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Ask Chris Black: What’s On Your Summer Reading List?

Photo: Cobey Arner; Courtesy Retailers

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair-dryer or handiest chef’s knife, those things can be easy enough to find. Other objects of desire are a little more taste-based. What’s the next status water bottle or hand wash, for instance? Regular readers of the Strategist will know that we’ve previously turned to resident Cool Guy Chris Black (he’s a partner at brand consultancy Public Announcement) to help us answer these questions. For more of Chris’s advice, check out his new regular column for us, in which he answers readers’ questions. If you have a burning question about the next fanny pack or Noah rugby shirt, drop us an email with the subject line “Ask Chris” at

What’s been on your summer reading list?

As a child and even a teenager, my chubby ass sat inside and read all summer long. Just devouring books like it was a job. Nowadays, I, like a lot of folks, have trouble putting down my iPhone or MacBook long enough to make it through a few chapters. But recently, something changed. I have been plowing through books, and it feels incredible. I hate to say it, but Twitter can wait! A few you should read this summer.

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Photo: Penguin Random House

Sally Rooney’s book is about self-obsessed young people in Dublin having sex, drinking, emailing, and thinking too hard about everything. The dialogue is good, and it has no quotation marks — edgy! The millennial malaise has never been more entertaining.

Who doesn’t love reading about well-off New Yorkers in their early 40s having a midlife crisis? Marriage, divorce, anonymous sex, children, dating, money, yoga, ambition, Manhattan, heartache, SoulCycle — author Taffy Brodesser-Akner tackles all of life’s big subjects with sharp wit, sophistication, and consistency. It’s funny, sad, feminist, and fun to read. Honestly, we are all in trouble!

Howard Stern Comes Again

As an interviewer, the King of all Media has matured and mellowed over the years, which allows him to bring more depth to his interviews. Of course, you still get the sex talk he is famous for, but now he pushes for things that are more emotionally revealing. In this book, Stern gets the most famous people in the world to candidly discuss their approach to work and sensitive personal issues. Surprisingly, his personal growth takes center stage, and it works.

I have a bunch of job interviews coming up, and I need help putting together a head-to-toe outfit for them that won’t cost more than $200. I want to (obviously) keep it professional but still show I have a sense of style. What should I wear?

Sub-$200? Get in loser; we are going to Uniqlo. The ultralight Kando pants in navy are quite breathable and functional and look nice, too. Pair them with a tucked-in Christophe Lemaire–designed U crew-neck T-shirt in one of the fun, washed-out colors on offer, like yellow or pink. If that feels extreme, go with navy for a full tonal fit.

If you think a jacket is necessary, get the matching Kando blazer. It will dress the outfit up, and the fabric is summer-appropriate, so you won’t show up drenched in sweat.

Formal shoes seem like a lot in 2019. But if sneakers are not an option, go with some beige suede low-top Clarks Wallabees, which have a bit more polish but still look relaxed. With the above stuff, these will put you slightly over your $200 budget — but not by much — and I think they’re worth the splurge, as they’re quite versatile and easy to dress up or down.

If sneakers are an option, I suggest a crispy white Converse Chuck 70 high-top (which, at $85, will keep you within your budget for a full look). Classic casual footwear that I’d say can be worn for any occasion. Just make sure your clothing makes you feel good. Confidence will get you the gig — not gear.

What do you sleep on/under — mattress, sheets, comforter, pillows, etc.? Curious about comfort but also cool-looking bedding.

Until New York Magazine really starts cutting the checks, the Hastens will have to wait. For now, I sleep on a Casper, and I love it. I felt a little corny buying a mattress that comes in a box and is advertised on podcasts, but it’s a great product. Perfectly firm and well priced (the Strategist, after reviewing it, pretty much agreed, saying the mattress “skews a tad soft, and hot-sleepers don’t always love the foam,” but “for everyone else, you can’t go wrong).

Buffy Cloud Comforter

My comforter is Buffy’s Cloud Comforter, which I find substantial without being too heavy. It breathes well, too, and is another Strategist favorite. After taking it for a spin, writer Lori Keong said sleeping under this comforter is “like sleeping beneath cotton candy.” (For hot sleepers like her, Keong also recommends Buffy’s Breeze comforter, which she says is actually cooling: “Lying beneath the Cloud and then immediately slipping under the Breeze almost felt like stepping out of a warm bath into a cool shower.”)

My duvet cover is from yet another Strategist-approved brand, Parachute. The 100 percent cotton cover doesn’t add any heaviness to my comforter (keeping me cool) and is affordable enough that I can replace it with some regularity to ensure it always feels crisp.

I rest my noggin on these pillows made with bamboo and breathable memory foam. They adequately support my (literally!) giant head so I can get the perfect slumber.

And I use linen sheets and pillowcases year-round. I just love the texture. L.A.-based Matteo makes the best ones — “the closest thing to a status sheet,” according to the Strategist. The queen sheet set comes with a fitted sheet, a flat sheet, and two pillowcases. I only use white bedding, anything else seems EXTRA. Express your personality in the bedroom in other ways; no one wants to see your “fun” sheets.

I am in the market for some new shams, though, and would suspend my white-linen-pillowcases-only rule for this style from Frette. It gives off a luxurious Bowery Hotel vibe (but with navy trimming instead of the hotel’s signature red).

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Ask Chris Black: What’s On Your Summer Reading List?