Summer Reading.


The idea of “summer reading” is intended for kids who are escaping from homework, right? Even in a college town like this one, where the rhythm of the academic calendar is very much in evidence, summer seems to be even busier than the rest of the year. There’s more daylight, and there’s more fun to be had during it. I have managed to sneak in some books, though. Here’s my list so far.

The White Devil (Justin Evans)
Basically, a ghost story. I read it not because it was written by an old friend of Matt’s, but because the first book he wrote is terrific (A Good and Happy Child). This one is, too. Spooky as hell.

Mr. Chartwell (Rebecca Hunt)
Depression, a dog, and Winston Churchill. Who comes up with this idea? It was thought-provoking and surprisingly funny. The dog is quite a character.

The Tragedy of Arthur (Arthur Phillips)
A fake memoir followed by a fake Shakespeare play. I really enjoyed the memoir but skipped the play. I’m interested and planning on going back to it, but my attention span is not where it needs to be to read it right now.

No Way Down (Graham Bowley)
Tragedy on K2. I have to admit that when I read books like this, I spend half the time being frustrated that people insist on climbing the mountain (or living with bears or braving the wilderness, or whatever) to begin with. I just can’t relate. This author did a good job of addressing that issue.

The Blind Side (Michael Lewis)
Football. I’m not a big sports fan and I didn’t see the movie, but I loved this book. Michael Lewis is an incredible writer and he has a way of taking a topic like football and making it real, interesting and personal.

The Island Beneath the Sea (Isabel Allende)
The story of a slave in Haiti (Saint-Domingue) before and during the revolution. I love Isabel Allende’s writing and enjoyed this book, but it makes me feel guilty when I learn about historical events primarily through fiction. Also, though the main character’s life is hard, it seems like the life of a slave would have been infinitely harder. Possibly unwrite-able.

Swamplandia! (Karen Russell)
Grief and growing up, with alligators. The writing is incredible but the story is really dark. I both liked it and wanted to stop reading. I felt the same way about her collection of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves.

The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing (Melissa Bank)
Stories. This was a re-read. Still good but I liked them better the first time. It’s just one of those things where (in my opinion) the reaction is very influenced by where and who you are when you’re reading.

Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin)
Kings, castles and things. Now this is summer reading. Matt and I watched it on HBO first, so I knew what was coming. (A lot of the dialog is right from the book.) It’s not going to change the world, but I’ll definitely keep reading, especially at the beach in August.

(Note that I am intentionally not linking to Amazon (or similar) for each of this books. If you have an independent bookstore nearby, that would be a great choice: http://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder.)

A friend once pointed out to me that we’ve all got a finite number of books to read in this life, so they should be carefully chosen. He’d even gone so far as to figure out the expected number of books. I try not to think about it — because I’d end up measuring each book against what must end up being an unreachable bar of goodness — but it is an idea that sticks with me. These books were worthwhile, I think. Ideas welcome for what should come next.

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