BYT Summer Reading List
BYT at large | Jun 26, 2014 | 9:00AM |

Summer reading is the best. Winter reading is good too but you have to be careful not to read things that are too depressing in order to survive, or sometimes feel guilty about reading things you deem too frivolous or maybe there is just no time to really read. In the summer though, you pack your bags, you go on vacation, you unplug you phone and your computer, AND YOU READ. At least that’s how WE like to do it. So, we polled some BYT staff, some of our favorite book stores, this magical book club Svetlana belongs to – and arrived here with some hot picks for the hot reading months.

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P.S. We’re keeping these running in breezy-to-educational order

 1_MYSTERIES

It is no secret that BYT loves their murder mysteries. These new releases range from classic to dark to soapy and should put that little extra thrill in your pool/beachside time.

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The Farm – Tom Robb Smith

Lucky for you Tom Rob Smith, the author of the bestselling Child 44 (which is about to be released as one of the most anticipated movies of the LATE summer, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Joel Kimmelman in the starring roles and all) is back with a he said/she said psychological thriller centering around a disappearance of a young girl in Sweden (of course) and a son who has to pick between the two sides of that story told to him by his Mother and Father. According to NY Times, this is a “a truly original and chilling thriller, which makes you ask yourself ‘who would I believe’?” and therefore, on top of the aforementioned THE FEVER, a strong “Gone Girl” throne successor competitor. -Svetlana

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Bellweather Rhapsody – Kate Racullia

This Shining-meets-Glee newcomer seems to have all the ingredients for you to just dive into it and never dive out. The fact that the captive hotel setting and a classical music backdrop adds an additional layer of Agatha Christie deliciousness to it only helps. From the Booklist review: “Twelve-year-old Minnie Graves is not happy. Not only is she forced to be a bridesmaid at her big sister’s wedding but also her feet hurt and her dress itches. But there’s worse to come. Before the day is out, she will witness a murder-suicide. Flash-forward 15 years to the anniversary of the fatal incident and Minnie returns to the scene of the crime, the gracious old Bellweather Hotel. It’s a special weekend: the annual statewide music ­conference is ­being held there, which has brought teen twins Rabbit (real name Bert) and Alice Hatmaker to participate in the event. Also present is the eccentric Scottish conductor Fisher Brodie and the truly vile Viola Fabian, who is heading the conference. Before you can say plot point, Viola’s daughter, Jill, has vanished—after apparently committing suicide (it’s complicated). Whodunit? Well, it could be any of the above or perhaps the twins’ chaperone, Natalie Wilson, or even Harold Hastings, the hotel’s elderly concierge.”

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Until You Are Mine – Samantha Hayes

Hayes mines into the fear of every woman: that SOMETHING will go wrong during her pregnancy. And things are about to go horribly wrong during Claudia Morgan Brown’s third trimester. And maybe they have something to do with the woman whose job is to make her pregnancy EASIER? This British hybrid of whoddunnit and “The hand that rocks the cradle” is what you should turn to if you want to feel extra chilly on a hot summer night. Trust no one.

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Bittersweet – Miranda Beverley-Whittermore

Beverly-Whittermore’s novel starts out like something you’ve read before (maybe in Curtis Sittenfield’s Prep?) but ends up being a twisty, turny, guilt-free pleasure cross between A Secret History and ABC’s Revenge (as I type this Donna Tartt is probably turning in her grave). A scholarship kid (Mabel Dagmar, as unremarkable as her name indicates) comes to stay for the summer with the family of her glamorous college roommate (Genevra “Ev” Winslow, as willowy and petulent as her name indicates) and finds herself entangled in a web of family secrets and skeletons, each more scandalous and scary than the next. Unputdownable.

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4_BOOKCLUB

Fun fact: Svetlana is in a book club with some amazing women. They’re editors and writers and photographers and designers and curators and by all accounts, should have virtually no time to read but they do. These are THEIR must-haves for summer 2014

