The Official Flavorpill Bookshelf: March Staff Reading Picks


Last month, we shared a virtual staff bookshelf with you, itemizing a few of the tomes kicking around our collective brainspace. But we must read on, and so this month, we have a whole new set of novels, nonfiction, and poetry on our minds and in our back pockets. This month, our staffers are reading a wide range of titles — though we seem to err on the side of nerdom — our noses stuffed in books by William Gibson and George R.R. Martin, Martin Amis and Haruki Murakami. We’ve been left breathless by funny men and ladies, stories of wanderlust and TV tie-ins. We’re looking forward to reading works by Cheryl Strayed, Alison Espach, and many others. What about you? Click through to check out our aggregated staff bookshelf, and hear what a few members of the Flavorpill family have to say about their reading lists, and then let us know what’s in your own read/reading/to read piles in the comments!

Books We’ve Read and Loved:

“I just finished reading Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey , because I am a big nerd and needed some period drama to tide me over until next season. If you’re a Downton fan, this is a great read; extremely fascinating and full of photos, to boot. If you’re not a Downton fan, you will not give a sh*t about this book. And then I will pity you.” – Leah Taylor, Managing Editor, Flavorpill NYC

Hot Pink , by Adam Levin. I’m pretty in awe of Adam as a writer. It’s not everyday I throw praise like that around, but to go from a mammoth book like The Instructions to a small collection of stories like Hot Pink seems to me to be a bold transition. I think Hot Pink puts him in the strange predicament of possibly being the next David Foster Wallace, but more likely being the next George Saunders. Either position is one any writer would envy.” – Jason Diamond, Deputy Editor, Flavorpill NYC

“Robert Goolrick’s Heading Out to Wonderful . There’s something about Goolrick’s books, this one and A Reliable Wife, that makes me really, really dislike humanity. We all cheat, steal and lie, all the time, and maybe one day, if we all read enough of Goolrick peering into our souls, we’ll finally fucking stop it.” – Russ Marshalek, Social Media Director

“I finished Pico Iyer’s The Man Within My Head and I’ll just say this: Pico wrote this moving memoir/essay in large part while listening to Leonard Cohen, and left pages and pages of notes on the Cohen-Graham Greene connection on the proverbial cutting-room floor. But you can fix that for yourself by reading it while playing the new (and fantastic) Leonard Cohen record Old Ideas, like I did.” – Shana Nys Dambrot, Flavorpill LA contributor

Bossypants . Tina Fey’s humor comes across just as well in her writing as it does on screen, and at least a few times I almost told someone I was reading a book by Liz Lemon. But really — it was great hearing Tina’s account of her rise to power at SNL and 30 Rock, and it’s particularly interesting when she lists her favorite joke by each writer on the 30 Rock writing team. Definitely recommended.” – Sophie Weiner, Social Media Manager

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. In the near future, intellect is basically dead. Everyone is tied to a mobile device that reports 24/7 on everyone’s credit rankings, attractiveness, and personal histories. The US is vastly in debt to China. Sure, it’s fiction, but something about Shteyngart’s fictional world seems very, very close to reality. And even though it would seem that this book is depressing as hell, it’s actually a really, really fun read. Oh, and there’s a dysfunctional love story in the midst of it all. Let’s raise a toast to the future!” – Bonnie Chan, Managing Editor, Flavorpill SF

Rat Girl: A Memoir by Kristin Hersh. This punk rock memoir chronicles a loud, tumultuous year in the life of Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses). In a short span of time, Hersh gets her band off the ground, gets diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and gets pregnant. The whole book has the feel of an intimate zine. Her humor and lyric-like poetic style make the pages whiz by.” – Elissa Ball, Flavorpill Seattle

Open City, by Teju Cole: #pulitzerprize.” – Geoff Mak, Junior Designer

Plus: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Judy Berman); Just Kids by Patti Smith (Patricia Malfitano); Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (Jack Lenehan); The Ecstasy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem (Eric Grandy)

Books We’re Reading Now:

