Life is all about balance.
So, I thought I should yin the yang of last week’s post on 10 books that will change your life by sharing 10 fluffy lovelies for ya.
I should preface this list by stating, clearly, that I am an unabashedly voracious reader of pop chick lit, for a few reasons:
a) sometimes you need a break from the heavy heavy (especially when you are hugely pregnant and finding it hard to focus on anything) and need something quick and easy to get back into the swing of things;
b) some of the smartest, best-read people I know are omnivorous consumers of all things contemporary culture, from the high-brow to the low-brow. They ingest what’s going on in the world around them in order to better understand that world. My brother, for example, is a professor of literature and, in general, one of the brightest crayons in the box. But despite his cerebrality, and the the fact that he lives in the ivory tower of academia, he will spend hours watching pop music videos (think Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande) and indulging in “strictly B grade” movies like John Wick. He is an active participant in contemporary culture, and can better position his analysis and his work (not to mention, better relate to his students!) with this lens.
c) related to the above, pop culture often presents itself as a convenient canvas for dissecting and interpreting broader cultural trends and norms, as it does so well in the case of The Bachelor. For example, to re-quote my brilliant friend K., on why The Bachelor is so fascinating to erudite feminists: “It’s cathartic to be able to recognize obvious sexism and point at it and rally against it. Day to day sexism can be more complicated and frustrating and nuanced.”
d) returning to my first point: we all deserve mental vacations.
And, with that, 10 delightfully indulgent beach reads for you:
Pick 1: The Royal We
I tore through this like a bat out of hell (?). The story of a sassy American girl who matriculates to college in the UK, where she happens to wind up in the same dorm as–and fall in love with–the heir apparent to the British throne. Lots of raciness and adventure ensues. For anyone as obsessed with royalty as I am, this book will enchant and delight the hell out of you.
Pick 2: The Couple Next Door
I enjoyed this even more than The Girl on the Train, though SO many people likened the two to one another. (And so many people before that likened The Girl on the Train to Gone Girl.) If you like psychological thrillers, you’d do yourself a favor by ordering all three, all of which are insanely fun page-turners. I think I read The Couple Next Door in two nights–it’s an edge-of-your-seat lark about a couple whose baby goes missing while the two are next door at a dinner party (tsssk tsssk) and the twisty-turny plot that follows. All three of these books would make excellent fodder for a feminist-lensed book club–they each present problematic and, frankly, fascinating depictions of modern motherhood, wifehood, and womanhood.
Pick 3: The Primates of Park Avenue
I’ve heard from many sources who know what it’s actually like to raise children in NYC that this book is absurdly over-the-top–all about the Upper East Side mommy culture–but I, for one, could not put it down. There are some biting moments of satire that make you think a lot about our shared cultural conventions for modern motherhood.
Pick 4: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
I laughed out loud for a very long–borderline inappropriate–amount of time on a plane while reading this. My neighbors must have hated me. This book made me fall in love with Mindy Kaling and converted me into a die-hard “Mindy Project” fan. It also made me revisit “The Office” with a new appreciation for Kelly Kapoor. Her second book, Why Not Me, is also a delight.
Pick 5: Eligible
This book had me at its subtitle: “a modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice.” Um, I’m in. While I took issue with Sittenfeld’s writing of Elizabeth Bennett (she missed the mark — just didn’t quite nail Elizabeth’s smart, opinionated, but sensitive self), this flew by in a few afternoons.
Pick 6: How to Party with an Infant
How appropriate, eh?! This book had a strange texture–it reads easily (very quickly) and has a funny, snarky tone to it, but there are some more thoughtful elements to it. I read it in one gulp.
Pick 7: What Remains
OK, so this memoir by Carol Radziwell should not technically be on this list, because it’s in fact very sad and surprisingly well-written for being the brainchild of a Bravo Real Housewife. (Is that horrible of me to say?) All about the illness and death of her husband (a Radziwell–and thus relative to the Kennedy tribe), and the twin tragedy of the deaths of JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bissett (Radziwell’s dear friend), I found this book impossible to put down. And not so heavy that it tore my heart out of my chest. (Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking, on the other hand…) Plus, there’s something celeb-stalking-esque about it given that it gives us all an insider’s look at the Kennedy royalty.
Pick 8: Bossypants
Honestly, I should have listed this puppy first. Tina Fey is HYSTERICAL, and this memoir will make you laugh so hard you cry. I especially loved her self-deprecating comments on her awkwardness as a pre-teen. I can totally relate. (P.S. Tina went to UVA, like me, and has some lovely and hilarious reflections on her experience there. This is the second time this week I’ve had occasion to feature a badass fellow Wahoo. All the feels for my alma mater.)
Pick 9: #GirlBoss
From bossypants to girl boss–are you sensing there’s a theme across a lot of these books? So many of them are fertile territory for analyzing women and their representations in modern culture. This memoir from the founder of the (now bankrupt/defunct!) online clothing store NastyGal was a quick read, equal parts inspiring and eye-squint-inducing. (There’s something very brash and off-putting about the author–which, writ large, I kind of like. She is a tough cookie, an opinionated broad. I dig. Also, I recently shared some thoughts on the WSJ’s coverage of the demise of this business–share your thoughts!)
Pick 10: The Hopefuls
This one was delightful purely owing to the fact that I am a native Washingtonian and found some of the characterizations of the young political set extremely amusing. Do you know how many self-important early-20-somethings parade around boasting about “working on The Hill” every day while frequenting the same boring bars? Reads like silk.
Next on my beach read list:
+Sarah Sadler’s Southernmost;
+Anna Goldfarb’s Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through: The Story of One Tall Girl’s Impulsive, Ill-Conceived, and Borderline Irresponsible Life Decisions (must read it after coming across a hilarious article she wrote on what not to buy at Trader Joe’s for Man Repeller, as I mentioned here);
+Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot (a sweet girlfriend just gifted me a copy out of the blue when I told her I needed something light to read — thank you, Katie!)…and I’m currently reading her Little Big Lies, too! It’s going by in a flash.
What would you add to this list?!