Summer Reading: Salinger, A Kentucky Poet,
and Thoughts on John Wayne

by Scott Wagner

Summer reads, part deux 

This week we continue to promote summer reading, a leisure activity available to every man. See our roundup below for classics spanning both poetry and prose. 

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The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger

Little, Brown and Company (1951)

After it was turned down by The New Yorker, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye went on to sell more than 65 million copies. A tale of angst, innocence, and superficiality it is also a lesson in old school East Coast style (think penny loafers, boarding school, and threadbare carpets). Read by teenagers, but originally intended for adults, it’s something you’ve probably read before, but to reread it is to discover something entirely new. 

The Catcher in the Rye, available at

Bright Dead Things

Ada Limón

Milkweed Editions (2015)

Bright Dead Things is the fourth collection of poems from Kentucky-born poet Ada Limón. Complex, but not daunting, it’s a satisfying summer read. Visions of life, death, and other worldliness, these are poems that make you stop and think. We’d suggest savoring a few of them outside, with a bourbon, on the kind of evening punctuated by the sound of cicadas and crackling of fireworks. 

Bright Dead Things, available at 

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Joan Didion

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2008)

A compilation of some of Joan Didion’s best known reporting and essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem exemplifies her mastery of prose. Her take on John Wayne, and what he taught her about herself, stands out. 

 “As it happened I did not grow up to be the kind of woman who is the heroine in a Western, and although the men I have known have had many virtues and have taken me to live in many places I have come to love, they have never been John Wayne, and they have never taken me to that bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow.”

It’s the reality of it all that hits you. Her work checks you, if you may, and there’s tremendous power in that feeling. 

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, available at

The Bonfire of the Vanities

Tom Wolfe

Picador (2008)

Oh to be a “Master of the Universe.” Tom Wolfe’s ode to eighties excess and reads exactly for what it is. The era during which it takes place may very well be over, but the cautionary lessons that exist between the lines are all still very much relevant. Read the book, then watch the movie starring Melanie Griffith and Tom Hanks. 

The Bonfire of the Vanities, available at 

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