Midsummer Check-In: The LT Summer of 2016 Reading List

August 9, 2016 at 6:13 am Leave a comment

summer-reads
Well, we’re about halfway through summer (already? Already!), so we thought we’d check in on our 2016 summer reading list and see how things have played out. Share your summer in reading so far in the comments section!

Summer Traditions & Rereads:
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (reread) — I think readers of a certain age are conditioned to read Harry Potter books mid-summer. The books were always released to much fanfare at the end of July when they first came out, so as the temperatures skyrocket, I like to reach for a cool drink of J. K. Rowling’s books. I reread the first book and it was just as transportive, funny, and full of hijinks as I remembered. For some reason, I was particularly struck by Rowling’s invention of Quidditch this time around — who just invents a sport wholecloth like that? And how is it so easily understandable right away? Her creativity and ability to make strange things seem normal still blow me away, even 17 years later. (CFB)

Classics (Old and New):
Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton — This is set a lot later than most of Wharton’s books: 1927, the heart of the Jazz Age. It was an interesting study of the hypocrisy that Wharton saw during this age, which does seem fairly modern, in a lot of ways. One of the main characters goes from guru to guru seeking release from her stress, trying yoga and something akin to therapy to help herself deal with the trials of everyday life. However, as is typical for Wharton, the novel ends bleakly, without hope and instead with an exposure of the rotten foundation underneath the gilded surface. (KW)

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton — We seem to be on an Edith kick this summer! I picked this one up somewhat randomly and was treated to a bevy of Edith’s deeply flawed characters, frequently doing awful things to each other. Mostly, the book was interesting for the extreme lengths Wharton goes to with her plot and characters to make her point: namely, that the choices for women longing for independence at the turn of the century were plain old terrible. (CFB)

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles — Truth be told, I started reading The Odyssey in my old copy from high school, a Barnes and Noble classic with a high Victorian prose translation by Samuel Butler. It didn’t ring true, so I went out and got the Fagles translation (newish, from 1996). This was an excellent decision since Fagles’ version preserves the poetry as well as the immediacy of the language. I’m about halfway through right now and I am really loving it! Also, something about nautical misadventures on the Mediterranean seems like an appropriate thing to read during this drought-filled, hot summer. (CFB)

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles — In progress! (KW)

New(ish) Releases:
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon — A relatively fun little character study, though not so sweeping as Chabon’s other works. A mute little boy and an African Gray Parrot escape Nazi Germany and have adventures, the main one being trying to rescue the parrot from people who think the parrot’s string of numbers are part of a secret Nazi code. (KW)

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — Every fan of dystopian YA needs to read this book. You want to know why? Because every other book steals from it. A seminal work in this genre. It is, quite simply, amazing. (KW)

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante — Starts slow, but give it time. Full of Italian drama put forth in a straightforward and clear writing style, with an ending that will have you gasping. (KW)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — As a white woman, I obviously sometimes find it hard to identify with the experiences of black women. Chimamanda Adichie does an incredible job of showing the injustice without preaching, laying out the differences her character sees every day. As a non-American black person, she has a different perspective on issues of race that I really, really appreciated hearing. (KW)

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe — Eh. Liked the premise, hated the execution. I get irritated by stories about injustices done to African-Americans when the overarching theme is: “But she looked white!” It was fine, but not fantastic. Sort of interesting to think about how passing as white, for a black person, would mean cutting ties with most, if not all, of your family. (KW)

The Man who Rained by Ali Shaw — I can never actually decide if I like Ali Shaw or if I find him just unbearably silly. It was fine. There’s a highly dramatic romance with a man who is a Thunderstorm. It…huh. (KW)

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach — Kind of surprised how much I enjoyed this one! It was a very Male book, but I still ended up enjoying the bird’s eye view of the fortunes of members of (fictitious) Westish College’s baseball team. It’s well-written, thoughtful, and has a serious undercurrent (if you’ll forgive the nautical pun) of Melville. (CFB)

Graphic:
Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman — So. Super. Trippy. A nice companion to the other Sandman novels, but at the same time, there are other installments I liked better. (KW)

Something New by Lucy Knisley — Look for a longer post later, but I loved hearing that someone else contemplated the silliness of societal expectations surrounding weddings while still wanting to have a big party to commemorate the commitment she’s making. Also, Lucy’s dress was too perfect and I can’t even handle it. (KW)

Something New by Lucy Knisley — Ditto longer post to come, but this wasn’t my all-time favorite Knisley ever (Age of License FOREVER!). That said, yes, her dress was stupid-perfect. (CFB)

French Milk by Lucy Knisley — Made me want to go to Paris. I loved the combination of drawings and photos to tell a story. I liked An Age of License better, honestly, but as this is her first work…I loved it. :) (KW)

Velvet by Ed Brubaker — Amazing! If you like stylish spy movies from the 1960s, but always wished they had a more 2016 sensibility, Velvet has you covered. (CFB)

Nonfiction:
Cooked by Michael Pollan — Made me want to cook All The Things, most notably barbecue, bread, braised short ribs and mead. An excellent study of why we cook, the history of cooking and what it means to us today. (KW)

The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall — Excellent! It took me forever to get through, but I learned a lot about dreams and why humans tell stories. (KW)

Between You & Me by Mary Norris — I really expected this to be more full of fun, kooky, grammar-related anecdotes. However, I learned a lot, and so it was worth the relatively quick read. It’s probably going to find a home on my desk as a reference book. (KW)

All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Trainster — I’m about halfway through this incredible book and could not recommend it highly enough! Not only is it making me appreciate the current cultural moment we live in where I can live independently as a woman, it also gave me a much more specific grasp of the Second Wave and what those women accomplished. I couldn’t have taken out a loan or bought my own car until the 1970s?! Shocking, and important, news to me. (CFB)

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Entry filed under: Collections and Lists. Tags: , , .

Reading and Writing ‘All the Single Ladies’ by Rebecca Traister

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