Summer Reading

I don’t really believe in this as a way to categorize books, but I definitely cherish it as a way to name experience. “Summer reading” means, for me, the time of the activity rather than its content. For in summer, thanks to the academic schedule, the schedule I’ve lived for almost all of my life, the schedule that is at once the best and worst thing about my life, I have the luxury of time to really read.

When it comes to reading I am governed by opposed, almost equally powerful imperatives: on the one hand, the felt need to catch up with some author or period or genre for a writing project or class I’ll be teaching and, on the other, the desire to be led down whatever wayward readerly paths fancy and happenstance take me. The latter usually wins out, but not without the guilty throbs of the former. (Actually, it’s more complicated than that, because the things I feel I should read are also things I want to read, just maybe not right now.)

So here are some things I plan to read this summer, even though of course I won’t:

Something by Victor Serge

More Israeli fiction

Parade’s End (had to put on hold 100 pp in due to vacation and deadlines)

The Long Ships (Frans Bengtsson)

Madame Bovary (definitely happening, because my Proust reading group is transforming into a 19th century French literature group)

The rest of the Martin Beck series (only read volumes 1-4)

Those new Kafka biographies

Pawel’s biography of Herzl

The Levant Trilogy (Olivia Manning) (Read the first volume last summer; excited to finish, especially after now having been to Jerusalem)

The Odd Women (George Gissing)

Esther Waters (George Moore)

Jenny Davidson’s new book on sentences

Elizabeth George (stevereads made me curious)

Dance to the Music of Time (Anthony Powell)

Stay tuned to find out what I actually read!

And you? What’s on your list?

6 thoughts on “Summer Reading

  1. I love The Odd Women! I felt like it was a rare example of a novel that managed to be both political and have an engaging plot–AND, bonus! even some developed characters. I found Esther Waters to be much less engaging. Also, Madame Bovary is one of my favourite novels of all time, so there’s that.

    I’ve been wanting to read Parade’s End myself, but it seems like a pretty gigantic book to be taking on during my comps year, when I ought to be taking on other gigantic books in preparation (read: Vanity Fair). –LNR

    • You’ve made me even more interested in The Odd Women, LNR! My friend Rohan Maitzen (as a Victorianist you should know about her) wrote about it on her blog not too long ago. How exciting to be doing your comps. That’s the time I enjoyed grad school the most. Vanity Fair was teh one book in my Victorian novel class I didn’t read–and I’ve still never rectified that omission…

      • Wait, what? You didn’t read Vanity Fair?! Well, it’s all kinds of awesome, so you should definitely rectify that omission soon. I have mixed feelings about Elizabeth George. For a while I thought she was really, really good, but the more recent ones (especially, ironically, the one Steve just raved about) have struck me as self-indulgently long and tedious. She does always give one thing I miss in a lot of other (shorter, more formulaic) mysteries, which is plenty of character development.

  2. Yeah, sorry about that, Rohan. I felt bad about it then, and I feel bad about it now. I’m not sure about George either. I was at the library yesterday looking at a ton of them and I just couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger. That one Steve mentioned is *crazy* long. In fact, Vanity Fair is probably shorter…

  3. Peter Robinson’s Children of the Revolution, at least two more books by Michael Connelly (Fifth Witness and Gods of Guilt), The Silkworm by “obert Galbraith”,The Old Straight Track by Alfred Watkins, Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary, Watching War Movies With My Dad by Al Murray, Willin’ The Story of Little Feat by Ben Fong-Torres.
    That probably takes us well into late July or early August.

    • Hardly know any of these! Peter Robinson used to be a must read for me, and then somehow I stopped. Don’t quite know why. Maybe they just seemed a bit too long for me. Should I go back to them?

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