Hiiiiii, I am back from my honeymoon and pale as ever. How is that possible when I spent 14 days basking in the Italian sun, you ask? Well first of all sunblock, because I have an Irish complexion and one must protect that shit or else, and second of all, I spent most of my honeymoon in the ideal state, which is to say curled up with a book, a glass of wine in hand, safe from the sun. I mean sure, occasionally I took my book to a lawn chair in front of some rolling Tuscan hills, but even in those circumstances I managed to fashion a hat for myself out of a sweater, or find an umbrella under which to hide. It was great. I ate so much pasta. I drank a million glasses of wine. I discovered my favorite new snack (more on that below). And finally, after two weeks of intensive research—by which I mean partaking in the above activities—I came up with a very official and super scientific list of fun books to read this summer. Do you need a great summer read or two? Do you consider “summer reads” to be books that are funny and entertaining but also sometimes depressing and possibly super upsetting? What about books about alcoholism? Good, these picks are for you! Read them while you eat some dip—inspired by a really great riff on papa al pomodoro I ate while on vacation—and drink Tram’s excellent summer cocktail. Do you have additional summer book recommendations for me? Leave them in the comments!
– The Folded Clock: Everyone go buy this book. Heidi Julavits is a goddess and The Folded Clock is one of my favorite things I’ve read all year. It’s all about time, and space, and objects, and ghosts, and sickness, and psychic attacks, and marriage, and, um, The Bachelorette, and keeping a diary as an exercise in being your smartest but also (thankfully) not overly-serious self. It’s all of those great things, plus it is hilarious. Julavits’s voice is so warm and chatty and clever that you just want her to install herself in your apartment permanently so you can gossip and watch TV with her all day long. Unfortunately she has better things to do than that, but reading this book 100 times in a row will somewhat make up for it.
– A Little Life: I loved this book so much but, haha, word to the wise, DO NOT BRING IT ON YOUR HONEYMOON. For one thing it is 720 pages and currently it is only out in hardcover, so it’s literally very heavy, but metaphorically speaking it is even heavier, and inevitably you will find yourself sobbing hysterically in front of a group of total strangers while tears drip into your glass of chianti, and then you will force your newly minted husband to go grab some cocktail napkins from the bar so that you don’t have to publicly wipe your nose on the sleeve of your shirt. It’s about a group of four friends and the paths their relationships take over the course of 40ish years, and while that may seem like a pretty innocuous plot to you, as it did to me, it’s executed in a fashion that is basically traumatizing. But it’s also really fun, and funny, and thought-provoking, and richly detailed (I especially appreciated Hanya Yanagihara’s incredible talent for coming up with plausible but also good-seeming fake movies)—not to mention a super quick read for such a long book. After you’re done with A Little Life, do what I did and just dive right into The Royal We as a palate cleanser, because that one is cute and charming and not stressful at all.
– Spinster: A book about being a spinster and how great it is! And about badass spinsters in history such as Edith Wharton and Edna St. Vincent Millay (+ many others). And about how society remains pretty regressive when it comes to questions related to marriage! This book sounds kind of heavy but it is actually quick and fun.
– Blackout: Just a light summer read about alcoholism and recovery and what it’s like to be someone who started sneaking sips of beer as a literal child (7!) and finds herself, near middle age, having to live without booze basically for the first time in her conscious memory. What a romp!
PapPa Al Pomodoro-esque Dip and Homemade Pita Crackers
Makes enough for a hearty snack for 2
For the dip:
3 globe tomatoes, cut into 1/2″ slices
1/2 tsp grated garlic
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup panko
For the pita crackers:
3 pitas, cut into 6 wedges
~3 Tbsp. olive oil (enough to brush on the pitas generously)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp. rosemary, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the tomatoes on it. Drizzle olive oil atop the tomato slices, and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are juicy and fragrant but not dried. Remove from oven and let cool. Keep the oven on. Remove the tomatoes from the baking sheet and line it with the pita wedges. Brush both sides lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a light dusting of rosemary. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown. (Keep an eye on these, they bake very quickly.) Remove from oven and let cool.
In a food processor pulse the tomatoes (they should be warm but not straight-out-of-the-oven hot), olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic, and panko briefly, until the tomatoes are just incorporated but not fully pureed. You want the mixture to have a texture that’s like a really finely chopped salsa (which, of course, is what it is). Stir in the basil leaves. Serve on the pita crackers immediately.