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.


A Fraction of the Whole

by Steve Toltz

styled with Miu Miu pajamas

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.


Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

by J.D. Vance

styled with Miu Miu pajamas and sandals

Recommended by: Madi Elder
Genre: Memoir-ish
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.


Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook

by Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu

styled with Miu Miu pajamas and shoes

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.


The Nix

by Nathan Hill

styled with Miu Miu pajamas

Recommended by: Harling Ross
Genre: Fiction
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?)


 

Girl in a Band

by Kim Gordon

styled with Miu Miu pajamas and sandals

Recommended by: Ashley Hamilton
Genre: Memoir
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.


Mumbai New York Scranton

by Tamara Shopsin, featuring photos by her husband, photographer Jason Fulford

styled with Miu Miu pajamas

Recommended by: Edith Young
Genre: Memoir-ish
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.

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  • I always try to guess who’s writing the piece before checking the byline and whenever the writer mentions a cat I know it’s Haley hehehehehe

    • nelgracev

      YES ME TOOOOO- I always can tell Haley’s 100%

  • theysayshycity

    Waaaaaaaaait if we’re including Cherry Bombe I think there should be a Man Repeller cookbook club.

    AI vote that we start with the savory oatmeal with miso & mushrooms

    • Bo

      !!!!100% ready for this!!!!

  • Renee

    Hillbilly Elegy is so overrated, while Vance’s experience is a mildly interesting read, it’s certainly not the incredible story about overcoming obstacles and perseverance that people have made it out to be. In fact, what it illustrates is how much less difficult it can be for white people to lift themselves out of poverty than people of color. If anyone is looking for a book to better understand poverty in the U.S. I would highly recommend reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. it features eight different families from all different races and backgrounds (including black, white, latino, and interracial families). The stories are about people who are flat on their backs (no watchful grandparents or military opportunities for them) and struggling to simply keep a roof over their heads. Also, not looking to debate this, you can like hillbilly elegy that’s fine! This was just my opinion of the book and thought I would provide another suggestion.

    • Jenelle

      I also thought Hillbilly Elegy was really overrated. I still enjoyed the book because I like reading different perspectives but something about the tone really bothered me. I can’t really describe it but he simultaneously does a good job of describing the atmosphere, attitude, lack of support and feelings of helplessness that come with poverty while also seeming to suggest that if you simply work hard enough you can overcome it. There was still an element of privilege that he was overlooking in just being a white male that he didn’t really want to admit.

    • DonutEverLetMeGo

      I found it to be an over-hyped repackaging of the “welfare queens” trope. I completely agree with the comment below, in that Vance seemed to believe hard work is the single factor behind his success and others’ failures. I also despise JD Vance as a person, which perhaps affected my view. Anyone that takes multiple meetings with Steve Bannon has no interest in helping his poor, under-served community.

    • catherine j

      The thing I worry about most with Hillbilly Elegy is that it’s often passed off as the only voice of the south: an explanation of Trump’s America, wrapped in a charming, dramatic package for the rest of the country. Growing up in southwest virginia and east tennessee myself, the book makes me sort of anxious. I want JD Vance to admit he’s not the only voice – but he doesn’t, really. For all he ignores, I do think he picked up on something, and I hope it inspires other writers and thinkers with similar histories to share their stories. More importantly, I hope it inspires us to listen and support different stories, particular those of southern people who don’t look like him and who weren’t as privileged as he was to actually remove himself from his place of poverty. They’re out there and they’re good! Fellow MR readers might like The Bitter Southerner (http://bittersoutherner.com/) and Scalawag magazine (https://www.scalawagmagazine.org/).

      There’s also a more academic-y book called White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. It’s tossed around as a similar, perhaps better “hillbilly elegy” that tackles a heck of a lot of stuff Vance leaves out. It also points directly at Trump’s election and smartly tackles the history of race and class in the south. (Like how corporations and people in power deliberately seek to divide southern identities rather than celebrate them, benefiting and exacerbating entrenched racism). Vance pretty conveniently leaves that out. But really cool that this conversation is going on.

      • Liv_ja

        White Trash does everything that I had hoped Hillbilly Elegy would do. I didn’t even finish H.E., but I loved White Trash so much that I’ve bought copies for friends and family. It addresses root causes so well.

    • Kattigans

      I came here just to make this comment. I also **momentarily** jumped on the Vance train to read his book but agree with all of your points. If anything people should be reading Ta-Nehisi Coate’s article in the Atlantic entitled “Donald Trump is the First White President”. That sh*t laaaays it down and isn’t it funny how white american poverty gets so much more pity and spectacle for empathy (not that it isn’t an issue) than black/POC poverty? Read that article over Vance any day and you will be enlightened. I don’t need to understand white america’s agenda and POV. Plus, the argument that white poor or working class america is the cause for DT in office is certainly false. We have **white** america to blame for that, doesn’t matter the class background.

      I also think Vance is a POS. He has an agenda and if you dig into his background it makes a lot more sense why he wrote the book.

      • yes! Agree on the Atlantic article! So goooooood.

