Words on the Street: 6 Summer Reads In-Hand Right Now

In this heat, most of us would be content to curl up in our air conditioned homes or offices, gazing blankly at our television or computer screens. And yet, several brave souls not only ventured outside in the sticky, hair-frizzifying heat, but also brought some brain-taxing books along with them. (Props to them for breaking a mental sweat in addition to a physical one. Ay-oh!) We ventured out to Brooklyn's McCarren Park and beyond to see what people are reading right now:

1. Mao Nakai, a Williamsburg, Brooklyn resident, is perusing an antique-style picture book, The Indians , by Benjamin Capps. Nakai says she's always wanted to learn more about Native Americans, and was intrigued when she stumbled across pictures of the book online. The Indians is part of Time-Life Books’ Old West series, compiled by editor Jerry Korn, which includes volumes such as The Cowboys, The Pioneers, and The Forty-Niners. History buffs, you’re in luck — you can purchase the entire 26-book series for as little as $225.

2. Crocky Hargreaves is enjoying James Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning , the author’s comeback-book after the literary debacle that was A Million Little Pieces. A native of New Zealand, Hargreaves had read selections of Bright Shiny Morning and decided to delve into the book as a whole. “I like the style of the novel,” he says, “and the urban setting is fascinating.” Set in Los Angeles, the book depicts the lives of several refreshingly original L.A. souls, as Frey presents a dazzling picture of life and death in the City of Angels. If the controversy surrounding A Million Little Pieces painted Frey as a liar, then Bright Shiny Morning overturned that image and cemented his position as a masterful storyteller.

3. John Kauffman is one chapter into John Fante’s Ask the Dust , which he noted is “apparently a classic.” German-born, L.A.-based writer Charles Bukowski was heavily influenced by Fante’s work, and as a fan of Bukowski’s, Kauffman opted to give Ask the Dust a good look. Like Bukowski’s chronicles starring his alter-ego Henry Chinaski, Fante’s Ask the Dust is a semi-autobiographical novel, and it is set in Depression-era Los Angeles.

4. Heather Newman, a senior at Molloy College, is immersed in MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend , by Rachel Bertsche, which chronicles the author’s 52 “girl dates” (one per week for a year) as she attempts to make new friends in a new city. “It's different from the books I usually read,” Newman says. “It’s really interesting how difficult it actually is to make new best friends in your 20s.”

5. Ayelet Pearl, an undergraduate at Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary, picked up Stieg Larsson’s 2008 crime thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo after friends recommended she check out the movie version, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. “It seemed like a trendy book that wasn't Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, so I was excited to read something intelligent,” Pearl joked. The novel, the first in a trilogy, follows Swedish political magazine publisher Mikael Blomqvist as he investigates a young woman’s mysterious disappearance. But the most dynamic, fascinating character in the book is Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but troubled hacker, and a victim of sexual abuse. “Larsson presents the very real danger of misogyny in a convincing way,” says Pearl. "He uses the story to convey the threat, but not in a preachy way."

As for me? I’m currently rereading J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, just to see what all the fuss was about back in middle school. I wouldn’t want to be called a “phony,” after all.

Image: byebyeempire on flickr