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My Salinger Year – Joanna Rackoff – as picked by Holley Simmons of Washington Post Express
In her memoir, Rackoff tells the story of herself at 23 in the late 90s: a starry-eyed wannabe poet who’s just landed a gig in New York City at a major publishing house.
As the assistant to the literary agent to J.D. Salinger (the painfully reclusive “Catcher in the Rye” author who demanded his photograph be removed from book jackets lest people recognize him), she’s tasked with answering his fan mail. It doesn’t take long before she sets aside the boilerplate response and begins a more touching correspondence with his legions of admirers.
A pre-Y2K novel, My Salinger Year puts the the reader in an awkward position: We want to warn Rackoff that computers are coming! Publishing is about to die! Get out while you can!
But then we realize if she’d headed our advice, the modern literary canon would be short one hell of a novel.
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Ready Player One – Ernest Cline – as picked by Nina O’Neill of Ciao Nina & National Gallery of Art, and written up by Todd O’Neil, her husband
Zork, Kobayashi Maru, She-Ra, Blondi, Heathers, Gamera. If these words mean anything to you then you’ve read, or will love Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Wade Watts is your typical teenager in the year 2044. He lives outside of Oklahoma City, he doesn’t get along with his aunt and he lives atop a stack of trailers, 22 high. Things have gotten pretty bad on earth: fossil fuels are scarce, poverty and overcrowding is pervasive, and pollution has made the earth quite unpleasant. So what is a human to do? Retreat into OASIS. OASIS is a massively multiplayer virtual world. Think a combination of The Sims, World of Warcraft, Amazon and those Distance Learning classes you probably had in high school, all accessible through an Oculus Rift style headset and haptic feedback gloves. Once inside, you create your avatar, go to school, shop, date other avatars, read at the library, play games, and level-up. OASIS was created by a reclusive, 80’s obsessed programmer named James Halliday. Upon his death he set up the ultimate game: whoever finds an easter egg hidden in OASIS, stands to inherit his vast fortune and gain controlling ownership over OASIS. Wade has to become as obsessed with 80’s pop culture as Halliday was to solve the many puzzles, riddles, and challenges that lead to the easter egg.The trouble is, virtually the entire world is doing the same. – Todd O’Neil

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#Girlboss – Sophia Amoruso– as picked by Rachel Cothran, of Corcoran

I’m curious about/excited to pick up #GIRLBOSS, hashtag and all, this summer. It’s a how-to-business bible-slash-memoir from Sophia Amoruso, CEO of Nastygal (yes, a memoir from a 30 year-old). She went from dumpster-diving to running a $100 million company. It’s being billed as, essentially, the “people’s Lean In,” and that appeals to my underdog sensibilities…and something inspiring to read during a vacation is so energizing.

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The Flame Throwers – Rachel Kushner – as picked by Kate Warren of Go Kate Shoot

Rachel Kushner‘s second novel THE FLAMETHROWERS is a charged, gritty whirlwind through the development of the conceptual art world. The novel’s female heroine, Reno, is a stunning and introverted young artist with a penchant for racing the world’s fastest motorcycles. When she falls for rockstar artist Sandro Valero after moving to NYC she’s swept up in the cultural-political whirlwinds of high Italian society and the international art scene. Kushner weaves intricate socio-political history into a rich narrative that whips the reader onto the back of Reno’s bike and doesn’t let up. This book is perfect for anyone who loves motorcycles (or dating people who ride motorcycles), aspires to be an edgy artist on the brink of international fame (or dating an edgy artist on the brink of international fame), or loves a badass female lead who is as smart and flawed as she is beautiful. The book is not a long read, and is perfect for inspiring motorcycle road trips.”

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ALL OF THIS – as picked by Morgan H. West of Pandahead

I am unashamed to admit that this list of 17 Books to Read Before the Movie Hits Theatres This Year made it to bookmark status on my laptop. Okay, I am SLIGHTLY ashamed to admit that a list of 17 Books to Read Before the Movie Hits Theatres This Year made it to bookmark status on my laptop, but Summer is not a time for substance. I mean, if some substance sneaks in, by all means, let it party – but the ideal Summer book, in my opinion, far less dependent on prose than it is on story, and that is why I once blew through every Sookie Stackhouse novel on a twelve day trip to Georgia, and why the involvement of, say, a Reese Witherspoon-type will likely mean that it’s gonna be A L R I G H T by me. Or maybe we can just pretend I said Murakami?

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5_STAFFPICS

where we ask some of our favorite local book shops for their must have summer reads. visit them and buy these.

Politics & Prose,

5015 Connecticutt Ave NW:

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What may be the all-staff pick of summer 2014 here at P&P is Jeff VanderMeer’s smart and eerie Southern Reach trilogy. The first two books – Annihilation and Authority – are already out with the conclusion set for September, as is his visit to the store. The story opens on an all-female expedition of scientists, identified only by expertise – no names, heading out to explore a landscape packed full of the unknown though confirmed dangerous: Area X. The pleasure of the book is equal-parts the goose-pimple inducing writing as is the unfolding of the plot, so we won’t give any more away. Piece of advice: read it with a friend because you will need to talk about it.

