Your summer book shelf

21 May 2013

We have our goto’s for most of the advice we seek. The foodie friends that can rattle off the best restaurants in the east village under five minutes flat, those that can tell us the difference between a trademark and a copyright and the ones we lean on for sound dating advice.

With summer fast approaching and we prepare to flee on vacation, I’ve asked those that I consider to be the book worms in my life for their summer reading recommendations.  What books they’ve already poured through and what they are pulling off their shelf next.


Mike Dang -pola01MIKE DANG

Co Editor, The Billfold, Managing Editor at Longreads. If you haven’t heard his story on  The Moth, you can listen to it here.

I spend a lot of time on the Internet reading long-form journalism, essays, and short fiction, so I don’t often find myself with a lot of time to read actual books these days. When I do, I find myself drawn to books with collections of stories—books I can pick up and read in bursts and put down without ever feeling like I’m missing out on a narrative that won’t continue until I pick up the book again.

Two recent books I’ve read fall into this category—perfect for when you’re sitting at a cafe drinking iced coffees during the summer, or whenever you have a half hour to spare and want to read something that will make you feel a wide variety of things: sad, hopeful, reflective, satisfied. The first is Cheryl Strayed’s collection of advice columns, Tiny Beautiful Things. Strayed has lived and overcome. She has found love and lost it.

“The advice she gives often comes with a story from her past, which makes her advice better than advice—she gives you story that you can keep with you and look to for inspiration.”

The other book I’d recommend is John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead, which is one of the best book of essays I’ve ever read. Others agree—one of the essays (“Mr. Lytle”) won a National Magazine Award when it was originally published in the Paris Review. The book also has this amazing essay called “Peyton’s Place,” which is about a time when Sullivan and his wife allowed a production crew from One Tree Hill film at his house in Wilmington, North Carolina.

This summer, I’m looking forward to reading George Saunders’s Tenth of December, his collection of short fiction. I’ve finished reading two of the stories from his collection. They’ve already become stories I’ll never forget.


Teacher + Mother to two of the most handsome boys on earth.

Seriously did not speak to my adorable husband for three straight nights while I read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. Typically I fall asleep in nano seconds after engaging in a book but not this one.  As nighttime approached, I’d gracefully curtsy jump into bed dressed in a proper gown, velvet upholstered cushions propped up behind me all while my handmaiden brushed my hair 3000 times (Okay getting carried away).

“Think ‘The Borgias‘ with romantic twists and societal ladder climbing doing whatever it takes to be queen- type of characters.”

A lot of back stabbing and ruthless behavior among sisters. A rocking chair, glass of rose and this book equals the perfect summer combination. Be warned to block out your social calendar for a few consecutive nights. Nose buried.

My summer reading agenda includes Breakfast with Buddah by Roland Merullo.

My mother is spiritual, not in a hokey-way but a comfy-make-you-feel-safe-way. On occasion she crosses the line but for the most part she is on point — and an avid reader. She explains this book as, “Entertaining, spiritual in a very tasteful way. Not preachy but eye-opening.”   A book her daughter should read.  The daughter who asked when she was three, “Why are we here?”  Well.  With summer on the horizon think it may be the time to listen to mom and get in touch with those spiritual roots.  Maybe. Just maybe, I’ll dust off  the ol’ yoga mat and sip a green drink or two.


talia raviv

Co-Founder of NobleCrust Pies + ReasonsToLoveNewYork

Perfect for summer when you might have a few extra moments to spare and revel in reading. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, is a special book that brings the beat of summer. Set between New Jersey and the Dominican Republic, it somehow manages to be a very New York novel. You can feel the sweaty, pulsing heat of summer coursing through the streets and the history Diaz describes in his seamless toggling between geek-out speak and mellifluous slang.

This book can send you down a rabbit hole of reading a chapter and then spending the rest of the night looking up the syntax and literary references from its “ghetto-nerd” hero.

