Here are 10 books that helped me through the long summer, listed in the order I read them:
In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas
“Let those who are free of Texas enjoy their freedom.” McMurtry’s first book of essays, published in 1968, after his novel, The Last Picture Show. Belongs on the shelf next to Wright’s God Save Texas and other great books about this insane state I happen to live in. (Related reading: The Pirate Gardener.)
Smile: The Story of a Face
“Imperfection is a portal. Whereas perfection and symmetry create distance… imperfection and the messy particular had the power to open the heart.” I loved Ruhl’s 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time To Write, so I was delighted to read an advance copy of her memoir, which comes out next month. A playwright, McArthur “Genius,” and mother of 3, she writes beautifully about the intertwining of her art and everyday life.
Everything Now: Lessons from the City-State of Los Angeles
“Less of a city than a country. Less of a community than a climate. Less of a metropolis than an eighty-eight-city nation-state.” I picked this up because I am fascinated by all things Los Angeles. (I try to get out there to see my friends at least once a year, but it’s been over two years since I’ve seen the Pacific!) LA is one of those cities that everybody has an image of, but I really had to have it explained to me before I could get my head around it…
As an almost-lifelong four-eyes, I love thinking about vision and I love comic stories that take full advantage of the medium, so Dhaliwal’s book about a world in which Cyclopes are a minority group was right up my alley. “I remember saying to a friend, I want to do a book on microaggressions, but that’s, like, so old. Is it even worth doing?” Dhaliwal said in this profile. Lucky for us, she kept going.
Several Short Sentences About Writing
“Being a writer is an act of perpetual self-authorization,” Klinkenborg writes. “Who’s going to give you the authority to feel that what you notice is important? It will have to be you.” This is simply one of the best books about writing I’ve ever read. Up there with Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and other classics. (Related reading: “The most important thing you do.”)
Great cover. I read this poetry collection one poem at a time, one poem per meal:
“I wish I had a shed out back…
I don’t mean
some romantic Unabomber
shit, just a shed.”
I am a recording nerd who grew up obsessing over books about The Beatles’ recording sessions, so I tore through the official the Prince archivist’s second volume chronicling the Purple One’s unbelievable output at what was arguably the height of his powers. (Read along with this Spotify playlist!) Tudahl’s volume about the Purple Rain sessions inspired another playlist and made my favorite reads of 2018. I will read as many of these as he puts together.
Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness
These can be lonely times, and this was the right book at the right time for me. Somewhat unclassifiable — my favorite kind of book! — it’s not a traditional comic in panels, but more a kind of illustrated nonfiction essay. Made me want to re-read Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City and pick up Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together. I’m now a big fan of Radtke’s work, and I look forward to reading her first book, Imagine Wanting Only This.
I’d known about Jess’s work for years, but never really spent much time getting to know it in detail. This is a gorgeously-produced collection of the San Francisco collage artist’s work — the fold-out poster and extra booklet reminded me of some of Chris Ware’s book design. Other books about the artist I picked up: Jess: To and From the Printed Page and An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle.
Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light
Alain de Botton once said that the least interesting thing about religion is whether it’s true or not, and I feel that way about Shlain’s thesis that great artists anticipated leaps in physics — sometimes by several centuries. What is thrilling to me as a reader is to watch a sharp mind work through the history of these two fields and juxtapose their developments. (There’s a nice afterword in new editions about how the surgeon came to be a writer.)
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