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In the new-in-paperback category and perfect if looking for something at the intersection of feel good, funny, and smart: The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion. A sunny girl-meets-boy story that sidesteps cliché by updating the format to feel current and relevant, by being utterly charming, and by telling the story from the perspective of a brilliant though rather emotionally challenged geneticist. (Think Big Bang theory scientist who visits the gym.) A great read for anyone revisiting When Harry Met Sally–and in fact, The Rosie Project is already on its way to the big screen.

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Can’t not mention one of the big literary novels of summer and the “must-read book of the season” per P&P buyer Mark LaFramboise: Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Mark goes on: “It opens on the Breton coast in the days just following D-Day. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl who escaped from Paris with her father but is alone while Allied planes drop leaflets and German artillery batters the town of Saint-Malo.  Werner, a young German radio operator, is trapped in the basement of a bombed-out building just blocks away.  Doerr’s exquisitely plotted novel traces the paths of Marie-Laure and Werner from childhood to their inevitable meeting.  Short chapters move the story at a brisk pace, and Doerr’s unerring eye for detail makes the book hard to put down and impossible to forget.”

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For those looking to dip in and out, a short story collection is always a good fit.
Lydia Davis’s stories are dreams. They’re also letters and lists, animal fables and obituaries. Can’t and Won’t, the cannily defiant eighth book of fiction by the noted translator, freshens the world and teases the imagination. Davis has a delightful and disarming brand of wordplay; a story about an odd crime—the disappearance of salamis—turns into a parable of identity theft when news reports call the salamis “sausages.” Then there’s the meticulous journal of how three cows in a neighboring field spend their days—a rumination on ruminants.” (by P&P’s Laurie Greer)

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Finally, this is P&P and DC so we can’t not offer a nonfiction option. While one of the many bestselling political memoirs of the moment – Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Timothy Geithner – are all solid choices, we’d highlight a biography that staff members have been loving and which has been going like hot cakes: the latest from Pulitzer Prize-winner Kai Bird. The Good Spy is the story of Robert Ames, a master CIA operative. The book follows his incredible life and career and considers how different the US – Middle East relations would be had Ames lived. Fascinating subject full of intrigue meets engrossing storytelling in this nonfiction recommendation.

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5_STAFFPICS

Kramerbooks,

1517 Connecticutt Ave NW

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The Vacationers – Emma Straub
What should have been a celebratory two week vacation for the Post family on the island of Mallorca is undermined by simmering tensions. The patriarch of the family has had an affair, the son is a disappointment to his parents, and the daughter cannot wait to leave for college (but first she’d like to lose her virginity). Witty, and as warm as the Mallorcan sun, The Vacationers is the perfect summer getaway… no air travel necessary! -Sarah

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The Fever – Megan Abbot
“This is what high school does” muses a high school teacher in Megan Abbott’s gripping The Fever. Girls in the dreary town of Dryden are getting sick and no one knows why. Is it pollution, the HPV vaccine, or worse, sex? At the center of the controversy is Deenie who might be immune or might just be a carrier. Dark rumors and misinformation run rampant through the town as long-held secrets are revealed. -Steph

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Carsick – John Waters
Faux crocodile bag? Check. Sunblock? Check. “I’M NOT PSYCHO” cardboard sign? Check. In Carsick, John Waters recounts hitchhiking from his doorstep in Baltimore to San Francisco. While the real-life encounters – a young Republican, a thoughtful farmer – charm, it’s Waters’s hilarious best- and worst-case scenario novellas at the beginning of the book that best highlight The Pope of Trash’s twisted brilliance. -Sarah

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My Struggle – Karl Ove Knausgaard
Proustian in scope, My Struggle details the minutiae of the life of a novelist also named Karl Ove Knausgaard. This engrossing, addictive work of biographical fiction has become a literary sensation. Book three in this six-volume novel was recently published in hardcover – now is the time to join the conversation. -Jake

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I am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes
I am Pilgrim opens with epigraphs by le Carré and Chandler, masters of the espionage and mystery genres respectively. A debut author might balk at filling those shoes, but Terry Hayes is no crime neophyte – he’s written extensively for film and television, which makes this a fast-paced, visual thriller with sharp dialogue. Pilgrim, a retired CIA operative, having literally written the book on forensic criminal investigations, is called upon to help solve the murder of a young woman in New York. This crime sets off a series of events that takes Pilgrim around the world in an attempt to bring a halt to impending biological warfare. -Scott

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6_NONFICTION

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Svet asked me to write about a few new non-fiction books for this Summer reading guide. As I was about to get started I stumbled on an old draft post where I wrote about some non-fiction books for a 2010 Summer reading guide. Not sure why, but it was never published. I just looked it over and these titles are tits! So why do more work? Plus if you haven’t read them yet, they’re new to you. ENJOY!

