Penn students don’t tend to have a lot of free time. And if they do, it’s probably spent sleeping. But during the summer, the introduction of new leisure time brings an opportunity to do something many of us haven’t done in years—read.
Leisure reading is so hard during the school year. There’s the massive stacks of readings for classes, the problem sets and the allure of Netflix to shut it all out. But there’s something about reading a great book at the on your daily commute or at the beach that just seems right. Street is here to give you some books to pass the time and potentially impress your parents’ snooty friends.
Submit your book club picks by emailing Annabelle Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a chance to be featured in Street.
Recommendation: Valley of the Dolls
Recommender: Annabelle Williams
If you like: Dark humor, the 1960s, prescription pill abuse (like, as a concept, not a lifestyle) or camp.
Where to buy: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, vintage bookstores (it doesn't hurt to call first and make sure they have a copy!) Last Word Bookshop on 40th is a good bet.
Valley of the Dolls topped the best–seller charts at the time of its release in 1966. It’s a decently long book, clocking in at 442 pages that fit three competing and intertwined narratives, each centered around one woman. The book deftly explores drug culture and the toxicity of fame. It's also notable for featuring three female protagonists and exploring female friendships and rivalries not just as caricatures or fights over men but as complex human stories.
The rise–and–fall narrative is convincing if predictable, and the parallels to real–life stars work well and keep you guessing. It’s not the finest example of technical and creative writing (it was critically panned upon release); the book serves not so much as a literary work but as a cultural artifact.
The controversy surrounding the story coupled with how easy and gripping it is to read make it a great summer project. You can consider culturally or just take it at face value. Either way, it’s nothing if not memorable.
But the movie kind of sucks: The movie starred Sharon Tate and garnered generally negative reviews (despite a later cult following). The adaptation, despite featuring fabulous costumes, glossed over the dark satire that gave the book its edge. Producers also fabricated a happy ending for a book that ends on a delightfully sinister note. Who needs a Hollywood ending anyway? If you simply must stream it, it's $2.99 on Amazon Video or Youtube.