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, online contributor Claire Lobenfeld writes about some easy reads that inspired a lot of nostalgia.
The Oral History of Freaks and Geeks: Judd Apatow always knows what he's doing, whether it's producing a Will Ferrell vehicle or the comedies that catapulted the word "bromance" into so many trend pieces. But his television pedigree is just as top notch. Aside from Girls, his résumé is super cult-y, from oddball, not-for-everyone, The Ben Stiller Show to my personal favorite, The Larry Sanders Show, to the gem that is Freaks and Geeks. I was a freshman in high school when this show came out, raised on a healthy dose of My So-Called Life and hungry for a show to call my own. I was navigating my own freak scene, trying to get the cool, older punk girls to take a shine to me, even though I was a brace-face with a bad haircut. I felt a deep synthesis of both Lindsay and Sam Weir's narratives, and it was a comfort to watch a show that dealt with emotional reality, showed the fear and confusion of young people because it's patently absurd that most shows and movies about high school are racked with so many characters beaming with confidence that you don't even start to genuinely develop until the end of your twenties. When it was canceled, I felt lost as a viewer, needing answers to finale questions, but also because I needed to go through high school with the Weirs. This has been a great year for oral histories (Grantland's on White Men Can't Jump, Complex's of New York institution The Tunnel, a place that, at 13, I thought I would being hanging out at now), but this one is particularly illuminating because the story of this show and what happened has barely been told and almost all of the people involved have a voice in this piece. The candor is on par with the show's honesty, and it's a bittersweet read for any fan—an incredible collection of stories and memories but also a stark reminder that creating something that taps into difficult emotions isn't always embraced. Bonus points for the reunion photo where Jason Segel, sitting next to Forgetting Sarah Marshall-inspo ex-girlfriend Linda Cardellini, has subtle body language that smacks of "I'm still mad at you for breaking up with me while I was naked, but I made a movie about it that I caked off of and made me more famous than you and I'm dating Michelle Williams now, so kick rocks."
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling: I love a good celebrity memoir day-read. Thanks to freebies from a friend who works at Simon and Schuster, I've devoted a few full days of my life to reading Tori Spelling's "writing," Pepa's tell-all and Ray J.'s guide on HOW NOT TO CHEAT. WHAT? But Kaling's effort took me a long time to get to. When her publisher initially shared a few sample chapters before its release, I was pretty horrified by the bit on one night stands and its low-key slut-shaming. Mindy, I feel you. Sex is super intimate, but no one likes the friend that wants to live vicariously through your elicit behavior while hiding her judgmental thoughts behind a veneer of get 'em, girl. I'm not trying to out myself as some man-eater here, I keep to myself most of the time, but I was completely put off by her personality. I thought she was an ally! Turns out, she is and we are on the same page about almost everything else: Her unflinching hustle to land her dream career (always moving forward like a shark); having a best friend who is not only the person you mentally conjured as a kid but is also a brilliant collaborator (got that); forever being a "culturally Hindu, deeply superstitious Christmas tree have-r" (replace "Hindu" with "Jewish"). Most of all, I profoundly appreciate that Kaling considers romcoms to be a sub-genre of science fiction, taking place in another universe where all foibles, twists of fate and otherworldly romantic gestures are possible. It justifies every time I've spent more than 20 minutes watching a piece Katherine Heigl dreck.
Rookie Mag Yearbook One: The first time I read Seventeen Magazine was on a bus ride to Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts from my elementary school in the NYC 'burbs. TLC, who were the light and the glory to me at the time, were on the cover. My friend (aforementioned S&S pal) had the issue to absorb during the very long trip to the living museum of rural New England. We poured over it together in the back of the coach bus, two bad girls reading lightweight sex advice and listening to rap on shared earbuds in the backseat. My mother was not psyched when I brought the mag home, but allowed me to continue reading it if she could rip out or glue together the pages she deemed inappropriate. I am still on the fence about whether she was doing the right thing by protecting me from this information. At 9? For sure. At 13? Probably not. But Tavi Gevinson's Rookie, an online teen girl mag that picked up where Sassy left off, does what Seventeen never did and probably won't ever dare to do at the behest of its publisher. I am constantly floored by the content Rookie is producing, whether it's interviews with Gang Gang Dance's Lizzi Bougatsos, a round-up of Gregg Araki's films or dealing with cat-calling, surviving sexual assault, quitting cigarettes—it goes on. And a lot of it is pertinent to 20-something women, too. This compendium of their first year is really beautifully designed, comes with a Dum Dum Girls 7-inch and stickers and is something I'll probably save and give to my daughter Rihyoncé Gosling when she's a teenager in thirty years.