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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Cultivating the Fake Aesthetic: A Guide to Mediocre Books with Nice Covers

Photo Credits: Fibonacci Blue

Summer is fast approaching, and for a lot of people that means an internship and some unrealistically high expectations for how much of their schoolwork they will actually complete during the three months. Spending the summer away from your classmates means that now instead of judging your actions they will judge your social media posts.

“Oh crap! I’m gonna be spending the summer decomposing in front of my computer, how will I convince my classmates that I shower regularly and eat healthy?” you ask. Fear not, I have for your fake Aesthetic™ needs a list of mediocre books with pretty covers that will look just marvelous juxtaposed against sand, grass, or some organic pressed juice.

  1. The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

This book has a 3.75 rating on Goodreads, which is as valid as a degree from Trump University (credits to @romney), but the rating is high enough to convince your average follower that you’re reading some obscure indie intellectual novel. The actual story is about a guy with an unpronounceable name who hates his job but likes classical literature. On his commute home, he finds a USB stick with a girl’s private diary that he decides to read, invading her privacy and falling in love with her in the process. Although the premise is disgusting and founded on the false imagery of love perpetuated by the likes of meninists and romanticizes the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ trope, the cover is really pretty. Besides, it’s not like you’ll actually be reading it, the book just needs to look good.

Recommended Pairing: A cute colorful towel and some expensive shades.

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  1.   Infidelities by Kirsty Gunn

The description reads: “ In a series of interwoven dramas, we find mothers yearning for adventure, for the exhilaration of the open road or the anonymity of the forest; fathers absent in body or mind; husbands who look the other way; complacency turned to spite and apathy turned to betrayal.” If you are turned away by the description like I was, think again. A book whose description has the phrases “exhilaration of the open road” and “anonymity of the forest” is bound to have a few quotes that you can search for and take out of context for a pretentious Instagram caption that will make you look sophisticated. This book is full of untapped insta-cred potential.

Recommended Pairing: An Iced Mocha, a highlighter, some green grass and maybe a feather.


  1.    The Book of Heaven: A Novel by Patricia Storace

With four stars on Amazon and a customer review that it “reads like someone is unspooling an ancient legend for you” this book is a safe bet for those Instagram likes you’re desperate for to validate your existence. The book ponders as to “what if a woman’s point of view were God’s.” It’s a mediation on feminism and the patriarchy in society, which is actually an extremely exciting premise. However, some of the reviews claim that the “language was too poetic” and it “hurt your head to read.” Since you don’t have enough willpower to even look at your Extended Essay you probably won’t read this, but one of the reviews gracefully provided me with a quote that you can put as a caption of a photo of you suntanning with an expensive pair of ray bans. “For it is said we wait for God’s judgment in the life to come; but our lives here are our judgment of God.” “But what does this mean?” you ask. Who cares? I don’t and neither will your followers.   

Recommended Pairing: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, a Sweetgreen Harvest Bowl Salad, and a queen-sized bed with pretty sheets.


  1. The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector translated by Benjamin Moser

If you’re in Ms. Holden’s HL English class you’ve read this. If you’re going to be in Ms. Holden’s HL English class, you will read this. I, as a superficial and pretentious person, loved this book; this is a sound choice for establishing a good Aesthetic™ on your Instagram feed. It’s a meditation on creation and writing, existence and beauty, poverty and free will. This basically checks each box on a checklist for ‘profound reading.’ The prose is such of a “Nouveau Roman” meaning a wonky syntax. It’s got some pretty good quotes, and the cover of this translated version is super pretty and will glow in the right sunlight.

Recommended Pairing: Kombucha and a triangle swimsuit (to match the cover)


  1.  A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimar McBride.

The book has been rejected by numerous publishing companies; meaning this is either a new Harry Potter or ostentatious crap. At any rate, the title connotates some form of profundity. I think the melodramatic Amazon description says it all: “In scathing, furious, unforgettable prose, Eimear McBride tells the story of a young girl’s devastating adolescence as she and her brother, who suffers from a brain tumor, struggle for a semblance of normalcy in the shadow of sexual abuse, denial, and chaos at home.” Exciting stuff, right? (No, but look at this cover.)

Recommended Pairing: A calligraphy set, postcards, and glasses (doesn’t matter if you need them or not).


  1. The Secret History by Donna Part.

I saved this for last. This book is literally about devoting yourself too seriously to aestheticism. An unreadable 576 pages (I can’t even read 20 without my eyes glazing over) about misfit intellectuals in an elite New England college who are influenced by their eccentric Classics professor pondering on how hard it is to live and how easy it is to kill. This book has it all: the meaning of life, the value of life, Homer, adventure, heroism, morality, and mortality. Not to mention that the actual characters are pretentious elitists who wear ties and speak Ancient Greek fluently (don’t we all). The Classics themselves are full of great aesthetics: physically perfect male soldiers, tragedy, monsters, legends, and myth. This book is the epitome of Aesthetic™.

Recommended Pairing: A tie, some candles, and a rich significant other with nice hair.

 Although the ‘tranquil studying’ aesthetic of pretty gel pens, coffee, and Moleskine journals complete with cute diagrams is appealing and a safe bet for some ‘likes’ on an Instagram post, it actually requires a degree of studying (who’s gonna make the diagrams?). These books are a perfect alternative, and who knows, maybe out of boredom you’ll actually read one and enjoy it.

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