Three for the gals, and the guys who like them.
1. The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work At 72, by Molly Peacock (Bloomsbury). Mary Delany (1700–1788) was minor but well-connected English gentry: Sometimes she lived with leaking roofs, sometimes she hob-nobbed with George III. The life’s work she began at 72 was making astonishingly vivid reproductions, in cut paper, of flowering plants. This is a pretty picture book; an art book by an artist (Molly Peacock is a poet); and a wonderful slice of 18th-century life.
2. Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag, by Sigrid Nunez (Atlas & Co.). Sontag (1933–2004) was the Great White Hope of the New York intellectuals: the youngster who looked as if she might carry their ethos through the Beat/rock years (Irving Howe wasn’t exactly hip; Norman Mailer only pretended). Sontag had so much authority on the Upper West Side she could even criticize Communism occasionally. This is a sidelong portrait by Sontag’s son’s girlfriend — a young devotee coming, Icarus-like, too near a blazing mentor.
3. And, because V.S. Naipaul recently dissed Jane Austen, Persuasion (many editions). I like Naipaul a lot, but if he ever writes a novel this good he should let us know. I won’t wait for the call.
Read more summer book recommendations here.