Summer Reads - 2016

Atomic Books' staff recommends some summer reading picks.
The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir by D. Watkins
No writer alive tells stories from the stoop like East Baltimore native D. Watkins does. Following 2015's essential The Beast Side, The Cook Up eschews nostalgia while weaving through past and present narratives of race, masculinity, money, and more. In an epoch where elites still shrug off the reality of marginalized folks, Watkins' prose makes everyone a witness. -Caitlin

The Girls by Emma Cline
The Girls is Emma Cline's addictive first novel, loosely based on the lives lived and crimes committed by followers of Charles Manson. It packs the sort of florid prose a diarist would employ in a struggle to precisely negotiate memories with language not designed by the powerful to fully encompass trauma. Turning the male gaze of books like The Virgin Suicides inward and focusing on relationships between women, Cline presents an impressionistic vision of the consequences of patriarchy. -Caitlin

Grunt: The Curious Science Of Humans At War by Mary Roach
Pop science writer Mary Roach always selects interesting subjects and makes them even more fascinating in her explorations of them and makes them hilarious and entertaining in the way she writes about them. There is a lot of unexpected science involved in training, outfitting and preparing our military. -Benn
But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman
I've never been entirely sure that Klosterman is, politically speaking, on our side. It could be the sometimes reactionary nature of his cultural observations, but pondering that while reading his prose is as much fun for me as it is considering the questions (or "hypertheticals") he poses to his readers. We live in uncertain times. So how do we know what we know is right? Will future generations see us as idiots or assholes or worse? Enjoy an edible (where legal, check the serving size) and consider these questions with Klosterman. -Benn

The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock
The long-awaited new novel (seriously, I feel like I am constantly waiting for books like these to arrive) by the author of Devil All The Time delivers on its dark, gothic promise. Desperate and dim characters are on a collision course in this comic, gritty, and gorey novel set in the early 1900s. -Benn

A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl
Imagine Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny fell in love and had a kid when they were filming the X-Files. Then, mix that with Chasing Amy, cosplay culture, the world of comic conventions and DC and Marvel Comics, some personal tragedy, and a lot of 4th Wave (Millennial) Feminism, and you have this fun mash-up of a novel. I can't think of a more summer read-y summer read. -Benn
Paper Girls Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan / Cliff Chiang
This is one of those trades that you can't put down because once you get to the last page you hop on the Internet to figure out when the next issue is out. Then you read all the fan theories. Then you write your own fan fiction. This has a strong compelling story about badass paper delivery girls set in the 1980s. I wouldn't anoint this as your typical sci fi story either, it's set in a touchable reality in the same vein as an episode of Black Mirror or the Twilight Zone. 10/10 would and will read again and again. -Sun

Preacher by Garth Ennis / Steve Dillon
If you're watching and enjoying the mess of a show that is AMC's Preacher (and I'm doing both), you may want to check out the source material - loaded with bizarre characters, ultra-violence, and '90s-era offensiveness. There are six books in all, and they are wildly fun and different enough from the TV show that you won't feel like you're retreading covered ground. -Benn

Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton - A Biography by Stephen Miller
For those who want to study up for that summer vacation to Dollywood! -Joleen
Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk by John Doe / Tom DeSavia
Under The Big Black Sun isn't just they history of the legendary band X, it's also the history of the West Coast punk scene (1977-1981) as told not only by one of the most important figures in it, but by a host of other voices as well, including Henry Rollins, Mike Watt, Jane Wiedlin, Dave Alvin, and many more. It's the story of the gritty back alleys among all the "Sex and Dying in High Society." -Benn

Weird Love: I Joined a Teen-Age Sex Club by Bob Powell / various
This is the perfect campy beach read. The stories are ridiculous and awkwardly bawdy in a way only a 1940s-60s romance comic can deliver. Read about an envious lion tamer, a woman who dresses up as alter egos for her cheating boyfriend, and of course, wicked women who have no choice but to live with unrequited love. The misogyny is absurd and the devious women are my favorite. This collection will appeal to both friends who love rom coms and those friends who hate rom coms. -Sun

Witness To The Revolution - Clara Bingham
"Brothers and Sisters / I wanna see a sea of hands out there. / Let me see a sea of hands. / I want everybody to kick up some noise. / I wanna hear some revolution out there, brothers / I wanna hear a little revolution. / Brothers and sisters, the time has come / For each and every one of you to decide / Whether you are gonna be the problem, / Or whether you are gonna be the solution. / You must choose, brothers, you must choose. / It takes 5 seconds, 5 seconds of decision. / Five seconds to realize that it's time to move. / It's time to get down with it. / Brothers, it's time to testify and I want to know, / Are you ready to testify? / Are you ready? ..." -Testimonial, The MC5
If the words above from the MC5 move you (and they should), then this might be the perfect historical summer read for you. Given the turbulent times of our era, it feels somehow contextualizing to read this oral history of another turbulent era - this one taking place 50 years ago. -Benn


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