Looking for something to read? We have a suggestion or four! Welcome to an experiment: a Fusion monthly reading list. Fix yourself a Michelada, hunt down one of the seven dozen bookmarks you've managed to lose around your apartment, find a cozy spot, and dive in.
Hi guys! When putting together this month's list (super late), I noticed these books share a common theme of outsiders trying to make some sense of — or utterly disrupt — the inside. We have stories from a seasoned wedding guest, kids wrestling with destiny in a godforsaken slice of Florida swamp grass, a group of vacationers, and Maya Angelou's journey through an exciting, creative, terrifying, tumultuous time in history. Let's get to it.
Save the Date - Jen Doll
Jen Doll (who's written for everyone — like The Atlantic, The Village Voice, Vice, The Hairpin, to name just a few) has attended a lot of weddings. A whole lot. Along the way, she's learned a thing or two about this time-honored ritual and the champagne-soaked emotional breakdowns that sometimes come with it. Doll writes about weddings, relationships, and expectations made and dashed with a certain, acrid-tinged sweetness, a sense of wit, and candor about her own less-than-stellar moments. The book is, then, less stories about weddings and more the stories we tell ourselves. And to think it all started with an online post.
Citrus County - John Brandon
Unlike past book selections, this book didn't come out this month (it was published in July of 2010), but I just finished reading it and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to recommend it to all of you. The book primarily follows Toby, the kind of bored, forever loitering teen that makes you pretend you left something in your car so you can avoid passing him by on your way into 7/11. His life becomes enmeshed with that of his teacher, Mr. Hibna — a man too cool to be the token cool teacher, who fills up some of the quiet by meticulously planning the murder of a co-worker — and Shelby, who is too smart to be happy. Toby breaks through the oppressive sameness and nothingness and slimy wet gloomy mugginess that permeates every blade of sun-bleached crabgrass in Citrus County by committing a random act of evil. It's the story of "Florida Man" if anyone took the time to see him as a human being. It's the story of how chaos is swallowed by the mundane like a gator swallowing a baby. And it's the story of how we are always who we are, no matter how much we fight to escape it or pretend to have left something in the car to try and avoid it.
The Vacationers - Emma Straub
This novel follows the Posts, an American family on vacation in Mallorca. But as with any family vacation, no matter how beautiful and sun-drenched and exciting the locale, things begin to go wrong. Sleeping in a strange bed in a new place, stepping outside of our habits and our characters, has a way of making masks drop and secrets spill, forcing us to confront the how's and the why's of who we think we're supposed to be, whether that's a Miami-based trainer or a vacationing Manhattan family with probably far too many tote bags. Grantland (which offers a whole bunch of great recommendations from May), calls it "a near-perfect high-brow summer novel."
The Heart of a Woman - Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou may have passed away, but her extraordinary thoughts and voice remain firmly here, with all of us. So it's a good a time as any to dive in to the work she's given us. You're likely very familiar with her opus, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, so let's focus on another autobiography of hers. Published in 1981, the memoir follows her life from the late 50s into the 60s, as Angelou and her son leave California for New York and she becomes an indelible part of that city's literary scene and the civil rights movement. It's a personal, beautifully crafted look not only at an important time in history, but a history-making woman.