Listen. Everyone and their uncle Fred is going to provide you with a list of books you should read this summer. The evil book publishing industry (jk, I love you guys) has conspired to convince you that you have nothing but free time in the summer so they put out lists on lists on lists of stuff you should be reading. Books to take to the beach! Books to take on your Parisian vacation! Books to read in the park on a sunny Saturday! Books to take on the subway but then not actually read because it’s too crowded and you can’t reach into your bag without touching the butt of the guy in front of you!
This summer, your friends at Red Brick Reads are buying into the lie of extra reading time and we’re getting on the reading list train with the best reading list out there. What make our reading list so great? We’ve seasoned our list with a spice that makes every dish better. The musical stylings of Mr. Kanye West. At the beach? A Parisian cafe? A sun-soaked park bench? We have the book for you, and the Kanye album to pipe into your ears as you read it.
Sweating without a/c in your awful apartment combo:
The College Dropout and This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz
Kanye rhyming about materialism will make you feel better about your humble living situation and as sweat drips off the tip of your nose and lands on the pages of Diaz’s collection of intertwined stories you’ll embrace the heat as you fall into the rhythm of that Dominican inspired prose.
Stuck working without a vacation combo:
Late Registration and Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Maybe Revolutionary Road isn’t the book you want to read to feel better about your job but let’s be real; you’re not looking to feel better about your job. You’re looking to have your pain felt. As you sit in your cubicle, without even a window that allows you to see the summer sun, trying to make it into a Benz out of that Datsun, you want to share your misery with someone who understands your working-stiff suburban malaise. Why the musical pairing with Late Registration? While Revolutionary Road is one of our favorite examples of a workplace novel, it’s really about a marriage that doesn’t quite work out the way it was supposed to (WARNING: Gross understatement). Let Kanye share your pain and disappointment in your woman via the album that brought the track Gold Digger into the world.
Stuck in summer school combo:
Graduation and The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Is the choice of Graduation a bit on the nose here? Tough, listen to it anyway. Graduation is classic Kanye playing his hard-talking, narcissistic character. If you’re young enough to need summer school, you’re young enough to need to start with the Kanye basics before we move you to the heavier stuff.
And why the Art of Fielding? Harbach wrote a near perfect campus novel and it would be your privilege to read it this summer.
Not in summer school? Spending July and August hanging out in the cheap seats of your local ball park, hoping to catch a foul ball? Just modify the sentence above:
And why the Art of Fielding? Harbach wrote a near perfect
campus baseball novel and it would be your privilege to read it this summer.
Laying on the beach combo:
808s & Heartbreak and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
Surprised to see Summer Sisters on the list? I’ve read a lot of books in my life. But I’ve read Summer Sisters more times than anything else. When I need a break from a difficult book, or when I’m wandering bored around my apartment I’ll pick it up, it will fall open to a random page and I’ll just start reading. Judy Blume is perfect and Summer Sisters is a perfect summer novel. Read it in bits between swimming and napping, keep up with the plot even if you’ve had too much sun or too much gin.
Want to know what else is perfect, if different, from the other entries on this list? 808s & Heartbreak. Kanye’s foray into electro-pop changed hip hop and produced a set of classic tracks that are made for laying on the beach, ear buds in, book in one hand and gimlet in the other.
Bonus points for listing to the track “Bad News” on repeat when Caitlin tells Vix the news about Bru. She just got some real bad news.
At a city park combo:
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Under the Jaguar Sun by Italo Calvino
Not to discourage anyone, ever, from reading Calvino, but his stuff is heavy and requires your concentration. Too much concentration for lying on a blanket in a crowded city park. Access his genius via three short stories in this little book. You’ll finish the book before your sunscreen wears off and on a rainier day, you’ll be ready for more Calvino.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasty is Kanye’s best album and maybe one of The Best albums. It’s an appropriate partner for the genius Calvino. It’s opulent and elegant and maybe you should be doing something besides laying on a blanket while people around you play frolf while listening to something this good, or maybe the album is opulence enough for us mortals.
Sitting at a Parisian cafe smoking a cigarette combo:
Watch the Throne and Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov
“But Red Brick Reads, who the hell puts Nabokov on a summer list? Isn’t that shit a bit heavy for the dog days?”
Quit your whining and watch your tone. My man Vlad is more than just Lolita and if you’re sitting upright in a European cafe and not sprawled on a towel on the beach, you can handle something heavier than Judy Blume. Much of Ada is set over a series of summers, giving it the warm-weather cred required for summer reading with the added bonus of reading something with enough literary cache to attract the attention of a passing Pierre or Henri.
The Watch the Throne pairing is an homage to Nabokov’s dueling narrators, and your Parisian setting.
Stuck on the subway combo:
Yeezus and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
We’ve talked about the pairing of these two before; they deal with the same themes of race in America, though the narrators couldn’t be more different.
Bonus #1: Lupita Nyong’o just bought the rights to Americanah meaning this sensational novel will soon have even greater reach. So if you haven’t read it yet, it’s high time.
Bonus #2: Yeezus brings back Angry-Kanye. Better to vent your subway frustration through music than by yelling at the body-less voice of the subway announcement system as it illegibly crackles the reason you’re stuck on the train and not out enjoying the summer day.