instead of a “subject” of one.
Finally, I’m about halfway through Glen Weldon’s Superman: The Unauthorized Biography. I discovered Superman when I was 12 or 13 via the George Reeves TV show—perhaps not the best introduction, but enough to ignite my interest in the Man Of Steel. Weldon’s book has a lot to offer both relative newbies and lifelong Supes obsessives, as he weaves together the many disparate Super pieces (from comics to TV as well as various new Super characters mostly designed to snag the kiddie demographic—Superpup, anyone?). Weldon is a fun writer and does a great job combining Superman’s history and mythology into an engaging read.
With the The End Of The Tour currently in theaters, I, like many others, have had David Foster Wallace on the brain. But instead of attempting to tackle the author’s lengthy Infinite Jest during the summer (which I reserve for easier “beach reads”), I dove into a book that popped up once while reading an analysis of Wallace’s The Pale King (one of Wallace’s works that I actually managed to read) and again on Esquires’s “Five Books To Booze With,” (another activity fit for the beach)—Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes. The “fictional memoir” presents itself under the guise of a book for the American football fan, but is about so much more than Exley’s black hole of sports fandom. From mental illness to alcoholism to insulin shock therapy to electroconvulsive therapy, the 1968 mostly autobiographical novel follows Exley as he grapples with aging in the upwardly mobile America of the early 1960s, which has somehow relegated him to the sidelines nonetheless. This focus on his failures is reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, making this book the perfect pick if you’re looking for a more realistic and relatable take on the trappings of the American dream. Most interesting is that after some 300-plus pages of completely honest and humorous musings, Exley no longer has to worry about living up to the expectations surrounding him—most of which are based on the success of Hall Of Fame running-back Frank Gifford, whom Exley is obsessive about in his fandom—because despite his insistence that, “Life isn’t a goddam football game! You won’t always get the girl! Life is rejection and pain and loss,” Exley has come out a winner, an American legend in his own right.
- For the hip-hop radical: Boots Riley: Tell Homeland Security—We Are The Bomb by Boots Riley and Adam Mansbach (out August 4)
- For those living in a warped reality: You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman (out August 25)
- For the Robert Frost enthusiast: The Road Not Taken: Finding America In The Poem Everyone Loves And Almost Everyone Gets Wrong by David Orr (out August 18)
- For reading the future in speculative fiction: Finches Of Mars by Brian W. Aldiss (out August 4)
- For those addicted to gripping thrillers: Rock, Paper, Scissors by Naja Marie Aidt (out August 11)
- For the YA bookworm: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle (out August 18)
- For the reader who loves an immersive story: The Incarnations by Susan Barker (out August 18)