Summer holidays tend to run through August, which means you have one of the best months of the year for reading ahead of you. In July, on All Things Considered, I gave a few recommendations over the radio waves of wonderful summer reads. We have displays in-store and each of us have our favorites for summer reading, if you need some help.
My favorite summer read ever was Moby Dick. Completely immersive, it seems like I read it every night from 10 or 11 at night until 1 or 2 in the morning, all summer long. I was busy working and playing the rest of the day, but those few hours every summer night were an utter pleasure. Even Moby Dick wouldn't have taken me all summer, but the extended pleasure of reading that amazing, intricate, delightful and engaging book comes back to me every time I see, or think of, it.
I also remember reading a horror novel one summer at the beach that completely absorbed me, but it tends to be one big classic that means 'summer reading' to me: Sometimes A Great Notion, Of Human Bondage, and last year's was Ulysses. Whether it is a trashy read, an enthralling re-read of a favorite book from your past, or like me an absorbing big read -- we hope you take the time to read the perfect book this summer.
John and all DIESELfolk
Back to school! Three little words, one simple phrase -- not so singular in it's meaning. Saying it out loud in August can cause some kids to groan; others, are hopping in anticipation. If I wasn't too excited about next year's algebra, I was always jazzed to hear from the older kids what I would be reading in English class. I still recall wrapping my sophomore brain around Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, in the heat of August, knowing it wouldn't be assigned until spring. Silas Marner, I confess, was consumed with somewhat less enthusiasm. The summer before my senior year AP English class, I asked a family friend "What is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man about?" His response: "It is about learning that such a question isn't all that important." (I got to use that same line on a young customer buying a copy of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.)
All this is to say, I really love high school reading lists and talking to our young customers before and after they've completed them. My hat is off to teachers devoted to reading as a lifetime skill. In a way, we're never quite out of school -- the exams and grades just change format.
In this slim coming-of-age novel set in Brooklyn in the 1970s, Woodson (re)creates a whole world, full of vivid and intensely evocative imagery. The scattered style -- chapters full of often loosely connected paragraphs, almost little prose poems -- might, in the hands of a lesser writer, seem like a cheap ploy, but by Woodson is skillfully rendered and highly effective. With this book, she creates a window that feels like a mirror: a glimpse into a time, a place, and a state of being that, no matter what your background, becomes tangible and knowable. -- Anna
Accessible and fun, Conceptual Art, Performance Art, or deconstructed novel of lists, however you label this delightfully unusual book, it still will slip outside the box you've put it in and change your life. Yep, its unexpectedness, its frankness, its teasing playfulness, along with its casual depth and light-touch existentialism, somehow shift you when you read it. It shifts you toward openness and creativity, in your mind, your life, and in your life with others. Check her out on the internet and find her other inspired projects, but then sit down and play with this one. -- John
Daniel Johnston is an iconic figure in the underground American folk scene. He has influenced such artists as Beck and Alela Diane, and created one of my favorite songs of all time, "True Love Will Find You in the End." I spotted this book halfway across the store, as I am a huge fan of the art of Ricardo Cavolo (who wrote another favorite book of mine, 101 Artists to Listen to Before You Die). With Cavolo's images and Scott Mcclanahan's words, this graphic novel gets you as close to the feeling of a paranoid psychotic break as you can get without actually having one. The Los Angeles Review of Books notes that Mcclanahan's writing is considered to be "an innovative voice from left of the dial."
The words and images of these two artist trace Daniel's life as he struggles with his own sanity and the pressures of suddenly becoming a cult figure who was simultaneously praised and rejected by the underground music scene. -- Terry
There is a sort of writing we call "nature writing." It is written by hands weathered by the elements; hands that are as hardened as they are cracked; hands that have seen things that neither the mouth or the eyes could describe. Such writing, even when it is subtitled with words like meditative and mindfulness, is active -- it invites the reader to walk along, to look, to touch. For a moment, we may be transported to the mountainside, say, or the loch, swatting bugs and spying birds whilst sipping tea in a city cafe.
