What We're Reading this Summer: Book Culture on Columbus
It's Memorial Day, which means we've finally reached the (unofficial) start of summer! Summer is vacations at the beach, strolls around the park, drinks on the patio, and, best of all, summer reading! Back in the day summer was the season to finally read whatever we wanted, without the constraints of school work; most of us are no longer operating according to a school calendar, but summer still feels like a special time to be reading. To celebrate the advent of this glorious time of year, we've decided to share what's on our summer reading lists.
1. Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar: I've decided to make my summer one of new beginnings, so accordingly I'm reading all of the debuts I can get my hands on. This first foray from a young Czech author follows a Czech scientist-turned-astronaut exploring an anomalous collection of space dust-- although he may not be totally alone on his vessel. Eerie, heartfelt, space adventure? Sign me up.
2. My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci: Another in the slew of recent debuts from young Eastern European authors, Tea Obreht called it "a strange, haunting and utterly original exploration of displacement and desire". Here's to hoping that it lives up to the great literary tradition of anthropomorphized cats.
3. Startup by Doree Shafrir: Continuing my summer of debuts, Startup will go along perfectly with the new season of HBO's "Silicon Valley". Let's just hope that she didn't write it "to make the world a better place”.
1. Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo: A crazy lesbian magical realism mental hospital thriller? Do I need to say more? #beachread
2. The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis: The synopsis I read online immediately grabbed my attention and then two fellow booksellers were like "Josh this book sounds like something you would love!" So... here we are! An angsty and sad gay French teen is my general aesthetic and I am really excited about it.
3. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh: I absolutely loved Brideshead Revisited. I'm not too interested in Waugh's WWII novels but I absolutely loved his writing and thought that this would be a great next step.
1. The Gunslinger by Stephen King: I am mildly obsessed with Stephen King and have a weird desire to read everything by him. This series is next on my Stephen King reading saga, it should be a fun summer.
2. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obrecht: This has been on my to-read list for years now and I think it is finally time to read it. I have been told that it is a beautiful book and I am in the mood for beauty.
3. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: I read a review of this book and it piqued my interest. It seems like it is the type of story you can sink your teeth into.
1. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: I'm taking it slow with this book. Hard to swallow, but necessary. Alexander's argument that legal segregation and Jim Crow laws have been redesigned as mass incarceration as a means of racial control is intense and solely based on facts. If you don't believe in light summer reads this one is for you.
2. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion: Summer is the time to revisits old favorites! And honestly, what's a summer without a little bit of Didion?
3. Together and by Ourselves by Alex Dimitrov: A raw, deeply moving poetry collection. I read one poem from this collection and immediately saved the rest for the perfect summer day. Good for anyone who loves poetry and emotional journeys.
1. In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami: Japanese literature (and media) reveals the darker, creepier side of the culture that would make Hello Kitty scream in horror. This novel, by the other, less well-known Murakami, is a psychological thriller about a Japanese man who must take on the job of giving an obese American man, who may or may not be a serial killer, a tour of the seedy sex clubs of Tokyo's Shinjuku district. How could I not?
2. The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector: Recommended to me by a co-worker, I am planning on reading this cold. The only thing I know about it is that it had to do with a cockroach which intrigues me. I haven't read anything by Lispector, a Brazilian author, but I understand her stories are supposed to be strange. So naturally I am terribly excited!
3. The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard by Elmore Leonard: I have yet to tackle this elephant of a book which I bought a while back and is collecting dust in my room. As the title suggests this is a collection of all of the wild west short stories of the late, great pulp writer, Elmore Leonard. Quite a few of these stories were written at the beginning of his career while he was working for GM Motors in Detroit, before he introduced the world to his gritty crime tales.
1. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado: I just started an advance copy of this short story collection set to be published by Graywolf next month and I am already thoroughly spooked. Unflinching, graphic, scary, sexy, and ruthless are the words that come to mind so far. I might have to take a break and come back, because it's a very very intense experience, but I can already tell it's going to be a book I won't forget anytime soon.
