Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Summer Reading

Coincidentally, a few people have asked me for reading suggestions lately and one of them was on Twitter, so I decided to list a couple here and then ask you guys for ideas too. I like to share ideas. I find more new things, from books and music, to films and restaurants even, just by asking people for their different ideas. I just love that about the Internet. I also love the whole idea of summer reading and summer reading lists. It seems so vacationy and fun.

Many of you know that I am in a book club. We've had it going for at least five years now. Actually I think more like six or seven because I was in it before I got married. I love book club because each member is very different and we all have unique styles and tastes, so I get exposed to a wider range of reading materials than I otherwise would and then I get to discuss it with people who have different perspectives. Grad school totally ruined me. Because my degree is in writing, I was taught to focus on how a piece is written technically, over things like symbolism, characterization, plot content, etc. I used to look at that stuff; hell, I used to just read a story for what happened in it and be entertained, but now I'm all about word choice and artistry of language crap. But in book club, once again, I am reminded that books can just be fun, or informative and that its ok to talk about the characters as if they were real people.

This month, we are reading (my choice!) White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I need to get started, being that I chose it and all, so I can't give you a review just yet. We are also reading two classic short stories which come in one book - The Necklace and The Pearls. I remember reading The Necklace in high school and liking it.

Last month we read A Reliable Wife.  Now this book is a bestseller. Bye Bye Pie's book club read it too. I found it to be a little trashy and along the lines of the stuff Mommom Jewell reads and which I used to get into when I stayed at her house and discovered her stash of steamy bodice rippers under her bed. It was entertaining enough, if a little contrived and definitely sordid.

The best book we read this year was Olive Kitteridge, which won the Pulitzer last year. I really, really loved this book and it gave me a little more compassion and understanding for some of the more difficult people in my life after I read it. It was also beautifully written. I loved the language.

In addition to book club, I read a lot of other stuff, especially when I'm not teaching, because I have more time. I really love reading and always have and sometimes I can go through books very quickly.

A friend lent me Pictures At An Exhibition, which I thought I would hate, but ended up enjoying because I learned a lot from it. It focused on a world I know little about and that interested me. It's about what happened to many art collections in Paris during and after WWII.

The most recent book I bought was Aimee Bender's latest novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Now, I worship Aimee Bender. I love everything the woman has ever written. I did a school project on her, I love her so much. If you've never heard of her, immediately start reading her. She writes a lot of short stories, so they're a good introduction to her work and all of her writing is quirky, edgy, whimsical, a little sexy and a whole lot magical. There is just no one else like her. Her stories are like modern day fairy tales. She is one of my favorites writers of all time. I haven't read the new book yet. I'm saving it for when I get done with White Teeth.

I've read a few more things lately, but these have been my very favorites. I hope you'll take some of my suggestions and enjoy them as much as I did.

Now tell me what you're all reading this summer or recent books you've loved. I'll be out of ideas soon and other readers will appreciate your suggestions too.

Happy books!


Anonymous said...

Well, at current I am trying to decide, between Joey Comeau and Tao Lin, whom would be a preferable host to lay my eggs in. You can read Comeau's Lockpick Pornography for free, in .pdf form. He recently wrote a second installment that is also online in full. Other freebies include the Overqualified archive. /dreamy sigh

tupelohune said...

I am a member of a very small book club and I love it for all the same reasons as you. In the last 4 years I have read so many books that I wouldn't have picked up if they hadn't been chosen for me. Among the all-time best of our reads are: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon and most recently The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald. All three highly recommended!

Thanks for this post. I can't wait to read the other suggestions. And I'm going to follow your advice to read Amiee Bender. I just took a quick look at some of her work and I think I like what I see!

Maria said...

I'm currently reading Pride & Prejudice. I saw the movie with Keira Knightley years ago and have always wanted to read the book. It took me a while to get used to the writing style (it's definitely the most difficult book I've read) but now that I've gotten the hang of it I love it!
The next book on the list is Of Mice and Men. The hubbie asked me to read it almost a year ago and I don't think I can put it off any longer! Every time I pick up the book I can only read the first page or two before I get bored and put it down. It just doesn't capture me the way other books do!
Another book I recently read was The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged version). I only got slightly more than half way through before I had to return it to the library. I loved that book all the way up to the part he breaks out of prison! After that there were just too many characters and I was having difficulty keeping track. I will definitely try to finish the book when I have the time to devote to it.
Congratulations on Baby Lawns! I'm so happy for you! You're little girl is so lucky because she is going to have an amazing mom.

mcgrimus said...

I'll second The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay---a great read. Also loved Nobody's Fool, by Richard Russo. Currently reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Something I picked up in the kitchen at work, but turning out to be pretty entertaining. Next, I'm reading Baby Talk, which you had mentioned in a previous post, and which I found at the library. I'm always looking for good-book suggestions.

Kirsten said...

The Hakawati - Rabih Alammedine

Stones from the River & The Vision of Emma Blau - both by Ursula Hegi

The Bad Girl - Mario Vargas Llosa

These are a few of my recent favorites. I also just read SuperFreakonomics which was fascinating and funny.

Finally, Jeanette Winterson was just recommended to me, although I haven't read any of her books yet. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Lighthousekeeping, and Art Objects were the titles that were mentioned.

FreshHell said...

I love anything by Kate Atkinson (currently reading When Will There Be Good News?) and Tana French. Also, I love mystery writer Ngaio Marsh. She's a lot like Agatha Christie and Josephine Tey.

Shannon Culver said...

