Jul 2, 201409:22 AM
Bon Vivant

Exploring finery, fun and the good life with New Orleans Bride editor Melanie Warner Spencer

Summer Reading

A not-so listy list of must-read authors, Southern and otherwise

A recent visit to the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Alabama finally prompted me to buy a book I’ve been meaning to read since it published in 2013: "Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald," by Therese Anne Fowler.

Reading is by far my No. 1 hobby. There is nothing I enjoy more than being sucked into a book so enthralling that errands, chores and admittedly even some of my beauty routine goes out the window and it takes every bit of willpower to focus at the office, because I’m so distracted by thoughts about the story and its characters. 
 
Fortunately, I write the monthly “Read + Spin” feature in New Orleans Magazine, so it’s part of my job to read books (and listen to music) by local and regional authors (and musicians) and about New Orleans and Louisiana (Click here and here to read some of my recommendations).  
 
A recent visit to the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Alabama finally prompted me to buy a book I’ve been meaning to read since it published in 2013. The novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler, tells the wild, wonderful and ultimately tragic story of the life of artist, author and Montgomery belle Zelda Sayre and the man for whom she’d serve as wife, adviser, co-writer and muse, author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Despite knowing backward and forward the story of F. Scott and Zelda, as well as their story as a couple, the material is still weighing heavily on me — or perhaps it’s because I know how it ends (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for anyone who has yet to discover the book and, or this dynamic duo). 
 
Fowler’s novel is one of many books by or about Southerners that’s at the top of my ever-growing summer reading list. I have yet to acquire Greenwood, Mississippi writer, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning (albeit controversially so) The Goldfinch, but plan to pick it up before the weather turns crisp. 
 
Frankly, it’s unusual for me to read anything written past 1950. My tastes skew heavily between 19th and 20th Century British and American literature. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Kate Chopin’s scandalous, New Orleans-set The Awakening (Fun fact: I live a block away from the former site of one of her New Orleans homes); Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; multiple works by Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf; and anything by Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, William Faulkner and, of course, Papa himself, Hemingway. Once I finish with the book about Zelda, I plan to read the one she wrote, Save Me the Waltz, as well as the many essays and short stories she penned under shared bylines with F. Scott. 
 
Southern writers such as Zelda are in a breed of their own. There are many I believe everyone should read, but that it seems should be required reading for anyone born or raised in the South. Welty, Capote and Faulkner are of course on that list. Mark Twain is an easy choice and, of course, Flannery O’Connor. 
 
Before moving to New Orleans, I made sure to read Covington, Louisiana-native Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer. My husband gifted me a copy of the always thoughtful and entertaining Mississippi-born, New Orleans-based author Julia Reed’s The House on First Street (see, I read contemporary work!), but I haven’t yet gotten around to her newer release, But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!
 
The Bitter Southerner recently published its Summer Reading Roundup, which includes the aforementioned The Goldfinch, as well as a 2013 book of essays and maps, Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, by San Francisco author Rebecca Solnit and New Orleans-native filmmaker, mapmaker and writer Rebecca Snedeker. I suppose I’ll just work my way down that handy list. 
 
It’s safe to say, there is no perfect reading list, as an important work will always be left out. Additionally, no matter how much time I devote to my favorite hobby, I may never finish all of the books I want to read. But, I’ll have a heck of a ride through lands near and far and stories and characters dark and bright, trying to read everything worth reading. 
 
What’s on your summer reading list?
 

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Bon Vivant

Exploring finery, fun and the good life with New Orleans Bride editor Melanie Warner Spencer

about

Melanie Warner Spencer is a native Kentuckian, but says she got to New Orleans as fast as she could. For more than 12 years, Melanie has covered lifestyle, design and entertainment at various publications, serving as the design columnist at The Austin American-Statesman, a senior staff reporter at the Houston Chronicle and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Houston Brides magazine. Her work also has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post and Reuters in the United States and across the globe. In her spare time, Melanie is an award-winning fine art photographer and has been honored by the Texas Press Association for her editorial photography. Cooking and eating fabulous food and taking road trips with her spouse of 15 years, fellow writer and filmmaker Mark Patrick Spencer however, is at the top of her list of favorite pastimes. Click here to like Spencer's Facebook page and follow her on Twitter @MelanieSpencer. 

 

You can reach her at melanie@myneworleans.com.

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