What to Read When You’re at the Bar


My debut novel The Shortest Way Home (forthcoming from Dutton on July 31) is about a young woman, Hannah Greene, who thinks she has it all figured out—a soon-to-be fiancé, an MBA, a fancy job at a New York City finance company. It’s all on track until she walks into a Sonoma winery and decides to throw it all away for a life filled with wine and love (and dogs).

Of course I had to do a lot of research for this book, much of which involved me hanging out in bars asking people questions about wine. Since I can’t bring my dog to bars with me, I usually bring a book. Here are a few recommendations for books you can bring to the bar with you this summer!


Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
A novel set almost entirely in Manhattan bars and parties (there are also some fabulous apartments). About an obsessive friendship gone very wrong. Surprising at every turn.


When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
A sexy romance, set in the lesbian bars of New York City. When Katie is dumped by her fiancé, she’s in a tailspin until she meets Cassid,y who is her match in every way. But will Katie allow herself to fall for a woman? Sure to spark conversation with all genders and sexual orientations.


Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
A book about finding love even when you feel like a misfit. Filled with text messages and memes, but also brimming with heart, this book is a million times better than a Tinder date.


Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin’s main character John Rebus spends so much time at the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh that there’s an original brew there called Rebus. Even Dogs in the Wild is a great place to start if you haven’t read Rankin, as it features both of his series’ characters—Rebus and Malcolm Fox. This is a great read for detective fans.


The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer
A memoir by a man who grew up surrounded by alcohol—his dad owned a bar on Long Island. An affecting book that might make you want to go home before having that last drink.


Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
An incredible book set in the restaurant world of New York City. Tess starts working at one of the top restaurants in New York, only to find that the restaurant life is all-encompassing in ways beyond her imagination. As the story unfolds, she learns about wine, but also about love and life.


Tangerine by Christine Mangan
A key scene in this book is set in a bar in Tangiers, frequented by Paul Bowles. This is another book about obsessive friendship, set in 1950s Morocco. You won’t be able to put it down.


Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
This is a book about identity and about how it is processed from the inside out. It’s the kind of book that inspires deep conversations in bars: How does your mind work? How do substances affect it? Bring this one to your favorite watering hole and watch the beautiful two-headed snake on its cover generate conversation—or shut down any unwanted advances.


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Alcohol plays a key role in the plot of this book about a woman who observes the perfect couple each night during her daily train ride. Until one day, everything changes.


Barfly by Charles Bukowski
Charles Bukowski was the ultimate barfly, so this is essential bar reading.


My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard
I always say that if you are a woman who wants men to talk to you in bars, this is the book you should open. If you are a man who wants women to get into fights with you at bars, just bring this along.


The Ex by Alafair Burke
If you’re feeling heartbroken, read The Ex in a bar and you’re sure to find someone new to love. Or kill. Whatever your fancy.


And to close out this wonderful list, we just had to include Miriam’s debut novel, The Shortest Way Home, available July 31 from Dutton!  – Ed.

The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker
Hannah is finally about to have everything she ever wanted. With a high-paying job, a Manhattan apartment, and a boyfriend about to propose, all she and Ethan have to do is make it through the last couple of weeks of grad school—but a trip to Sonoma makes Hannah rethink everything.

Miriam Parker has worked in book publishing for more than seventeen years, and is currently the Associate Publisher of Ecco. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UNC Wilmington and a BA in English from Columbia University. Her short stories have been published in The Florida Review and Fourteen Hills. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her spaniel, Leopold Bloom. The Shortest Way Home is her first novel. More from this author →