2. In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi: Newly in paperback with an awesome new cover, Faludi's account of her father's transition into being a woman is more tantalizing than ever. This one has been on my list for ages, and I'm on a bit of a non-fiction kick right now, so I think it's finally the perfect time.
3. You're the Only One I Can Tell by Deborah Tannen: I majored in linguistics in college and it's been far too long since I got to read anything on the subject. Enter this book: an exploration of the linguistic properties of female friendships! If you had to describe my dream linguistic read, this would be it. I can't wait.
1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: The TV adaptation is out and IT IS SO GOOD. Dystopian (and highly realistic) portrayal of a mostly infertile society, where "handmaids" are used by the rich and powerful to birth their children. Lots of paranoia, spooky sex scenes, resistance and revolt. Whoa.
2. Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky: I'm going to read this on my annual trip to the Motherland! Demons was inspired by a political murder in pre-revolutionary Russia, and is considered by Russians an "Anti-nihilistic novel". Dostoyevsky writes about the disillusionment in revolutionary ideals of the time. To be honest, I expect it to be about literally everything. Top of my list!
3. The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins: Not going to lie, this is something I've been reading and put down last year, but I really do want to finish it. Dawkins is phenomenal when it comes to explaining evolutionary biology, and I am so into passionate and dedicated people like him! No alternative facts in this book.
1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: My portable mass-market copy of this modern tome has been sitting on my shelves for too long. I can't wait to dive into another one of Ms. Tartt's enthralling stories this summer.
2. Outline by Rachel Cusk: If I can't physically travel to the Grecian Islands for my summer vacation I'll have to do so vicariously through this unique story. I've been obsessed with Cusk's writing since I first read her in the New York Times so I'm thrilled to finally start on her novels.
3. Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac: The latest step in my road to beat completion, Desolation Angels picks up where The Dharma Bums leaves off. Kerouac's early novels are the perfect summer reads for anyone who wants to escape society to the mountains and leave from for philosophizing and deep thoughts.
1. Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford: It's a very indescribable and rather exhilarating feeling to stumble upon the writing of a personal hero of yours that you haven't yet had the chance to read. Jessica Mitford of the infamous Mitford sisters of British aristocracy captures the strange and endlessly intriguing days of her youth in this illuminating biography. To say any more would betray the wonder of discovering her life in her words for yourself.
2. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot: In this rather unpleasantly tumultuous age that we now seem to find ourselves in, I’ve been caught on more than one occasion saying needlessly grand things concerning an urgent need to defend civilization. When I’m often and quite immediately pressed to enumerate exactly what it is that I think is so worth saving and celebrating while we still can, the writings of George Eliot are the first thing that comes to mind. This old favorite of mine has been blushingly sitting in my to do pile for far too long, and I’m reminded this Summer that there is no time, in the old phrase, quite like the present.
3. Essential Deren by Maya Deren: I might take a moment with this last selection to be so bold as to confess a small wish of my own, which is the ascension of the name of film director Maya Deren to household status. By dint of her vanguard style, you are by definition guaranteed to not agree with everything she has to say but at the same time, never be bored. This compendium of her selected writings on film has been something that I've been very much looking forward to parsing through and puzzling over for quite awhile.
1. L'Heure Bleue or The Judy Poems by Elisa Gabbert: I have been angling to read this book, published by Black Ocean, for months. Now is the time! Its poems revolve around a character from a play, which is a wild concept that I've heard pans out.
2. In the Distance by Hernan Diaz: In the Distance sounds like a stressful Western, a saga, and a valuable trek. Books that involve crossing the country in all its chaos seem especially important this year.
3. Moonbath by Yanick Lahens: An intergenerational female-centric family drama that involves a curse? Yes.
Recent blog posts
- Queer Book Club reads YA!
- Q&A with "Priestdaddy" author, Patricia Lockwood
- New from Book Culture Selects!
- Q&A with David MacNeal
- What We're Reading this Summer: Book Culture on Broadway
- What We're Reading this Summer: Book Culture on Columbus
- What We're Reading this Summer: Book Culture 112
- Join our CSA!
- Q&A with Susan Silver
- Book Culture Selects: May