Summer Reading

18 Jun

I realized that it hasn’t been since I did my post on my top 20 books of poetry for National Poetry Month that I’ve talked about what I’m reading/what I recommend reading.  As this is summer and as this blog is titled “Books & Baubles,” I think it is the appropriate time to talk about my summer reading list.

I love reading lists — I think it’s the literary voyeur (or just the voyeur) in me that like peeking in other people’s shelves (selves) to see what books they’re devouring at any given moment.  I think summer reading lists are the best because they often include “light reading” (and what this “light reading” may be varies, of course, from Stephen King to Anna Maxted) if the one doing the reading is being honest.  I want to be honest: I am reading these books (and yes, some haven’t been started, yet, but are on the near-horizon) and I am not ashamed in the least of what my summer reading list entails.  There is no War and Peace.  I’m not kidding myself.  There is no way that I will read a heavy text when it’s 100 degrees outside.  Nope.  Not going to happen.

What I am reading (listed from top to bottom):

Summer reading

Summer reading

Something From The Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America  by Laura Shapiro

I love this book!  It’s a culinary history of sorts of 1950s American “cuisine.”  It focuses its attention on the rise of packaged food items, corporate food writing and advertising, home cooks and their unwillingness to chuck traditional methods for meals from a can or a box, and the incredibly role of Poppy Cannon.

Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds

This won the Pulitzer for Poetry and is a book of poetry by the force that is Sharon Olds.  Need I say more?

Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife by Anne Fogarty (Author) and Rosemary Feitelberg (Introduction)

If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I’m on a bit of a 1950s vintage kick.  This book was released in 1959 and re-released in 2007 with the Feitelberg introduction.  Wife Dressing influenced a decade of style, social mores, and thinking about well, wife dressing.  As “quaint” as some of the advice may be in this book, there are some excellent reminders about body image, not comparing yourself to anyone else (especially fashion models), and dressing for your body type, not your fantasy body type.

The Exchange by Sophie Cabot Black

I haven’t started this book, yet (it was recently released by Graywolf), but I am a huge Sophie Cabot Black fan and I can’t wait to read her newest collection of poems.  If you haven’t read her second book, The Descent, you must run out and do so.  That collection has inspired me in immeasurable ways.

Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson

I am so excited about this book!  I’m a Plathophile and literally own every book written by or about Plath.  This book is exciting because it focuses on Plath’s life before Ted Hughes, which I think adds much to her narrative.  While the Plath-Hughes drama is interesting, I think that story is a bit played out.  This book also illuminates her early beginnings in terms of childhood and young adult traumas and mental illness.

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder

This is another excellent Plath text and one that entirely focuses on Plath’s pre-Ted life.  What I love about this book is that not only is it about Plath’s Mademoiselle summer and subsequent breakdown, but it also offers the vintage-loving reader an insight into early 1950s American life in New York and the issues that plagued young, college-age women during this decade.

Inferno by Dan Brown

Don’t judge me!  This is my official “light summer reading” and I’m loving it.  I have actually read several Dan Brown novels (Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code), but this one is by far the best and the most intelligent.  I felt that, in particular, The DaVinci Code was written on an eighth grade level.  In contrast, I applaud Brown’s use of exceptionally high vocabulary, artistic and literary references in his latest novel.   Inferno uses Dante’s famous work as the backdrop to this fast-paced mystery, which to a literary-lover such as myself, I find especially intriguing.  I also hope that people who have never read Dante will now be inspired to do so.  It’s amazing sometimes what pop fiction can do to the average reader.

Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook

This is a fabulous eBay find for me as it is the original 1950 edition.  The book itself is in very good shape (I don’t think anyone even cooked out of it, it would seem).  I actually purchased two of these — one to keep and one to use.  If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I recently posted a photo of one of the recipes I used out of this cookbook — blueberry muffins.  This might seem an easy from-scratch recipe, and the use of shortening might scare you (and gentle reader, shortening is NOT lard — it’s solidified vegetable oil that actually has less transfat and calories than butter), but with the added fresh blueberries, these were the best muffins I’ve ever made.

MM Personal: from the Private Archives of Marilyn Monroe

MM Personal: from the Private Archives of Marilyn Monroe

This book by Lois Banner (photographs by Anderson) is another one of my summer indulgent reads and if you’re a MM fan, you’ll love it.  It features numerous photographs of Monroe’s letters, receipts, telegrams, cosmetics, clothing, etc. and wonderful stories to accompany each item.  I just watched HBO’s documentary, “Love, Marilyn,” last night, so this is a perfect time to flip through this book.  It’s a gorgeous coffee table book and perfect for any Marilyn aficionado.

Five Points: A Journal of Literature & Art, vol. 15. no. 1 & 2

Five Points: A Journal of Literature & Art, vol. 15. no. 1 & 2

When I went to Atlanta last month to read from my books at Charis Books, my friend Julie (who I also read with) had this waiting for me on the guest bed, all tied up with a little bow.  It was a wonderful house guest gift!  This double-issue journal reads like a who’s who of contemporary writing: Kim Addonizio, Madison Smart Bell, Billy Collins, Barbara Hamby, Edward Hirsch, Jane Hirshfield, Alice Hoffman, David Kirby, Thomas Lux, James May, Sharon Olds, Tom Perrotta, Elizabeth Spencer, Elizabeth Spires, and more.  I don’t see it on the Five Points website, yet, so I don’t how you can get a copy of it.  Julie got a copy at a literary event and I’m so thrilled to add it to my collection.

What’s on your shelf this summer?

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