What We're Reading this Summer: Book Culture 112
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. The Three-Arched Bridge by Ismail Kadare: Ismail Kadare, winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize, is known for using Albanian folklore to explore the mechanics of totalitarianism. Everything old is new again and I can't wait to see what parallels emerge between this retold medieval myth and our own modern times.
2. The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso: It's been called a female Grumpy Old Men and 'a war of wits and witticisms amid the bougainvillea.' Sign. Me. Up.
3. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link: I've been using Kelly Link's name as a barometer for good, weird short fiction for years--Promotional blurb by Kelly Link? Must be good. Intro by Kelly Link? Must be phenomenal--yet, I've never actually read any of her collections. Time to fix that.
1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders: I used to read io9 a lot (which Anders co-founded) and always found her criticism to be really good and particularly socially-conscious, so I figured I'd give her book a shot. Plus I LOVE the cover!
2. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie: I read the first book in the series (Ancillary Justice) a year or two ago and really liked it (see my staff review). I try not to read sequels immediately after the previous book, so I think it's been enough time and I'd really like to revisit that world now.
3. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien: I've been meaning to read this for a while and I've been going pretty hard with the scifi lately, so this will be my next take-a-break-from-scifi book. I had heard of the book before, but only considered reading it after I read far too much about stout beer and found out this book had a poem specifically about stout.
1. Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood: It's been a long time since I've been as excited for a book as I am for Priestdaddy, poet Patricia Lockwood's memoir.Lockwood's poetry is alternatively touching and hilarious (and her twitter account is the only one you absolutely need to follow), so I can't wait to see what she does with her story about moving in with her father (who is a Catholic priest, somehow) and her wacky family in Kansas City.
2. The Flintstones, Vol. 1 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh: I've been hearing so many good things about the new Flintstones comic, so I can't wait to read some of my favorite childhood characters as a gritty, political satire.
3. What is a World? by Pheng Cheah: I saw Pheng Cheah speak recently. His reconception of "world literature" as "worlding literature" is fascinating and provocative. I can't wait to dig deeper into his argument and read some of the most exciting recent work in literary studies.
1. The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector: I (finally) read my first Lispector novel, Near to the Wild Heart, and I am head over heels obsessed with her. The fusion of nature and human existence that she uses to explore the feminine is intoxicating. I need much, much more of her, and this hefty collection of short stories should do the trick!
2. Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes by Patricia Highsmith: I may have started this one already, and it's promising to be just really odd in a "Should I laugh? Or should I cry? Or should I just sit around twiddling my thumbs for half an hour?" kind of way. If that makes any sense at all. I've never read Highsmith before, although I've heard quite a lot about her as a person, so I'm intrigued...
3. The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington by Leonora Carrington: As you can maybe tell, I've been really into short story collections by female authors recently. And I love surrealism. So how could I not immensely enjoy this?
1. Isadora by Amelia Gray: Isadora Duncan is considered one of the founders of modern dance. In this novel, Amelia Gray explores Isadora's life as an artist, a woman, and a mother in the wake of a tragic accident in the Spring of 1913.
2. Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang: I'm looking forward to reading Jenny Zhang's first short story collection, Sour Heart. Known for her columns in the teen girl magazine Rookie and her amazingly weird and corporeal poetry, Zhang's new book follows a group of Chinese immigrants to New York, focusing mostly on the experiences of the young women who grow up in immigrant communities throughout the city. With settings ranging from the Cultural Revolution in 1960s Shanghai to current day Flushing, Queens, the stories in Sour Heart are sure to be strange and entertaining.
3. Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez: Mariana Enriquez is an Argentine writer whose short stories chronicle the lives of people living in the aftermath of historical trauma. There's also plenty of black magic and mysterious disturbances. This is the first time Enriquez's writing has been published in English!
1. Selected Works by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: I am excited to delve farther into these wonderful translations by Edith Grossman. The cover of the standard Norton edition is beautiful but the supplementary readings in the Critical Edition are really exciting.
