Stylish interviews, Picasso’s apprentice, and a Tom Wolfe throwback
Nothing satisfies quite like a good summer read. It’s good for the mind.
According to a recent analysis in The New Yorker, productivity falls when the weather turns nice and continues to drop as temperatures rise. In summer, “our brains do figuratively wilt,” writes Maria Konnikova. Simply put, our attention and energy levels on a hot and humid July day are not at their sharpest. One could say, it’s too hot to think straight, so we daydream about places we’d rather be and the things we’d be doing while there.
Perhaps such findings have something to do with why Europeans are so good at taking the summer off. Come August, a Frenchman doesn’t daydream about being by a beach, getting a tan, and waterskiing for weeks on end. He goes to the beach. He gets a tan. He spends a month learning to waterski. These are the ways in which he satisfies his wilted mind.
But, alas, we are not in France. We are stateside where summer Fridays take the place of a month off in August and it’s with this cold hard fact that books prove their worth. Get a book and carry it everywhere. Have it with you on your subway commute. Take it with you to the pool. Crack it open during your lunch break. A book is an escapist’s paradise. It can transport you out of a state of unproductive daydreams and put you in a place of worthwhile intellectual fantasy.
Reading, particularly in summer, is a leisure activity available to every man. It may be the season during which our minds move a little slower, but it’s also no surprise that it’s also the season during which we are most happy. We enjoy things more when the sun is shining. We are more open to possibilities and more content to make do with what’s readily available. Summer, it seems, is when we are most willing to believe in the power of pleasure, no matter how little. So, although not all of us can physically escape to wherever it is we’d rather be, we can—in the face of diminished productivity—take ourselves somewhere else by committing to a good book (and a little bourbon).
Looking for something to read, but don’t know where to start? Check out part one of our summer reading list below, which we’ll be adding to as the weeks go by.
A Man in Full
Dial Press Trade (2001)
If you’ve already read it, read it again. A Man in Full is Tom Wolfe’s second novel and offers a view of the social, political, and economic views that shaped contemporary 20th century America. A fictional story played out through a cast of characters that includes a real estate tycoon, promising football star, and an idealistic warehouse worker, it’s a long story so well written that it reads fast.
A Man in Full, available at josephbeth.com
Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom
Phaidon Press (2015)
A book of 69 interviews with men like Tom Ford, David Beckham, and Ewan McGregor make this one stylish read. It’s not all about the text, though. Photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans, Juergen Teller, and Bruce Weber compliment the firsthand accounts of lives lived to create a mentally immersive experience.
Fantastic Man, available at Phaidon.com
The Sourcerer’s Apprentice
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is John Richardson’s memoir of the time he spent with renowned art collector Douglas Cooper. Many artists make an appearance, but Picasso stands out as a narrative star. It’s a compelling look into a bygone world of “high art” and the kind of page turner perfect for a day by the pool.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, available at amazon.com