It was a wild summer for the Kleon family, and, unfortunately, I spent a lot of it not reading. But here are 5 good books I did read, in the approximate order I read them:
I wanted to see what the fuss was over. The book is about many things, but one of them is the power of journals and diaries to help you cope with trauma and keep the facts of your life straight. (Westover has kept a journal since she was 10. “My journals supplied me with a level of detail I could never have had if I relied on memory alone,” she says. “I recorded meals I’d eaten, conversations I’d overheard, work I’d done for my father in the junkyard or my mother tincturing herbs.”)
When children are going through transitional periods, they’ll pull out old toys, old books, old stuffed animals. I do the same. This summer I re-read all of Portis’s novels, which is somewhat easy to do because there are only five of them. Gringos was the biggest surprise, and maybe the most underrated of all of his books? Such an interesting world and so many great sentences. I would love for another novel of his to turn up, but I also sort of hope he’s just kicking back on a porch somewhere in Arkansas, sipping bourbon, and enjoying his life.
Real talk: I was initially turned off by this book, because at a first glance I thought the clip-art drawings and photo backgrounds were out of laziness. (This is, by the way, the trouble with comics: our initial response as readers is an aesthetic one, and if you only read comics you’re aesthetically attracted to, you will miss out.) But no, this is a smart and heartfelt and well-executed book that wouldn’t work the way it does if it was drawn “better.” The book is great evidence for the cartoonist Seth’s equation that comics = poetry + graphic design. (Here’s a good interview about the making of the book.) Other good comic debuts I read this summer: Ebony Flowers’ Hot Comb and Malaka Gharib’s I Was Their American Dream.
This book is both a validation of how I’ve chosen to go about my work and a kick in the pants to not get complacent, stretch out, and go down weird paths. (It’s also, as Ryan Holiday suggested to me, a parenting book in disguise.) I have been planning on writing a “Range for Artists” post, because for every chapter I could think of an example of an artist I love that exemplified the subject, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
A book of Warhol’s photographs matched with his thoughts about the country. “We all came here from somewhere else, and everybody who wants to live in America and obey the law should be able to come too, and there’s no such thing as being more or less American, just American.”
Need more to read? Here’s the rest of my reading year so far and the past decade or so of my favorite reads.