The photographer assembles books to spark a 'Walter Mitty'-esque escape.
Document’s contributors are compiling summer reading lists with a twist. We’re asking writers, authors, artists, scholars for their old favorites and anticipated releases. This week, photographer John Edmonds gives us 5 books for the serious daydreamer. He assembled a list of fiction and nonfiction innovating new storytelling practices, including a Snow White retelling newly infused with race and gender critiques.
Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose
A collection of essays, Too Much and Not the Mood is a wonderful book that could be described as photographic in what Chew-Bose accomplishes in her prose. The descriptions in this book, often that of the writer’s memories, feel tangible—as if they could be touched, smelled, tasted. From an innocuous rumination on emojis and communication to the deep contemplation of one’s identity and youth, this is a book to savor on the beach, the train, cuddled underneath your night lamp, or while feeling the rays of the sun on a long afternoon in the park.
White Girls by Hilton Als
On the cover, there is a photograph of a group of people, mostly white women, at the park. The photograph is by Garry Winogrand. The cover, like the book’s title, does not fully give away what is inside, or what the book is about. It only suggests. In White Girls, Als does what he does so well: offer deep insight into some of the most important cultural figures and icons of our time while gracing them with humanity and empathy. He is not sentimental. From its very beginning, you realize that Als does not reserve the term “white girl” for caucasian, cis women. My favorite essay is on Richard Pryor, who I spend many nights listening to as a child, swearing at the top of his voice in his stand-up and his films, defining a voice in Black comedy that would be the blueprint for comedians of all backgrounds, for years and years to come.
The Sweet Flypaper of Life by Roy DeCarava & Langston Hughes
A classic that effortlessly weaves text and image, fact and fiction, the real and the imagined. Originally published in 1955 and recently republished David Zwirner books, the format of this picture book is in the novella style. The synchronizing of words and image put the viewer into a state of mind that is distinctly DeCarava’s Harlem. It is a picture book that should be read from beginning to end, and that takes you in and out of a world that is melodramatic, joyful and heartbreaking all at the same time.
M Train by Patti Smith
I read this book immediately after reading Smith’s Just Kids. If you love coffee, travel, and scattered thoughts that become poetry and prose, then this is a great one for you. It’s a memoir about encounters, writing, staying busy, and taking everything in as life happens. It’s wrapped up in stories about storytelling and desire for adventure.
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird modernizes the tale of Snow White and infuses it with race and gender. It’s a story that is about when identity politics come into play with one’s own blood. Oyeyemi oscillates between magical realism and contemporary criticism. A mystical novel, and at times very dark, Boy, Snow, Bird weaves dreams and nightmares perfectly intact
Read all of Document’s reading lists here.