Who’s ready for the (Early) Summer Reading List?
If your answer isn’t an emphatic “I am! I am!” then this post is likely not for you.
THE TAO OF MARTHA by this very attractive (okay, heavily Photoshopped) person on the book cover.
See what I did there? I put my own book at the top of the (Early) Summer Reading List, less because I’m absolutely convinced it’s the best, best, best thing you’ll read all summer, and more because I’ll be in massive trouble if I don’t mention that I have a new memoir coming out on June 4th. (Apparently if I write a book and then don’t tell my audience I’ve written it, it’s like no one hearing a tree falling in the forest. Or some shit like that.)
All kidding aside, I love this book and I hope you will, too. The Tao of Martha is my attempt at perpetrating a happiness project in which I spend a year living by Martha Stewart’s dictates. As I knew I was in for a rough 2012, I wanted a way to try to stockpile happiness when things went awry, hence this book.
Although the notion of a happiness project sounds super-Oprah and all Eat, Pray, Love, I actually looked to Martha for inspiration because she offers actionable advice. She’ll tell you what to eat, how to pray, and who to love. I needed a drill sergeant and not a best friend, and Martha fit the bill beautifully.
Tao is a lot more personal than anything I’ve written in a while and the entire book is full of surprises (some bittersweet), save for the few photos I posted on Facebook along the way. I so hope you enjoy it!
Flagrant self promotion out of the way, let’s move on to the rest of the list!
THE POTTY MOUTH AT THE TABLE by Laurie Notaro
Fact: If it weren’t for Laurie Notaro, I may never have had a career as an author. I was unemployed and under-stimulated when I first picked up The Idiot Girls’ Action Adventure Guide. I inhaled this hilarious book in a day, the whole time thinking, “You’re allowed to write funny stories about getting drunk and falling down? I WANT IN ON THIS!”
In Potty Mouth, Notaro’s back and better than ever. There wasn’t a single chapter where I didn’t find myself braying like a jackass and reading sections to Fletch, like the brief aside where she encounters an old lady with a jaunty beret and crazy glasses, walking a small dog, and she’s convinced that she’s just run into a version of herself from the future. Reading Notaro’s books are like hanging out with a very good friend, or better yet, our own alter egos, and what’s not to love about that?
CALLING ME HOME by Julie Kibler
I’m not going to lie – I often pick up books solely because of their covers. Considering the story the cover art told on its own, I was already convinced that I’d love it, well before I read how it’s been compared to work like The Help, Driving Miss Daisy, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Mighty big shoes to fill, yes?
Yet Kibler more than rises to the occasion.
Calling Me Home is, in a word, haunting. In another word, powerful. Beautiful. Unexpected. I finished reading it a week ago, and I can’t stop thinking about it. So often, books like these broach difficult subjects, and the characters dance on the edge of taking a controversial action, never quite committing to the act, never quite diving in. Trust me when I tell you that protagonist Isabelle dives in and the results left me breathless. Calling Me Home is definitely in the top five of the best books I’ve read all year.
DAD IS FAT by Jim Gaffigan
Yes, I just recommended a book on parenting and, no, I’m not kidding. I was in New York a few weeks ago and had the privilege of seeing Gaffigan do a set a Caroline’s. I was so utterly charmed by his act that I wanted to support him by buying his book.
Dad Is Fat is a collection of stories about how he lives with his wife and five children in a two bedroom apartment in the Bowery. I have a great appreciation of how he’s able to be funny at no one’s expense but his own, considering how easy it would be to mock his children. There’s nothing in this book that would provide potential bully-fodder against his kids in later years and that makes me respect him all the more.
As much as I love edgy, provocative humor, there’s something so refreshing about a man who’s absolutely smitten with his wife and kids and is unabashedly unafraid to be family-friendly.
Here’s the thing about a good book – it doesn’t have to relate to me or my universe for me to like it. I appreciate Dad Is Fat for the same reason I loved Quinn Cumming’s The Year of Learning Dangerously, which is about her adventures in homeschooling. Although parenting/homeschooling/living in a tiny Bowery apartment/etc. aren’t activities in which I’d willingly participate, I absolutely appreciate the authors’ ability to draw me into their worlds. For me? That’s enough.
P.S. Yes, he’s the Hot Pockets guy.
THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
And, the last horse to cross the finish line is…me! So everyone read and loved this book two years ago. Listen, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy, okay? I've written two books in five months. Do you know how many books that is? Okay, two, but two is kind of a lot when you consider the toll on personal and household hygiene.
Regardless, just because I’m super-late to the party doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a phenomenal read when I finally do get around to it.In some ways, this book reminds me of the show Revenge, if Revenge weren’t just God-awful. Doesn’t mean I don’t dig Revenge, but let’s be real here. The golden retriever that lived for almost twenty years? The sleeveless cocktail dresses at mid-day in January? The fact that everyone in Southampton can be in Montauk in five minutes? Not only are these towns twenty-five miles apart, but have you ever driven the Montauk Highway on a summer Saturday afternoon? Parades move more quickly and -
My point is that Victoria, the main character, is an orphan who spent her life in group homes, and because of this, she has no idea how to function in society. (Sort of like Emily Thorne, except not, you know, ridiculous.) I was fascinated seeing the world through Victoria’s eyes. The only way she can connect with anyone is communicating through the language of flowers which I can’t properly explain because I’m still too annoyed by my deep and abiding love for stupid Revenge, which is neither redeeming nor heartfelt, unlike The Language of Flowers.
Okay, pretend I never mentioned Revenge and read this book, okay?
Unless you, like everyone else, already have.
THE SMART ONE by Jennifer Close
Did you love Girls in White Dresses last year? Yes? Well, you’re in luck! Jennifer Close is back with her sophomore debut. What I appreciate so much about Close is the detail with which she draws her characters. Despite telling the story from four perspectives, there’s never a moment when each character’s voice isn’t completely distinctive.
In order to not get all distracted by Revenge again, I offer the following blurb from Stephan Lee of Entertainment Weekly: “If you’re looking for the literary equivalent of HBO’s Girls, then check out Jennifer Close’s debut novel, Girls in White Dresses, which charts the travails of flailing twentysomethings. Her follow-up, The Smart One, feels the way Girls could circa season 6, when ‘almost getting it kind of together’ ceases to be cute. . . . This bighearted novel examines a generation of nonstarters with a mix of empathy and Close’s signature deadpan, pathos-driven humor.” (And I can’t put it any better than this.)
Hopefully this list is sufficient to begin filling your beach bag! I’ll definitely have more recommendations within the next month. After having written two books in the last five months (so tired! so dirty! such a martyr!) I’m ready to do nothing but read as soon as I’m done with my June tour.
Speaking of, tour dates are here.
That's it for now, so happy reading!
(Especially if you're reading The Tao of Martha.)