Read a Book Today: The books for the in-between seasons
I’m writing this piece in the liminal space of a plane for a flight that was delayed two hours because the previous airplane would simply not work. Flying back home from a chilly New York City where I was visiting my cousin at his university, I realized that, while I worship at the altar of Los Angeles and adore it in spite of all of its messiness and beauty, it was fun to play New Yorker for a bit.
While 99.9% of the fun I had was because of seeing him (I personally think he’s among the best people out there), the other .1% was because of when I visited. I was there at a very particular in-between time (Have you ever heard the lyric “I recall Central Park in fall”? Probably from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Yeah, that was me singing it on Amsterdam Ave). While I was there, the clocks changed, the Radio City Christmas tree was up, Bryant Park was a winter wonderland, Rockefeller Center opened up ice skating and the Brooklyn bookstore that I visited had a holiday section entirely composed of Hanukkah stories (Books Are Magic, I love you). The realization of the careening of the incoming winter season (and final exams) was startling.
Right now, we are standing at the crossroads of fall and winter, and I think that there is no entertainment news more eagerly anticipated (okay, maybe Adele’s album) than Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version).”
Have you ever heard of a more autumnal record? Have you prepared yourself to have your heart broken by the 10-minute version of “All Too Well”? My questionable decision to primarily build friendships with Swifties has come out in full force. I’m not one myself, so, instead, I rely on pairing books to music. As a pairing for “Red,” you need books to get you through this in-between season. You need to get through the sun setting at 4:30 p.m. as you run to your last class of the day. And the knowledge that this lasts for just about eight months. No sunshine. If you’re a seasonal reader, I’ve got your back.
I read “The Secret History” the summer before my freshman year of university which really seems incongruous to have such a wintry read during the sweltering L.A. heat. Of course, the story gave me a strange idea of what my university years could look like (I could fall into a group that loves Greek mythology to a worrying degree), but it did make me my first friend in college — who is still one of my closest friends — so I suppose it was a worthwhile trade-off.
Written by Donna Tartt, the breakthrough dark academia read follows a group of students’ misadventures at a small New England liberal arts college, which include a murder. Tartt has fantastic character development, a luxurious writing style, quotable moment after quotable moment and a penchant for writing morally gray characters. This isn’t a new book. In fact, it was published in the 1990s, an era that has already wrapped around and had its fashion come back. But, it feels timeless — just like those bodysuits and blue jeans. There really isn’t any need to recommend it any more, you probably already have it on your to-read shelf. It’s on my favorites shelf.
Moving on, you’ve heard of author Taylor Jenkins Reid. In fact, someone in your family or friend group almost certainly was in a book club that read “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” and asked themselves: “Why am I crying over a fictional celebrity?” Just me? OK. Anyway, all you need to know is that former movie star Evelyn Hugo is ready to finally tell all about her seven husbands and her life to “puff piece” writer Monique. Hugo is a woman who knows her strength, who knows her beauty — and she isn’t afraid to say so. In fact, she said it right in the story’s beginning. Reid knows that you want to hear from the celebrity herself, so she settles right into the fictional celebrity’s voice. It’s a luxurious story and it’s perfect for the in-between season.
The first time I read Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus” was by the sea which was incongruous to the rural landscape it was set in, but I was so deeply enveloped in the world that I didn’t care. This is a book that lends itself to being read during any season on a swinging bench of a home that has no neighbors for miles as fireflies buzz around your face.
Morgenstern writes a story in various viewpoints of a circus that only appears at night and the players and the visitors that find themselves in the setting. It has competition and love and Victorian England overtones. It’s one of those special stories where you really shouldn’t know a ton going into it and instead just allow yourself to be swept up in the story.
Maybe it’s just me, but this in-between season reminds me of “High School Musical.” That scene at the very beginning of that first 2006 movie when a baby-faced Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens meet on New Year’s Eve and you already know that they are going to sing “Breaking Free” at the end of the movie (And let’s be honest, you will too).
It’s new beginnings and maybe just like Taylor Swift, we all need some new eras such as “folklore” and all of the “Taylor’s Versions” (So my Swiftie friends tell me). So, as you jam to “22” or re-listening to “Breaking Free” or reading one of these in-between season books instead of writing your final paper, just know that I’m rooting for you.
Rachel Bernstein is a senior writing about books in relation to the arts and entertainment news of the week. Her column “Read a Book Today” ran every other Friday.