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
Julia finds herself in a situation she can’t remember seeking out. She hadn’t planned on a job she has no interest in, to live in a town where she has no community, and most immediately worrisome for her, she really hadn’t planned on still being a virgin at 26 years old. As Julia tries to figure out how she got there and how to right her path, Rathbone affectionately shows us the bumpy road some people take while growing comfortable with making definitive decisions. Julia’s narration is at once sharply observant and self-distracted, serving well the book’s big questions of isolation and social perception. If that sounds like a downer I have gone astray as this novel was a fun read. The dialogue especially shines.
Parker is a boy who hasn't spoken since his father died; Zelda is a girl who's been alive and unaging for 246 years. Together they fight crime! Okay, unfortunately not (although that would make an awesome book too, no?). Thanks for the Trouble actually follows their whirlwind weekend tour of San Francisco as they both try to figure out if life is worth living.
I really liked Wallach's first novel, We All Looked Up, and I'm delighted to report he's having exactly the opposite of a sophomore slump with Thanks for the Trouble: this book is even better. It's more original, richer and more complete in its message. Wallach is tackling some huge issues here -- nothing more than, oh, what's the meaning of it all? -- but Parker's voice is so engaging and (seemingly) effortless that the narrative is never crushed under the weight of these deep thoughts. It floats above them. I laughed, I cried. Heck, I did feel thankful.
It was no surprise at all to me that Yuri Herrera’s US debut, Signs Preceding the End of the World, was such a huge hit at our Oakland store last year — one of our top-selling books of the year, in fact. I described the realism of that novel as akin to that of a vivid dream. There are a good many "causes," whose effects proliferate … but at a peculiar, withheld pace that somehow advances by keeping its distance.
Not coincidentally, Herrera is one of the great novelists concerned with what borders mean and do. Where his previous novel was apocalyptic in its depiction of borders — with its mythological structure — his latest is perhaps more existentially epidemic. Violence is a sickness endured and spread, and it traffics in bodies in motion.
Perhaps less epic in its scope, Herrera’s foray into noir has a kind of (more or less nameless) specificity that will resonate in different (but not unrelated) ways. After all, the borders between one body and another, are permeable, sometimes imperceptible … but they are thick with meaning and possibility.
If you're anything like me, you watched what passed for politics last month in Cleveland with a morbid mixture of curiosity and concern. If you're anything like me, you also maybe even wrote a poem. (Mine was called "A Conventional Horror," what was yours?)
Worse than I feared not
as bad as I thought about
the same as I figured it
all bleeds together.
Carol Anderson's excellent new book provides layers of context for the anger displayed (and deployed). While she offers no solutions for this present moment that feels as though it is dragging down the future, it is because the weight of history itself has its own free-fall gravity. With the same precision and clarity that informed her much-discussed op-ed in the smoldering wake of Ferguson, which compelled her to dig even deeper into its historical precedents, Anderson's argument is stark. Namely, at every turn of U.S. history since the 13th Amendment, when black Americans were on the verge of democratic and economic advancement, if never quite unequivocal equality, there have been attending infernos of anger not only blocking the ways forward but charring the paths taken. The moral judgment of history is most damning when it repeats itself.
White Rage is a sobering, timely read that asks us to consider the enormity of the task at hand -- for white Americans not simply to educate themselves about the wrongs their privilege has inflicted, but to submit themselves to being educated by black Americans for the wrongs still being done.
What is thought? What is a mind? If you like big, tough questions, tackled with intelligence and humor, you should read this. Possibly the most profound book ever written about mathematical logic and computer science.
This summer’s beach read is, for me, a bit of a departure. It’s a page turner, but not in the usual sense. It’s a book peppered with photographs of I-need-to-eat-this-right-now food, sublime story-telling, and (to those familiar with her now famous twitter feed) haiku. It's My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, Ruth Reichl’s chronicle of her year following the abrupt closure of Gourmet magazine, when she found herself at age 62 suddenly without a job or a compass.
Reeling after the unforeseen closure of the magazine, Reichl retreats to her house in upstate New York, namely her kitchen, where she cooks her way back to steady ground. There, she chronicles her journey, dish by dish through the seasons, engaging with life and taking us along with her. Her warmth and humility come through, along with a growing connection with food, nature, time, and friends that makes My Kitchen Year my favorite book of hers yet.
"And they all lived happily ever after." This is what the storybooks say, anyway. Everybody's happy at the end of her book, Jill notices, except the dragon, who must settle for being hated and feared. She isn't having any part of that!
Jill invites the dragon out of the book -- that's all it takes, you know -- to teach him some skills that go beyond singeing castles. He makes a botch of things at first. Dragons are going to dragon, it seems. All seems lost until they discover the dragon's surprising culinary artistry fit for its own cookbook!
Lesley Barnes' picture book is gorgeously illustrated and wittily told. It is a true treasure.