I just requested White Teeth from the library, as well as an older Aimee Bender book. I love a good book recommendation! I have read many of the suggestions so far and loved Olive Kitteridge, A Fine Balance (one of my all time favorites) and Kavalier and Clay too.
Some other recommendations would include (in no particular order):
Lit by Mary Karr (or either of her other books)
Stiff by Mary Roach
Endurance by Alfred Lansing
Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginides (I probably spelled his name wrong)
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs or his other book called The Know It All
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson or his newer Thunderbolt Kid
A Girl Named Zippy (absolutely fabulous)
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls (also Glass Castle by her)
The Freedom Writer's Diary (cool true story of a teacher that made a difference)
Geek Love (extremely well written very strange story)
City of Thieves, David Benihoff
Waiter Rant, Thanks for the tip (a blogger that got a book deal)
Devil in the White City, Eric Larson

Ok, I could go on but this is getting long. Let us know what you're reading next!

Misfit in Paradise said...

City of Thieves by David Benioff. It was something totally different for me and I loved it.
If you want a book to make you cry, Never Change by Elizabeth Berg. Great read.

Rachel Rodemann said...

A Walk In The Woods and Stiff were both on my reading list last year. Fantastic, well written and very fun books. I read them each in a couple of days and referred them to lots of people.

I just bought my teenage daughter Eating the Cheshire Cat. She's an aspiring novelist, and it's narrated in a bizarre triptych style that I thought would set a good example of bending the rules of narration. It's a phenomenal, dark, and very catty novel about growing up in Southern society, diving into everything from sorority life to carnival freaks and and closeted lesbians.

I recommend Einstein's Dreams to everyone. It's a collection of very short stories, which I think are wonderful to read with friends (I read it with the Boyfriend) and discuss. It's mostly just quirky scenarios considering how theoretical physics might play out in different societies.

Anonymous said...

Last week I read Ken Follett's "World Without End", which takes place 200 years after "Pillars of the Earth" ... medieval history with a decent story. Lots of interesting facts on the wool industry and indigo dyeing.

Right now I'm reading Lawrence Hill's "Book of Negroes" which is a fascinating look at slavery, abolitionists and black Loyalists.


Laurie said...

My favorite novel of all time is Rosamunde Pilcher's The Shell Seekers. I read it every summer, so I guess it counts as summer reading, right? It's not new (1984ish) but it's wonderful and long and beautifully written and magical. I love everything about it, which is why it's strange that I'm not crazy about any of her other books. Check it out if you haven't, (but stay away from the two movie versions that are out there. They we're extremely dissapointing.) I promise it will become a favorite!

I've also recently bought my 14 yr old daughter her first copies of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and To Kill A Mockingbird. I envy her reading them for the first time. :) Thanks for the suggestions - off to the library to stock up for the summer as soon as school ends here next week. Can't wait!

Klaire said...

I've been on a Gabriel Garcia Marquez binge as of late, Love in The Time of Cholera is my all time favorite, but recently I've read Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Of Love and Other Demons, and I am currently working on The General and His Labyrinth. He writes a lot of books that are on the shorter side (under 200 pages) but they're not quick reads because the language is so rich. Wonderful author, completely deserving of the nobel prize (even if it was in 82, before i was born)

Anonymous said...

I recommend The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho to everyone I know! It's so inspiring, but is also appealing because it's a quick read. I've read it several times and get something more out of it every time. I don't read nearly as much as I'd like, so anything that's short or that is so good that I can't put it down works for me. Thanks for the suggestions!

MtnMama said...

What do you know - I just finished Olive Kitteridge too! I'd found a recommendation on an internet reading page and really, really liked it.
I need to have something to read at all times, and this has made me a voracious reader. It's good to get new book ideas from someone who likes what you like so that you don't end up disappointed. I have a queue at the library.

Anonymous said...

I chekced out White Teeth from the library and am on page 157 but I don't find the war time adventures of Archie and "Ick-Ball" at all engrossing. I also got two books by Aimee Bender & don't find her particularly compelling either. Perhaps I am too old.

Wide Lawns said...

Anonymous, I'm not totally loving White Teeth so far either. It's just ehn.

Aimee Bender though, I adore, but I get how she's a little odd for many readers.

Shannon Culver said...

I'm 1/2 way through White Teeth, and (I never do this) I'm quitting. I just don't like these people. I'm on to Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender and like it better. Short stories are always fun.
For my book club we just read and discussed "Geek Love" by Katherine Dunn. Loved it and highly recommend it! You do have an extraordinary life, but I'm thinking he Binewski's (from Geek Love) gotcha beat. I'd love to know if you end up reading this what you thought.

Wide Lawns said...

Shannon, I'm about a third through White Teeth and am not loving it either. I find it hard to get into. I chose the book because it was just ridiculously critically acclaimed. Zadie Smith is like a rock star, but I just don't get the hype at all after reading some.

Geek Love I read years ago and I remember that I loved it. I always thought it would make a great Tim Burton movie. I always wondered what happened to Katherine Dunn.

Shannon Culver said...

Katherine Dunn is an interesting person. Here's some info about her from Wikipedia I found it fascinating that these days she is a well-known and respected writer on boxing!

Anonymous said...

I read all the issues of Michael Dibdin that my library had, and now I find he has died, so there will be no more! He was a terrific writer: plot, language, atmosphere.

Second favorite is Henning Mankell, who is still living!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Katherine Neville's The Eight. One of the all time best.

And Possession (?) by A.S. Byatt.

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