Summer 2013 Reading Recommendations


First of all, thank you to all my new followers! I’ve gotten more in the past two days than in my entire first year as a blogger, and I appreciate you all so much.

Secondly, I thought I ought to write one last post before returning to North Carolina, the land of spotty internet connections, for the summer. Here’s a list of summer reading and grammatically incorrect commentary that I compiled via request for one of my friends whilst procrastinating for finals. Forgive my fragments and excessive capitalization. My blood caffeine concentration was a little out of control…

1)      Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham- I haven’t read it yet, but it’s Lauren Graham and therefore bestowed automatic hilarity points.

2)      Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro- Ethics of cloning British school children in future dystopia. Obviously. Don’t read it in public though, because tears. Expect departures from the film version, simple prose, ALL THE ELOQUENCE, and unfathomable, profound excellence.

3)      Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier- Speculations on the creation of the Vermeer painting, daily lives of Dutch maids, and artistic obsession. I’ve read every single book by her just on the merit of this masterpiece. Not one compares. It’s a relatively short and quick read, one of the rare books that functions well on both levels of compelling, bestseller-esque plot and symbolic, aesthetic merit.

4)      Atonement by Ian McEwan- Don’t want to ruin it, but the title says it all- 13-year-old makes mistake that destroys lives and spends the rest of hers repenting/trying to “atone” and World War II sucks. Best book written in the past ten years. Done. SO MUCH METAFICTIONAL PROWESS.

5)      Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson- Autobiography of awesome British writer/gender studies boss coming out to her evangelical/pyscho mother. Asks interesting questions about the nature of love, family, spirituality, fairy tale traditions, and religion. Simultaneously devastating and hilarious.

6)      Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer- Postmodernism, wut up! TRUTH DOES NOT EXIST. Foer makes you weep with feelings of inadequacy because he knows the possibilities of the English language better than you ever will. He’s also a hilarious writer who’s not above colloquialism and dirty jokes.

7)      Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga- Bildungsroman to end all bildungsroman, set in colonial Rhodesia: teenage girl leaves village for British education, discovers Jane Eyre, realizes misogyny is a universal evil, cuts a bitch (power-tripping uncle, but whatever). I just loved how this novel related postcolonialism to universal struggle.

8)      Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi- Another autobiography about a female English professor and censorship in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Tells the story of her students’ illegal book club reading American classics, interweaving their interpretations and their personal stories. Celebrates the liberating power of literature and the universality of the human condition. Basically, everything that I love in life written in poetic prose.

9)      Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates- think The Great Gatsby in the 50s if Jay and Daisy ended up married in the suburbs and trapped in their own apathy. Or Mad Men, if Don Draper hated the bureaucracy. Lots of angst, insanity, disillusionment, and secretaries. It’s truly beautiful, but also sickening at times and not for the faint reader. Warning: the ending is the most intense of all endings. *I can’t* I actually blame this book for my fear of marriage. But you should still read it.

10)    Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys- postcolonial, modernist, feminist awesomeness, written from the perspective of Bertha Mason, the madwoman in the attic from Jane Eyre, from childhood through marriage with Rochester to ultimate insanity. The politics and feminism are strong with this one. So ahead of its time, it makes your head spin- especially interesting rants on the pathologization of female sexuality (omg Charlotte Bronte, you made Bertha insane because she likes sex, you did that on purpose!). It’s also brilliant on the power and influence of perspective, and the last section, written in the stream of consciousness of an insane person (you guessed it, locked in an attic) is honestly one of the coolest things I’ve ever read. I love Bronte, and as you know, Jane Eyre is my favorite book. It follows that this book, which trashes everything about Bronte’s cultural perspective (CHECK YOUR WHITE BRITISH PRIVELEGE, BRONTE), must be ridiculously well done for me to enjoy it.

11)   Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote- try to get your hands on the Vintage Classics copy that also contains three Capote short stories (including “A Christmas Memory” SO GOODDD). This one’s technically a novella, so you could probably read it in an hour. Differently different than the Hepburn film- although the movie contains more romance and overall feels, I liked the novella better, simply because there was less, semi-disturbing talk about women “belonging” to men. Also, I had never read Truman extensively before this, but his phrasing is perfection. He can make a lightbulb contain the significance and beauty of a galaxy. It’s that real.

