Originally posted on BYT
April 24, 2014
I caught up with the editors of The Intentional to find out what I should read this summer while I’m sunning my buns on the beach, or taking in a starry evening with the dog (who belongs the woman downstairs but seems to prefer me).
Kate Jenkins, Editor-In-Chief
Scott McClanahan Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place, 2013
In his non-fiction(ish) account of his childhood, McClanahan brilliantly brings to life a troubled cast of characters in a troubled backwoods West Virginia. With incredible grace, he paints the landscape of a place forsaken through the complex relationships of each family member and friend to their homeland. Anecdotal evidence proves that in McClanahan’s jungle, each in his own right is both superhero and supervillain, but somehow all are forgiven.
McClanahan’s schtick — and it is definitely a schtick — is to entertain his reader with the ebullient hilarity of despair. Initially, I admit my reaction was that it was an off-putting, cheap trick. But I quickly fell for it, enthralled and hungry for the next bit of front porch family lore. So in that sense, I guess it’s a good summer read. Entertaining and quick as it may be, though, subtle everyday tragedies are the unspoken punchlines to every joke, and these gnawed at me viciously. I can recall one scene in particular that brought me to my knees like few books ever have — please don’t ask to borrow my copy because I think there’s snot all over those pages.
Alice Munro Dear Life, 2012
Munro is widely heralded as one of the greatest masters of her craft, and this collection of short stories is considered by many to be her most brilliant. The experiences of her characters consistently resonate so profoundly with readers that I’ve often seen reviewers of her books pose the question: “but how did she KNOW?!”
Why you should read it: I haven’t yet read this one myself, but I am anxiously awaiting my next beach vacation to do so. I would prefer to devour each story completely uninterrupted and in the sun. As far as I’m concerned, this is not a commuter read.
Katharine Pelzer, Poetry and Fiction Editor
Lesley Jamison The Empathy Exams, 2014
This book of nonfiction essays plays off the author’s experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose. Ever since I was an all-too-sensitive child, I have thought often about empathy– why some of us seem to feel it more strongly than others, how we perform it and its role in how we live our lives, and mostly, how empathy affects our ability to be more than islands, to connect and be there for others. A great quote from the piece from a selection printed in The Believer captures why I want to read this book this summer: “This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always arise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.”
Jenny Offill Department of Speculation, 2014
From what I’ve read in reviews, this book does experimental fiction right, weaving in vignettes and short observations to chart the course of a failed marriage. If it is as absorbing as I’m told (which makes me think it will be a bit like 2010′s A Visit from the Good Squad), it will be the book that inspires me to pick up with writing my novella, but with more daring this time. From what I hear, it is a fast-absorbing summer read. I love taking a shorter book like this on a weekend beach trip and coming back with the feeling that you’ve just devoured something wholly and completely.
LA Johnson, Lead Designer and Layout Director
Gabriel García Márquez 100 Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad), 1967
A multi-generational story of the Buendía family, in a metaphorical Colombia, told through tales of the supernatural as mundane, and the mundane as supernatural. WAR – LOVE – JEALOUSY – WISDOM – FAMILY – SEX – YES!!!!
This award-winning Columbian author and father of magic realism passed away last week at the age of 89. This novel is his grandest, written during the Latin American Literary Boom of the 1960′s. Its dreamy, hot, and painful tale will keep you great company on those long lazy days.
Matthew Thurber 1-800-MICE, 2011
A surrealist graphic novel for readers with Tolkein-esque imaginations and a love of sex jokes.
If you enjoyed “SEED” from Bemel-Benrud in issue 3, you’ll love Matthew Thurber. Read it at the pool or in line for the DMV.
Alana Ramo, Partnerships Director
Allie Brosh Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem and Other Things That Happened, 2013
I’m a pretty goofy reader. I’ll pick up a book and then start another three until I find the one that holds a vice grip on my brain, slowly taking over my day to day life, until I’m a half-functioning, drooling, semi-human. Allie Brosh isn’t like that. If you find yourself staring at a long list of giant tomes to wade through this summer, Hyperbole and a Half is your life vest.
Allie’s honest, though often embellished, essays satisfy even the most voyeuristic of our generation. Her charm is in her voice and wit, and her ability to turn simple stories into a roaring laugh. The book features essays on Allie’s childhood, interactions with her boyfriend, and a series of musings that depict the steep slope of depression with dark accuracy. Born as a web comic, Hyperbole and a Half, is chock full of simplistic, yet surprisingly expressive illustrations that carry Allie’s anecdotes to full awkwardness, turning just a stick figure into a hyper self-aware young girl. If you’re like me and imagine your life as a series of clips from a Kristen Wiig movie, then Allie’s comedic reenactments of her neurotic life will entertain you all summer long.
Ed Catmull Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, 2014
A desk. A corner office. A wide screen monitor with speakers. The struggle to maintain a sense of self and self-expression in your work is a big theme for The Intentional. The wrong environment can be lethal to a creative’s fierce need to imagine, explore and build.
As the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, Ed Catmull advises on not only maintaining creativity, but inspiring it. How do you encourage a team to build a workplace of creative freedom and allow individuals to take risks and experiment, all while propelling a business toward success? I am a big believer in the fusion of art, strategy and business and the need to bring an original edge to a company. For entrepreneurs, or anyone interesting in building a creative culture, this is a definite summer must-read.