Words to live by: 9 Brooklyn celebs share their fall reading recommendations

Words to live by: 9 Brooklyn celebs share their fall reading recommendations
Via Flickr user proimos.

That slight tinge of chill in the air (or at least the slight lack of oppressive humidity) means fall has finally pulled up its moving van and started unloading its stuff into our lives. We’ll miss summer, but the fall crisp snaps our academic minds back out of their sun-soaked slumber. We file away beach reads and reach instead for books that will challenge our brains or take us on long, cozy adventures. It’s the season we bring our books to read in bars and step up our subway reading game.

This Sunday, the fall reading season kicks into high gear with the return of the annual Brooklyn Book Festival, a free day of readings, author panels and other events, all centered around a street fair of publishers and booksellers. Choosing the right read to kick off the fall can be overwhelming, so we checked in with a few of our favorite Brooklyn-based comedians, musicians, models and booksellers to see what they’re reading right now. We asked not just for  new releases but for anything that matches the mood of the season or counts as necessary reading right now. Here are their picks; make sure to pick one up at your favorite local bookstore!

Jon Glaser, actor and comedian appearing in the Haunting Renditions show at the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival on Saturday. His own book My Dead Dad was in ZZ Top is out now. His new truTV show Jon Glaser Loves Gear premieres this fall.


Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff

“Another brilliantly written book by one of the best writers out there, and this one was written entirely in verse (as awful as that might sound).”


Jessica Numsuwankijkul, lead singer of Brooklyn band Heliotropes


Dressing by Michael DeForge

“It’s a collection of mini comics that are funny in an austere, dissociative way. The art is incredible and kind of psychedelic but in this gentle way, with a subdued color palette. My favorite short in it is MARS IS MY LAST HOPE, which tracks the physical adaptation of a fee humans after they flee a dying earth for Mars. They grow different bodies and have to re-learn how to use their genitals.

What’s also great is that [Williamsburg indie comics shop] Desert Island also has a free newsletter of comix that you can take with every purchase. I love that place!”


Jen Kirkman, comedian filming her new comedy special in two shows at Bowery Ballroom on Oct. 1 (get tickets here and here)


Just Kids by Patti Smith

“I was inspired reading Just Kids” by Patti Smith, which chronicles her move to New York City, and friendship/romance/life-long artistic muses for one another with Robert Mapplethorpe. It’s a book not of unbridled ambition but of two artists who are driven by the love of what they do — they don’t have a linear career plan. Everything in the story that slowly develops as they find out who they are as artists — might not be something that could happen today.

It’s impossible to imagine these two drifters and dreamers living in one room in the Chelsea Hotel talking about their Instagram likes or asking themselves, “what’s my brand?” It makes me nostalgic for a world I was never part of.”


Kevin Allison, host of the Risk! storytelling podcast and show at the Bell House (next show on Sept. 28), member of The State (among other jobs


Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris

“Sam Harris courts controversy. He is known as one of the ‘Four Horsemen’ of New Atheism and is often called politically incorrect. But this book isn’t about religion, race, or any of those third rail issues Harris is known for poking. Instead, it’s asks some of the oldest questions. What exactly is consciousness? And should we alter it through meditation, neuroscience, psychedelics, or artificial intelligence? This is a fascinating exploration of the way we experience our very existence.”


Pete Feigenbaum, Titus Andronicus guitarist and founder of Brooklyn rock band Dinowalrus


The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club By Peter Hook

“I feel slightly embarrassed recommending a book that falls under the category of ‘rock biography,’ but I’ve been super stressed out with all the tasks involved in getting our album out, as well as passing my architectural licensing exams, so I’ve been falling back on some light reads. I’ve been meaning to read some classic and contemporary works of political economy including Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and Joseph Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality, but those will have to wait!

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Peter Hook’s How Not to Run a Club, which is the backstory of how the legendary Manchester club The Hacienda was founded, operated and eventually run into the ground. It came out a few years ago, and is much more engaging than his more recent book about his time in Joy Division. Obviously, all things Manchester are hugely important to our music, but Peter Hook’s writing (much like his uniquely melodic bass playing) is sharp, colorful and outrageous enough to pique anyone’s interest, regardless of whether they saw 24 Hour Party People.

