Summer Reading 2018: Book Culture 112
It's finally here, our favorite time of the year: summer reading season! There's just something about the warm weather that gets us excited to get lost in a good book, whether it's a classic that we're revisiting (or finally getting to!) or that new book we've been hearing so much about. Here, then, are some of the books we're looking forward to reading this summer.
1. Ayiti by Roxane Gay: On June 12, for the first time, Roxane Gay's earliest short stories (plus a few new ones) will be readily available! I'm cheating here, as I've already read an advanced copy, but I'll definitely be re-reading them soon because they are masterpieces. Deceptively simple in style, but radiating poignant and universal depth.
2. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: It's been a while since I've read a good, original, complex fantasy series. I can't wait to try this one, set in multiple Londons.
3. Circe by Madeline Miller: It seems like there's a resurgence in taking the minor female characters of ancient literature and actualizing them, with voice, depth, autonomy, etc.--what a concept, right?! I read Miller's LitHub article on the subject, and I'm so excited to get to her take on Circe.
1. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut: I am going to finish this long-overdue read of the intersection between a follower of a fictional religion and the father of the atomic bomb if it's the last thing I do.
2. The Idiot by Elif Batuman: I am going to finish this comic/depressing tale of possibly-unrequited-possibly-not love and fetishistically relive my college days if it's the last thing I do.
3. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann: I am going to finish this secretly extremely funny snowbound epic and treatise on the nature of time itself, which, given how long it's taken me to read it so far, will probably be the last thing I do.
1. Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust: So I swear to gawd I'm going to finish Proust this summer, and I don't care what anyone has to say about it. I'm starting grad school in the Fall, and this will be the last time in my life that I'll have a chance to read all of Remembrance of Things Past.
2. Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg: It's coming out this June, and it looks fascinating. A novel set in the eighteenth century, with lost manuscripts, plagues, and queer history; what's not to like?
3. Dear Angel of Death by Simone White: It's a beautiful new book from Ugly Duckling Presse, collecting new and previous work by one of my favorite poets working right now. It's also printed in both blue and black ink, so Dear Angel of Death is just a beautiful object as much as a collection of vivid and fascinating experimental poetry.
1. The Iguana by Anna Maria Ortese (trans. by Henry Martin): All the ingredients of a perfect summer get-away: a private island in the Mediterranean, an Italian count and a maid who is actually an iguana in disguise. I'm reading this as my follow up to Mrs. Caliban because I need more human/reptile relationships in my life.
2. A Haunted House and Other Stories by Virginia Woolf: Summer is the perfect time to slow down and luxuriate in beautiful writing. Woolf's stories are like truffles: small and rich.
3. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte: If you're looking to indulge that childhood fascination with dinosaurs, look no further! Brusatte's new look at these ancient animals has been hailed as "the ultimate dinosaur biography." I can dig it.
1. The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk (trans. by Maureen Freely): This is actually a required text for my grad program in Museum Studies and I'm so excited to delve into it! It will be the first novel by Pamuk that I have read, chronicling a love affair that drives the main character so passionately that he creates a whole museum dedicated to her. Pamuk even built a real Museum of Innocence in Istanbul as a companion to the novel, how cool is that?!
2. Florida by Lauren Groff: Since I'll be moving to Italy for a year to study, I will probably need a book to read that will easily take me to another place, specifically a familiar one. This upcoming book is about the titular state, where I was born and raised, and even though us Floridians love to hate that swampy peninsula, Lauren Groff is someone I trust to describe the highs and lows of living in a place that is not only home to the "Happiest Place on Earth" but the same state that has to live with the death of Trayvon Martin, the shooting of the Pulse 49, and deal with people on bath salts.
3. The Odyssey by Homer (trans. by Emily Wilson): I haven't really delved back into this epic since high school, and since I'm embarking on my own odyssey (cheesy, I know!), what better time will I have to read this first translation by a woman writer?
