Weekend reading

Chris Schluep on July 05, 2019
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It's summer and, for some, a very long weekend, which means barbecues, beaches, and conversations about what constitutes summer reading. At least that's the kind of thing the editors wind up talking about. The consensus seems to be that a summer read is one of three things: a book to transport us someplace else (Jon, Erin, Seira); a fun book, preferably with a driving plot (Adrian, Sarah); or a really long and immersive book that requires a little extra time to read (me). Here's what we are reading this summer weekend. 



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Escape from Earth: A Secret History of the Space Rocket by Fraser MacDonald

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing is just around the corner, and I have had Space Fever for the better part of the year. So have publishers, if you’re looking at the Saturn V-sized tower of books commemorating the event. But for my money, Escape from Earth: The Secret History of the Space Rocket has the best title, and maybe the least-known story. Frank Malina was an enterprising engineering student in the 1930s who believed in space travel before it was trendy, or seemingly plausible. But with the help of his occult-obsessed friend, Jack Parsons, he designed the first rocket to reach space, establishing the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the process. He should have been a hero, but the Red Scare and Hoover’s FBI conspired to ground his fame. —Jon Foro


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The Ghosts of Eden Park by Karen Abbott

Ever heard of George Remus? I couldn’t believe I hadn’t after checking out Karen Abbott’s compulsively readable The Ghosts of Eden Park. An attorney-turned-bootlegger in the early days of Prohibition, the uber-eccentric and teetotaling Remus was an overachiever in the booze business, amassing such staggering wealth that he enjoyed a Gatsby-esque lifestyle along with his wife, Imogen. A budding prosecutor would spoil the fun, however, setting in motion a deadly course of events.… I already know how this is going to end, but it sure is a fun ride. --Erin Kodicek



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The Possession (The Anomaly Files) by Michael Rutger

Last year, Michael Rutger’s The Anomaly was one of my favorite summer reads. I enjoy the weirder Michael Crichton and James Rollins books, and The Anomaly harkened to those adventures with its own modern take on the inexplicable. July 23 sees the release of the next Anomaly Files novel, with TV show host Nolan Moore and his myth-investigation team taking on a case involving witchcraft and possession in a quaint village set in the wilderness. I like Nolan—he has enough baggage and failure in his background to make him interesting but his mix of empathy and intelligence sets him apart from the usual crowd of damaged thriller protagonists. I’m looking forward to joining him and those who survived the last encounter with the impossible as I head off into the woods for our family’s first camping trip of the season, bringing The Possession with me.

Hmm, now that I think about it, this might be exactly the wrong book to bring with me into the deep, dark woods…. [shiver, shudder!] —Adrian Liang


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All the Powers of Earth: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. III, 1856-1860 by Sidney Blumenthal

All the Powers of Earth, the third book in Sidney Blumenthal's series about Lincoln, marks the point in Lincoln's political career where the rubber hits the road. He's about to take on Douglas in the debates, and he will ascend to the presidency. Each book in this series has been well-researched and finely detailed, and I am hooked. There are a lot of Lincoln biographies out there, but reading one that is written by an academic who also happens to be a top political operative adds some texture and perspective that you won't consistently get from other writers. The books are long, and this one publishes in September, so I'm getting a head start. --Chris Schluep



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Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End by Kevin Alexander

Burn the Ice (July 9th) looks at the new guard of food culture in the U.S. after a shift in 2006 that took the reins of creativity away from New York and San Francisco, and dropped them in the lap of the Pacific Northwest. Alexander is a James Beard Award-winning food journalist and he follows the course of a food revolution that changed the dining landscape across America, bringing diverse flavors and hipster style to parts of the country where meat and potatoes had been king. But, according to Alexander, this exciting time for restaurants and diners has ended. What happened and where are we now?  It feels to me like we are in a bright time of innovation and collaboration so I'm pretty interested in seeing what Alexander has to say. --Seira Wilson



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Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era by Saul Austerlitz

Could I be any more the target demographic for this book? If you’re a Friends fan, you can hear Matthew Perry’s sarcastic take on this line (and if you’re not, I have nothing further to say to you). But did you know that the writers of Friends stopped italicizing any of Perry’s dialogue because they knew the actor would not only ignore it, but accent a completely different word instead? It’s tidbits like this that make the upcoming book Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era (September 17) so addictively readable. Come because you’re a fan, stay because you realize that Friends did (take that, Chandler Bing!) define a cultural moment: a world where coffee shops were just beginning to take off as “third places,” television wasn’t available to DVR or stream, and networks were starting to warm up to sitcoms about nothing. I’m halfway through Saul Austerlitz’s ode to this NBC hit, and I can’t wait to finish it and annoy my friends with fun Friends facts. --Sarah Gelman




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