By Shannon Culver
September is upon us.
And while most young professionals (YPs) have left our school days behind, that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare your own fall reading list.
From languages, to science, to cultural studies, September’s Working Titles has books to cover all of your prerequisites.
So if you want to look smart while you get smart, picking up one of these must-reads for September is the best way to do it.
Emily St. John Mandel
A flu pandemic has wiped out 99% of the population in a dystopian near future, and those who remain have returned to a sort of neo-dark ages: living in abandoned Wendy’s at rest stops, and travelling by caravan. The story begins with a celebrity actor, Arthur Leander, dying onstage during a performance of King Lear. Hours later, the flu hits, and the world comes unraveled. The story jumps back and forth between the early days of Arthur’s career, to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe called the Traveling Symphony, featuring a young actress who was onstage during Arthur’s last moments, roams the post-pandemic wasteland. Station Eleven is the kind of book that you find yourself thinking about when you’re not reading it. And wondering why you’re not reading it. All. The. Time.
Women in Clothes
Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton
The project of writing Women in Clothes began in a most unusual way: with a survey. The editors composed a list of more than fifty questions about wardrobe, appearance, and style, and sent them to a selection of their female contacts. Luckily, Heti, Julavits, and Shapton are not only excellent writers, but connected to an amazing collection of women. Writers, artists, and activists including Cindy Sherman, Miranda July, Tavi Gevinson, Lena Dunham, Roxanne Gay (of Bad Feminist), and Molly Ringwald answered their queries, and contributed photographs, illustrations, interviews, and anecdotes. Women in Clothes celebrates the mundane ritual of picking out an outfit for the day, and probes the anxiety, anticipation, and elation that can accompany the act of getting dressed.
How to Build a Girl
Journalist and music critic Caitlin Moran isn’t as well-known on this side of the pond as she is in her native England, which is a shame for Canadians. Her new novel, How to Build a Girl centers around Johanna Morrigan, a precocious 14 year-old who decides to reinvent herself as Dolly Wilde, self-proclaimed Gothic Hero and Lady Sex Adventurer, after humiliating herself on local TV. By 16, she’s rebelling in all of the typical teenaged ways – smoking cigarettes, drinking vodka, and kissing boys – plus some more unique ways that she comes up with all on her own. Judging by the stories in her excellent memoir, How to be a Woman, Moran got up to some pretty good adolescent antics of her own, so she’s ideally suited to write this type of raunchy, raucous coming of age story.
Lost in Translation
Ella Frances Sanders
Ten Speed Press
This book is just the sweetest. Author Ella Frances Sanders collected words from other languages for which there’s no direct English translation, and created beautifully illustrations to go along with their definitions. The words are expressive of the cultures that they come from, and are often funny, poignant, or some combination of the two. That snappy comeback that came to you a second too late to shout at that jerk who cut you off? In Yiddish, that’s a trepverter. The nervous, excited feeling you get right before you get on a plane for a big trip? The Swedish call that resfeber. Our personal favourite is the German term kummerspeck, which is used to describe the phenomenon of emotional over-eating. The literal translation for kummerspeck is “grief-bacon”, and who hasn’t been there.
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Fans of XKCD.com, Munroe’s funny, nerdy web comic, will already be familiar with the What If section of the site, where Munroe answers queries from readers that range from the inane, to the potentially useful, to the terrifying. For instance, is there a way that we could harness the energy of all of the people working out in a gym to power a turbine? And is a fire tornado a real thing? Spoiler alert: it is, and it’s horrifying. You’ll be laughing so hard at illustrations in What If? that you probably won’t even notice that you’re learning a little bit, too.
Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking)
If you relied on SparkNotes to get your undergraduate essays finished, and used OkCupid to find a mate, Christian Rudder has your number. Smarty-pants Rudder, who did a math degree at Harvard, was the creative voice of TheSpark.com, the viral content arm of SparkNotes, and then went on to be a co-founder of OkCupid. He’s basically a real life Will Hunting. Rudder maintained a blog on a subdomain of OkCupid called OkTrends, which featured analyses of the site’s user data. Dataclysm is a sort of extrapolation of that blog, in which Rudder uses data from OkCupid and other sources to make statistical observations that range from banal (Belle and Sebastian is officially the whitest band) to troubling (how does collaborative rage develop on Twitter)? If you have heard the term ‘Big Data’ bandied about, but aren’t quite sure what it means, Rudder is the ideal tour guide to take you down that information super highway.