Our Friday Reads: July 31

Our Friday Reads: July 31

Here are the Bookish staff’s personal weekend reading recommendations; have you read any of them? Tell us in the comments what you’ll be reading this weekend! If you’re still looking for some inspiration, check out our Summer Previews.

Go Set a Watchman

So much has already been said about this new book from Harper Lee. Some say Atticus became a racist character, others thought it was making profound statements about race relations in the South. When I opened the book, though, I put all of that aside. Unfortunately, I still came away disappointed. The term “novel” is one loosely used here because it is indeed a first draft, with characters and plotlines not fully sketched out. I fall between the two camps I had read about, alongside authors I admire such as John Boyne and Roxane Gay. For me, it does not ruin or change To Kill a Mockingbird, but I don’t think it needed to be published. —Kelly

The Dying Grass

As an avid reader of Native American history as well as historical fiction, I appreciate William T. Vollmann’s writing style and attention to detail. Though 1,408 pages may take me a while. :] —Bob

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

I’ve been meaning to read this book forever. It’s a nonfiction account of a young Hmong girl with epilepsy in California, and the ensuing conflict between her family and her doctors about how to treat her. In Hmong culture, epilepsy is sometimes seen as an honor, so Lia’s family saw her illness in a different light than her doctors did. So far, Anne Fadiman is doing a great job of presenting both sides of the clash, and I’m excited to read more (even though I know it won’t end well). —Elizabeth


Year of the Dunk

As his 34th birthday nears, Austin American-Statesman energy and environment reporter Asher Price, a Yale grad raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, sets himself an ambitious physical goal: dunk a basketball before twelve months are out. His height (six-two-and-a-half) and “orangutan”-long arms are in his favor. Not in his favor: everything else. He’s not especially fast, strong, fit, or coordinated, and he’s at an age where jumping ability, especially, is in decline. He has to add five inches to his standstill vertical leap, or eight inches of lift to his running jump. And so he sets out, determined to lose weight, get stronger in his legs, core, and posterior, and train his body to wag a Dikembe Mutombo-type finger at the binding force of gravity.

Year of the Dunk is a blast. You learn lots about the physiology of jumping, it introduces a roster of fitness, conditioning, and strength-training experts, you visit sports science facilities, basketball gyms, regional combines for NFL hopefuls, and other perspiration places, and Price is a fun, affable guide. There are nuggets for basketball fans throughout, and you even get a portrait of Price’s adopted Austin, Texas hometown, where the brisket is tasty, the heat is snooze-inducing, and the place’s livable mellowness acts as its own kind of gravity, pulling some residents into a cozy, margarita-sipping “Velvet Rut.” Price, a cancer survivor, soars—or at least elevates a few more inches above the baked Austin pavement. —Phil


Sarah Hepola holds nothing back as she guides readers through the darkest days of her alcohol addiction. She deftly explores the fine line between indulging and overdoing it, between having a problem and just having a good time. At times frightening and funny, sobering and enlightening, this book is incredibly important and remains with you long after you turn the final page. —Kelly

The Tournament

The Great Zoo of China was my first experience reading Matthew Reilly, and as a new fan I am very much looking forward to this historical thriller about corruption, chess, and power. —Bob

The Blackthorn Key

When he’s not falling asleep to Nova episodes, my son Jake likes me to read to him before bed, and the book he’s excited about now is The Blackthorn Key, Kevin Sands’ upcoming debut. We got an advance copy, and Jake has already approved it. In his words: “The Blackthorn Key is a great novel about alchemy and witchcraft with lots of twists and turns. It’s action-packed and interesting in such a way that I can’t quite tell if it’s supposed to be non-fiction, sci-fi, realistic fiction, or just complete fantasy. I know it’s pretty much fantasy, but it seems so real, it really brought out my emotions. Like in the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the heroes are children, and they have to rise above their fears.  It’s a great book and I hope there will be more in the series.” —Joe & Jake


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