Summer is here, and as the temperatures go up, holiday bookings and book sales do too, because every bibliophile loves the combination of new pages and new places. I know I do. They say literature lets the mind travel without the body having to leave the armchair, but to be honest, I think stories are even more enjoyed when you are physically travelling through the setting of your book. So here I’ll recommend known and lesser-known books to read in my favorite holiday destinations! This time: New York City.
Patti Smith’s Just Kids
“My shirt was a bit rumpled, but so was I.”
Even if you aren’t familiar with Patti Smith’s music, you should certainly read her memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe in New York City during the 60s and 70s. Read about the life of young, struggling artists in love on the fire escape of your apartment downtown, while your lover is sleeping but you have insomnia because of the bustling energy of the traffic movements everywhere around you. This account of Smith’s bohemian, blissful days without a penny to spend in the world capital of possibilities reads like a fairy tale, enchanting and heartbreaking. Read it while eating hotdogs at Coney Island, read it and visit the Chelsea Hotel, read it and go live your own New York adventure.
Shinji Moon’s The Anatomy of Being
“I look at you and see all the ways a soul can bruise, and I wish I could sink my hands into your flesh and light lanterns along your spine so you know there’s nothing but light when I see you.”
Shinji Moon is a soft soul in a magical city. She, a student at New York University, is still finding her voice in this first poetry collection, but amidst her youthful honesty the reader will certainly find heartbreaking beauty. You will cry on the subway to Brooklyn when her poems remind you of someone you left behind. When a stranger asks you what you’re reading, you will turn to a dog-eared page to read them a poem about love, belonging, fuck-ups or hope. You will re-read her poems in every city where you’ll feel confused. These poems are the voice of your 18 year old heart.
Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar
“To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.”
This novel doesn’t need an introduction. Plath’s hugely autobiographical novel has been read like gospel by countless young women who related to the doomed heroine in the book. The promising young heroine, Esther Greenwood, slowly slides into mental illness and insanity when she starts working at a fashion magazine in New York. Anyone who has ever dealt with anxiety will recognize aspects of this book. Read it, if you haven’t already.
Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad
“Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?” Scotty shook his head. “The goon won.”
Winner of the Pulitzer Price 2011, this book brilliantly explores the inner lives of its’ diverse characters and their changing relationships to one another. Egan explores how time influences people in contemporary America, shifting between 1990s New York, San Francisco in the 70s and Manhattan in the future. This is a story of the alienation of the individual and the connectedness of everything, of how time scatters and mends and of how the people we encounter make the stories of our lives.
Jade is scared to call herself a writer. However, she can say that she’s a feminist, an adventurer, an amateur astro-photographer and a lover of literature and cats. She must visit a bookshop or library in every place she travels to, even if all books are in language she doesn’t understand.