12)   Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings- Some fantasy/sci-fi to mix it up. This was my childhood crack and the first in a series of ten. I used to read them all every summer and winter break. Lots of good, evil, and ordinary farm boys with mysterious destinies.

13)   Dubliners by James Joyce- a collection of entangled short stories by dat Irish genius with the spectacles. I don’t know if you’ve read Joyce before, but if not, it’s a fantastic entry point into his excellent brain, because honestly, it’s just less experimental and strange than his other yarns. Considered depressing by most, but I take it as a challenge to break out of the monotonous patterns of daily life and do something already.

14)   The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner- Don’t bring this one to the beach, only crack open when you’re in the mood to think. Every sentence is a struggle, and the reader must actively piece the story together. Imagine Lost in prose form, if all of the characters were siblings in the South and one of them was mentally retarded and writing stream of consciousness. Pure, unadulterated madness. And brilliance.

15)   The Once and Future King by T.H White- retelling of the King Arthur narrative, complete with the Questing Beast (omg, adorable). Hilarious and inevitably heartbreaking.

16)   Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh- If you’ve seen the movie, erase that prejudice from your brain. Absolutely nothing like. This book taught me how to feel. Legitimately. It’s twisted and nostalgic, seeped in privilege and Catholic angst. Strange love triangles erupt between a brother, a sister, and the protagonist (no incest, don’t worry- they’re both just after Charles). It’s also a haunting, melancholy, ironically humorous swan song to all that is elegant and beautiful and pure in this world.

17)   The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood- Second best book of the twenty-first century. There’s too much to summarize. Its books within books within books. And all of them are brilliant, strange, and interconnected.

18)   Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman- Short book with all the thoughts. Each chapter is a different universe enacting an alternate theory of time. This is the book that inspired me to start writing, and it’s also one of the most thought-provoking intersections of physics and literature ever penned.

 

Appendix A: Short Stories

Alice Munro

Ann Beattie (her collected New Yorker stories have been published in one volume and they are all breathtaking)

Flannery O’Connor (A Good Man Is Hard to Find)

Chimamanda Adichie (The Thing Around Your Neck)

The Best American Short Stories Anthologies (I can vouch for 2011 and 2012)

F. Scott Fitzgerald (Babylon Revisited)

Appendix B: Poetry

Seamus Heaney

Billy Collins

Margaret Atwood

Louise Gluck (collected poems just came out *gush*)

Adrienne Rich (Diving Into the Wreckage)

Eavan Boland (Domestic Violence)

Rita Dove

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Poetry as Insurgent Art)

Dana Gioia

Natasha Trethewey

Sandra Beasley (I Was the Jukebox)

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18 responses to “Summer 2013 Reading Recommendations

  1. This looks like a great list. I’ve read seven of the books you recommend already and loved all of them, which bodes well for the rest… Thanks!

    • Thank you so much for the re-blog. Unfortunately, I’m in the middle of nowhere where Internet is scarce, but I can’t wait to check out your blog the next time I muster a connection! 🙂

  2. When I see reading lists like this, it gets me slightly depressed thinking about how there are so many good books out there in the world and how there just isn’t enough time in one life to read them all. But then I think of all the books in the world waiting for me to read them and I can’t help but smile 🙂

    • So, so true. Every time I finish a book and get to choose a new one, I’ve overwhelmed by how full my shelves are, how long my list is, and how many more wonders await discovery. 🙂

  3. My mum bought me Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit when I was 14 because I told her I “didn’t like boys” I still have the copy she bought me. I might just have to re-read it

    • That’s wonderful. I read it in a 20th Century British Women Novelists course last semester, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

      • one of the best things about being stuck in a girl boarding boarding school in the 1980s was the lack of computers, TV and other distractions and hanging out in the library reading pretty much exclusively female classical writers 🙂 Everyone should read more

  4. I’m impressed with your recommendations! I could pull most of these books off of my shelves (or kindle…) I notice post-colonialism didn’t make the list. Shorts stories by Bowles or Borges will horrify you in the most guttural and pleasing way possible. It’s hard to imagine words weaving a more poignant, beautiful, and re-active narrative before pulling the rug from beneath you in 15 pages or less. My favorite? Borges “The Gospel According to Mark.”

  5. I’m curious, since you mentioned your second favorite book, which is your ultimate favorite book to read (and I’m assuming rereading)? Looking forward to future posts!

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