In his book, On Trails, Robert Moor considers the trails that lead us from "here" to "there." It is a different sort of nature writing, in that while he recalls journeys he has made, the focus is on the nature of the paths taken (those literal and figurative). From where do they come and why? There is a symbiotic relationship between those on a path and the path itself -- their histories and stories, origins and destinations, inform one another, but rarely in a straight-forward way. They deviate into detours, they meander, they dead-end. What becomes of our destinations in the course of getting there?
Moor's blend of science and philosophy is never obscure, and refreshingly his sense of nature is not exclusive to the countryside. Paths, after all, are everywhere. We are likely on at least one now -- Brad
Ah, Science Fiction, such a fraught term. Writers either embrace it wholeheartedly or vehemently deny being a part, even when their works dip unabashedly into realms of the speculative. The Vandermeers’ Big Book of Science Fiction tries to present a big-picture history of this rich and contentious genre, and it does so admirably. Starting with SF's roots as contes philosophiques and surrealist fables, capturing the turbulence of attitudes forged during and just after the World Wars, and moving all the way up to contemporary voices whose breadth and diversity represent the struggles and dreams of the marginalized, this is no mere collection of SF’s Golden Age of pulp. Rather it is an amazing historical portrait of a bold and important genre. -- Chris
This positively timeless re-issue of a collection from 2002 reads as if the stories were just written today. With kudos from Junot Díaz, China Miéville, Cory Doctorow, Karen Joy Fowler and others, you'd be in good company passing along this set to your friends as an introduction to quality modern science fiction.
That the title story is "Soon To Be A Major Picture" is no surprise, as all of the tales are worthy of any kind of adaptation. For once I look forward to see the picture and eagerly await more titles from Mr. Chiang.
I spent a wonderful evening burning through these looks into other worlds, and I wish that I could read them again for the first time. Chiang is able to touch on subjects usually left alone by other writers, all the while giving you realistic characters and fantastic settings that still feel like the regular world.
I cannot recommend this volume any more highly without giving spoilers. You won't be disappointed. -- Mo
This book celebrates the true St. Tropez, the off-the-beaten-track neighborhoods where 1950's charm still prevails. Amidst the cobblestone streets and pastel architecture are some of the same restaurants and cafes that have been there for decades. The recipes featured reflect the fresh, local ingredients and the simple flair you'd expect with cuisine from the South of France. Many of the recipes are inspired by dishes frequently enjoyed by the chef and her family at area eateries, including the croissant recipe from one of the most famous area bakeries, Senequier.
Chapters include Breakfast, Lunch, Teatime, Drinks and Canapes, Dinner and, of course, Desserts. Beyond the croissants, more heartier breakfast fare includes Baked Duck Eggs with Brioche French Toast and an Omelet with Chanterelles, Gruyere and Thyme. Vibrant salads, poultry, meat and fish and seafood dishes round out the main courses. The Ruby Red Roasted Duck is particularly striking, wrapped in bacon and roasted with figs and chestnuts. Many of the dishes make perfect picnic fare too: Tabbouleh Salad, savory tarts, fresh spring rolls and let's not forget dessert. The sweets here really shine: Raspberry and Passion Fruit Tartlets, Chocolate Praline Brownies, and the author's grandmother's famous Chocolate Walnut Cake.
This gorgeous book, filled with color photos and stories, is definitely worth making room on your cookbook shelf for, and would also be a lovely gift. It's a keeper! -- Cheryl
There is a witch who lives in the forest, she steals babies, raises dragons and casts a gloom over the village. Or so the stories say. Of course, once we meet the witch, we know this isn't true. So what else are the villagers lying about? The Girl Who Drank the Moon is effortlessly lyrical and casually dark, just like all the classic fairy tales. It's perfect for young readers aged 10 and up who understand that life is not often fair and that stories are not often true. -- Clare