Summer Reading 2018: Book Culture on Columbus
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. Furyborn by Claire Legrand: Ever since her exquisite middle grade novel Some Kind of Happiness, Legrand has been one of my favorite new authors to watch. Furyborn promises to be a lush, epic story. At this point, I'd truly read anything that she put out, but the fact that it's YA fantasy with two awesome heroines makes it absolutely the #1 thing on my to-read list.
2. The Overstory by Richard Powers: People at the store are positively raving about this one and I can't wait to pick it up. I've been really into longer, epic stories of late-- things that I can get lost in for a little while and might take longer to get through. This seems like it will fit the bill. And who doesn't love trees? Monsters, that's who.
3. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston: This one speaks for itself, I think. It's incredible enough to have newly released work from Hurston, but the work itself is sure to be vital and harrowing. I hate calling books "timely" or anything like that, but it seems to me like this book will soon be required reading for all of us as we tackle our own history as a means of securing a better future.
1. Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet (trans. by ?): Writer Michelle Tea said to read this book in a very intriguingly titled article on The Rumpus ("What to Read When You Need to Understand How to Live"), and so here I am. This book sits at the intersection of French, weird, and queer, which is probably my favorite place to be, literature-wise.
2. Motherhood by Sheila Heti: Sheila Heti's 2010 novel(ish), How Should A Person Be?, had everything I love in a book - genre-blurring, existential anguish, a sense of humor (not least about oneself), and lots of scenes of smart women friends talking to each other about all kinds of things. Heti's new book is about deciding whether or not to have a child, which is an internal struggle I cannot currently relate to, but I'm happy to come along for the ride just to see what she'll make of the subject.
3. A Minor Apocalypse by Tadeusz Konwicki (trans. by Richard Lourie): I've recently become interested in Polish literature, and after reading Witold Gombrowicz's bizarre, filthy, and entertaining Pornografia, and an advance copy of Olga Tokarczuk's Flights (out in English in August 2018!), I'm onto Konwicki. The book begins with a famous writer being asked to self-immolate for a political cause, so, you know, a fun, light, summer read. But isn't light reading overrated? Maybe? Sometimes?
1. Stoner by John Williams: Since starting at Book Culture last year, I keep encountering this book. It's popular with customers, multiple people have recommended it to me, and I always seem to be shelving it. I'm taking it as a sign that we're meant to be together.
2. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte: I've never totally lost my childhood love of dinosaurs, so this new work that spans their entire 200-million year history–from evolutionary beginnings to cataclysmic end–is a must-read. Pairs perfectly with the new Jurassic Park movie, also out this summer (never lost my childhood love of those, either!)
3. Border Districts by Gerald Murnane: This guy's story is fascinating. Australia's most-acclaimed, least-known author, he lives in a small country town and has rarely left the state in which he was born. This novel, apparently his last, is a reflection on a life lived both in person and through books. His anecdotal stories and meandering style are best read slowly. Perfect for a lazy summer's day.
1. Beneath the Underdog by Charles Mingus: No matter how stoic I try to be during my day, listening to a Mingus tune at night is like bursting an emotional cyst that oozes out gallons of my backed-up feelings. This book is this eccentric jazzman's life told through his own words. Funny enough, I read somewhere that he exaggerated or even straight-up fabricated the majority of the memoir but, come on, that's besides the point. He was an artist.
2. Death in Midsummer by Yukio Mishima: Sorry Hemingway but a shotgun blast to the face ain't as psycho as committing ritual suicide immediately following a failed right-wing coup...which is what Yukio Mishima did in 1970. Easily one of the most talented and fascinating names in literature. Anyways, this collection of short stories, hand-picked by the man himself, has been sitting, unread, on my refrigerator for a few months and I feel guilty holding off giving it a go. I am particularly excited to read the famous story, Patriotism, that seems to foreshadow his own death.
3. Reading Myself and Others by Philip Roth: I initially had a different book as my third on this list but changed it last minute upon hearing that Philip Roth had passed away (Portnoy's Complaint is easily among my favorite novels ever); so given that, I'm going to jump back into reading more Roth during the summer. I'll kick this off with his first collection of non-fiction: mostly interviews with him and essays self-examining his work. R.I.P.
2. The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell: I'm planning on taking this adorable middle grade graphic novel about the power of imagination on a date to the park. It looks like the perfect cure for the summer time blues.
3. Educated by Tara Westover: This memoir charts the author's childhood spent in the wilds of Idaho with zero formal schooling to her adulthood studying in the hallowed halls of Harvard and Cambridge Universities. I'm obsessed with education and how people learn and Tara's story is such an unusual case. I can't wait to delve into it.
1. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon: I have been slowly reading Pynchon's work and I figured this summer would be a perfect time to get through it.
3. Beloved by Toni Morrison: My girlfriend recommended this book to me and she is forcing me to read it this summer; threatened I am compelled to read it but I have been wanting to read something by Toni Morrison for a while now so it all works out in the end.
1. Damnation Island by Stacy Horn: This book is the perfect intersection of my nonfiction interests: NYC history! Corruption! The embarrassing truth of how we treat poverty! Medical innovation! Blackwell Island has been one of my personal NYC obsessions for years, and this is the first comprehensive history of it to be released. I can't wait to learn more about this forgotten part of the city.
2. Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau (trans. by Linda Coverdale): Since I seem to be reading important books that aren't at all topically appropriate for summer, this feels perfect. This is an English translation of story about an escaping slave in Martinique and the prose is supposed to be unbelievable. The sample sentences I've read sing, so while it's not an easy subject to read about, I think it will be transporting nonetheless.
3. Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt: This seems like the perfect smart summer read: a dangerous and sexy love triangle loosely based on the lives of Vladimir and Vera Nabokov. I assume this will look at obsession and class, writing and relationships, with just enough of a dash of danger to make beach reading incredibly exciting.
1. Furyborn by Claire Legrand: A YA novel about independent women who do magic? Separated by centuries but somehow connected? Every fantasy reader’s dream right there.
2. Circe by Madeline Miller: After reading Ms. Miller’s Song of Achilles I fell in love with her writing style and storytelling abilities. Plus I’ve always harbored an obsession with Greek myths and legends so really this one is a no brainer.
3. Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik: My goal this year is to read more women of color and read more about women from different parts of the world. This book is a fictionalized story about Forugh Farrokhzhad, an Iranian poet/actress/ feminist waaay ahead of her time and very out of place. Sounds like a perfect book for not only my desire to read about incredible women from all over but also a great read to help cure some of the summer wanderlust.
Happy reading! And if you need more ideas, check out what we read last summer.
Recent blog posts
- Best 18 of 2018: Book Culture on Columbus
- Preorder Lisa Gornick's THE PEACOCK FEAST
- Best 18 of 2018: Book Culture on Broadway
- Best 18 of 2018: Book Culture LIC
- Best 18 of 2018: Book Culture 112th
- Columbia University Press Party
- National Book Awards 2018
- University Press Week 2018
- Q&A with author Diana Senechal
- The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2018 Shortlist