Of all the activities I know will benefit me yet I fail to do consistently (jog, eat beets, brush my cat’s teeth), not reading is the dumbest. My life is so much better when I’m reading a book. That’s never not been the case. My nighttime routines, my commutes, my doctor’s appointments, my general internal monologue: They’re all improved when they’re accompanied by a book to tuck my brain into. I’ve never closed Instagram or Twitter and let out a warm-hearted sigh.
Fall is a good time to get back in the habit. It’s the perfect reason to stay home sick with back-to-school syndrome and quiet the hum of your stupid-busy life while enjoying the hum of someone else’s, or dismantle your tired thought patterns so you can replace them with better ones. In this round of MR Book Club, there are recommendations that handle each, and some that handle both. It’s smaller roundup than most, but no less full of the good stuff.
by Steve Toltz
Recommended by: Me (Haley Nahman)
Genre: Literary fiction
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: “From his prison cell, Jasper Dean tells the unlikely story of his scheming father Martin, his crazy Uncle Terry and how the three of them upset — most unintentionally — an entire continent.” (Why yes I did copy that from the back of the book, thanks for asking.)
What made me love it: I don’t know if I’ve ever been so charmed by a book. I have to admit I’m not done with it yet, but I’m just so utterly delighted by the writing — it kills me and inspires me and makes me so happy — and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m not sure I’ve every enjoyed reading a book so much purely for the writing style.
How I heard about it: When I was recently wandering around The Strand in search of something new to read, I opened up the comments section of my story about addicting books and found this one. I was really called to the title for some reason, and then I liked the cover and I decided to buy it without much other information.
by J.D. Vance
Recommended by: Madi Elder
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: J.D. Vance is a self-proclaimed “hillbilly” with roots in Middletown, Ohio and Jackson, Kentucky. He went on to graduate from Yale Law School and move to San Francisco. This book follows his life growing up (and out of) a poor Rust Belt town.
How she heard about it: I’m from Lexington, Kentucky, and my mother called about 20 times to ask if I had read it yet. My whole family is reading it, too — and so is everyone else in my hometown. It’s the center of conversation these days.
What made her love it: This book is written from a perspective that’s often only spoken for, which is a serious problem. It’s an important read for those of us (including myself) who want to understand Vance’s experience and those like it.
by Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu
Recommended by: Leandra Medine
Genre: Culinary pursuits
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: Pretty hard to spoil a cookbook, but essentially, this literary masterpiece is the splintering-off of an indie magazine launched by a former beauty executive. It does all the things good media is supposed to do (make you laugh, make you cry, make you want to own a spatula!) and leads your stomach down an emotional slide that includes but is not limited to grapefruit pops and niche margarita recipes. And the photography is beautiful.
How she heard about it: I am ashamed to admit this, but we are friends who live among the judgement-free corridors of this unique corner of the Internet, so I’ll just come out with it: I spent $450 on Seamless last month, so I really, really have to learn how to be a person in the world who uses her kitchen for more than spice, sweater and cereal storage. Cherry Bombe seems like a good place to start.
What made her love it: The recipes are modern and straight-forward and not at all intimidating. TBD on whether I will Julie & Julia it up in this club, but you never know.
by Nathan Hill
Recommended by: Harling Ross
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: It’s a mother-son psychodrama! Oh, and a satirical social commentary on the absurdities of modern life (in other words, an overachiever).
How she heard about it: Amelia loaned it to me and I’ve held it captive for months until I finally got around to reading it this fall.
What made her love it: It’s an entertaining-all-the-way-through type of book, which is rare. (A lot of the time you have to wait for a book to get good, you know?)
by Kim Gordon
Recommended by: Ashley Hamilton
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: Kim Gordon chronicles her life, from childhood to Sonic Youth to now.
How she heard about it: I’ll read almost any music memoir.
What made her love it: I found this book so interesting. I was never particularly connected to Sonic Youth and rock stars always feel so otherworldly to me, but this book made her seem so human. Being in a famous rock band sort of took a back seat to living a life. There are also a lot of really interesting bits about the glory days of New York’s music scene which is one of my favorite things to read about.
by Tamara Shopsin, featuring photos by her husband, photographer Jason Fulford
Recommended by: Edith Young
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: The story follows the author through her travels to Mumbai, India, Scranton, Pennsylvania and her hometown of New York over the course of a few weeks. It’s so steadily entertaining that you won’t suspect a sudden plot-based crescendo. Shopsin’s voice is unlike any I’ve ever read, but also sometimes sounds most similar to the one in my own head.
How she heard about it: I read and fell in love with her latest book, Arbitrary Stupid Goal, which I gushed about ad nauseam in our newsletter MR Picks. It was my gateway drug to her first book, Mumbai New York Scranton.
What made her love it: Shopsin works as an illustrator and designer (her visuals are often featured in The New York Times and The New Yorker) and many of the anecdotes throughout the broader narrative touch on her process of conceptualizing and executing certain assignments, often with her co-conspirator and husband, Jason. It’s one of the few (and also the best) books I’ve read about a marriage between creative collaborators. I read it during every break in the action I had. It took me about two days.
Photos by Edith Young. Modeled by Laura Hanson Sims of The Society NYC, follow her on Instagram at @laurahansonsims. Featuring Miu Miu pajamas and shoes; pajamas sold at the Miu Miu 57th Street Boutique exclusively.