“I’m currently reading Swamplandia! , and I think I’m the last woman on Earth to do so. But I needed something for my flight back from SXSW and in the Houston airport, my choices were limited to this, The Hunger Games (already read ’em), and a stunning array of Glenn Beck books. So far, I’m loving it just as much as everyone else.” – Leah Taylor, Managing Editor, Flavorpill NYC

“Right now I’m almost finished with A Storm of Swords , the third book in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. It’s so good (definitely better than the second book, perhaps even better than the first), but I find myself dragging my feet because I’m afraid of which character’s going to die next. Martin seems to almost relish striking down the reader’s favorites. Yes, it makes things exciting, but it’s also incredibly stressful once you’ve grown really attached!” – Caroline Stanley, Managing Editor, Flavorwire

“I’m currently reading Raptus by Joanna Klink. Reading this book of poetry by the talented & exciting Joanna Klink reminds you that poetry can be good. Great. Give your arms tingles even.” – Elissa Ball, Flavorpill Seattle

The Information by Martin Amis. More writers writing about writers writing! This one’s about two novelist friends, one a haplessly successful author of literary best-sellers, the other a resentful failure who used to write post-modernist bricks. The latter begins scheming against the former, and the book becomes a study of jealousy, competition, and obsession. Stuff any writer can relate to.” – Eric Grandy, Managing Editor, Flavorpill Seattle

Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami. This is the first Murakami novel I’ve ever read, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I feel like a lot of what I’ve been reading recently has been more driven by the prose than the story or characters, so the simplicity of his writing really stood out to me as I started reading it. I’m almost done now, and I have really enjoyed the surreal twists and especially the moments when the narration switches from third to first person — it really catches you with your guard down. I might have been a little too psyched about the parts where one of the main characters talks to cats.” – Sophie Weiner, Social Media Manager

“Edith Sitwell’s English Eccentrics: A Gallery of Weird and Wonderful Men and Women . British avant-garde poet, modernist icon, and all-around eccentric Edith Sitwell is as wonderfully peculiar as the hermits, quirky scholars, pirates, alchemists, and obsessives she writes about in English Eccentrics (1933). Each human curiosity is revealed in a befitting, exhaustive writing style. I really want to read more about Sitwell, though, because her life seems endlessly fascinating and tragic.” – Alison Nastasi, Flavorwire Night Editor

Idoru by William Gibson. I was walking around my neighborhood when I happened to see William Gibson’s Idoru sitting upright on a stoop, ‘please-take-this-book’ style. Gibson is a hacker/cyberpunk icon, famously responsible for the term ‘cyberspace’ and (along with Neal Stephenson and Ridley Scott) one of the original architects of the vision of the future as a gritty, lonely techno-dystopia, simultaneously magical and crushingly banal. (See: The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell, Minority Report, Akira, etc.) I loved both the Sprawl Trilogy (Neuromancer/Count Zero/Mona Lisa Overdrive) and the more recent Bridge Trilogy (Pattern Recognition/Spook Country/Zero History) for their spare prose, intriguing, taciturn protagonists, and clever variations on the classic hero-seeks-object arc. So far Idoru is more of the same, but I don’t mind — spending time in Gibson’s richly imagined world is always fun, even if you’ve been there before.” – Jack Lenehan, Developer

Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics by Rebecca Solnit. Connecting two of my favorite things (road trips and politics), longtime activist Rebecca Solnit writes with passion and clarity — and often, condemnation — about the politics that are inherently tied into our Great American Landscape, from nuclear testing in Nevada to border-crossing at an oft-invisible geographical division. Want to understand the social forces that have shaped this vast country of ours? Read this one. Especially if you’re road tripping anytime soon.” – Bonnie Chan, Managing Editor, Flavorpill SF

Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop , ed. Laura Barcella. Apparently, Madonna’s career has shaped the lives of many women. I guess this isn’t surprising, but as someone who grew up after her wave had crested, I’ve enjoyed much of her music but never felt a personal connection to it. For that reason especially, it’s been fascinating to read the stories of women writers who grew up imitating her style, questioning religion as a result of her music, and asking themselves, ‘What would Madonna do?’ when faced with major life decisions. Most of the essays are positive, some are even gushing, but my favorites so far are Cintra Wilson’s ambivalent piece and Lisa Crystal Carver’s outright hateful one.” – Judy Berman, Flavorwire Deputy Editor