1. Penis Envy by Mari Ruti: This book seems like that incredibly difficult mixture, equal parts accessibility/ vulnerability and intelligent/complex analysis. That way you can laugh, cry, and learn, all at the same time! "Refuting the idea that we live in a postfeminist world where gender inequalities have been transcended, Ruti describes how neoliberal heteropatriarchy has transformed itself in subtle and stealthy, and therefore all the more insidious, ways." Incredibly important stuff under a current administration that is hell bent on controlling the lives and bodies of the marginalized and oppressed. PLUS Shelia Heti loves it, and Sheila is my guide. Read her incredible new book Motherhood as well!
2. The Chandelier by Clarice Lispector (trans. by Benjamin Moser and Magdalena Edwards): A new Clarice Lispector translation??? Clarice's writing is transcendent. She is not of this earth. A necessary read. What better time than the summer to lounge in the park with this book as she slowly cracks open your brain and melts it like a popsicle in the July sun!
3. Flight by Oona Frawley: Making my way through all the Tramp Press books, an indie Irish feminist press that I have a huge crush on. I may not be traveling the world this summer, but this book goes from Ireland to Africa to Vietnam to the US following the story of four travelers that eventually cross paths in Dublin. This book is much cheaper than all those plane tickets, and Tramp Press knows how to pick them.
1. A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley: I am so excited to read this short story collection this summer. A Lucky Man is the debut of Jamel Brinkley, a talented writer who also happened to teach my 9th grade English class!
2. Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis: I rarely read poetry but have lately been curious to try new authors. I said as much to a friend, who gave this collection a rave review--and the next week I saw it on our Sale display at Book Culture. I decided that was a sign and promptly bought myself a copy.
3. Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici: I almost read this book in a college seminar two years ago, but my professor removed it from the syllabus to make room for other materials. Since then, I have read excerpts and remained intrigued by the topics it covers and connects: witch hunts in Europe and colonization, patriarchy and the transition to capitalism, enclosure and the body, slavery and historiography....
1. Heavens on Earth by Carmen Boullosa (trans. by Shelby Vincent): This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while, partially because I've been busy (grad school!) and partially because I'm afraid it might be too perfect for me. I've been a fan of Boullosa since she blew me away at a PEN panel a couple of years ago; she's not only a great speaker but an amazing writer, and this book, with its scifi colonial Mexican archive plot, is right up my alley. I'm sure it won't disappoint.
2. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: When this book first came out it flew almost completely under my radar; but then our wonderful customers wouldn't stop talking about it, and then it was a finalist for the National Book Award, and at this point I feel like I may be the last person in New York who hasn't read this book. I'm excited to rectify that this summer!
1. All Gates Open by Robert Young and Irmin Schmidt: This book is being billed as the definitive biography of Can as well as an examination of their influence on the culture. Can is the coolest band ever and the passing of Holger Czukay last September was a great loss.
2. As Serious As Your Life by Val Wilmer: Serpent's Tail Press is reissuing Val Wilmer's classic text on the development of free jazz in the 1960's and 70's. This is another book that's being advertised in the magazine The Wire. Biographies of key players in the scene along with their broader political and social context
3. Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman: It is long overdue that I get this tome off my shelves. Another scene document, this one is an oral history of the post-9/11 NYC indie boom, a time and place that figured heavily in my awareness of the world during adolescence.
1. The Pisces by Melissa Broder: I'm a Pisces obsessed with Shape of Water so when I saw this book I knew it was a mandatory summer read.
2. Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser: I've been obsessed with Little House in the Praire since I was a kid and can't wait to read this. I'm really curious to see what new information Fraser brings to the book considering Wilder's writing is autobiographical and so well known. Ideally, I'd be reading this in a covered wagon on the open plains of Kansas...but I guess Riverside park will work too.
3. Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me by Teffi (trans. by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Rose France, and Anne Marie Jackson): Things I can never get enough of include: funny women, Russian lit, short stories, and greatest hits collections. Lucky for me, Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me covers them all.
