Are You Pretentious? What to Read with Your Glasses on

"Women Reading," Picasso

“Women Reading,” by Picasso

It’s hot outside.

I don’t care.

It’s summer.

We are the only people in the neighborhood who don’t have our air conditioner on.

I don’t want to be shut up in the house after the long, cold spring.

I am spending every possible free moment reading in the back yard at “our cafe table” under the umbrella.

My cousin, the librarian, hangs out here regularly since breaking up with her boyfriend.  Now she sits in my chair in the back yard, reads my beach book,  Saki’s The Unrest Cure and Other Stories, and drinks my iced tea in my favorite plastic highball glass.

I go in to refill her glass. When I come back, she says, “Kat, you are so pretentious!”

It seems she had scrolled through the bookmarks on my computer and didn’t at all like the sound of the TLS or Abebooks:  Depressing Russian Literature.

“What the f— is Rogue Classicism?”

I look at her through my glasses. Actually, bifocals.  I  wear my bifocals to read.  And to see.  “I’ve got Hulu.”

“Do you actually watch TV?  This stuff is about reading.”

I have not watched anything at Hulu for a long time. I do not admit this.

Chatting to a librarian is a bit like entertaining an N.S.A. agent.  She has now analyzed my bookmarks (reading, reading, reading!) and will no doubt post some of them hilariously on her Facebook page.

Shopping is far more important than reading, she says.   She wants to take me to the mall for a makeover (Lizzie Arden), to the hairdresser for some of that scrunchy silver stuff that makes highlights even in white hair, and find me something less t-shirty-and-jeans to wear.

Well, I’m not doing any of that.

Instead I will make a list of  What to Read with Your Glasses on.

Here are my Top Six, and please recommend some.

1.  The TLS is edited by Peter Stothard, author of my new favorite book, Alexandria:  The Last Days of Cleopatra.  For those looking for intellectual entertainment,  TLS is livelier than, say,  The New York Review of Books, which I tried in vain to “unsubscribe from” for many years.  The TLS covers a broad range of books:  it has  a classics section (does any review publication in the U.S. have that?), with fascinating reviews of scholarly books and Latin texts; many novels in translation are reviewed  among the  fiction and literature; and then there are the history books, art history, politics, nonfiction, criticism, autobiographies, biographies, and a crossword puzzle.

2.  The Washington Post book section, edited by the indefatigable Ron Charles, who also tweets, reviews, and makes satiric videos, is the best review section in the U.S.  Michael Dirda and Jonathan Yardley are the other two brilliant staff critics.  There are also many excellent reviews by freelancers.

3.   Largehearted Boy is a music blog that features authors’ playlists, articles about books, and daily downloads of music.

4.  Reading Copy is the  Abebooks blog.  It has book news, photos of beautiful book covers, occasional reviews, and book lists.

5.  Arts & Letters Daily from the Chronicle of Higher Education provides links to articles, reviews, and debates at other publications.

6.  At the Willa Cather Foundation website,  you can find Willa Cather  news, virtual tours of Red Cloud, where Cather grew up, and read back issues of  the scholarly Newsletter and Review.

I hope you have your glasses on!