The Resort Reading List
Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World [available now] by Peter Chapman
Who would have thought bananas played such an important part in American's global influence? The United Fruit Company's violent history and subversive intervention in Central American governments reads like a Dan Brown conspiracy thriller.
This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, About Living a Compassionate Life [available now]by David Foster Wallace
This is the publication of a commencement address given by Wallace, who committed suicide last year, at Kenyon College in 2005. A powerful meditation on living an enriched and conscious life, delivered with his steady humor and intelligence that serves as a reminder what a loss we have suffered as readers.
How The Beatles Destroyed Rock 'N' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music [available now] by Elijah Wald
Forget what you thought you knew about modern American music. The title suggests a fun premise, and while he may back down from that accusation, Wald has written a fascinating and original critical appraisal of what we listen to and why.
The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power [available now]by Jeff Sharlet
This startling exposé pulls back the curtain on a small group called the Family, who have successfully politicized their faith to influence American policy at home and abroad for decades: compulsive reading and Exhibit A in the case for independent journalism's importance.
The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley
Not what you'd expect to be on anyone's bestseller list, but Critchley's irresistible collection of nearly 200 thinkers' deaths takes a light-hearted approach without sacrificing his intention of discovering what philosophy has taught us about approaching the inevitable and, by consequence, living.
You may never have thought you needed to learn about deadly plants, but Stewart will show you the error of your ways. This entertaining compendium of noxious botany is crammed with splendidly ghastly scientific marvels that will make you think twice about entering the garden.
Conquest of the Uselessby Werner Herzog
The breathtaking film Fitzcarraldo has inspired moviemaking lore for years, so it is a treat to read the masterful director Herzog's diary from the feverish Amazon shoot. If only Klaus Kinski were still alive to write a review!
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow
Amid the publishing boom of pop science books, Mlodinow's superbly readable explanation of how the mathematical laws of randomness affect the world around us deserves acclaim. Statistics was never my favorite class, but here is a coherent and helpful breakdown of probability and its application to our everyday lives.
Nancy Bass Wyden is the owner of the Strand Book Store in New York City.