Summer reading

I'm sure you've all noticed by now that I love vintage magazine covers. Harper's Bazaar is my fave. This one caught my eye both because it covers summer reading, and -- more importantly -- the "lazybones diet." Of course this piqued my curiosity. I searched to no avail for the subject in the Harper's archives. Here's some stuff I did find about 1950s dieting.

Diet Rite cola was released in 1958 as a "dietetic" product. It was later introduced and marketed as a "healthful" beverage in 1962.

Averyl Hill writes a blog dedicated to vintage diets. Check it out. She is working on this e-book:

Retro-Housewife is an interesting blog that covers dieting by the decade.

According to a 2003 study by the woman's magazine Prima as reported in the dailymail, 1950s woman burned more than 1,000 calories a day performing their daily domestic duties. How you may ask?
  • They spent 3 hours a day doing housework, an hour walking to and from town to shop -- the butcher's, the baker's, the green grocer's and other specialty shops -- an hour shopping itself and another hour making dinner.
  • Many had to prepare lunch as their husbands came home to eat in the middle of the day (Ugh!).
  • Family cars were scarce so they had to walk their kids to and from school.

Let's take a look at the numbers:

Three hours housework (150 cals. an hour): 450
One hour walking to shops (280 cals. an hour): 280
1 hour shopping (200 cals. an hour): 200
1 hour cooking (162 cals. an hour): 162

TOTAL: 1,092 

No TVs and other electronic devices to keep their children quiet and entertained meant they actually had to play with them.

1950s women also ate fewer calories -- 1,818 on average compared with 2,778 in 2003. The study attributes this partially to making meals from scratch versus buying prepared and junk food.

Other research found that 50s women enjoyed much more active sex lives because their time was not divided among career, childcare and leisure time outside the home. I wonder how many more calories they burned having more sex?

Question: Would you give up your career, dishwasher, washing machine, car, TV,  laptop, smart phone, your children's electronic devices, gym membership, socializing with friends, buying pre-made meals, eating out, dry cleaner, hired help, etc. in exchange for spending more quality time at home cooking, cleaning, playing with your children and having more sex with your husband -- all in an effort to stay slim?

My unequivocal answer is no.

Back on topic. There's no need to tax the old noggin this summer. You do have to deal with entertaining children, after all. I'm going to Boston and Nantucket in July. And, my nine-year-old is obsessed with the Kennedy's. With that general geographic area -- as well as law breaking, infidelity, entitlement, privilege and shear stupidity -- in mind, I offer these four titles for your summer reading pleasure. Trust me. They are all entertaining.
  1. Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath by Mimi Alford: Extremely naive (aka clueless) young Mimi sets off for a summer internship in the Kennedy White House press office. Shortly thereafter, she is seduced by JFK and begins a long and torrid affair. Unable to keep her secret any longer, she spills the beans after decades of mental and emotional unrest. 
  2. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman: "Smithie" graduate Piper becomes involved with a drug-trafficking girlfriend. She gets busted for delivering cash in an international drug deal and is sentenced to 15 months in a federal women's correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut. 
  3. The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor by Mark Seal: German born Christian K. Gerhartsreiter travels to America and pretends to be “Clark Rockefeller.” Clark (and many other false identities) gives new meaning to the word “ballsy.” The blue bloods he dupes from coast to coast give new meaning to the word “gullible.”  After 12 years of fraudulent escapades, he is arrested for kidnapping his own daughter.
  4. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld: Coming of Age story about teen girl from South Bend, Indiana who wins a scholarship to a prestigious Massachusetts prep school. The rest is history. 
Sittenfeld will be speaking at the Decatur Library July 1 at 7:15 pm.

Just in case you were wondering, the novel Dr. Zhivago was the number one best seller in 1958.

So, what's on your summer reading list?

Photo images: 1, 23


  1. *just* picked up Big Brother by Lionel Shriver. Psyyyyched. I could not stop thinking about We Need To Talk About Kevin after I read it in like 2 days a couple of years ago.


    1. I've been dying to see the movie based on talk about Kevin. Tilda Swinton earned a Globe nomination for her role as the mom.

  2. I have a stack so high, it will take me from now until the summer of 2023! I have three friends that all have similar tastes and have shared a book group with me for almost 14 years, so we usually get together with ideas we have read about, heard about, have been said to be notable, or just have a kick ass cover, and we just rotate the books. It's fun to be able to share the experience, even though we don't have much time to get together much anymore.

    Actually, Maureen, one of our books would be perfect for you! It's called TELL ABOUT NIGHT FLOWERS: Eudora Welty’s Gardening Letters, 1940-1949. I adore Eudora Welty and will consume anything I can about or by her. I heard the book was amazing- it was reviewed by NYTimes recently, if you are interested- apparently, she was quite the gardener in all ways!

  3. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitgerald
    The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold (selected from our street's lending library)
    The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
    Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander by Phil Robertson
    A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis (not being morose but I do, in fact, want to read this book)
    The Official Book of Electronic Etiquette (see Maureen's earlier blog)
    I sort of want to reread Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand but we'll see...
    The Man in the Rockefeller Suit was fascinating.
    Happy Reading!!

  4. Maybe all the 1950s women were having more sex because of all the Kennedy brothers! I love your recommendations. They sound a lot lighter than Wolf Hall, which I am slogging through right now. I read a long article in the New Yorker about Clark Rockefeller, which may have been an excerpt from the book. That's a crazy story.


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