Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer Reading 2011

Taking a cue from my virtual friend Mixtapes and Cupcakes, I thought I might do a post about summer reading (now that the weather and the calendar seem to have finally come to a consensus.)  Specifically, I thought I would post a bit about what I shall be reading this summer, followed by a short list of summer reading recommendations for hypothetical people who are interested in such things.

The books pictured above are my own summer reading, not what I am suggesting for others specifically.  Although it's always nice to have people read along with me, I won't suggest things I haven't finished reading yet.

Of course, I forge ahead with the Harvard Classics Library.  The current volume turns its attention to early Christian writings.  I am currently reading The Confessions of Saint Augustine and next up I have The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.  The next volume of the Harvard Classics looks like this:
VIII. Agamemnon, The Libation-Bearers, The Furies and Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus
Oedipus the King and Antigone of Sophocles
Hippolytus and The Bacchæ of Euripides
The Frogs of Aristophanes
I may skip Oedipus as I read it about a year ago.  The non-Harvard Classics title which I plan to read this summer is The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  My father recommended it to me on the phone the other day and, as fortune would have it, it had already been sitting on my "to read" pile for a few months.  So, it is my intention to get to it this summer, possibly over our vacation (although it looks like our vacation calendar is rapidly filling with Shakespeare, art museums, and meals with loved ones.  I'm not sure how much reading I'll get done on our trip.)  Realistically, this will most likely take me up to the time of year when the college students are coming back into town, so that is my summer reading list.

I am given to understand that the concept behind "Summer Reading" is similar to the concept of summer dining.  One doesn't take sauerkraut and sausage to a light, white wine and salad beach party and, I would dare to speculate, not a whole lot of people sunbathing down the California coast are going to be laying out on the towel with The Gulag Archipelago.  I am not sure the list above is a Summer Reading list so much as the books I happen to be reading in the season of summer this year.  So, I thought I might make a short list of suggestions for those who are interested in a suggested Summer Reading list.  Here is something light, something dark, something modern, an abyss of a book, and a poetry selection.

The Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology - I think P.G. Wodehouse is the very picture of summer reading: light, smart, compelling, and highly entertaining.  He may be most famous for his Jeeves character and I would say rightly so.  I recommend Wodehouse to anyone and this is a good starting point.

Murder of Angels  - Long time readers of this blog know that I've been beating the Caitlin R. Kiernan drum for many years (probably close to a decade now.)  I still think she is one of the best contemporary authors.  Murder of Angels is, in my opinion, her best work and a great place to start.  I do need to state that her work is exceedingly dark, so please do be prepared for that.  But it is a rip-roaring good summer book for those who like books that grab them by the throat.  I would also add that Amazon seems to currently have this title on extreme sale, so this would be a good time to get it.  Let me say in no uncertain terms, it is a wonderful book.

Nightwood (New Edition)  - Nightwood is one of those books that sticks in my mind long after I've read it, turning it over and over like a stone in my hand that I got from a creek-bed.  It is a dreamlike, modernist narrative.  The language is luscious and heady.   I was first turned onto the book by this article by Siri Hustvedt in which she recalls her strange history with the book and interaction with the author.  I was especially grabbed by the description of copious underlinings and margin notes and, indeed, I found it to be a book, although only about 200 pages, in which one can swim for months.  Highly, highly recommended.  One of the grossly underrated modern masterpieces.

House of Leaves - And speaking of modern masterpieces in which one can swim for months, House of Leaves is one of those books which transforms the reader.  The narrative within starts to seep into the life of the reader and lines between fiction and reality get a little blurry.  I do not exaggerate to say that it is one of the best books of the past 20 years and that everyone should read it.  It also happens to be a rollicking good read.

Letters to Guns - Brendan Constantine is a friend of mine, but I include this selection in this list because he is also one of the best contemporary American poets.  And I'm just going to cut and paste the Amazon product description for this book:

Letters To Guns represents a collection of poems that examine the para-physical natures of love and history, at times re-imagining both. As the poems progress, eight letters arrive written by non-human addressees (a nightgown, a grove of trees, a wooden spoon, others) at random points over the last 2,200 years. They are messages from home and pleas for understanding, warnings and promises of change. These in turn ignite other poems and themes which anticipate the next arrival. Taken together, the letters form an armature, a living skeleton fleshed by real and metaphenomenal experience. Throughout, a variety of styles appear and no single approach to poetry pervades. Singly, these poems should challenge and entertain. As a group they must transform and evolve our experience of sitting down with a book of poems.
So, that should give some of you a lovely summer's worth of reading.  Good Summer to you and happy reading.


1 comment:

  1. Plenty of stuff there that is new to me. Gulag is a hard book. I have started it twice, fallen into a deep melancholy and stopped. I want too read it. It's just so damned painful.