Brainy Beach Reads

10 books that will flex your mind muscles and totally impress

The stigma of a “beach read” is hard to shake. When you mention that you’re in search of a new vacation book, it’s scientifically-proven that 83% of the population suggests a light-hearted romance or salacious and gossipy memoir (statistic has been made up for sake of this article). However, embracing a new subject/genre is like giving your brain a vacation, too. This year, when it is time to take that highly anticipated trip and get away from it all, try finding a read that is refreshing as your final destination.

Are you on vacation to try and answer life’s big questions? Embrace it! A Little History of Philosophy is a concise and accessible chronicle of great Western philosophers, from Socrates to Singer. Begone are those stuffy and lofty notions you had toward philosophy. It’s time to vibe with the mind-stretching exploration that Warburton offers in his unique and often quirky writing about the great meaning of life.

What was, merely 20 years ago, a device only conceived of in science fiction of the distant future, the iPhone has forever changed the way we interact with the world. But how did it come to be? Veteran technology journalist Brian Merchant unearths in-depth details on the creation of “the one device (to rule them all. Double nerdy)”. This informative exploration, guided by interviews with engineers, inventors, and developers, takes you from concept to consumer on the most popular technology of our time.

On Tyranny has been sitting ever so comfortably in our top ten bestsellers since it’s publication in March, and with good reason. This timely book could be considered a guide to those eager to learn history and therefore avoid being doomed to repeat its great mistakes. Snyder, a professor of History at Yale University, demonstrates his immense knowledge on the subject with the ease in a quick read that will leave you feeling informed and ready to create change.

Cosey Fanni Tutti has lived a life without boundaries, and her memoir will speak to the nonconformist in you. A founding member of avant-garde group Throbbing Gristle (and the COUM Transmissions art collective), she has repeatedly shook-up the music industry norms for the past 40 years. In this autobiography, Tutti shares her experiments in expression through music, art, performance, pornography, and dance, as well as the decisions she made along the way to shape her career. Uncensored and raw, this book is an amazing adventure through the unreal life of an icon.

Unsure of whether you want to take a break from your phone while on vacay? I Hate The Internet may be just the book to totally convince you. In it, we follow two women affected by a tidal wave of negativity online, Adeline and Ellen. For various reasons, the gentrified masses (and their social accounts) have turned against them. Kobek used their stories to propel two big ideas that will certainly strike a cord. Why has political activism turned into posting morality lectures on Twitter and why are people so eager to give away their intellectual property to wealthy white men? The time it takes to read this book is well worth logging off for a day.

🔹 Jarett Kobek will be at Strand on August 15th to speak about his new book The Future Won’t Be Long. Find out more!

Allow yourself to entertain the idea of transcendence. Slyly surreal yet still attainable, cartoonist Jillian Tamaki offers a unique collection of short stories a la graphic novel. Tamaki is a true talent, blending her storytelling skills seamlessly with expressive pencil sketches. This collection is aptly praised as “stories to fall into like an odd dream you left too soon” by author Alexandra Kleeman, full of everyday phenomenon that you can’t quite distinguish from the wanderings of your own mind.

These 25 previously unknown women have been game-changers in their respective fields, and this book works to make each of them a household name. Sam Maggs has created a great series of informative and digestible chapters paired with the charming illustrations by Sophia Foster-Dimino. These women took on ventures that not only pushed the bounds of their gender, but also made great leaps of progress in world history. Divided into five sections, each focused on a different area of work, this book is easy to pick up in between laps in the pool.

For a lot of people, the mere mention of the word “physics” is overwhelming, confusing, and should be avoided unless you are a scientist. Not so! You can totally satisfy your curiosity and discover the simple science behind air conditioning, E-Z pass, fitbits, and more, with The Physics of Everyday Things. Kakalios guides us through “a day in the life”, identifying everyday objects, explaining why they work, and then providing an antecedent of the object in use. Discover a new level of awareness in the world around you and reconnect with everyday conveniences that often go unnoticed.

What better way to combat loneliness than to discover those around you who feel the same? Combining art studies, memoir, and biography of many great artists, The Lonely City captures your heart with poignant insights into New York City and the lonely drifters that can and do inhabit it. This darkly beautiful collection offers haunting wisdom in the subject matter, but also illuminates ways to resist it. A noted finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism and named on a dozen “Best of the Year” book lists, you’d be remiss to pass it by.

Shining star of Late Night television Trevor Noah takes to the page in his New York Times bestselling book Born a Crime. Noah describes his childhood growing up mixed-race in South Africa during the Apartheid with his strict but loving single mother. An exciting and heartfelt read, Noah’s debut memoir touches on masculinity, nationality, race, mass incarceration, cycles of abuse, and systematic inequality in nuanced ways while still managing to make the reader laugh — even through his most painful moments. You won’t be able to put down this brave, eye-opening, and incredibly entertaining autobiography.

🔹 You can meet Trevor Noah on July 13th as Strand hosts him at Symphony Space him to discuss his book with Chris Jackson.

🔸 More Brainy Reads are listed below and available on the main floor! 🔸

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari | Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A. by Eve Babitz | Meditations by Marcus Aurelius | All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister | Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond | Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now by Amit Majmudar | Demand the Impossible!: A Radical Manifesto by Bill Ayers | When We Rise: Coming of Age in San Francisco, AIDS, and My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones | The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry | World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement by Robert P. Crease | Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky | The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution: A Fully Annotated Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Amendments, and Selections from The Federalist Papers by Richard Beeman | Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence

For more literary content, follow Strand on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Plus, sign up for our Strand Insider newsletter!