Books + Comics

Movers and Shakers

Stories about people who can’t and won’t stop.

2961208D.V.
Diana Vreeland
1984, Knopf

Diana Vreeland was the editor-in-chief of Vogue from the early ’60s through the early ’70s, and her 1984 autobiography is so full of bon mots, life lessons, and almost unbelievable adventures that you’ll want move to Paris after reading it. Or New York. Or a ranch in Wyoming. Or into some kind of palace, probably of your own creation. Vreeland was a true iconoclast, and (luckily for us) was very willing to share her wisdom. Could any living fashion editor’s memoir be this funny and sensational? I’m not so sure. I think we’re in a much more careful age, and Vreeland’s unrepentant love of the good life is inspiring. She also ate a peanut butter and marmalade sandwich every single day for lunch, which I love. It’s important to have role models, and if you choose Diana Vreeland, I support you one thousand percent, you crazy diamond. —Emma S.

frankie landau-banks-e lockhartThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
E. Lockhart
2008, Disney-Hyperion

SECRET SOCIETIES. BOARDING SCHOOLS. GETTING BACK AT BOYS. BEING A BADASS. BASSET HOUNDS. Do you like any of these things? Then this is the book for you! Alabaster Prep student Frankie Landau-Banks has a cute boyfriend, but he’s being pretty secretive about what he and his dude friends get up to in their spare time. Frankie discovers there’s a secret society at Alabaster, and she wants in. The problem is that it’s for boys only. Not content with this situation, Frankie infiltrates the society. She finds its secret manual, then pretends, via email, to be the ringleader. This book is about not waiting around for permission to do what you want if you aren’t happy with the status quo, and realizing that if someone doesn’t appreciate you for you, maybe they’re not worth your time. —Estelle

9780393039764_198Fight Club
Chuck Palahniuk
1996, W. W. Norton & Company

The first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club. So, sorry, I guess that’s all I can say—you’ll just have to read the book to get the rest…PSYCH! I would LOVE to talk about this book, because it is a pretty major mindfuck, and the more times I read it, the more I get out of it. Some restless dudes start the fight club in question to relieve their anger, but it ends up developing into a cult that has chapters in numerous cities. The majority of the characters are middle-aged men, but I find myself relating to them and their problems, including their struggles with identity, mortality, and society in general. The ending of the 1999 movie version is significantly different than that of the book, so I suggest you read the novel first, then watch the movie and see which you prefer. —Shriya

tara kelly-amplifiedAmplified
Tara Kelly
2011, Henry Holt and Co.

When Jasmine tells her dad that she wants to take a gap year after high school to focus on making music, he kicks her out of the house. She heads to Santa Cruz, California, where she sees an ad placed by a band searching for a guitarist and a roommate in an oceanfront house. This is almost to good to be true, but she sets up an audition, ignoring the parts of the ad that say “guys preferred” and that applicants should be comfortable onstage (she’s most definitely not). This book is about forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. If you’ve been trying to do that (or you just love music and/or realistic, flawed characters), read Amplified this summer—before the sequel comes out in the fall. —Stephanie

and the hippos-keruoac and burroughsAnd the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac
2008, Grove Press

As far as I know, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is the only murder mystery to come out of the Beat Generation cadre of writers. William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, prolific Beat authors (and close buddies), took turns telling a version of the true story of their friend Lucien Carr, who killed an older man named David Kammerer. (The novel uses pseudonyms for all the people involved and moderately alters the storyline). What I find most fascinating about this book is that though it was written in 1945, the manuscript was kept under wraps until Carr died in 2005, and it wasn’t published until 2008! A lot of the Beat dudes went to Columbia University, which is where I’m going to school, so I’ve got a soft spot for their poems and stories—even when they’re about homicide. —Shriya

wool omnibus-hugh howeyWool Omnibus
Hugh Howey
2012, Broad Reach Publishing

Two markers of great science fiction are memorable characters and intriguing worlds that you feel like returning to again and again. The Wool Trilogy has both. The first book in the series begins with a man climbing a spiraling staircase to his death. The stairs connect the 144 levels of the Silo, a dystopian underground world full of mysteries and conundrums. It isn’t until halfway through the first book, Wool, that we’re introduced to the central character, Juliette, and the rest of the trilogy follows her quest for freedom and her attempt to uncover the Silo’s forgotten history. I raced through Wool, cheering on Juliette’s victories. And after it was over, I had the satisfaction of knowing there was more to come. —Ragini

incubation-bhanu kapilIncubation: A Space for Monsters
Bhanu Kapil
2006, Leon Works

