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Summer Reading

Books to read at the beach

These books by faculty and alumni will keep you turning pages at the beach, in cars, trains and airplanes or just sitting on the porch. Let them entertain you wherever your summer brings you.

The Fine Wisdom and Perfect Teachings of the Kings of Rock and Roll

by Mark Edmundson (faculty)

“Everything you want a coming-of-age book to be: hilarious, harrowing and ultimately inspiring. It is also a sharply drawn portrait of an elusive historical moment, just when the 60s begin to shift into the 70s … At the same time, the book brims with sparkling observations about everything from drugs, sex and rock and roll to movies, career and friendship. Truly, there is something arresting and wonderful on every page.”
—Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma

In 1974, Mark Edmundson graduated from a small Vermont college determined to fulfill his destiny in New York City—the epicenter of rock ’n’ roll and America’s high court of mischief and ambition. His quest takes him from driving a taxi to rubbing elbows with the super rich to hauling amps at the New Jersey arena for rock’s biggest acts: the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and the Allman Brothers.

Walks with Men

by Ann Beattie (faculty)

“All women who have thought ‘run!’—but did not run—will experience this book like a familiar dream. It’s full of echoes and resonant fractures, and so beguiling in its eerie simplicity. I read it twice.”
—Miranda July, author of No One Belongs Here More Than You

Excerpted from jacket:

Ann Beattie arrived in New York young, observant and celebrated (as The New Yorker’s young fiction star) in one of the most compelling and creative eras of recent times. So does the protagonist of her intense new novella.

It is 1980 in New York City, and Jane, a valedictorian fresh out of Harvard, strikes a deal with Neil, an intoxicating writer 20 years her senior. The two quickly become lovers, living together in a Chelsea brownstone, and Neil reveals the rules for a life well lived: If you take food home from a restaurant, don’t say it’s because you want leftovers for “the dog.” Say that you want the bones for “a friend who does autopsies.” If you can’t stand on your head (which is best), learn to do cartwheels. Wear only raincoats made in England. Neil’s certainties, Jane discovers, mask his deceptions. Her true education begins.

The Patterns of Paper Monsters

by Emma Rathbone (Grad ’06)

“No matter how loudly I praised The Patterns of Paper Monsters, no matter how many classic coming-of-age stories I compared it to, the unforgettably sarcastic and broken and endearing narrator, Jacob Higgins, would no doubt roll his eyes and show his teeth in a smile that was more of a snarl and say, ‘Can’t you do better than that?’ And I would want—as I wanted so many times when reading this debut novel—to slap him upside the head and strangle him into a hug.”
—Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding, Refresh, Refresh, and The Language of Elk

Excerpted from jacket:

Sixteen-year-old Jacob Higgins despises his negligent mother and her alcoholic boyfriend. He’s indifferent to school and his friends—though a little less casual about girls and marijuana, and his antics have landed him in a Northern Virginia detention center. In a voice filled with confusion, yearning and sardonic humor, Jacob narrates his improbably sweet romance with Andrea, an inmate with whom he shares rare glances and waxy cookies at chaperoned socials. But when David, a mysterious, conniving adolescent, handpicks Jacob to assist in a plot to bring down the detention center, Jacob has to weigh the frail new optimism of his relationship with Andrea against the allure of destruction, rebellion and escape.

Big Appetite: My Southern-Fried Search for the Meaning of Life

Sam McLeod

“This book brought back great memories of family, friends and food. It made me laugh and made me hungry!”
—Joe Rogers Jr., chairman and CEO, Waffle House, Inc.

After a doctor tells him that he needs to find a reason to take care of his health, “big-boned” Sam McLeod goes on a cross-country odyssey in search of the meaning of life. He goes back to his hometown in Tennessee to follow his deep-fried roots to a simpler time and place, where mothers nourished their children with more than ham biscuits, deviled eggs and tuna noodle casserole with potato chips on top. Though McLeod lacks “the emotional intelligence God gave a stinkbug,” as his wife, Annie, says, in this nostalgic, laugh-out-loud story he comes to understand that his memories, and the food that carried the love of the women who cooked it, hold the meaning of life.

Sam McLeod is the pen name of Steve Johnson (Col ’73, GSBA ’76).

Talking to Girls about Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut

by Rob Sheffield (Grad ’91)

“A handful of rock writers can explain what they think about music, and lots of rock writers can explain what they feel about music. What makes Rob Sheffield different is that he understands how those feelings are generated. He can turn those abstract emotions into concrete thoughts. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the smartest guy in the room is also the funniest guy in the room . . . and the nicest guy . . . and the tallest guy . . . and the most vocal Chaka Khan fan.”
—Chuck Klosterman, New York Times bestselling author of Eating the Dinosaur and Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs

Excerpted from jacket:

When he turned 13 in 1980, Rob Sheffield had a lot to learn about women, love, music and himself, and in Talking to Girls About Duran Duran we get a glimpse into his transformation from pasty, geeky “hermit boy” into a young man with his first girlfriend, his first apartment and a sense of the world. These were the years of MTV and John Hughes movies; the era of big dreams and bigger shoulder pads; and, like any all-American boy, this one was searching for true love and maybe a cooler haircut. It’s all here: Inept flirtations. Dumb crushes. Deplorable fashion choices. Members Only jackets. Girls, every last one of whom seems to be madly in love with the bassist of Duran Duran.

War at the Wall Street Journal: Inside the Struggle to Control an American Business Empire

by Sarah Ellison (Col ’96)

“Sarah Ellison seems to have been present at every party, executive office meeting, secret hotel suite conference and corporate plane ride in Rupert Murdoch’s hijacking of the Wall Street Journal. . . It makes for an engrossing read and the definitive account.”
—Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down

This is a tale about big business, an imploding dynasty and a mogul at war. The main character is the Wall Street Journal, which affects the thoughts, votes and stocks of two million readers daily. As a writer for the paper, Sarah Ellison has the inside scope on the $5 billion acquisition that took the paper out of the hands of the Bancroft family and transformed it into the jewel of Rupert Murdoch’s kingdom. Ellison details the Murdoch’s crew’s conflict with old Wall Street Journal establishment and the battle with the New York Times.

Sorry, Wrong Answer: Trivia Questions That Even Know-It-Alls Get Wrong 

by Rod L. Evans (Grad ’81, ’87)

Excerpted from jacket:

Where were Venetian blinds invented?
What color is the black box on a commercial airplane?
Where did India ink originate?*

Most of us know more than we think we know. We also think we know more than we actually do—because some of what we think we know simply “ain’t so.” We all harbor misconceptions that are accepted not only because they are popular but also because they make sense.

It makes sense to believe, for example, that German chocolate originated in Germany rather than the truth: that German chocolate is so named because it was created by Sam German. It seems logical to believe that Mercury is the hottest planet because of its proximity to the sun, or that buttermilk contains butter, that Danish pastry is from Denmark, and that the boat race America’s Cup was named after the United States of America.

In Sorry, Wrong Answer, Rod Evans takes readers on a tour of misleading trivia, debunking commonly held assumptions and sharing surprising “right” answers.

*Answers: Japan; Orange; China