The tales of epic parties, ecstasy, gangsters, soccer hooligans, comically bad business decisions, and general buffoonery will entertain anyone. It’s equally relevant to musicians and would be restaurateurs/club owners. And the parallel plot of New Order’s career trajectory is quite interesting as well. It’s a book that’s up there with the Dirt and Hammer of the Gods, but dressed in Adidas tracksuits instead of leather pants.


Jeff Moore, lead singer of Brooklyn band Dead Stars 


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

“Jaye (our drummer) first recommended this book to John (bassist) and I, and we all ended up really enjoying it. If you like science fiction/fantasy, virtual reality, D&D, 80’s references and reading a book before it becomes a Stephen Spielberg movie, you’ll like this. ”


Sawyer DeVuyst, the first trans model for period panty company THINX


Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

“My brother gave me this book when I was 16. I wasn’t out as queer or trans yet (and probably didn’t even know what that meant), so I read the back cover, scoffed and put it in a box, never to be seen again. Fourteen years later, I read this book for the first time and audibly gasped multiple times at how parallel my life was to the main character’s. I think this is a must-read for historical content that’s not taught nearly enough.

The author, Leslie, would have been 67 today, and to celebrate, Stone Butch is back in print at-cost and digital copies are free at”



all about love by bell hooks

“I’ve only just begun to read this, but even in the first few sections, I’ve mmm-ed and ahh-ed enough to know that it’s a great recommendation. As a person in a marginalized community, I seek out media and literature that reinforces the thought that I am worthy. Worthy of abundance, worthy of love, worthy of happiness. I think that people in marginalized communities — whether you’re a person of color, a woman, a queer person, a trans person or if you are at the intersections of these identities — need to seek out media and literature and possibility models to remind you that you are enough.”


Jessica Louise Dye, lead singer of Brooklyn surf rock band High Waisted 

Just Kids by Patti Smith

“As a struggling musician living in NYC, it’s easy to feel nostalgic for the rock and roll decades that shaped the city and the industry. I like to believe some of these legendary ghosts still wander our streets. Smith’s Just Kids in an intimate window into her time during in this scene and how the city, the people, and the excitement shaper her and her relationships. It made me cry, and gave me comfort in the loneliness that hits most hopeful souls braving this challenging city.”


Corey Eastwood, owner of Williamsburg’s Book Thug Nation


I Can Give You Anything But Love by Gary Indiana

“A memoir by New York’s greatest underappreciated writer. Filled with caustic cynicism and plenty of laughs, Indiana’s book set primarily in Havana, New York and L.A. is an impressionistic and unapologetic reminiscence of a life lived on the fringe.”



 St Marks is Dead by Ada Calhoun

“Calhoun’s thesis in this very well-written and researched love letter to [Greenwich Village’s] St. Marks is that every generation, dating back to the days when Emma Goldman and Leon Trotsky were residents of the street, have lamented the belief that they got there too late. On a chilly autumn day, bring this book to St. Marks, get yourself a nice warm bowl of ramen and read about all the cool stuff you missed out on so that you, too, can proclaim St. Marks dead!”


And in case you were wondering what Team Brokelyn is reading:

Tim Donnelly, editor of Brokelyn, way behind on his reading list 


A Drinking Life by Pete Hamill 

I finally picked up this memoir recently and was immediately sucked into Hamill’s tour of the brownstones and stickball courts of Park Slope during World War II, and how the combined forces of his alcoholic father, the pressures of the neighborhood and goddamn teenage boredom drove him into the drinking life. I can’t tell if the book will end up making me want to drink way more or give it up all together by the end, but Hamill’s gaze of life in Brooklyn and the great world beyond is hard to put down.


Sam Corbin, managing editor of Brokelyn


The Edge Becomes the Center by DW Gibson

I picked this book up after one too many passive conversations about gentrification. I was tired of talking about it as though I wasn’t accountable, tired of feeling as though it was this inevitable erosion of the city that I’ve called home for over five years. And it’s pretty incredible. What I love most is that D.W. Gibson listens more than he talks in the book. He’s in italics, and the bulk of it is just first-person voices of the folks he interviewed. It’s just listening.

What are YOU reading this fall? Let us know in the comments!

Recommendations compiled by Lilly Vanek, Sam Corbin and Tim Donnelly.

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