5 Books to Read This Summer (and the Drinks to Go with Them)

On the last day of last year, many of us made resolutions for the year 2013 that we had no intention of keeping.  Join a gym?  Sure, but I never said I would actually go to it.  Eat better?  Easy.  Wait, does that mean eating more or…?

Folks, we are now well beyond the halfway point of the year–how many of us have managed to keep those resolutions?  Put your hands down.  I don’t want your positivity infecting my cynicism.

I can’t help you with going to the gym or eating healthy, both of which I gave up as part of my new year’s resolution.  However, if one of your goals was to read a good book, I think I can help.  Well, me and my best friends, alcoholic beverages.

Here’s some great literature and tasty drinks to get you through the summer (and maybe the rest of the year).  In no particular order…


#1: The Dirty Girls Social Club: A Novel by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez



A member of a growing body of literature known as “chica” lit, Valdes-Rodriguez’s novel follows the stories of six friends as they navigate their late twenties and dream chasing.  They became best friends at Boston University and, after graduating, meet up often to catch each other up on their lives.  The women are charming and successful by turns: a TV anchor, a rock star, a businesswoman, a magazine editor, a columnist, and a housewife.  Each woman faces a unique set of challenges as she is about to achieve her lifelong dream.

The complement: Pomegranate martini



Mix pomegranate juice with an equal amount of vodka, then add a splash of simple syrup.  Substitute Grenadine for a richer color.  With this drink in hand, you’ll feel like you’re really part of the dirty girls social club.


#2: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt



For the lovers of true crime or non-fiction, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a must.  A former editor of The New Yorker, John Berendt falls under the spell of Savannah, Georgia, but soon discovers there’s more to the place than moonlight and magnolias.  As Berendt digs deeper, he meets a colorful cast of characters: the self-styled Grand Empress of Savannah, a man who walks an invisible dog, a closeted homosexual antiques restorer, a man who has enough poison to kill the whole city.  But behind the manners and lovely houses, the community keeps darker secrets…secrets just waiting to be brought to the light.

The complement: Mint julep


mint julep

Crushed ice (2 cups), Bourbon (2 ounces), minted simple syrup (1 ounce).  A classic southern drink will catapult you right into Savannah.


#3: The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky


the idiot

If you’re searching for a literary giant, but are dissatisfied with American literature, The Idiot might be for you.  A nineteenth-century novel and an exemplar of the golden age of Russian literature, The Idiot follows the story of Prince Myshkin as he enters Russian society after living for several years in Switzerland.  As the naive Myshkin attempts to navigate high culture, leading to disastrous results, it becomes obvious that great empathy in the nineteenth century comes at a great cost.

The complement: White Russian

white russian

One-and-a-half ounce of Vodka, three-fourths of an ounce of Kahlua, three-fourths of an ounce of cream.  Mix the first two, let the third spread through the glass.  If you drink enough, maybe you’ll be as pure as Prince Myshkin.


#4: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


An absolutely lovely read that tells the story of Celia and Marco, two people caught in a web of love and magic.  Both are skilled magicians from two different schools of magic, but they’re no mere prestidigitators.  Celia can alter physical objects–their color, their shapes.  She can break things with her mind and put them back together, although her power doesn’t work as well on organic things.  Marco can cast illusions so powerful, they affect every physical sense.  He uses diagrams and arcane knowledge to construct his spells.  Their teachers set them to battle against one another and the venue is a traveling circus.  The only winner is the one who survives.

The complement: Boston cocktail

boston cocktail

One-and-a-half ounce of London dry gin, an equal amount of apricot brandy, one-fourth of an ounce of Grenadine, and half a lemon.  I won’t spoil anything, but save this for the end of the book.


#5: Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

dangerous liaisons

In the 80s, it became a movie starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Keanu Reeves, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Uma Thurman.  In the 90s, it was adapted into the college drama Cruel Intentions, so you may know the story better than you think.  Laclos gives us a story of intrigue, greed, power, and love.  It is set in the years leading up to the French Revolution and highlights the decadence of the aristocracy.  Mertuil and Valcomt, ex-lovers, use sex to degrade and even destroy others, all the while laughing in the shadows.  Like all good novels, it climaxes with a murder.

The complement: Cognac.



 Enjoy responsibly.

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