What Are You Reading (offline, that is)?

what are you reading sarah brysk cohen

Sarah Brysk Cohen, owner of Blossom and Branch, is obsessed with flowers. She has been working in flower shops on the cutting edge of floral design, from New York to California, for 20 years and opened the Blossom and Branch studio in Brooklyn, New York in 2009. Her designs have been featured in various online and print publications, including Style Me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake, Brooklyn Bride, Brides Magazine, The Knot, New York Magazine Weddings and The New York Times, as well as in the San Diego Museum of Art. In addition to providing event florals and decor, Sarah teaches floral design classes and is a regular contributor on the internationally renowned blog, Design*Sponge. Before launching her design career, she obtained an MSW and worked as a licensed clinical social worker in two states. Sarah currently lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn with her husband, one-year-old daughter and English Bulldog. TO REMIND YOU OF SUMMER Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead I read this novel a couple years ago and it filled me with longing for my sun-bleached 1980s youth.  It also tapped into my fantasies of what moneyed people do on Long Island.  I love Colson Whitehead’s writing style – he is wry without being jaded and broaches the sensitive/heavy with a sense of humor.  He takes seriously the internal struggles of a teenage boy and makes them relevant for all of us. I also get the sense that this novel must have been semi-autobiographical and I love wondering about which elements come from his experience.  Plus, I met him on my bus once!  BIG UP, BROOKLYN.

BECAUSE I AM A MEMOIR FREAK Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn Whoa.  WHOA.  This memoir by Nick Flynn is about managing his homeless, alcoholic father and the intersection of their lives when the father comes to live at the shelter where Nick is employed as a social worker.  Having worked in and run homeless shelters, this book had me imagining what it would have felt like to try and maintain boundaries with a family member as client.  Despite living a tale of intense pain and loss, Flynn is able to tell his story with clarity, humor and a clear sense of empathy for his nearly impossible father.

BECAUSE I LIKE SMART GIRLS How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley A series of totally hilarious and charming essays by Crosley and a very quick read for commuters or people like me who pass out after 2 minutes when you get into bed at night with your book.  Her snarky voice masks tender observations about human nature, which rings familiar to me.  I kind of wish Ms. Crosley would be my best friend, but until then, I will have to settle for a glimpse into her world through her writing.  And I will obviously continue to lightly stalk her on Facebook.

BECAUSE I LIKE SMART BOYS Live From the Campaign Trail by Michael A. Cohen OK, OK, so my husband wrote this book.  But it is actually totally fascinating and perfect for reflecting on the 2012 presidential election.  It is a history of the most important and influential campaign speeches of the 20th Century and how they shaped modern America.  If you like history, politics, speeches and/or want to help us send our daughter to college, you should pick this up at any fine bookseller.

FOR A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF RACISM AND VIOLENCE IN AMERICA All God's Children by Fox Butterfield This is a stunning non-fiction work about violence and racism in the South told through the multi-generational struggle of the Bosket family.  This book was first released in 1995 but feels particularly relevant today, as we have experienced a recent spate of gun violence in this country and our conversation about how to address anti-social behavior has been brought to the fore.  You will be riveted by the first-person accounts of Willie Bosket, the centerpiece character of the book, and as the author digs back into the Bosket family history (all the way back their slave roots) you will see the legacy of violence continuing to produce dysfunction in modern times.  Please read this.

FOR THE EDWARDIAN CHILD INSIDE The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett When life gets too complicated for adult for my taste, I return to this children's classic book.  I have it downloaded on my iPad and just tap my fingers in anticipation of reading it aloud at night to my daughter.  This was the first "chapter book" I recall as a child that grabbed me and got me interested in reading.  It is, of course, a tragic, romantic and fanciful novel that combines many of my favorite themes - the mystery of a manor on the English countryside, the magic of gardens and the power of friendship to inspire healing.  The story is likely familiar to many of you -- two young cousins brought together by parental deaths are trapped in a vast and lonely English manor.  They figuratively and literally blossom together with the assistance of household staff and ultimately are bonded through the work of rehabilitating a long-dormant garden.  The characters are heartbreaking and timeless and it is worth a re-read, if, like me, the first time you read it was in 3rd grade.