where the writers are
Lessons on girls from Duran Duran, a Penthouse writer's 'education', and the ugly side of college 'admission'
'Talking to Girls About Duran Duran,' the latest release by Rob Sheffield

Reading my way through summer, here is my latest round up of reviews:

Book: Talking to Girls About Duran Duran
Author: Rob Sheffield
One fun, retrospective memoir by Rob Sheffield, longtime Rolling Stone columnist (and regular on VH1’s ‘Best of’ series), Talking to Girls About Duran Duran retracts the decade of the eighties, each chapter referencing a different year and a hit song released at that time. Every memorable track and artist Sheffield ties to a life-changing moment, from age 13 to 23. Every thought, every experience, every regret is realized in pitch-perfect emotion and endearing wit. Among the musings are lessons on life, love and its disappointments from David Bowie, The Go-Go’s, Culture Club, Chaka Kahn, The Smiths, Psychedelic Furs, and of course, the title band. Sheffield’s prose reads like a classic 80s montage to a soundtrack perfect for growing up in the decade of MTV and too many John Hughes films to keep straight.

Book: An Education
Author: Lynn Barber
The preliminary chapters of this tastefully written auto-bio were the very inspiration for the same-name Oscar-nominated film. An Education follows the life of British author, Lynn Barber, a former Penthouse and Vanity Fair journalist. In her early years, Barber was just as bold, if not, innocently curious to a fault, toward the world beyond her own humble upbringing in middle class England. At 16, Barber meets and falls for Simon, a man of mystery and style. Their rocky relationship would provide her a lesson in what she defines as “the unknowability of others.” Other highlights include her hard-fought decision to study at Oxford, being a female reporter for a publication like Penthouse at the height of the 60s, and her unexpected turn as a sort of ‘sex advice guru’ with the publication of her first book, How to Improve Your Man in Bed. Barber delivers accounts that are frank, polished and unapologetic in their candor, underscoring her reputation as the ‘demon barber’ of British media.

Book: Admission
Author Jean Hanff Korelitz
The life of top-ranked college admissions officer is akin to that of a public health inspector on some days. Other times, one is treated as the guest of honor—until it is choice time during admissions season. Portia Nathan, the main character in Admission, happens to be an officer of admissions to Princeton University. On the surface, is capable and competent of choosing the brightest and the best students in the nation to walk its prestigious halls. But under that flawless façade is a secret past purposely kept hidden—until reminders start popping up in unexpected place. It forces Nathan to reconcile what she’s feared all along, questioning herself, and the validity of the brutal college selection process. Korelitz, a former admissions officer herself, provides a very telling, candid picture of the admissions system and the tough questions it presents to those who make the decisions. Who is to decide which candidate is the better one? Can one discount one student’s dream from another? Does legacy win points, give advantage or discount one’s chances? It is all just another day in the life of an admissions officer, and more.

And there it is, my last entry for the summer season. Glad to say, I broke my record from last year, with 21 books read, over two thirds of them reviewed. The following are the reads that did not make the review roster, but I rated them on a scale of one to five stars for good measure.

Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried - ****
Sarah Jio, The Violets of March - ****
Anna Quindlen, Every Last One - ****
Helen Humphreys, Coventry - **
Sarah, Dunant, The Birth of Venus - ****
James Cain, Mildred Pearce - *****
Sarah Gruen, Ape House – TBA

Thanks for reading!