The Books of Huckberry: Summer 2016

We raided our shelves and asked our friends for their favorite summertime reads
July 23, 2016Words by Jon GlatfelterPhotos by Bryson Malone

With summer in full swing, our resident readers wanted to make good on our spring promise for more seasonal book round ups. So this time, we raided our shelves in search of the stories that have stuck with us over the summers — ones that have inspired road trips, encouraged reflection, and even strengthened relationships. In that spirit, we tapped some friends on the shoulder over at Taylor Stitch to join in.

So whether you're beach-bound, stocking up for a long flight, or just want to get a little lost from the comfort of your favorite armchair, we hope these recommendations will add a few new vistas and memories to your summer. Let us know in the comments and as always, we'll see you out there. [H]


Editor's Note: More than once, we've been asked to resurrect our Huckberry Book Club (check out a few here, here, and here). If you can't get enough of our must-reads, stay tuned for more – we'll be rolling out seasonal recommendations all year long.

Jackson Owens, Product Developer at Taylor Stitch


I met up for coffee with an ex-girlfriend who I hadn't spoken with in two years. We talked for five hours and she gave me this book. Somehow, we got back together and haven't been better. Not saying it's the book...but it might be the book. American Gods is about an ex-convict who gets tied up in the middle of a war between the gods of old —who are kept alive by the people that still believe and tell their stories — and the gods of the modern day who are represented by America's obsession with media, celebrities, and drugs. It's set in several American towns and features some surprising plot twists, one hell of a road trip, and a battle for the ages.


Liv Combe, Senior Editor


I was at a writer friend of mine’s house and pulled a copy of Slouching Towards Bethlehem off her bookshelf. I’d read much of Joan Didion’s work (I even posed as her in a San Francisco magazine once) but had somehow missed this one, as iconic as it is. “Take it,” my friend said. “Go home and read 'On Keeping a Notebook' right now.” I took it, I read it, I loved it. Didion weaves her way through California in these essays, which she wrote for various publications and first collected into a book in 1961. This is a must-read for anyone who connects to the west coast.


Logan Stoneman, Operations Assistant


I'm heading west through the backroads of Montana on a classic, self-built motorcycle. Strapped to its side is a backpack filled with gear and food to last a few weeks. My destination: the coast. My pit stop: the mountain. My comrade: Phaedrus. This is the summer road trip I've always dreamed of taking. After reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I fell in love with Phaedrus' pairing of philosophy, travel, and nature. Spending a few weeks with him in the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National park? That's what (a philosopher and backpacker's) dreams are made of! 


Mina Aiken, Head of Customer Experience at Taylor Stitch


The Old Man and the Sea represents so much through such a simple narrative. Set in Old Havana, an old fisherman endures the fight of his life to catch a giant Marlin after many days of a dry fishing spell. The story is a reflection of the beauty in the struggle, and how it defines man, his need to assert his identity through the fight to survive. It was my introduction to the dualities of grace and grit, humility and hard work, compassion and strength, patience and resilience at a time when I needed guidance most: 13 years old and about to enter high school. Summer has always been a quiet time for me, when self-reflection fills blank spaces. I find myself often returning to this story to be reminded of this.


Emily Dovolis Thomson, Customer Experience Associate


When my husband, Alex, and I were first dating, we were plagued with the troubles of a long-distance relationship. Phone tag, misinterpreted texts, glitching videos, and all other forms of miscommunication. At the beginning of another long-distance period, I received Love in the Time of Cholera with a letter in the mail. Alex, had bought it for me as a gift and had bought one for himself to read. Despite being miles apart, we could read the book at the same time and share the experience of this passionate, confusing, and bizarre love story.

We could escape our own realities and venture into the colorful world of Colombia, ride with Florentino on the Magdalena River, and live in Fermina's luxurious home in unnamed city's suburbs. Alex and I still continue this tradition today, sharing and swapping books, exploring stories, and debating alternative endings. Through all the ups and down of a relationship, simply reading a book together is our solid middle ground.


