Summer Reading 2019: Book Culture 112
If you're anything like us, you always kind of enjoyed the summer reading you had to do in school. Luckily for you, we've found a way to turn "kind of" into "really" using one simple trick: set your own reading list! Here you'll find the books that our booksellers have decided to try and tackle this summer. This is strictly for participation credit, there will not be a test, we promise.
1. Glass, Irony, & God by Anne Carson: After finishing her Autobiography of Red in just a few sittings I'm inspired to follow her intensely smart and grounded whimsy into her other work. Her writing is both so well-read and researched in the ancient world but she's unafraid to meld it with modern thought, love, and innovation. A true documenter of the length of humanity.
2. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis: While he can be an idiot on the issues of today, his ability to capture a specific era of a city or a moment of youth is among the best I've read. Less Than Zero was one of my favorite reads this year along with The Rules of Attraction when I was in college, so I'm excited to finally step into his messed up 80s New York.
3. L'Arabe du future 4 by Riad Sattouf: The final installment of Sattouf's playful but harrowing graphic novel series about growing up in Syria, Libya, and France was released this year and not only will it draw (lol) one of my favorite stories to a close, it will also help me accomplish my New Year's resolution of reading more French! The first three are also translated into English - I can't recommend them enough. [Editor's note: the fourth volume will be released in English this fall!]
1. System: The Shaping of Modern Knowledge by Clifford Siskin: A bit of a break with tradition for me, but it's time to more officially pursue my interest in the architecture of space (modern dancer alert, sorry!). This book explores system (for my intents and purposes, organization of space) as a genre influencing and influenced by modern knowledge, rather than as a fixed constant, which opens whole new avenues for theorizing how a body navigates space. How exciting!!!!!!
2. Sing to It by Amy Hempel: And a return to tradition--what short story collection by a wonderful female author have I not yet read? Ah yes, Amy Hempl's first collection in over a decade, adorned with a striking cover and the enticing scent of raw genius.
3. Journey to Mount Tamalpais by Etel Adnan: I was first introduced to Adnan through her poetry collection Night, which parses life into tiny, digestible verses. Now I want to devour this essay, which promises more of her mind-melting exploration of art, nature, life, and the bleeding edges that connect them.
1. Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai (trans. by Ottilie Mulzet): I mean...a new novel from László. What else is summer reading for?
2. Accomodations by Wioletta Greg (trans. by Jennifer Croft): I just got an ARC of the upcoming Wioletta Greg novel and (if I can wait) this will be a wonderful summer read. Swallowing Mercury was one of my favorite books of 2017, it has been a long wait for a follow up!
3. The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán (trans. by Sophie Hughes): "A coffin, a camera, a bollt of pisco." What more do you need to entice you? How about the first English translation of the debut novel awarded the Best Literary Work Award from the Chilean Council for the Arts?
1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (trans. by Robin Buss): I'm going to France this summer for a wedding (what a glamorous life we booksellers lead), so I decided it's time for me to read some classic French literature. I was deciding between this and The Three Musketeers; naturally, I went with the much longer one. After all, if you're not reading a book that doubles as a dumbbell, are you even doing summer?
2. The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell: You would think that someone who's just publically committed to reading a 1,200 page book this summer would avoid adding another behemoth to her list, but here I am! I am a sucker for a big multigenerational epic, and after reading the ecstatic reviews this book got, I was sold.
3. Beyond the Pale by Elana Dykewomon: Those who know me will not be surprised to know that I initially pulled this one off the shelf because of the author's last name; and they'll be even less surprised to hear that, upon finding out it was about Jewish lesbian immigrants to the Lower East Side, I bought it immediately. Coming in at under 400 pages, I'll zip right through this one.
1. Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz: After recently reading Eve's Hollywood, a deliciously audacious collection of essays by the brilliant Ms. Babitz, I wanted to get my hands on everything she's written. Having never read this renowned novel originally published in 1979, it naturally falls at the top of my list for my summer reading. And of course, nothing says summer reading like a tale of youth, reckless abandon, and what may come of it!
2. Under My Thumb by Rhian E Jones and Eli Davies: With the subtitle Songs That Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them, this book caught my eye while perusing the stacks quite a while ago and hasn't left my mind since. Like many modern women, I find myself contemplating the music I was raised on and how the way I listen to it changes with time. I'm not entirely sure what this book will have to offer in regards to those thoughts, but I can't wait to find out!
3. In Praise of Disobedience by Oscar Wilde: I've always been an enormous Wilde fan, but as I'm working on a wacky new piece of theatre(-ish) exploring Wilde's social significance and relationship to pop culture then and now (follow @oscaratthecrown on Instagram and Facebook to find out more!!), this particular collection of his works is just begging to be read. With in depth annotations accompanying each of the various pieces in this look at Wilde's writings from 1891, I cannot wait to dive even further into one of the greatest minds of all time.