2. My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris: I am excited to read (and may start my summer early!) this memoir by one of the original pioneers of food and travel writing. This memoir focuses on her time in the Village and world travels in the 70's while hanging with James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, and countless others.
3. Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi: This is the second book from the fledgling press Transit Books out of Oakland, CA and it is "the great Ugandan novel you didn’t know you were waiting for." I am excited for this amazing read and for the success of this awesome new small press!
1. Witches of America by Alex Mar: Like the author, I have always been inexplicably drawn to the occult for no reason I can think of other than as a child I really liked those necklaces with fake fairy dust and making potions out of weird things in the spice cupboard, and one time I made my mom buy me a pewter wand from some obscure website. It seems that Alex Mar has unpacked this inclination for me, and I can't wait to read all about it this summer.
2. At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell: Paris! Existentialism! If there is a book to read about Sarte and Simone de Beauvior while lounging in the park, musing about the world, this is it.
3. A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume: Who would I be if I wasn't reading an Irish book this summer. I first read Sara Baume because she is the author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither, which wins my award for the best book name ever, and I bought my copy while I was in Galway, so I have very fond memories of her and her strange language that is thick, dark, and winding with sounds and imagery. AND I'm going back to Ireland in August so maybe I can read her again while I'm there.
1. The Accidental by Ali Smith: Despite her many books and long list of accolades, I had been overlooking Ali Smith for years. Then this spring I finally read her. How did I go so long without Ali Smith in my life!? First I read Autumn (so good!), followed quickly by How to Be Both (even better!!). I guess the upside of newly "discovering" an author who's actually been around for a while is that I now have plenty of her books to read! This one is set at a summer vacation home, so it seems appropriate for the season.
2. The Gift by Barbara Browning: I picked up Barbara Browning's previous book, I'm Trying to Reach You, on a whim while shopping at Austin's delightful Malvern Books. It was such a fun little novel, I've been recommending it to everyone; lucky for me, Coffee House Press just released a new book by Browning earlier this month, so it went right to the top of my to-read list!
3. Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin: You say it's a story about a lesbian and all her queer friends in 90s-era Taiwan? Everything about that description appeals to me.
1. Problems by Jade Sharma: I bought this novel about a girl who works a "dead-end bookstore job" when it first came out and have been waiting for the right time to start it. This summer feels like the perfect time for me to finally read it and think critically about my life choices.
2. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin: I am embarrassed to say I have never read any James Baldwin. After seeing I am Not Your Negro this winter, I have been extra motivated to dive into his work but had no idea where to start. I asked many people which piece to start with and Go Tell it on the Mountain was the most recommended. I can't wait!
3. Citizen by Claudia Rankine: Another book that I purchased a while ago but have not yet picked up, I am looking forward to Claudia Rankine's unique writing style especially as she uses it to describe such a serious topic as racism. I have been trying to read more poetry this year which I think has prepared me to be able to appreciate Citizen even more.
1. The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich: Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich's new book promises to be a captivating mix of personal memoir and true crime. A thrilling, perfect summer read.
2. Last Words From Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin: Passion, obsession, heartbreak, mania... Some light reading for a hot summer day.
3. Emma by Jane Austen: This is the summer I actually, truly, finally read Jane Austen. I love to love unlikeable women, and I'm excited to spend some time with Emma Woodhouse.
1. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf: I read Virginia Woolf for the first time in years this April and I had forgotten how mind-blowing her prose can be.
2. Fanshen by William Hinton: My friend Jono recommended this one - a documentary history of the process of land reform in a rural Chinese village written by a comrade.
1. Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish by Tom McCarthy: I fell in love with Tom McCarthy's writing after reading Remainder a few years ago. Excited now to check out his nonfiction and glimpse from another angle the aesthetic sensibility behind his brilliant novels.
