Summer Reading List, Take Two

16 08 2009

NPR’s reading list got me thinking about the nature of summer reading. Bookworm that I am, summer has always represented a time to catch up on the books I didn’t get to read during the school year, and now it’s just as good a time as any to read all those books I’ve always wanted to read, but do so outside, soaking up the sunshine (or, as in the case of this summer, inside, listening to the rain). Anyhow, in honor of summer reading, a list or two of my own…

What I’m Reading This Summer

  1. Devil in the White City: a look back at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, examining the man responsible for building it and the man responsible for destroying the lives of many who visited it. It’s fascinating not only for the mystery but for the grandeur of the fair and for all the “new” things introduced there (Wrigley’s gum, the Ferris Wheel…) It’s a trip back in time and a great read.
  2. In Our Time: Uplifting? No. One would hardly call this light summer reading. And yet the nature of Hemingway’s short, succinct sentences lends something to the nature of the quick summer read. The original New York Times review in 1925 credits “every syllable” as “count[ing] toward a stimulating, entrancing experience of magic.” And it is so. Not to mention, Hemingway is always a good read for the traveler because he does such a good job of evoking the true experience of Americans and natives abroad, even if the fact of it being in another time makes it seem another place altogether.
  3. Nine Stories: I know, I know, enough with the Salinger already. But the truth is, for me, there will never be enough Salinger. And these stories, with their heavy ideas and light, ironic and generally humorous tone, are the perfect summer reading, especially if you live in, are visiting, or simply love New York.
  4. I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Bill Bryson is great any time reading, but especially great subway reading because it doesn’t get much lighter than this. And yet the man is so insightful that you don’t have to feel guilty about reading “light” (like I did when I became oddly engrossed in—and simultaneously, it must be noted, horrified by—a Danielle Steel novel one summer. Bryson’s notes on returning to the U.S. after living abroad for 20 years are simply hilarious. Just be careful about reading in public. You will certainly find yourself laughing out loud.

Favorite Reading of Summers Past

  1. The Poisonwood Bible: it’s a little on the heavy side, but lovely and endearing and altogether engrossing, the tale of a family of missionaries and their experience in the Belgian Congo, as seen through the eyes of the wife and four daughters of a fierce evangelical Baptist. It’s not only a glimpse into another world, but a story of female strength and solidarity.
  2. Harry Potter…: What can I say? I’m fresh off of seeing the latest movie, and, well, they’ve gotten me through many a summer.
  3. The Human Comedy: It’s strange really, because I recall very little about the plot of this novel, except that it follows a young boy (Homer) as he delivers telegrams and struggles to survive in the small fictional town of Ithaca, CA. I do, however, recall sitting by the pool engrossed in said novel and thinking of it every time I hear the word “Ithaca.” Perhaps it is time to get reacquainted…
  4. The Great Gatsby: I know it seems like a cop out, but in my mind this remains a quintessential summer novel, possibly because of the colorful, raucous summer it portrays, but more because I can clearly recall the summer I first read it. It was the summer before heading off to college, when I realized that I’d made it all the way through high school without ever reading this classic work. Every time I see the cover, really, it takes me back to the floor of my bedroom, on a hot summer day, reading “and so we beat on…” Perhaps that was the beginning of my obsession with New York…




Summer Reading List from NPR

13 08 2009

This morning on while getting ready for work and getting my daily NPR fix, I heard children’s author Lesley Bloom give her picks on summer reading for young adults. There are some winners there, a few I’ve read and a few I now want to read. I subsequently found myself entrenched in NPR’s seemingly endless maze of book lists, and have all-to-quickly amassed a summer reading wish list of my own (even though summer is nearly over). The short list:

  1. The Photographer: a combination of graphic novel/photojournalism about a Doctors Without Borders team entering war-torn Afghanistan. Bizarre, yet fascinating.
  2. The School of Essential Ingredients: about an unlikely group of cooking students, who, the write-up assures, you’ll want to spend your lunch hour with. That line sold me.
  3. Woodsburner: historical fiction (my favorite kind of book) that re-creates the Thoreau’s historic burning of 300 acres of the Concord Woods one year prior to building his cabin on Walden Pond. It’s said to be a look at American freedom, and I’m guessing it may make an easier summer read than Walden itself.
  4. Oh! A Mystery of Mono No Aware: a travel book about the adventures of a young L.A. native in Japan, caught in the mystery quest for an ancient Japanese concept. The book itself is said to resemble a work of art, which is an added bonus.

There were many others of interest on these lists, but for brevity’s sake (and since summer is all-too-quickly coming to an end) I stop at four, and I think they pretty much run the gamut. They enlighten, provoke thought and yet can still be read on the beach or train or wherever the summer may take you. Ah, summer reading, what would we do without you?