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Books and Booze: The James Knows What We Want

July 15, 2014 at 6:47 PM | by | ()

While most hotels are introducing new services to guests via in-room tablets, James Hotels are going a different route.

The boutique brand has partnered up with writer, author and humorist Joel Stein, who we first fell in love with during his stint on VH1's "I Love The 80s" show, to create a new literary program for guests.

Stein has chosen four paperback books for each James location--New York, Chicago, Miami and the upcoming Los Angeles hotel--which guests can read during their stay. The books will be available in the living libraries at each hotel but in New York and Miami, the books can be also uploaded to the eReaders and Kindles that are available (So, it's still a tech-forward program.)

But that's not all. Master mixologist Johnny Swet who does the libations at JIMMY in New York, has created cocktails that pair with each city's corresponding books and personalities. Hmm, we're seeing a pattern here--James, Joel, Johnny. Maybe with my name, I could get a job too?

Here's what on the James summer reading list, as selected by Stein and the corresponding cocktail as crafted by Swet:

· The Big Short by, Michael Lewis: “Sure, there’s advertising and media, but this is actually a one-industry town and that industry is money. Michael Lewis explains how our economy depends entirely on a bunch of traders who don’t entirely know what they’re doing and how they messed up in 2008.”

· A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan: “Unfortunately, you have to finish the novel to feel all the disparate stories come together, but I hereby give you permission to steal it. I’m guessing I’m empowered to do that.” Heat by, Bill Buford: “Everyone in New York is a part-time restaurant critic. You’re going to spend a lot of time talking about where to eat and what you thought of where you ate. So you might as well read this and find out how hard it is to cook that meal.”

· From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by, E.L. Konigsburg: “Yes, it’s a kid’s book. But that’s exactly what you have time for in a hotel. And if you take the book’s advice and check out of this hotel, hide in the Met after it closes, sleep there and buy street food with the coins you find in the fountain, you’ll save your company a lot on your expense report.”

· New York Cocktail Pairing: Blood & Sand - a classic cocktail that blends Chivas Regal Scotch, Sweet Vermouth, Cherry Herring and Orange Juice.


· A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by, Dave Eggers: “The man who made earnestness the culture of the 21st century still had a tiny bit of irony and a lot of humor in him when he wrote this book that I wish I had written, minus the personal tragedy stuff.”

· Chicago Poems by, Carl Sandburg: “Sandburg did the impossible: He produced poems that are easier to read than prose, delighting American schoolchildren for generations.”
· Working by, Studs Terkel: “I haven’t read this, but I like that it consists of little oral histories from different people, which seems the sort of thing you can dip into over cocktails at a hotel.

· Selected Poems by, Gwendolyn Brooks: “As a white male, I sure picked a lot of books by white males. Then again, that’s kind of what we do as white males: Go on and on and expect people to listen. But in Chicago in the first half of the 20th century, other people got a voice, and while I don’t know much about poetry, I know Brooks is powerful, easy to read and kept many pieces short enough to read in a hotel room."

· Chicago Cocktail Pairing: River North Press Chicago - an original-meets-classic cocktail featuring Bourbon, Apple Juice, Lemon Juice, Ginger Ale and bitters.


· Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need by, Dave Barry: “If you’re traveling and have only a few minutes while your spouse* gets ready, this book by the former Miami Herald humor columnist might be the best for making fun of your spouse* when your spouse* is done…*I clearly mean “wife.”

· The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens by, Wallace Stevens: “I am a firm believer in reading poetry in hotels, since that’s all you have time for. It’s why the Gideons nailed it by putting the Bible near your bed.”

· The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise by, Michael Grunwald: “Have I read this book? That’s not important. The important thing is that it’s about Florida and was written by a really nice, talented guy I work with at Time magazine.”

· The Waves by, Virginia Woolf: “One of my favorite books. You can read it on the beach without worrying if it makes sense. Just let the words wash over you.”

· Miami Cocktail Pairing: Lime Daiquiri - a cocktail classic with some zest, featuring Pyrum Rum, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup and a lime wedge.


· What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by, Kirstin Newman: “Kristin, one of the funniest people I know, is a sitcom writer who uses all her money and time to travel the world, and as soon as she past international waters, she turns into a complete hussy,” said Stein. “This book makes you want to travel. And be a sitcom writer. And meet Kristin Newman.”

· Things the Grandchildren Should Know by, Mark Oliver Everett: “Mark is known as E, who is the band Eels. He grew up in a really weird family; his dad was a physicist who invented the idea of parallel universes. He’s also the best croquet player I know. This book gets at the feeling of what it’s like to move to L.A. to try to make it, and escape, and play croquet.”

· Einstein by, Walter Isaacson: “That’s right, Einstein lived in L.A. for a while. And this book, by my former boss, is a surprisingly fast read. Pick any few pages and you can impress people tonight at dinner. Not because you’ll know something about physics. But because you’re in LA and you read part of a book.”

· Inherent Vice by, Thomas Pynchon: “Is this the best Thomas Pynchon novel? Definitely not. But it is the easiest to read and you’re in a hotel. It’s Fletch redone by a genius. And it captures L.A. in the 1970s way better than a Carpenters song.”

· LA Cocktail Pairing: Studio Tonic - a unique original featuring Belvedere Vodka, Cointreau, Coconut Water, Tonic and an Orange Slice.

Guests can order up the books and the booze through the front desk or via the James Hotels' new app, Pocket Assistant. The books are complimentary, the drinks are not. If you take the book with you, a "small fee" will be charged to your bill.

Archived Comments:

Nick @ AppyHotel.com

I love, love, LOVE this idea. I'm all for moving technology forward but there's no reason you can't return to your first love of print on paper to relax and unwind. I guess the cocktails don't hurt either. Good for the James Hotel for giving guests an experience rather than just a night's sleep. Show off your style!


I love this idea too! Also good to see books I mainly haven't heard of. Love the LA cocktail too..

Studio tonic

I feel like the LA drink could get me into trouble. At the very least, I'll pass out with a book on my face. Hah!


At least you would be well hydrated when you woke up, thanks to the coconut water