Vacation Reading List
Some stuff to keep you occupied this summer
I’m off on vacation for the first two weeks of July. No writing for the next two weeks. I actually took two weeks off for the first time last year and it was so good that I couldn’t help but think about doing it again. There will be lack of internet and cell phone service and I’m excited. I hope everyone here gets a chance to unplug for at least 2 weeks, ideally longer, every year and do something restorative.
Being a writer here on Substack I also read a lot of other writers. Some you might know and some you might not and this list will encompass more than just chemistry writers. Maybe you’ll find some worthy vacation reads in here for yourself. Also, I realize that this list is full of a bunch of dudes. If you have suggestions for me reply to the email or leave a comment.
If you just want other places to read about chemistry skip to the bottom.
Writers + Selected Works (Mostly Non-Fiction)
I’ve been reading Mayle on and off for years. I recently re-read A Paean To Aix, an article he wrote for GQ back in 1988. His big break was A Year in Provence and I find it a relaxing read to revisit every so often. His fiction is also light and fun, perfect for reading on a beach or while boating. I started with The Vintage Caper. I love reading Mayle because he projects a certain way of life on the page that makes me think, “I should be doing more of that.” He was way ahead of his time and ended up working remotely from his pool in Provence in the 1980s before the internet and the idea of remote work was a thing.
I read Kitchen Confidential after I graduated college and it blew me away. Bourdain got his big break with his New Yorker article, “Dont Eat Before Reading This.” Medium Raw is also worth checking out if you Kitchen Confidential like Bourdain’s unique style of being mildly obscene, funny, and honest about our food. His hand at fiction was also entertaining with Bone In Throat and while I don’t think he would have ever won a literary award for his fiction it’s like a shot of Fernet.
John McPhee is prolific and has this ability to make mundane boring things interesting and fun. The last book I read was Looking For A Ship and was all about the merchant marines and this seems somewhat relevant now as it did almost 10 years ago when I read it due to our fragile supply chains. I’m currently picking my way through Draft No. 4, his book on writing.
I think I first read O’Brien in an issue of GQ when I was in a waiting room somewhere, but I was hooked ever since. If you can find a copy of The Style Guy, I think it’s worth having around even if it might sound a bit dated. My wife found it somewhat entertaining, but it wasn’t for her. Glenn also wrote How To Be A Man and I thought it was a lovely piece on what it means to be masculine in the 21st century. It felt like Glenn lived his life the same way that Mayle and Bourdain did, on his own terms.
I started reading Scott Galloway’s newsletter, No Mercy/No Malice because of his podcast Pivot with Kara Swisher. I think he brings unique insight into things that I think about and he tends to be able to articulate unorganized thoughts that I’ve had on my own. I also read The Algebra of Happiness a year or two ago and found it to be delightful, obvious, and reaffirming.
Cal Newport + Neil Irwin
I think I’ve listened to Cal Newport more than I’ve read him, but I found his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You to become a sort of motto that I try to live by. He echoes some of what Galloway talks about when it comes to not following your passion and instead you should focus on what you are good at doing and passion comes later. Also of note when mentioning Cal Newport is How To Win In a Winner Take All World by Neil Irwin, which might feel a bit dated, but the concept of being pareto-optimal resonates.
Anne Helen Petersen
I just discovered Peterson’s work this year, but I find her newsletter Culture Study to occasionally deliver the exact thing I had been searching for, but didn’t realize I had been searching until she wrote it. Her piece on The Expanding Job really resonated with me and I’m hoping to read her recent book, Out Of Office, this summer via my local library and Can’t Even: How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
I’m not sure how I discovered Dror’s writing, maybe it was through a podcast with Scott Galloway, but I’ve been a fan of his newsletter recently. Dror writes about real estate, the future of work, crypto (hype free), and stuff that impacts my life. To me, Dror has lived an interesting life that has spanned being a solider in Israel to living in China to living near New York. I’m excited for his new book, Winner Take Most, to come out whenever it is ready.
I learned about who George Hahn was through Pivot, but I ended up realizing I had seen him before in television, most notably in Sex and The City. I find Hahn’s blog on his personal website, which is mostly about his own life as a creative, and the struggles of living a creative life to be fascinating.
A reader suggested I check out The Pathless Path on Tuesday. It’s not available at my library, but it is on Apple Books. It’s on my list now.
I think most of Friedman’s current opinion writing and his recent writing to be kind of hyperbolic. I did really enjoy his account of the Lebanese civil war, From Beirut To Jerusalem, which was recommended to me by a Lebanese friend of mine.
Gregory David Roberts
I first read Shantaram back in 2009-2010 and it was simultaneously inspiring and heart breaking. It’s a work of fiction, but I feel as if Roberts borrows heavily from his own life. He really did escape from a prison in Australia, he really did have a drug problem, he really did live in India for years, but running guns into Amsterdam and the violence the character does in the story seems fictional, or is it? The sequel The Mountain Shadow came out a few years ago and I think it felt a bit overwritten, but satisfying.
I was introduced to Sedaris through my wife and her family. I actually saw him do a reading in Louisville and I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. I started with Calypso and I hope to crack into another this summer while on vacation. I heard he just came out with a new book Happy Go Lucky.
I have actually never read anything of Langers outside of Thieves of Manhattan, but it is so good and has stuck with me for so long that I cannot help but add it to this list.
I read the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay back in graduate school during a collaborative trip out to Cleveland and I cannot help but recommend it.
For Those Who Just Want Chemistry Writing
Industrial Organic Chemicals - via Witcoff et al.