You’ve packed your clothes. You’ve zipped up your toiletries. Now the age-old question: What book should you bring? Perfect for long flights, layovers, beach time, or, say, to wile away an afternoon at a Parisian cafe, a book is truly the perfect travel companion.
It’s no wonder travelers are always in search of their next great read. Each month, Jinnie Lee and Maura Lynch, who together run STET, a website devoted to emerging writers and new books, present a few titles—some new, some that just feel relevant right now—that are worth bookmarking for your next trip.
Overstory by Richard Powers
This is sprawling novel about the intersecting lives of nine strangers who all turn into environmental activists obsessed with saving trees from deforestation. Each character has their own epic backstory of how an innocuous encounter with a tree deeply affected them into adulthood, and how that experience eventually led them to leave their comfortable homes to become tree people, even going as far as adopting “tree names” and risking their lives to protest against colonization. This one’s especially a doozy for nature lovers, off-the-grid campers, and wilderness warriors (the author drops plenty of unique arbor knowledge within this 500-plus-page tome). It’s an ambitious paean to Earth’s majestic plants.
Meet Me In The Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman
In the post-9/11 aughts, downtown Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, became a nesting ground for a burgeoning indie rock scene when those areas were still considered uncouth and carefree. Young and rebellious musicians arrived with fresh ideas, new sounds, and fearless dreams of becoming stars. Straight from the mouths of those who lived through it (musicians, industry folx, journalists), this massive oral history recounts the origin and reign of bands like The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem, and TV On The Radio, and their inevitable influence on culture at large. The city was full of creative fervor and after-hours mischief, and the memories cemented in this wistful book capture a fast and furious decade that could never be recreated.
Perfect Days by Raphael Montes
This slim, quick-paced thriller details a horrifyingly juicy road trip. Translated for English-language readers from Portuguese, the novel follows Teo, a stalker who kidnaps his crush, Clarice, and takes her on a nightmarish journey through the Brazilian countryside. For Teo, it’s a quest to outrun his life and the people who are hot on his tail—and a terrifying attempt to psychologically manipulate Clarice, a young woman he barely knows, into falling in love with him. The intense escalation of events in this novel is truly outrageous, unspeakable, and unsettlingly addicting to read. You might find yourself screaming all the way until the end—consider this a warning for the people around you.
I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum
These days, “watching TV” means a whole lot more than mindlessly flipping channels in the dark. No one knows this better than Emily Nussbaum, the New Yorker’s resident TV critic and passionate consumer of all things small screen. In this collection, her first, you’ll read Nussbaum’s takes on the biggest shows from the current Golden Age of Television—from Sex and the City to Lost, from Vanderpump Rules to The Americans, and many more. Nussbaum never takes a pretentious stance; she’s just as likely to praise a reality romp as she is a prestige drama. (She did create New York Magazine’s highbrow-lowbrow Approval Matrix, after all.) I Like to Watch is a thoughtfully entertaining reminder that there’s no shame in queueing up an episode or two during your next trip.
Surveys by Natasha Stagg
“One day, I was not famous, the next day I was almost famous and the temptation to go wide with that and reject my past was too great,” muses Colleen, the young protagonist of Natasha Stagg’s novel. Colleen conducts focus group-style surveys at a decidedly-unchic mall in Tucson, but deep down she knows she’s destined for something much greater: internet stardom. Soon, she’s touring the U.S. as one half of a couple that commenters love to lurk on. But it’s not all free drinks and VIP sections; through Colleen’s wobbly rise to popularity, Stagg offers a deliciously deadpan commentary on celebrity and the emptiness of fame. Recommended if you like Ottessa Moshfegh, the Who? Weekly podcast, and/or interrogating the way we live now.
On Writing by Stephen King
Summertime isn’t just a great season for travel, it’s also a fitting time to focus on creative projects big and small. Whether you’re working on a home improvement project or want to hop back into blogging, Steven King’s 2000 memoir is just the companion. In addition to offering practical tips on crafting superb prose (spoiler alert: avoid adverbs), King meditates on the very beauty of attempting to create anything new in this wild world. It’ll make you smile, it’ll make you cry, it’ll put you to work—and you’ll emerge on the other side armed with inspiration.