Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Cover: Harper Perennial

What are you reading in July?

Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood novelization and the latest from Rainbow Rowell

Cover: Harper Perennial
Graphic: Rebecca Fassola

In our monthly book club, we discuss whatever we happen to be reading and ask everyone in the comments to do the same. What Are You Reading This Month?

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino

Even for Tarantino loyalists, the first 100 pages of his Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood novelization are a slog. All the criticisms that skeptics lobbed his way for years pop off the page. Without his stable of actors, the mentions of other movies, directors, and stars (as well as the return of his casual use of the N-word, thankfully omitted from the film) grate against the eyes, the novel reading more like an attempt from one of Tarantino’s imitators, or worse a Wikipedia entry, than the genuine article. But then something happens. As the book unfurls, Tarantino’s rhythms settle, and his skills as a novelist emerge. He’s able to reimagine his cinematic history the way he reimagined actual history, and this dime-store paperback becomes impossible to put down, even if you’ve seen the film a dozen times. Tarantino stages a total rework. Characters Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt in the movie) become more unlikable (as The A.V. Club’s William Hughes breaks down), and others like Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie) become more sympathetic, alive, and human than they were on the screen. The book is a mixed bag, for sure, but one that entertains, grips, and works its way into your system—much like Tarantino’s movies still manage to do.

Any Way The Window Blows by Rainbow Rowell

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Image: St. Martin’s

What started in Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On (2015) as the potential fan fiction writings from a protagonist in one of her other books, has become an unorthodox hero’s tale about a young wizard named Simon Snow. When first delving into his rise and fall, it’s reasonable to think of Snow’s story as a version of Harry Potter that’s way less problematic, more diverse, more queer, and ten million times better. After traversing the United States throughout the sequel, 2019’s Wayward Son, Snow and his friends return to the U.K. in Any Way The Wind Blows even more lost than before. Once thought of as the most powerful “Chosen One” who saved the world, Snow finally begins to grapple with the fact that he may just be normal. Running away from his emotions is no longer an option, especially when it comes to his feelings for his vampire boyfriend, Basilton Grimm-Pitch. After years of fixing everything for Snow and those around her, best friend Penelope faces the uncomfortable truth that she cannot solve every problem. And, well, former Queen B of Watford School of Magicks Agatha Wellbelove doesn’t even know where to start. Rowell has been an underrated frontrunner in the young adult genre for years now, penning dynamic characters whose journeys, despite their atypical circumstances, reflect those we all face as we try to find ourselves in the world.