HOT GIRL SUMMER SYLLABUS

These bite-sized stories have been hand selected especially for you and your two last remaining brain cells to enjoy while you sizzle under the ever-depleting ozone layer and gawk at Byron beach babes.

Heartburn, a novel by Nora Ephron.

Let me preface by saying that this is not a work of literary genius. With a 3.59 rating on GoodReads, even diehard fans of the esteemed Ephron are reluctant to grace it with even a 3. However, it is without a doubt the best book that has landed in my lap this year. 

Heartburn is a title likely to be found on your mother’s bookshelf, leftover from that era of feminism targeted toward the middle-aged mother and career woman (the heroes of the ‘90s). Ephron’s thinly veiled memoir unapologetically reclaims the tragedy of her life, and spins from it a tale of hilarity, humiliation and heartburn. If you’re unfamiliar with Norah Ephron, all you need to know is that she and her ex-husband were dubbed the Brad and Jen of the early eighties. Need I say more.

For those of you too lazy or burnt out from your semester of grinding for any more reading, I hear Meryl Streep narrates the audiobook. 

Teeth Marks in the Cheese, Or: Why I Love Being Single, Emily Bracken for Man Repeller.

If you haven’t read this by 2019, now is your chance. This is for everybody who couldn’t wait to grow up, hated it the second it started happening, and then all of a sudden realised that they could eat ice cream for dinner and spend the morning on the toilet instead doing yoga and everything became some-kind-of-okay.

The shortest read from the list, this one is guaranteed to give you second thoughts about swiping right on guys who are only kind of your type in favour of ‘developing a lifelong, unshakeable bond with yourself’, i.e.; spending days on end in bed with a tub of Häagen-Dazs and shitty Netflix originals.

The Metal Bowl, a short story by Miranda July.

If Heartburn was my favourite novel of the year, The Metal Bowl is certainly my pick of short-form literature. Published in The New Yorker in 2017, July — notorious for her awkward and quirky prose — tells the story of a wife, mother and self confessed workaholic’s erotic fixation with the sex tape she appeared in at 22. 

July, no stranger to being a prisoner of the mind, roots her story in the anxieties of the narrator. In all honesty, I think what keeps me coming back for more and more of July is the solidarity I feel with her characters. Crazy, anxious, introverted loners too fixated on their internal monologues to successfully engage with the outside world. 

Unlike Heartburn, there’s a lot more at play here. After sending the link to a close friend, she told me she couldn’t stop crying whilst reading it — not because it was sad, but because it was so true. At its heart The Metal Bowl is a story about intimacy and the things that separate us from ever really knowing the ones we love.

*Sidenote: Miranda July and Emma Cline do exceptional readings and discussions on the piece in two New Yorker podcasts if you want the drama and drawl The Metal Bowl deserves.

You Know You Want This, a collection of short stories by Kristen Roupenian. 

At this point in time, I expect anybody affiliated with me and my Facebook timeline to be familiar with Cat Person; The New Yorker’s most read short story of all time that launched a career, a seven-figure book deal, and a HBO series. 

Whilst the majority of stories in YKYWT are a major departure from the hot-button gender politics at the centre of Cat Person, they share in its dark and twisted aesthetics. In a post-Fifty Shades world sex has become so commercial that it’s lost its shock value, but the morals in Roupenian’s narratives are so murky that every interaction becomes laden with perversity. 

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a novel by Ottessa Moshfegh.

If Brittany Murphy’s orphaned socialite in Uptown Girls were to be rewritten in 2020, this would be her story. Many have argued that My Year of Rest and Relaxation is an irritating exhibition of privilege; a hot, rich, whiney, Upper-East-Sider spends a year of her life in a pill-induced haze, all so that she can awake ‘reborn’. A wealthy white woman subjecting herself to a life of booze and pills? Sure, it’s a familiar archetype, but its also the ultimate example of the self-care movement at its most extreme. So rarely do we see stories that are able to tackle the complexities of mental health and the banality of depression with an honesty that is both severe and hilarious. 

If I’d come across this book at any other time in my life I would have rolled my eyes and gagged. But if there’s anything I needed most right now, it’s validation for being morbidly depressed about nothing at all. 

~ ~ ~

I hope these recommendations help you to fall back in love with words after a semester of slaving away. Happy reading and happy new year.

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