The 10 Best Books for Your Summer Reading List
Maybe we’re just drawn to tales of corruption, greed, intoxication, deception, disaster, delusion, and war.
(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- By Ken Auletta (Penguin Press)Well before Harvey Weinstein was indicted for rape, forced oral copulation, and other charges in April 2021, his violent, bullying behavior was an open secret in Hollywood. Yet it took the watershed #MeToo movement, along with investigations by the and , to take him down. In Auletta’s excellent biography, the notions that Weinstein was both a known rapist and a champion of incredible cinema are not in conflict. Miramax, the company he founded with his brother Bob, distributed , , , and ,among other critically acclaimed films; through them, Weinstein made himself too important to topple. The world turned a blind eye, Auletta explains, in large part because of the perception that Weinstein’s contributions to the industry outweighed his transgressions.
By Robin Goldstein and Daniel Sumner (University of California Press)Marijuana’s legalization in the US set off a gold rush predicated on the notion that a lawful market could reach $100 billion in less than a decade. Lawmakers trumpeted the move from a social justice standpoint—for decades, Black people have been incarcerated for possessing small amounts of pot at disproportionately higher rates than Whites—as well as an economic one: Taxes, they argued, would help fund schools and infrastructure. Several years in, revenue hasn’t come close to projections. Why? Economists Goldstein and Sumner argue that government bureaucracy has made legal pot expensive to grow and sell, incentivizing illegal operations instead. Legal weed, their punny, breezy book shows, can only win once “legal” isn’t an anticompetitive word.
By Alan Shipnuck (Avid Reader Press)Sports writing is often the best writing, a fact well known to those who read about sports and inconceivable to those who don’t. For a vivid reminder, look no further than this unauthorized biography of Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters winner and the oldest major champion in history. He’s since become persona non grata on the Tour after quotes about his involvement with a new Saudi-backed league were relayed to Shipnuck and published before the book came out. is well researched, bracingly written, and full of previously unreported color; Mickelson emerges as a mercurial and charismatic figure whose record-setting golf game is possibly the least interesting thing about him.
By David Sedaris (Little, Brown)Sedaris, a perennial contrarian, has entered into a comfortable late-middle age that could sink a less determined writer. He’s rich now—in this collection of essays he twice mentions a Picasso he bought at auction—and has homes in England, France, North Carolina, and two on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. (He bought his upstairs apartment in New York, he writes, to avoid listening to his boyfriend, Hugh, practice piano.) Happily for Sedaris’s fans, it will take more than prosperity to mellow him out: His trademark black humor and puckish misanthropy remain. Discussing his father’s death, unwanted advances from a 12-year-old, and navigating Trump country, he also gives us a variety of jokes, which, in this magazine at least, remain unprintable.
By Sachin Khajuria (Currency)Khajuria, a former partner at Apollo Global Management LLC, is both a product of the private equity industry and its unapologetic booster. Private equity’s growth is proof, in his eyes, that it works; the retirement accounts of millions of pensioners and teachers and firefighters, whether they know it or not, are secured by an elite few. Despite the book’s promotional qualities, it’s nevertheless an excellent primer on the industry, from how things work at the very top to the nuts and bolts of its vast influence around the globe.
By Elif Batuman (Penguin Press)The sequel to Batuman’s Pulitzer Prize finalist finds her protagonist, Selin, back from a summer abroad and ready for another year of intellectual discovery and sexual ambivalence at Harvard. Batuman’s skill, which is sometimes infuriating but often very funny, is to embody the mind and voice of a bright, flawed college student: Selin might be observant and precocious and incisive, but she’s also, well, a sophomore, and that age is not a particularly lucid time. Nothing concrete occurs, but for those content to soak in Batuman’s expert, easygoing prose, the reward is a depiction of youthful intelligence on the cusp of … something.
By Werner Herzog (Penguin Press)The filmmaker best known for stranger-than-fiction documentaries such as also taps real life for his first novel. Herzog spent hours interviewing his inspiration, Hiroo Onoda, after first meeting him in 1997. By then the imperial Japanese soldier had become an international celebrity because of his refusal to surrender after World War II. Onoda, immune to entreaties from family and strangers, had been living in the Philippine mountains, where he killed several farmers, before returning to civilization in 1974 to become a sort of dark goodwill ambassador. Herzog, enchanted by a man who refused to accept reality, crafts a work of fiction that is, in many respects, a document of untold truths—just how Herzog likes it.
By Victor Serge (NYRB Classics)A literary celebrity in his day, Serge had the mixed blessing of being in the middle of major conflicts during his storied life. After joining the Bolsheviks in 1919, he was imprisoned and then exiled by Josef Stalin, just in time to flee the Nazis when German tanks rolled into the outskirts of Paris. His subsequent years as a refugee were turned into this fictionalized account. First published in 1946 under the title , the book tells the story of war and barbarism and is being republished, with revisions to the original by Richard Greeman, just as a new war produces another torrent of blameless, homeless civilians.
By Sloane Crosley (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)One of the funniest writers in the business, Crosley is best known for her essay collections and . This time around, she’s written a rom-com-style thriller whose heroine, Lola, the acerbic head of a New York-based culture site, bounces from chance encounters with her exes to … more chance encounters with her exes. She, along with the reader, begins to suspect that all is not what it seems. Spoiler: It isn’t, and as the book ties the loose threads together, the pleasure is as much in Crosley’s sharp, chatty style as it is in the narrative arc.
By Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins (Henry Holt and Co.)Fish may not be the healthy option after all. Frantz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and his wife, Collins, herself a storied investigative reporter, take readers into the oceanic version of factory farming. Salmon crammed into aquatic feedlots by the millions and stuffed with chemicals aren’t just a humanitarian issue, they write: They’re also an (avoidable!) ecological disaster in the making.
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