Joseph Meehan, Assistant Editor


Despite being a lifelong reader, I keep finding books that shake up my view of literature, and James Joyce’s semi-autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was a downright earthquake. The novel introduced me to the genre of Kunstlerrolman, translated roughly to English as “artist’s novel,” a genre that follows the artist’s growth into maturity. Though I’ve read other character studies, Joyce’s application of aesthetic and semiotic theory to prose in order to construct a portrait of a human being astounded me and opened the door to a genre to which I was previously uninitiated.


Evan Williams, Head of Customer Retention


Since powering through The Corrections and Freedom, both in just a few days, I picked up Jonathan Franzen’s latest work, Purity, and gave it a similar treatment. Purity isn’t Franzen’s crowning achievement, but if you’re a fan of his style it’s a welcome 500 pages of the same ironic, sharp, and sometimes meandering storytelling. The book is an exploration of very Information-Age topics like cyber-security and feminism, sprinkled with the odd love interest and bout of self-discovery. Our protagonist Pip’s soul-draining job in the Bay Area is just the jumping off point for an adventure that goes as far as a South American hacker collective and as near as a newspaper office in Denver, while also delving into characters and histories that feel completely out of left field until suddenly they’re not. All in all, a great, entertaining and relevant read that’s perfect for a trip to the beach, a flight, or a lazy Sunday.

Michael Ichioka, Customer Experience Manager


Set in a boarding school for servants, Jakob von Gunten follows the musings of the narrator, Jakob, as he faces graduation and contemplates leaving his friends and embarking on a career, a prospect he is deeply ambivalent about. The novel is a great reminder that the friendships that shape us the most are not necessarily those that last the longest. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a pleasant dose of weltschmertz — a feeling of melancholy and world-weariness — this summer.


  Ros Reaume, Merchandise Planning


Circling the Sun was a gift from my mother. As a big fan of the author's previous book, The Paris Wife, I suspected I would enjoy it just as much. Set in colonial Africa in the 1920's, this novel takes us back to a time when the continent was a vast wilderness, but also strongly connected to the British Empire. It follows the main character, Beryl, as she leads an untraditional life as a horse trainer in a bohemian community of British expats in Kenya. The imagery is so strong I wanted to plan an African safari after reading it, just to see what the author so clearly depicts. 


Jon Glatfelter, Growth Team


One of my friends went to college for accounting. He hated it. He barely studied, instead spending most of his time drawing. He showed real promise and clearly loved it, so I suggested he switch majors to focus full-time on it. ”Why?” he asked. "So I can be a starving artist?” A film student myself, his response really disturbed me. I remember thinking, “How could he not go for what he wants most?” But I also shared his fear of not being practical. Was I just being a naive idealist?

Around that same time, another friend recommended The Fountainhead. “Just read it for the story,” he said. I couldn't put it down. The novel follows Howard Roark, an aspiring architect who at the outset is expelled from college for refusing to conform to history's traditional designs. Roark wants to create buildings in his own vision — or not at all. His unwavering integrity to his ideals — not those of the Dean, or his colleagues, or society-at-large, or even the woman he loves — and his conviction that this integrity is actually practical, was the intellectual feast I'd been starving for. I'm still eating six years later — and the world, nearly seventy-five.

Initially rejected by twelve publishers before its 1943 publication, The Fountainhead remains a bestseller to this day. In fact, one of the oldest, largest, and most lucrative essay contests in the world is held in its honor for students annually, which I had the privilege of coordinating for a time. I think the novel's lasting appeal can be understood best by drawing upon its own words: Howard Roark, and his creator, Ayn Rand, continue to give generation after generation, "the courage to face a lifetime." 


Jon Glatfelter wants Lemony Snicket to know, if he's alive and reading this, that he needs to contact the V.F.D. immediately. Jon is on the Huckberry Growth Team. You can read along with him here.


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