1. America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier by Robert Vitalis: My idea for this summer is that I’ll read actual history books, not just ideological primers on how to read them. And oh, look: here's a history of the CIA team-up with America's oil companies that lead to the Saudi-US alliance, and its author is a history professor who was radicalized reading DuBois. Tasty.
2. The Life of Captain Cipriani by C.L.R. James: A summer of history allows me to do something I already really like doing: beginning with beginnings. Typee. Roderick Hudson. The original Scarface. CLR James’s first polemical biography isn’t just the on-ramp heading for Black Jacobins. It’s also a first book!
3. The Professor's House by Willa Cather: Not a first book. Not a history. A momentary curiosity brought me to “Paul’s Case” in one of those out-of-fashion anthologies that gather the great American stories in hardcover. There’s no need to wonder why I would be reading Cather. Raid your parents’ library and read “Paul’s Case!”
1. Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett: This debut novel is gunning for the title of 'most anticipated book of the summer'. A struggling taxidermy shop run by a protagonist who might best be described as a lesbian hot mess? Sign me the #$%& up.
2. How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England by Ruth Goodman: Cultural historian extraordinaire Ruth Goodman's at it again! I love the way Goodman captures the spirit of an era by examining the day-to-day joys and agonies of ordinary people, or, in this case, louts.
3. Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie: I'm a recent Christie convert and cannot get enough Miss Marple. Planning to spend at least part of this summer solving murders in St. Mary Mead with my favorite amateur detective.
1. Proxies: Essays Near Knowing by Brian Blanchfield: Memoirs and essays like this are about the only nonfiction you'll catch me reading. I heard about this collection from a good friend, briefly looked through it, and knew I would love it.
2. The Overstory by Richard Powers: This is the second year in a row that I've had a book on my TBR pile for far too long, and then it wins the Pulitzer. I'm very excited to see what the hype is about these weird connections between humans and trees.
3. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottassa Moshfegh: I'm slow on the hype train with this one, but my fiancé was on top of it, loved it, and said there is no way I wouldn't like this book.
1. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor: Set in a post-apocalyptic Africa with a magically gifted female protagonist, this book is right up my alley. It's also currently in development at HBO with George R.R. Martin producing, so summer feels like the perfect time to get ahead of the next Game of Thrones!
2. Die Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker by Kieron Gillen: Gillen (writer of The Wicked + the Divine) has described Die as "goth Jumanji," which of course immediately hooked me. This fantasy role playing game gone wrong looks dark and decadent at the same time, and I'm dying to check it out.
3. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi: I always love a big spooky old house and family mysteries being uncovered! I enjoyed Oyeyemi's Boy, Snow, Bird, and I'm looking forward to exploring her other works this summer.
1. Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime by Alex Espinoza: So many amazing books have come from UNNAMED PRESS in the last couple years (I loved Arcade and Paper Man). Alex Espinoza’s Cruising is due out this June and I was lucky enough to score a copy early. It’s a history of an art performed in the shadows, across time and place, by men of all manner of backgrounds. I can’t think of a better time to pay homage than the summer of Stonewall 50.
2. Eight Will Fall by Sarah Harian: I cannot wait to tear into this new fantasy adventure from writer Sarah Harian. In a world where magic (drawn from emotion) is illegal, eight young Empaths are tasked to kill a god in an underground realm. But as they make their descent, and the challenges get harder, it becomes clear to Larkin that they were never meant to return!
*Disclaimer: Sarah and I have known each other for a long time and I once beat her in a Lord of the Rings dice based board game in a mall in San Francisco on a choir field trip in high school.
3. Eve's Hollywood by Eve Babitz: I’ve had this stunning NYRB classic on my shelf for too long! She is a captivating character whose novels and writings are enduringly in fashion. This is the summer I read about Eve’s Hollywood, and perhaps a few others from my ‘books by someone from or generally about California’ shelf.
1. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay: I want to read this book of essays this summer in hopes of finding validation and empowerment. I feel like womyn and femmes today, despite the MeToo / Time's Up movements, still constantly doubt the legitimacy of their experiences of assault/abuse. This book is going to change the game. What grabs me most is that it's a compilation of essays, speaking to the fact that there is not one voice/perspective that determines what counts as assault. I can't wait to talk about it with friends/family/you!
2. Three Lives by Gertrude Stein: I want to read as much Stein as I can (this summer & in general). She's one of the few that succeeded in disrupting the boys club of English literature. Stein dismembers the master's house using the master's tools and renders something unique & true. Anyone who accomplishes that I'd say is worth several summers of study.
3. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein: This memoir grabbed me with its first paragraph. It's so good. I picked this book up a year ago and have thought about that paragraph ever since. I love Brownstein for Portlandia & Sleater-Kinney and I am psyched to finally get to experience part of her journey.
Happy reading! If you're in need of more ideas, check out what we read last summer!
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- Summer Reading 2019: Book Culture 112