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The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us – Christopher Chabris, Daniel Simons

The title refers to a famous experiment conducted by the authors. They sat people down in front of a TV and had them watch videos of people in different colored shirts passing a basketball around. The task was to count how many times someone in a certain color shirt passes the ball. After about a minute you give your answer. Some people get it right, some people don’t, but who gives a fuck cause did you see that dude in a gorilla suit walk into frame and wave at the camera? who cares, did you see that dude in a fucking gorilla suit step into frame and wave at the camera? Most people did not. This quirky experiment is the springboard the authors use to dramatically demonstrate time and time again how unreliable our understanding of reality really is. It’s a humbling, and at times disturbing book, especially the segment on memory. Study after study has shown that our brain does not work like a video camera. Memories are shockingly unreliable, both immediately and years after the fact. What is consistent is our denial of this very fact, as shown in numerous other experiments where subjects disagreed with video evidence or a previous testimony of their own, because “they remembered” it differently. It’s difficult to grasp that the brain is simply processing signals it gets from your various organic detectors, constructing your own version of events, subject to interference, mistakes, and shortcuts. A really fun read and highly recommended.

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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
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The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home – Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational and its sequel are a crash course in behavioral economics by MIT professor Dan Ariely. The conclusion is largely the same as The Invisible Gorilla, that our intuitions and perceptions often deceive us, but Ariely focuses more on how this makes us poor decision makers. Using many of his own ingenious studies, he demonstrates how we incorrectly value things, trick ourselves, procrastinate, fall prey to the placebo, and in general behave irrationally on a very consistent basis. This all sounds rather academic, but like the popular Freakonomics books, these are meant for mere mortals. I found myself laughing at MIT students for making dumb decisions, and then sheepishly realizing I would have done the same thing. Ariely also brings in his own life experiences into his analysis, including his extensive dealings with pain management and disfigurement after a freak accident as a teenager, which give the books a nice personal feel. The first is a must, the sequel loses a little steam, but still has some interesting experiments and is worth checking out.

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Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible & Why We Don’t Know About Them – Bart D. Ehrman

Ehrman is a New Testament scholar at UNC Chapel Hill who has written a shit ton of books on early Christian literature and biblical analysis. They’re often dense and boring, but in the past couple years he’s jumped on atheism’s provocative bandwagon and gone a little more mainstream and accessible. This one here should get him mentioned along with the more popular new atheist writers from now on. It was a truly eye opening read, even for someone who is pretty well versed in this topic already. Actually, one reason this book is so effective is that it does not for a second ever advocate atheism. Ehrman explains his beliefs in the beginning, (a former evangelical Christian turned atheist) but goes on to explain that this is a historical examination of how the books of the New Testament came to be, and that’s it. In fact, he describes it as a crash course in seminary school. This is what your priest already knows. He then goes on to show how the New Testament was pretty much cobbled together arbitrarily, how it contradicts itself time and time again, and how the books were translated and copied and re-translated and copied and copied again. At the end, you don’t need him to tell you this stuff is all nonsense (and he doesn’t, ever) you just come to that conclusion based on the evidence. Harris, Dennet, Dawkins, and Hitchens can effectively explain away God intellectually, philosophically, and morally, but Ehrman shows you the proof. This book is completely Christian friendly and should be required reading by everyone.

!!Bonus Books from 2010!!

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Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals – Hal Herzog
Do you love dogs? Do you hate rats? Do you eat cows? Then read this book!

The Moral Landscape – Sam Harris
Science can teach us right and wrong! For realz! This book is boring but still good!

Hitch-22: A Memoir – Christopher Hitchens
The late great Hitch get’s drunk and narrates his own audiobook! Get the audiobook!

The Mind’s Eye – Oliver Sacks
Another great collectio of stories and case studies about people with crazy weird medical conditions like not being able to recognize faces, thinking you’re blind when you’re not, being able to write but not read, and more!

At Home: A Short History of Domestic Life – Bill Bryson
Only Bill Bryson can turn a book about the history of the fork, pepper shaker, kerosene lamp and other innocuous household items into a page turner – MUST READ!

AND THAT IS IT FROM US, you guys.

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Leave us comments with your summer 2014 book recs. DO IT.