Top 10: Books for the Summer 2017

©Joana Avillez

Editor Friederike Schilbach put together a summer reading list for us that includes Christoph Niemann, Maria Lassnig, and Julia Sherman

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Friederike’s book recommendations. For those who are just getting on board now: This expert is one of our favorite editors and has one of the best noses in the business for good books – with a small preference for those works that premiere in the US and then frequently find their way to the German market.

This curated list is indispensable for summer 2017, and we’re especially excited about the lovingly drawn illustrations that were made for us by no less than Joana Avillez. A match made in heaven! Thank you, both of you wonderful women! We certainly won’t have any problem keeping our distance from the computer over the coming weeks.

1. Christoph Niemann, Souvenir

A book full of magical drawings – no one can capture the mood of special locations with so few strokes as illustrator Christoph Niemann. Flipping through this book almost feels like going on vacation.

2. Zinzi Clemmons, What We Lose

A debut novel that really touched me: The story of a young woman named Thandi who, after the death of her mother, has to learn to live her own life. She falls in love, the relationship gets complicated, her father has already married another woman – and despite all of the emotional turmoil, Thandi goes her own way. Irresistible in its vulnerability.

3. Amit Majmudar, Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now

I received this small volume in New York as a gift, and it’s been in my bag ever since. Who can resist poems like, for example, this one by Kay Ryan:

The room is
almost all
Almost none
of it isn’t.
Pretty much
solid elephant.
So there’s no room to talk
about it.

4. Natalie Lettner, Maria Lassnig: Die Biografie

An Austrian painter whose works are currently being exhibited at the Albertina in Vienna, Lassnig’s works only found recognition at a later stage – and are celebrated today all the more wildly for it. She painted what she felt and her paintings are staggeringly expressive. This biography tells the story of her extraordinary life.

*(Editor’s note: As of the publication of this article, this title has not been translated into English. German title: Maria Lassnig: Die Biografie.)

5. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

I want to read Margaret Atwood’s 1985 classic this summer after having started watching the series of the same name on Hulu (which was nominated for 13 Emmys). Atwood tells the story of Gilead, an imaginary country in the future. There reading is forbidden and women are either housewives, birthing machines, or slaves. Offred, a handmaid, who like all handmaids has to wear a red cloak and a modest white bonnet, is assigned to a high-ranking commander – and she begins to fight for what, in Gilead, can only be had at the risk of death: the hope of escaping for a self-determined life.

6. Pamela Moore, Chocolates for Breakfast 

I always feel like I’m in a Sofia Coppola movie when I read this book. Pamela Moore wrote it in the 50s when she was just 18 years old and it immediately became a cult novel. It tells the story of the young Courtney who alternates between living with her father on the East Coast and with her mother, an actress in Los Angeles. She attends chic parties, meets men in the dusky bungalows of Hollywood, tests herself and yet knows that adult life holds no support for her. A book on the highs and lows of a teenager, both contemporary and laconic in its telling.

7. Julia Sherman, Salad for President. A Cookbook

Maybe not for taking to the beach, but great for flipping through in bed or in the kitchen: A book full of great recipes that center on salad, in the widest sense of the word. But it’s much more than that, actually. Sherman traveled from Kyoto to Mexico City and met artists, painters, photographers, and musicians – Alice Waters and Laurie Anderson among them – and asked what they cook, what they eat, and how they live. You want to hug her for the title of the chapter “Fuck Brunch” or “Casual Meals for People who Already Love You” alone.

8. Hedin Bru, Vater und Sohn unterwegs*

This northern German novel is about an old fisherman from the Faroe Islands who is in debt from a whale meat auction and who has tried everything possible to resolve it. An archaic, raw story about a man whose life is slipping away from him – simply and well told.

*(Editor’s note: This book has not been translated into English.)

9. Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgins Suicides

Eugenides’ best novel, and one that always falls back into my hand – now re-issued with a great and campy rose cover. Five beautiful sisters live in the Lisbon family’s suburban home: Therese, Mary, Bonnie, Lux, and Cecilia. After the youngest of the girls jumps to her death from a window, a year of suicides follows that will change everything forever.

10. Dorothy Parker, Denn mein Herz ist frisch gebrochen: Gedichte / Now My Heart is Freshly Broken: Poems*

This book won me over immediately with its great title. I already knew Dorothy Parker primarily for her wisecracking and her witty stories about New York. That’s changed now thanks to this wonderful two-language edition of her poems.

*(Editor’s note: The English title given here is a translation that does not appear on the book. The poems in this volume do, however, appear in German and English.)

Friederike Schilbach is an editor at S. Fischer and looks after authors including Elif Batuman, Édouard Louis, and Etgar Keret.

Further inspiration on Joana Avillez’s work can be found on her website here or via her Instagram account (@joanaavillez) here.

Translation: Melissa Frost

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.