First in my queue from summer is Telegraph Avenue because what has Michael Chabon ever done you wrong?  He’s made me actually enjoy reading about comic books and got me believing that there could be a thriving Yiddish enclave in Alaska.  Even at the beach I’m never really looking for a light, mindless read. But Chabon manages to inject so much humor and wit even into serious subject matter – probably as close as I will ever come to a ‘beach read.’

patrick danial


CTO + Co-Founder, Terakeet. Certifiable Literati

It can be picked up, quickly put down, jostled among others and, later, sensibly permit recovery. It’s summa’time reading—and it should be undauntedly delicious!

I’m not suggesting you play safe and dally south of the brow, but why waste these precious few months buried in some cantankerous crypt of dizzying prose? Get to a beach somewhere, with Weizen or Pimm’s calling shotgun, and slip’n’slide into one of these from my bookshelf:

Our Story Begins– Tobias Wolff.  Thirty years of wonderfully fresh short stories. Wolff serves up the tender loin from the ordinary with unsparing efficiency and precision. Common, throughout, is the fascinating curiosity to lie. Wolff once explained:

“The world is not enough, maybe? … To lie is to say the thing that is not, so there’s obviously an unhappiness with what is, a discontent.”

 (If you like, also try: “This Boy’s Life: A Memoir”)

 Next up, An Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell.  Yes, a book on war. (This blog needs a bit of hair on its chest.) Except this one reads fast, engages, and still finds room for humor–british style. A primer to the upcoming second world war–fascists, communists, socialists, and mother nature, collide in a rare first hand account of the ugly and gruelling hard-fought Spanish Civil War. All the while, providing glimpses of Orwell’s budding ideologies to later shape his more famous works. (Breeze through, then step back a decade for: “Down and Out in Paris and London.”)

Here’s what I’ve slated for my summer to-read list:




Lead Strategic Planner at Big Arrow Group. An avid reader who believes learning is a life-long endeavor, also serves as unofficial mentor + guru to Oceanviolet.

Summer means so many things, and so does summer reading:  Is it SUMMER READING—the great books on required reading lists from school? Or is it BEACH READING, something breezy, romantic or mysterious, with waterlogged pages and sand stuck in the binding? Too hard to tell, so here are two lists–the blender drinks of reading lists. All they need is a little paper umbrella.

The first is a list I would recommend to someone else, since I’ve already read + loved them:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Yes, great literature to quiet the voice of your inner professor. But it’s packed with pirates, revenge, corrupt society, and Carnevale in Rome.

So you’ve earned a beach read, and my all-time favorite is The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga—recommended to me years ago by my friend Caroline, to whom I am indebted—I have read this four times now. It has a believable heroine, a flood damaged book, pornography, a riveting auction and Florence in 1964.

Here are the books I want to read for myself, hoping I will enjoy them just as much:

The Decameron by Boccaccio. Again, great literature, and a must if I ever want to really understand Italian. Plus the beautiful people of the Trecento escaping Florence and the ravages of the plague, all the while telling stories.

The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality by Richard Panek.  All I need now are my binoculars and a wish on a falling star.



Designer + Mobile/Brand Strategist +, follow him @jbchaykowsky My recommendation: The Complete Collection of Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway.  

I find myself almost ten years removed from my college years and with certain nostalgia wandering back to books that shaped me as a young designer. There is a minimalism to Hemingway’s writing style that imparts discovery onto the reader. The reader is forced to fill in the blanks with their own memories. Empowering them to recall themselves or people they know into the story. I imagine Hemingway toiling over the right collection of words to make the most impact. Then continuing refinement by removing even more.

I felt my design work should be similar. I needed to refine it to its most basic yet thought provoking form, drawing the user or viewer into the work to discover something more.
Re-reading these short stories, I am reminded of what a crucial tool editing is to the creative process, or, hell, even the life we live.
What I’m looking forward to reading: White by Kenya Hara.   I am excited to read this book because I am obsessed with simplifying form and function. The Japanese culturally have created such beautiful forms out of simple gestures. And just as I described Hemingway’s writing style – this simplification allows the user to imply meaning and emotion.


So, there you have it my dear readers. Let’s not let Tsunkoku set in, get to reading. Book it! Gold star.

Featured Image:  Claudio Bravo, “Two Girls Reading.”

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