2. The Golden Passport by Duff McDonald: I'm going to get my MBA in the fall and so this new book on Harvard Business School is incredibly relevant to me. However, in detailing the recent history of the program and holding its contagious ethos responsible for the allegedly rapacious instincts of modern businessmen, it is also highly relevant to anyone with an interest in the financial crisis and contemporary business culture -- in fact anyone with a stake in our economy.
3. The Idiot by Elif Batuman: I've heard so many good things about Elif Batuman's new novel, but haven't had a chance to check it out yet. Judging from it's press and our sales, it's looking like a novel of the year candidate, need I say more?
1. The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle by Walt Whitman: I mean, who could resist a long lost New York novel from delightful/fabulous poet Walt whitman? I most recently read the NRYB Poets edition of Drum-Taps and fell back in love with him, so I'm ready to try this New York version of an adequate Dickensian novel. And who knows, maybe I'll do Claude McKay's recently discovered Amiable with Big Teeth, set in depresseion-era Harlem, next!
2. How to Survive a Summer by Nick White: I'm very excited for this new novel from Blue Rider Press. It is supposed to be part southern horror, part queer coming-of-age, set in the memory of a gay conversion camp. And since the last two books I read were How to Survive a Plague and How to Kill a City, it seems like I have to read this one. Also, he's going to be in conversation with Garrard Conley at our Columbus store on June 28th.
3. Gay Metropolis by Charles Kaiser: As I mentioned above, I just finished How to Survive a Plague and I've been making my way through James Baldwin. so I'm finding myself drawn to books that look at gay life in New York City. I like the idea of a book spanning a wide breadth of time to give me a better understanding of context/provenance in gay storytelling.
1. Aliens and Anorexia by Chris Kraus: So I'm on trend but not too on trend.
2. See a Little Light by Bob Mould: Memoir by a fellow queer Macalester alum who was one of the founding members of Hüsker Dü--I've had this sitting around for a year now and can't wait to finally read it.
3. Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns: Barbara Comyns -- So far I'm two for two with Dorothy Press books (Suzanne Scanlon's Promising Young Women and Nell Zink's The Wallcreeper), and I think this "twisted, tragicomic gem" will keep the streak going.
Bonus magazine read! She Shreds Magazine: We just started carrying this magazine by and about women guitar and bass players, and I'm obsessed. A retrospective of The Raincoats, tabs, easy-to-understand gear reviews; and this is just the first issue I've flipped through. She Shreds fills the magazine-shaped hole in my heart that I didn't even know was there.
1. Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes: Lazy hot summer months are as good a time as any to devote to a sprawling, encyclopedic tome of Latin American literature. Excited to dig into this one.
2. The Lime Twig by John Hawkes: And on the other hand, a short single-sitting beach read, although I've heard Hawkes is a pretty complex fiction writer too.
3. Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad: So many damn people have recommended this book to me. I'm finally gonna read it this summer after I finish moving to Bushwick with two friends who play bass and guitar respectively and a cat that does vocals.
1. Not One Day by Anne Garreta: I've never gotten over anything in my life (least of all the 2000 election -- I think about Al Gore almost every day), so of course I'm looking forward to reading Anne Garreta's Oulipan chronicle of past loves.
2. Capitalism and the Web of Life by Jason W. Moore: I'm calling my obsession with the Anthropocene a vestigial San Francisco aesthetic, but really, you had me at "old-fashioned Marxist at least in his somewhat hectoring use of italics."
3. In the Wake by Christina Sharpe: Also writing about the weather (albeit a different kind), Christina Sharpe theorizes anti-blackness as a total climate in a book I've been looking forward to since her brilliant take down of my least favorite book.
Recent blog posts
- Author Q&A with Randi Hunter Epstein
- 2019 National Book Awards Longlist for Translated Literature
- Q&A with Rachel Vail
- Sara's Review of The House of Impossible Beauties
- Anti-Beach Reads
- Sara's Review of With the Fire on High
- Summer Reading 2019: Book Culture Long Island City
- Summer Reading 2019: Book Culture on Broadway
- Summer Reading 2019: Book Culture on Columbus
- Summer Reading 2019: Book Culture 112