The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst. Blurb: Increasingly, Hollinghurst’s prose reminds me of the consistency of black coffee. Its bitterness is only enjoyed by those who’ve had a lot of it, and the acuity of his sentences quietly shocks awake the senses. The novel reads like a gothic gay love story, one in which a brother and sister fall in love with the same man before they lose him to the French battlefields of WWI. Think all the best party scenes from The Great Gatsby, but set in the pre-war English countryside with furtive handjobs under the dinner table and the like.” – Geoff Mak, Junior Designer

Plus: The Adults by Alison Espach (Patricia Malfitano); Afternoons with June: Stories of June Wayne’s Art and Life by Betty Ann Brown (Shana Nys Dambrot); Reading For My Life by John Leonard (Jason Diamond)

Books We Can’t Wait to Read:

“Next, I’m going to try and read Torch , by Cheryl Strayed. I say “try” because I’m not entirely sure I’ll make it through a devastating book about cancer, death, and family loss. Coworkers have already warned me that it’s tough to deal with. But I do really want to read it…” – Leah Taylor, Managing Editor, Flavorpill NYC

“Next up, I’m planning to read Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers , an account of the three years that she spent living in a makeshift settlement on the outskirts of Mumbai. She was interviewed on The Colbert Report about it, and the experience has given her an interesting perspective on our own poverty problem in the United States — basically, that the situation here is totally fixable.” – Caroline Stanley, Flavorwire Managing Editor

“Karolina Waclawiak’s How To Get Into The Twin Palms: Waclawiak is funny, smart, honest, and I don’t think I’m going to get sick of Eastern-European immigrant novels anytime soon.” – Jason Diamond, Deputy Editor, Flavorpill NYC

“Cheryl Strayed’s Wild . It wasn’t exactly a well-kept secret that Dear Sugar, the love advice columnist for The Rumpus who was actually so much more (therapist, nursemaid, the cure to all maladies, also the only recurring thing I could never read at work for fear of becoming a crying, blubbering mass at my desk), was actually Cheryl Strayed, author of numerous amazing articles and one incredible novel, Torch. That said, the big reveal has worked to tie all of Strayed and Sugar’s combined writing together into one incredible, heartfelt body of work, and Wild, her first full-length memoir, is at the top of my to-read list as soon as I find enough tissues and time away from society to preemptively deal with all my feelings.” – Russ Marshalek, Social Media Director

“I can’t wait to get my arms around the new Jonah Lehrer book Imagine . His book of a few years ago, Proust Was a Neuroscientist changed my life, examining the private, individual ways in which an artistic brain functions uniquely, being more comfortable with paradox and circular time and allegory. Now this new book takes a more secular, if you will, look at how principles of personal creativity can and should be applied to the worlds of business, industry, and society to make the whole world more of an artwork.” – Shana Nys Dambrot, Flavorpill LA contributor

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. Recommended to me by a friend after telling them about my media job, this book looks like it involves online marketing, international intrigue, and the supernatural. Sounds about right.” – Sophie Weiner, Social Media Manager

The Flesh and the Spirit by Sally Mann. Not really a book to throw into your bag, but definitely on my Must Read list. The Flesh and the Spirit is Sally Mann’s latest book of her photographs, featuring her photographic studies of the human form — deeply rich images of her children, her husband, herself, and even of her visit to a “body farm” in Tennessee. This book promises to be lyrical, surreal, breathtaking, disturbing, emotionally intense, just as Mann’s work has always been.” – Bonnie Chan, Managing Editor, Flavorpill SF

15 Ways to Stay Alive by Daphne Gottlieb. Author of Why Things Burn and Final Girl, Gottlieb is a postpunk darling of the Bay area slam poetry scene and a Soft Skull Press vet. She doesn’t coat her worldview in much sugar, but her poems throb with human integrity and fishnet-clad tenderness.” – Elissa Ball, Flavorpill Seattle

Plus: The Adults by Alison Espach (Geoff Mak); The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq (Eric Grandy); By Blood by Ellen Ullman (Judy Berman)