Weekend reading

Erin Kodicek on May 29, 2020

Weekend reading

It's been sunny in Seattle but the rain returns this weekend, and the Amazon Books editors return to our to-read piles. Al is already absorbed in the inspiring story of America's first all-black high school rowing team, Seira is digging into a how-to guide to learn how to build a fire pit (and we will be expecting an invite for socially distant s'more making), Adrian revisits a sci-fi saga, Vannessa is reading about a tussle between Truman and Tinseltown, and more.

A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America's First All-Black High School Rowing Team by Arshay Cooper

Arshay Cooper grew up in Chicago surrounded by drug dealers and addicts, gang members, prostitutes, poverty and violence. He can't cross the street without fear and his high school is no different. One day after school, he walks past a table with an old television that shows "people racing in the same boat." A white woman comes up to him to explain the sport. At first he scoffs at it ("You ain't gonna get black people rowing down the lake like slaves"), but after a few days his friend convinces him to sign up and join the school crew team, and from then on his life will be forever changed. As the first ever black crew team, Arshay and his friends are catapulted to the national spotlight, and in so doing discover a world beyond their home town. So far Cooper's memoir, which publishes on June 30, is heartbreaking and uplifting, and highlights the power of sports and the ability of coaches to transform lives.—Al Woodworth

Black & Decker The Complete Outdoor Builder - Updated Edition: From Arbors to Walkways 150 DIY Projects by Editors of Cool Springs Press

The sunshine is inspiring me to get outside, channel my inner handywoman, and build a fire pit at my cabin in the woods. I’ve got this great how-to book for a guide, and I really like the layout—very clear instructions and plenty of photographs. I’m a visual person so being able to see how a project should look step-by-step is super helpful. Now, of course, as I’m flipping through the pages I’m finding all kinds of other projects I want to do (stone walkway! Patio arbor!). I should probably be weeding (and reading) but being outdoors and building something feels like just what I need to reset over the weekend. —Seira Wilson

The Martian by Andy Weir

This week I’ve found myself sucked back into the sci-fi saga of astronaut Mark Watney, who was left for dead on Mars and has to figure out a way to survive years alone until the next mission to Mars can rescue him. Emphasis on “alone.” It’s not until roughly the 90-day mark that Watney is able to communicate with Earth to let them know he’s alive, a situation that feels even more poignant now as people begin to emerge from isolation. I’m enjoying this re-read even more than when I read it the first time, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with Watney, NASA, and JPL this weekend. —Adrian Liang

The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood—and America—Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb by Greg Mitchell

I love books about the Hollywood studio system, so Greg Mitchell's new book (releases on July 7) is right up my alley. You can categorize it as one of those behind the scenes reports on the making of an epic movie, but this one has an extra, juicy spin. Following the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Louis B. Mayer decided that MGM's next big movie should be about the Manhattan Project. Hal B. Wallis at Paramount had a similar idea. Wallis even had a screenwriter lined up: a young writer named Ayn Rand. But the first movie(s) to tackle the Atomic Age would be beset by something much more formidable than Hedda Hopper or the Hays Code: the Truman administration, which wanted to control the narrative, literally and figuratively. This weekend, I can't wait to go back in time to read about the White House going toe to toe with Hollywood. —Vannessa Cronin

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I suspect we all have those books we feel like we should have read, but just haven’t for some reason or another. Well, my virtual book club just picked a book that falls into this category for me: Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow. Towles’ best-selling novel tells the story of Count Alexander Rostov, who in 1922 is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol hotel. There’s something especially poignant about reading this novel now—and understanding more than I’d like how it feels to live life on the inside looking out. Our first book club discussion on this book is Sunday, so I plan to spend the weekend kicking myself for only now just starting this book. —Sarah Gelman

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