Bhanu Kapil is my favorite poet, and this novel is the kind of book I’d like to write one day—partly because it is about cyborgs and monsters and home and bodies and other things I love so much. The story follows Laloo—a girl who is part machine—and deals with our culture’s fascination with monsters and immigrant girls (or girls with invisible homelands). The writing is so lush and hypnotic that I’ve read it aloud to friends until my throat hurt. I just didn’t want to stop. The whole book is a precious space where I retreat to learn more about my own dreams. —Arabelle

poor things-alasdair grayPoor Things
Alasdair Gray
1992, Bloomsbury Publishing

Alasdair Gray—author, artist, typographer, political campaigner—is one of Scotland’s greatest living polymaths, and Poor Things is strange in a way that is quintessential to him. Are you really reading Victorian memoirs that Gray claims to have uncovered and edited, or is it something he made up? The latter is probably the truth, because Bella Baxter’s journey from death to rebirth echoes Frankenstein in uncanny and unbelievable ways: Bella, an oppressed upper-class Victorian trophy wife, is brought back to life after her suicide, and her unborn child’s brain is transplanted in her skull. Her second life is charted through the letters she writes during a continental voyage, in a section titled “Making a Conscience.” What I love about this book is that the reborn Bella creates her own mind. She’s untainted by Victorian convention and refuses to bow down. —Ragini

Ruby_in_the_SmokeThe Ruby in the Smoke
Philip Pullman
1985, Oxford University Press

Philip Pullman is the creator of one of the best heroines of all time: the plucky, talented, and loving Lyra Belacqua of the His Dark Materials books. But before that series, Pullman wrote historical mysteries starring another fabulous heroine, Sally Lockhart. One of those books, The Ruby in the Smoke tells the tale of Sally’s quest to find out who killed her father and why. Sally dodges and weaves dangerous men and strange women, and follows each trail of clues to the end. This is the first book in a trilogy about the amazing Sally, and if you love heroines with strength and resolve who will stop at nothing to do what’s right, then you’ll love the other two books, too. —Estelle

ella enchanted-gail carson levineElla Enchanted
Gail Carson Levine
1997, Scholastic Books

As a baby, Ella is given the “gift” of obedience by a (fucked up) fairy who thinks little girls should do EVERYTHING they’re told. For a while, Ella more or less cruises through life, with the occasional instance of robotically following others’ orders (I never saw birthday cake the same way after reading a scene in which she has to eat one in its entirety). As Ella gets older, her curse interferes with her happiness, and she goes to great lengths to free herself of it. This novel has been a favorite of mine since I was nine, but I still love revisiting Ella’s journey to become her own heroine. —Chanel

cinder-marissa meyerCinder
Marissa Meyer
2012, Feiwel & Friends

The Cinderella narrative—where a protagonist escapes class constraints, gets what they really deserve, and is rescued by someone who loves them (and who happens to be rich)—has always fascinated me. And though I will always love Ella Enchanted, Cinder is my new number one retelling of that tale. It stars a cyborg mechanic named Cinder who’s trying to live in a world in which cyborgs are second-class citizens. It has science, adventure, and love—everything great, really. I also like that the story is set in a future Asia. As an Asian girl who rarely reads herself in stories, it’s nice to fantasize about being the protagonist for once! This is the first book in a series of three so far—pick this one up, and don’t stop till you’ve read them all. It’s worth it, I promise. —Arabelle

melissa marr-carnival of secretsUntamed City: Carnival of Secrets
Melissa Marr
2013, HarperCollins

The City—a world inhabited by demons and witches—holds a competition once every generation, and winning this fight to the death is the only way to break out of the City’s strict caste system. In the human world, Mallory and her father are constantly on the run from demons, until Mallory learns why they want to bring her to the City so badly. Carnival of Secrets is like The Hunger Games with a paranormal twist—or an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Speaking of which: James Marsters, who played Spike on Buffy, narrates the audiobook version, which is perfect for long road trips or days on the beach. —Stephanie ♦

4 Comments

  • mangointhesky June 27th, 2014 7:41 AM

    OMG is cinder is on this list it just means that I HAVE to read everything else!!!

    http://electricsea.blogspot.com

  • ColoredSoft June 27th, 2014 6:50 PM

    woah I remember Ella Enchanted. Thanks for writing about that book, I think I would’ve forgotten about it for good o: Which is weird, because it was really important to me

  • dehuai June 28th, 2014 3:44 AM

    tyler durden – now there’s someone who literally can’t stop and won’t stop

  • itssabine June 28th, 2014 10:40 AM

    I was so glad when I saw The Disreputable History was on this list. It was my favorite book when I was a bit younger and I think it (and E. Lockhart) is a very underrated.

    http://cursive-type.blogspot.com