        Also, I love a thoughtful, well-informed comment. I’m going to read Hillbilly Elegy but with a totally different perspective now. thank you.

    • Y’all all said it better than me, but I’ll just leave this here:
      “J.D. Vance, the best-selling author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” a memoir about his upbringing in Appalachia, was also floated early in the process as a possible high-profile, younger recruit. He has met in recent months with Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who has returned to his post running Breitbart News, and Bannon has privately expressed a desire to see an ally installed at Heritage.” (From the Washington Post regarding the new leader for The Heritage Foundation, “A research and educational institution whose mission is to build and promote conservative public policies…”)

    • spicyearlgrey

      luv my intellectual MR fam so many insightful comments!

  • Emma

    Does anyone else read: “Scranton, Pennsylvania” and immediately think about The Office US?

  • Autumn

    YES! Fraction of the Whole is so good. I read it over ten years ago but it’s one book I display proudly on the bookshelf in my living room and haven’t donated.

  • The Cherry Bombe cookbook is so good! And I love that its meant for home cooks at any skill level.

  • Great list! Haley, I am glad to hear your perspective on Hillbilly Elegy. I think it is important to keep in mind that this book is not meant to take away from the struggles of other people groups, but to try and understand the mindset of blue collar/ lower class white people. I grew up near Kentucky, on the Indiana side of the Ohio river valley, and this book helped me see a bigger picture as to why people I love and grew up with make political decisions that I vehemently disagree with. I think a lot of people moving from small town to big city and adjusting their worldview accordingly have to wrestle with “where I’m from” and “where I am.” This book gave me a little perspective whilst reeling from the election results.

    https://thewonderof.co/

    • Kattigans

      I can agree with that, but I think more of my thoughts and frustration about the book are how the media has picked it up and done with that message. Also, Vance has advanced himself in circles are that are swimming with pro-trump support so that also doesn’t help because the very same people he knows and writes about will ultimately suffer at the hand of Trump’s policies and GOP views.

      Anyways, no maybe Vance’s intention when he set out to write the book wasn’t to say “this is the only voice that matters” but at the same time the media has spun it that way. As if this is the holy grail on explaining why Trump won. Trump winning and who voted for him doesn’t fully align with the media picture of it being just “the white working class in flyover states”. Trump won the white vote. Period. Across all class backgrounds. And so that begs the question why is that? Why does a Trump resonate with white folks even if some of those white folks happen to be lower-middle to lower class? If Trump speaks for the underdogs, the so called forgotten and impoverished underbelly of the US, then why does he only resonate with white lower-middle to lower class? I think its because despite class, the commonality is they are white. Her certainly didn’t win the same class vote from the black and latino community. Anyways, interesting to learn about how a group thinks but no offense I think that this group, even if they claim to not ever see the spotlight on them, has long been analyzed and propped up especially when it concerns this election cycle. The media cares to focus more on why did working class vote for trump versus why did **white** people vote for Trump?

      Just some food for thought. Also, my family has origins in this same part of the country so I did feel the way as you when I first read the book. I just couldn’t really stomach the way it was written and who the author was as I found out more. If JD Vance was actually interested in advancing and helping the people of Appalachia he wouldn’t be aligning himself with Trump and his minions.

  • Kattigans

    I’d add Trevor Noah’s memoir “Born a Crime” to your list if you haven’t indulged already. His story is fascinating and the cornerstone of the story is his mother. I learned so much about South Africa, Trevor, his mother, and just how messy, sad and heartbreaking the world can be all while laughing out loud.

    It was one of those books that I didn’t want to have end

    • That book was incredible!!! I listened to Trevor’s own narration on audible and I learned and laughed so much.

  • Alice

    I love love love fraction of the whole!!

  • Kirby

    Wow photo #18 !!!! I mean !! so gorgeous I want/need it framed

  • Georgia

    Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is the best book I’ve read in two years. It has an unusual structure and deals with intense topics (racism, slavery, families, ancestry, history, community, etc etc), and the varied structure made it a way more poignant and fascinating read. While reading (and when I finished!!) it felt like I just had a huge thanksgiving meal

  • Charlsey

    I’m reading Girl In a Band right now, and while it’s really cool, I think the way she steps out of her way to tear down some other women is really offputting. Maybe I’m reading it wrong though.

  • Natalie Redman

    Need to have a look at some of these. Haven’t see any!

    http://www.upyourvlog.com

  • Jay

    I just finished

    Hunger

    By Roxane Gray

    And I highly recommend it.

    I was actually moved to tears several times.

    It as all the actualia.

    It as rape.

    It has body shaming.

    It has racicism.

    It has self loathing.

    All the bad stuff.

    But it has this…

    Power?!

    This weird way of saying „all is f*** up but since I cant change that I will accept it“.

    And it has true feelings.

    Oh, and I laughed – was I supposed to?! – by the chapters on blue apron and the biggest loser…. hard.

    Totally recommended read.

    Next one up:

    The NIx. (Holiday read)

    And Yes, please.