Tired of reading the same recommended books from the usual sources? Just think of our weekly What We’re Reading column as your non-committal book club with The FADER and some of your favorite bands. For this installment, Jesse Cohen, Twitter extraordinaire and one-half of the Brooklyn band Tanlines, gives us his top picks.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: I loved this book and recommend it to everyone I know. Like a Matryoshka doll, where each doll is somehow bigger than the doll that contained it, it’s a big, ambitious, novel that deals with questions of human nature, told over a massive period of time and space, that is totally self-aware and self-referential, but is still extremely fun to read. It also provides some of the pleasure of reading science fiction: being thrust into new worlds and getting to figure out what the rules and terms of that world are.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson: Possibly the opposite of Cloud Atlas, although equally ambitious in its own way. Where Cloud Atlas is gaudy and maximal, Gilead is subtle and sublime. It deals with some of the same questions of human nature and purpose, but through the lens of one family, specifically that of a man who has spent his entire life in a small town in Iowa. It’s also nice to read a contemporary writer in the 2000s who I imagine has never googled her own name.
Writing Movies for Fun and Profit by Thomas Lennon and Robert B Garant: Eric [Emm, the other half of Tanlines] just read this, and I’m about a quarter in. Eric says that he likes “behind-the-scenes anything,” and this certainly qualifies. Thomas Lennon and Robert Garant are two of the creators of Reno 911! and have written countless big-studio movies like Night at the Museum and Herbie: Fully Loaded. It’s less of a how-to write a screenplay, and more of a hilarious blow-by-blow about what to expect working in Hollywood: what to wear to pitch a movie (less Sammy Hagar, more William Faulkner), how to know when you are being fired, and the difference between an agent and a manager (agents wear suits, managers wear jeans). Also recommended in the behind-the-scenes category are: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow.
Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America by Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata: Also kind of a behind-the-scenes, this book gives us a fantastic glimpse of the world within a world, within a world that is a rain forest. The two authors, highly-trained field biologists, write more in the style of the early naturalists than in that of academics, so what we get is a highly readable scientific work that manages to impress the sense of wonder of a world only visible to trained eyes. There is a beautiful section that describes life high among the vines and another one, equally beautiful, that describes the insane chain of events that follow when you use the rain forest floor as your toilet.