Beach Reads, But At Home… Without The Sand And Surf: TPM’s July Reading Recs

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When I decided this month’s reading list would be centered around the idea of beach reads I could not have foreseen the number of cooking memoirs my coworkers would suggest. In retrospect, I shouldn’t be too surprised given the number of recipe swaps that take place among TPM staff and the fact that we have a Slack channel simply entitled “food.”

Now I’m hungry.

I did find that trying to define the term “beach reads” to the TPM office was surprisingly difficult. What makes reading a good book different if you’re near the water? I, for one, am nowhere near the ocean, nor do I maintain any hope of getting any sort of tan this summer. And yet I find there is a noticeable distinction between what books I am reading in the time of social distancing vs. what I intended to take with me on my now-canceled Hawaii vacation. I’m curious how you all define a beach read. Are you like me who took two summers at the beach to get through Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (true story), or do you prefer something less … intense?

Maybe COVID-19 will keep us from the beach this summer, maybe not (one can only hope, and here in New York at least, the beaches are opening for swimming this month!). A good book is a good book no matter where you crack the pages — even if you’re just looking at a Google image of the ocean and playing a three-hour YouTube stream of the sound of crashing waves while you read.

Be sure to check out the list below and comment with some of your favorite beach reads. Surprisingly this month does not include a reference to Harry Potter and, personally, I’ll take a win where I can get it. Again, if you like what you see here you can always purchase any of the books below by visiting our TPM Bookshop profile page. Be sure to check back again next month for some new staff recommendations, and if you’ve missed any you can find all of our reading lists here. Happy reading!

Derick Dirmaier, Head of Product

The Beach: Alex Garland

“A staple on backpacking circuits, especially in Southeast Asia, The Beach is a fun, adventure/travel escapism,” Derick said. “Before becoming a celebrated screenwriter and director, Alex Garland’s first novel deals with many of the same utopia/dystopia themes he would return to in Ex Machina and Devs. Plus, it is set in paradise and I like reading books set in paradise while at the beach.”

Kate Riga, Reporter

And Then There Were None: Agatha Christie

“One thing I think the state of the world is really lacking at the moment is fear, so I thought I’d toss in this classic murder mystery,” she said.

David Kurtz, Executive Editor

Heat: Bill Buford

“Buford slaves away in the stress-addled, drug-saturated, adrenaline-charged back of the house and lives to tell about it. But fair warning: Mario Batali is an important character in the book, which came out more than a decade before Batali’s restaurant empire collapsed amid multiple allegations of sexual assault.”

Nicole Lafond, Special Projects Editor

Your Fathers, Where Are They? & the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?: Dave Eggers

“I read this book in two hours while I was sitting on the beach one summer, so thematically, it’s a very literal recommendation,” Nicole tells me. “But the book, at its core, is less about plot and more about a winding journey through the various existential crises that disillusioned young men (and women, but mostly men) face when raised in a culture of toxic masculinity and eventually grow into disappointed adults.

“It also touches on mental health and various disappointments the Millennial generation faces. At least that’s what I took from it. Eggers’ stream-of-conscious wit holds magnitudes. It could very literally just be about a mad-man who kidnaps an astronaut and holds him captive at an abandoned Army base just to talk about mommy issues. See for yourself.”

Kate Riga, Reporter

Burn The Place: Iliana Regan

“While you forage for a freezer-burned Trader Joe’s pizza from the bowels of your refrigerator, read about Iliana Regan foraging mushrooms and plants on her family farm, later to spark her Michelin-starred career.”

Matt Shuham, Reporter

Killers of the Flower Moon: David Grann

“A series of 1920s murders of wealthy members of the Osage tribe tells so many stories at once: the centuries-old legacy of unencumbered violence against Native Americans, the creation of the modern FBI, and a generations-old quest for the truth,” Matt writes. “David Grann tells it masterfully, leading readers through the bloody evidence trail and the ‘guardianship’ system that victimized the Osage people. Oil, as it often does, drips over everything.”

David Kurtz, Executive Editor

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace: Tamar Adler

“Almost immediately I had to put down Tamar Adler’s economical and graceful volume,” he said. “First, to poach eggs. Then to process piles of green leafy vegetables. And so on. I could make it through only a few pages before the inspiration to cook simply and flavorfully broke the spell cast by her prose.”

Kate Riga, Reporter

A Man Called Ove: Fredrik Backman

“Ove is a heartwarming tale for the redeemable curmudgeon in all of us. If the world has you feeling cynical, it’ll thaw you right out.”

David Taintor, Senior Editor

Blood, Bones and Butter: Gabrielle Hamilton

“Gabrielle Hamilton is a revered and accomplished chef. And she may be an even better writer than cook. Her cozy East Village restaurant, Prune, has defied the odds of New York City real estate, feeding locals and tourists alike for the past 20 years,” David said. “But as Hamilton wrote in a widely circulated essay for the New York Times magazine in April, the restaurant’s future amid the coronavirus pandemic is uncertain.

“In the meantime, you can devour more of Hamilton’s words in her 2011 memoir, ‘Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef.’ It’s a vivid book about family, travel and falling in love with food. One scene in particular stick outs: Hamilton’s first encounter with the restaurant that would become Prune. Let’s just say the space was not in great shape. But luckily for us, Hamilton looked past its blemishes and has kept at it for all these years. Here’s hoping Prune has at least a little more life in it.”

Jackie Wilhelm, Associate Publisher

Pachinko: Min Jin Lee

“I actually didn’t read this at the beach but this book is a perma-recommendation for me. A friend of mine passed me this book last year and almost immediately I was hooked and have yet to give the copy back (shhh). This sprawling, multi-generational saga of a woman who chooses to leave behind her home in Korea for a new life in Japan explores the tight bonds of an immigrant family in an entirely new world that chooses to see them as an ‘other.’”

David Kurtz Executive Editor

House of Sand and Fog: Andre Dubus III

“If you want a little more literary heft in your beach read but without having to overexert yourself, Dubus paces his novel perfectly for the chaise lounge.”

Matt Shuham, Reporter

Kitchen Confidential: Anthony Bourdain

“The book that shot Anthony Bordain to stardom tears into the guts of the ’90s New York restaurant scene, told from the view of the kitchen footsoldiers who make it all happen,” Matt shares. “Come for a peek into the Big Apple’s underbelly, stay to revel at the restauranteurs whose ill-informed financial decisions leak money like a broken fridge. Bonus points for reading the work that inspired Bourdain’s own: George Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London.'”

Cristina Cabrera, Newswriter

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper: Hallie Rubenhold

“This book puts a spotlight on the women who were brutally murdered by Jack the Ripper and lays out how Victorian England’s oppressive gender and class-based social hierarchy left them vulnerable to one of the most notorious serial killers in modern history,” Cristina writes.

Jackie Wilhelm, Associate Publisher

Anna Karenina: Leo Tolstoy

“I wasn’t lying when I said this took me two summers at the beach to finish. As a former literature major, I have a soft spot for the classics and Tolstoy does not disappoint. A massive cast of characters, centered around a dramatic adulterous affair, Anna Karenina is at times infuriating, magical and heartbreaking. As a sometimes cynic I still to this day am unsure how I feel about Anna herself. This definitely is not everyone’s cup of tea, and if you’re not a fan of the intricacies of farming in Russia, then I’d say pass.”



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