I’m already mentally casting Emma Cline’s The Girls


On paper, Emma Cline is the kind of girl I want to punch. A stylish waif with a successful middle-part and piercing blue eyes. The owner of a near-monochromatic wardrobe that’s both simple and defiant in its simplicity. The recipient of a $2 million advance, at the age of 25, for her first book (and two to come), the end result of a bidding war between 12 major publishers. The author of a debut novel whose film rights were snapped up by Scott Rudin before the manuscript even sold. Cline is living a charmed life, a romantic-comedy-set-in-Manhattan kind of life, an I-live-in-a-shed-for-the-novelty-of-it kind of life. I want to find her wherever she’s tapping away on her laptop at twee essays for vaunted literary magazines and punch her right below that middle-part.

There’s only one problem with this planโ€”several, if you count the unlikelihood of my finding her shed or her even still living in the shed, or my managing to punch anyone in the face, arguably unprovoked, without consequence. The problem is that The Girls, the novel loosely based on the Charles Manson murders, for which Cline received said $2 million advance, is actually quite good. Seamlessly, thoughtfully, annoyingly good. So good I want to punch her in the face anyway for it being so good. 

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Barbarian Days is an actual surfin’ safari


For a sport so culturally linked to stoners and burnouts, surfing requires a surprising amount of energy. Physical, to be sureโ€”all that paddling and balancing and trying not to drownโ€”but also intellectual, and perhaps emotional too. There are seemingly infinite permutations of reefs, winds, cloud-covers and currents to assess, and a truly passionate surfer’s life is inextricably linked to these permutations, to whether their combination on any given day means everything must be dropped, every obligation sidelined, in the interest of catching a few good waves.

For reasons that have to do mostly with my own lack of prowess at anything requiring corporeal exertion, sporting memoirs aren’t usually my jam. The intricacies of a physical activity (save, I guess, one) feel duly rendered to me as text, even though I know there are hundreds of books that arguably disprove this opinion. But as athletic-endeavor memoirs go, William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days made a pretty strong case for itselfโ€”it was on a bunch of “Best of 2015” lists last year, aaaannnd it won a Pulitzer. 

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If Harry Potter drank, had sex and was a bit of an asshole


Considering how many “schooling” options there are IRLโ€”you can get a certificate in everything from beer judgment to survivalismโ€”it’s surprising there isn’t more magical education in fiction. Hogwarts, of course, and “Magic School” on Charmed (really, Charmed? we couldn’t have stretched on the naming a bit?) There’s apparently a magic school in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and I would argue that enough shit went down at that high school in The Craft that it should qualify.

But by and large, the world of magical schooling was conquered, nay, slayed, by J.K. Rowling. Her blockbuster Harry Potter seriesโ€”estimated book sales: 7 jillion to dateโ€”has made the entire genre feel prematurely old hat. (Old…Sorting Hat, if you will.) For Lev Grossman, journalist and author of otherwise innocuously plotted literary fiction, to conjure up Brakebills, the magical school slash origin story of Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, was a bold stare into the eyes of potential obscurity. 

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Disrupted is a Silicon Valley spinoff waiting to happen


The orange penises are a bad omen.

It is April 15, 2013, Dan Lyonsโ€™s first day at HubSpot, a digital marketing company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a lot of hype and a decent chance of going public. A journalist by trade, Lyons has recently been laid off by Newsweek and, after a blog-editing stint, is joining HubSpot in hopes of cashing in on the startup gold rush he has spent so much time writing about. His job title, โ€œmarketing fellow,โ€ is not impressive, but at least itโ€™s academic-sounding, and Lyons was pleasantly surprised by his interviews with HubSpotโ€™s chief marketing officer, pseudonym Cranium, and its founders, MIT graduates Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah.

But now itโ€™s the big day, and Lyons finds himself waiting at HubSpotโ€™s front desk while a baby-faced receptionist makes call after call in search of someone, anyone, to come retrieve this middle-aged man claiming to be a new employee. Lyons, 52, looks around, at the orange walls and orange desks, at the uniformly 20-something HubSpotters with their orange T-shirts and orange laptop stickers, at the ubiquitous HubSpot logo, a circle with three knobbed arms meant to resemble an orange sprocket. โ€œI have no idea what the sprocket is meant to convey, nor do I know if anyone realizes that the three arms with bulbous tips look like three little orange dicks,โ€ Lyons writes in Disrupted: My Misadventure in The Start-Up Bubble. โ€œThese orange cocks are all over the place.โ€

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Your co-op board has nothing on J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise


It’s been almost a decade since I hauled all of my worldly possessions from a dorm room in the Bronx to my first apartment in Brooklyn, and yet my lengthening tenure as a New Yorker is still missing so many iconic experiences. I’ve never been mugged (knocks on all of the wood). I’ve never taken a carriage ride through Central Park (and won’t, ever. I promise, mom.) And I’ve never lived in a building with more than three floors, let alone in the kind of skyscraper that romantic comedies would have me believe all ambitious and potentially woo-able 30-somethings call home.

While a part of meโ€”the part that filters StreetEasy results by viewโ€”looks longingly at the city’s many residential towers, I also find the idea of large buildings claustrophobic, like living on a sold-out flight or in a subway car at rush hour. Even though NYC itself is a perpetually thrumming hive of human activity, there’s still something intimate about returning home to a building of fewer than 20 people, regardless of whether you watch each other’s children or (in my case) nod hello once every four months. After all, to each structurally bound clan their own.

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