It’s been a minute since our last “reading roundup” on Cooler by the Lake. While we’ve been keeping busy in and out of the studio (see: Content Jam, Fall Classes, general writerly shenanigans), we promise we haven’t stopped reading.
Here’s the latest from the StoryStudio team—perfect reads to usher in the fall, celebrate Booktober, and keep the creativity flowing.
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Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
I’m in a book club of two. That means you can’t just hang around for the wine. Plus, we pick really hard books. But it’s the best part of my month and I look forward to intense, surprising discussions for each book.
This month it’s Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. One of those books you say you’ve read and think you can fake it. I did see the musical, but I have a feeling the book will be quite different.
Ragtime is a coming of age story about America, it’s an immigrant story. As a country, our stories are steeped in the immigrant’s experience from the 19th and 20th centuries. But when I look around and read the paper, America’s immigrant experience is ongoing, especially now with so much strife in the world. So I’m looking forward to reading this book and getting a deeper sense of dislocation and possibility.
Raising Girls in Bohemia by Richard Katrovas
Raising Girls in Bohemia is a collection of essays by Richard Katrovas. It’s a fascinating nonfiction book about the author’s struggle to raise his three girls in Prague, New Orleans, and Kalamazoo. It explores questions of how to raise women in a hostile society, what it means to be American vs. Czech, how to fall in and out of love, and overall deals with ideas of otherness. The author is not a young girl being raised in two cultures yet he needs to figure out what it is to be such a girl so he can do his best to understand and honor this children.
Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers
I’ve been making my way through the Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane novels by Dorothy L. Sayers. Just finished Busman’s Honeymoon, the fourth and final book in this series. An amateur detective, Lord Peter Wimsey takes his new wife to the country for their honeymoon only to find a dead body in the cellar. The novel is filled with wonderful detail and characters, a strong mystery, and sharp writing. But the real reason to read is the relationship between the aristocratic crime solving couple, Lord Peter & Harriet.
-Jennifer Ann Coffeen
Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux.
I recently read Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux, an account of his trip overland from Cairo to Cape Town. It reveals much about the complex histories (and presents) of countries in east Africa, and in particular how foreign aid groups may be causing more harm than good when it comes to combating poverty and corruption. The book also scratches the itch to unplug and disappear—if only vicariously.
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison.
When I first heard about The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison, I couldn’t believe how much attention this collection of “serious” essays by a first-time author was getting. But the collection more than lives up to the hype. Jamison’s Didion-esque style is delightful to read, and her search for the meaning and purpose of empathy is challenging and thought-provoking. Topics of her essays include professional medical simulation actors, a mysterious disease that causes people to imagine crystals and fibers growing out of their bodies, poets living in Mexican drug cartel territory, and many more strange and fascinating things.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
I love David Sedaris for those times when I’m feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or overstimulated. Everything he puts out is hilariously simple–and yet, somehow profound. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is no exception.
A bit off the beaten path for Sedaris, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is a collection of “fables” whose protagonists, although animals, are surprisingly human (in ways both good and bad). The stories feel like short exercises in literary joke-telling, with many of them building toward—and finishing on—punchlines that are as revealing as they are amusing. From snobbery to lovesickness, cruel intentions to brutal honesty, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is one of Sedaris’s funniest and most creative portrayals of the things that make us human.