Monday, May 28, 2012

{Butter's 2012 Summer Reading Guide}

I have always had a summer reading list. Even when it wasn't mandated by a syllabus or a college prep high school teacher, I was still required to read and report back. The summer I turned 16 is one that especially comes to mind. My sister was older and living on Nantucket, my father was working in Boston and my mother and I were drifting along in a summer Cape Cod haze. Apart from the full time charge of maintaining my Walkman's batteries along with my supply of Coppertone, I really didn't have many other responsibilities. It was my last summer of being a kid. Not quite old enough to drive or be fully employed, my mother decided I should immerse myself in a rigorous reading and analytical course of her own design. From a pile of books she gathered and laid out in a dusty and sandy side porch, I chose my subjects and set about absorbing 15 books during those humid summer months. Here is a sampling of what I picked that season: The Great Gatsby, Rabbit RunRebecca, Huckleberry Finn, The Awakening, To Kill a Mockingbird, Rabbit is Rich, All Quiet on the Western FrontThe Color Purple along with selected poems by the likes of E. E. Cummings and short stories by John Cheever. After finishing a great volume I would enthusiastically approach my mother and fervently relay all the various themes, metaphors and symbolism I had astutely collected, only to notice her waning attention and (frankly) antsy eagerness to return to her own half finished novel already. Nonetheless, such began my love of a good summer reading list if not to report back, just to enjoy. Thanks Mom! 

No. 1
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
This ain't no 'Eat Pray Love' shit.

Wild is a well crafted memoir of death and divorce, heroin and broken toenails. It is compelling and triumphant and a testament to a woman's endurance in the face of immense grief and crippling physical pain. The sub-title 'from lost to found on the Pacific Coast Trail' only hints at the long, grueling and ultimately satisfying journey of the trail.

No. 2
This is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decreptitude & More. For Young and Old Alike. 
By Augusten Burroughs
A summer of self-improvement anyone...?
A few years ago Augusten Burroughs became tired of being a writer. He decided he was no longer interested in writing about himself, but instead was going to write about YOU. This is How is an unapologetic, impolite and raw self-help book.

Topics include:
How to be a Good Mental Patient
How to Fail
How to Hold Onto a Dream (Or Maybe Not)
How to be Thin
How to be Fat
How to Remain Unhealed
and more...

For fans of Augusten Burroughs it should be noted that this is a true self-help book told in  the author's own individual and brusque voice. For folks unfamiliar with him, his tone might take some getting used to as there are few (if any) warm and fuzzy's to hold onto. Unless you lead a charmed life, most everyone should identify with many of the topics addressed. As the author explains, he would like This is How to become a dog-eared reference book for 'whatever shit life throws your way'.

No. 3
The Beach Book by Melcher Media

There is one book I pack in my bag no matter where I visit. It is The Beach Book published by Melcher Media. Yes I admit that I'm a gimmick whore. I buy into all of it. So it's no wonder that when I came across a waterproof book with cool cover art and rounded corners (my favorite!) I had to have it. Little did I know it would become my favorite literary companion and traveling buddy. This is a collection of ten well written short stories all set in various beach locales around the world by such authors as Roald Dahl, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Anthony Doerr. All of these stories are different: one is filled with suspense, another with melancholia, one is dark and another just plain funny. 

No. 4
Blood Bones & Butter
The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef 
by Gabrielle Hamilton

This book is not for the faint of heart. 
What sets it apart from other foodie memoirs is Gabrielle Hamilton's keen writing ability: it's smart and original, passionate and gritty. The author recounts her zig zag career trajectory from a teenage runaway to crooked cocktail waitress to soulless caterer to at last the owner and Executive Chef of critically acclaimed restaurant Prune in New York City. 
The one constant throughout Hamilton's life is food, even more so cooking and the comfort it offers her like a member of the family.  The chapters describing her father's annual lamb roast and her stint as a camp chef in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts are ones I have revisited again and again. This is an intimate retelling of a messy, colorful and hungry life.

No. 5
Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture 
by Andy Cohen

By definition a good beach read should dispense just enough fluff to bring on a good sized tooth ache. Most Talkative does just that yet surprisingly also presents a memoir full of insight, smarts and (best of all) hilarity. There is so much within this book to relate to, most notably Andy Cohen's utter devotion to 70's and 80's TV with 'All My Children' and 'Charlie's Angels' playing a major part in his early development. This book is a funny and sweet recounting of all the mishaps of a young person working his way up from CBS news intern to eventually creating and developing his own series and TV talk show on Bravo. Descriptions of the author's relationship with his mother and his coming out story are so endearing and heartfelt that by the time he actually dishes on the The Real Housewives, you already get the feeling that had you only lived closer while growing up, you would have decidedly been included as one of his besties. 

Happy Reading and back!


  1. I think you beat Oprah with this reading list! We would never see This is How or Wild on hers. You sure are keepin' things fresh.