1. A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman: I've been told by the experts that if one really wants to study and understand Shakespeare, this is a must-read history of the society that would eventually give birth to Shakespeare's Renaissance.
2. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers: Because I'm on a mission to read everything written by my girl Carson.
3. The Orestia by Aeschylus (trans. by Robert Fagles): I'm brushing up on my ancient Greek drama in preparation for the premiere of a new adaptation of Aeschylus' work by the inimitable playwright and Barnard adjunct professor Ellen McLaughlin. The production is set for Summer 2019 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.
1. Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil: It's not an exaggeration to say that what I'm most looking forward to this summer is taking Oceanic to the beach. The gorgeous blue cover, along with Aimee's nature-inspired poetry make this book the perfect collection to read while reclining on the shore.
2. Something Bright, Then Holes by Maggie Nelson: I'm so excited that Softskull is re-releasing Maggie Nelson's 2007 book of poetry Something Bright, Then Holes this June. For those of us (like me, for example) who are late to the Maggie Nelson party, it's the perfect opportunity to take in one of her lesser-known works. Besides, what better time to celebrate reinvention than summer?
3. All Summer Long by Hope Larson: This latest graphic novel from Hope Larson might be aimed at readers 10-12, but I think it'll prove a perfect summer read for a semi-grownup nostalgic for summer breaks, camp friends and that teenage urgency to find your identity. I can't wait to read it and reminisce!
1. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux (trans. by Mireille Ribiere): I have been a long time fan of the movie and just saw the play for the first time recently. While the play was wonderful, the movie is far superior (sorry to all the play lovers). I have a big feeling that the book is the best of all the worlds and I’m looking forward to filling in the gaps.
2. Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu: I’m looking for one last really great book to send this summer for my Book Culture Selects program and I think this is the one. I can’t spoil when I’ll send the winner of the Edmund White Award for debut fiction, but it’s coming!
3. Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg: A fellow bookseller recently got a galley for this book and hasn’t stopped talking about it since. School is finally out and I simply can’t wait to read, “the best book of the year."
1. The Taiga Syndrome by Cristina RIvera Garza (trans. by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana): Another weird and wonderful book that has ended up in my stacks from Dorothy, a publishing project! I always look forward to the eclectic fiction that is released every fall and now I have a galley to read this summer about a strange detective with an even stranger case!
2. Poso Wells by Gabriela Aleman (trans. by Dick Cluster): My hometown friends at City Lights were very excited to get this book into my hands at Book Expo this year. Hopefully we will also be doing an event in the fall! How can you not fall for a book who's description is, "a noir, feminist eco-thriller in which venally corrupt politicians and greedy land speculators finally get their just comeuppance!" Sound right for the times (not to mention a pleasent beach read).
3. False Calm by Maria Sonia Cristoff (trans. by Katherine Silver): Anytime I get a package from my friends at Transit Books the books move quickly to the top of my reading list. BUT it goes to the absolute top of my list when it the subtitle is: A Journey Through the Ghost Towns of Patagonia. The breakout work by this Argentinian author as she travels Patagonia and the ghost towns left behind by the oil boom. I can't wait.
Happy reading! And if you need more ideas, check out what we read last summer.
Recent blog posts
- The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2018 Shortlist
- German Story Time at Broadway is Back!
- Pre-order a signed copy of S. A. Chakraborty's new book, "The Kingdom of Copper"
- Changing, Adjusting, Expanding: Conversation On The Art Of Translation With Author & Translator Kate Briggs
- Q&A with translator Ellen Cassedy
- #WiTM Spotlight with Lynne Sharon Schwartz
- Perfect Books for Your Brewery Crawl!
- August is Women in Translation Month!
- Author Q&A with Michiko Kakutani
- Order your Signed Copy of Eloisa James's Born to be Wilde!