2015 Faculty Summer Reading Lists

Have you recovered from finals yet? Need some new reading material? Here are a few suggestions from our lovely English department faculty. Happy reading!

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Laura Bloxham: I’m not just recommending these two books.  I’m telling you these books are stunning.  Your life will be better for having read them.  Both books are by authors currently living in the northwest, Anthony Doerr in Boise and Daniel James Brown just outside Seattle.

4A93A6BE-8DFD-4C84-983C-BBAD3A1A379DDoerr’s book, All the Light We Cannot See, recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is set primarily in occupied France during World War II.  But this book is not a book about war.  It is a book about resiliency.  Two inordinately strong children tell their stories, Marie-Laure, a blind French girl living in Paris, and Werner, an orphan in Germany who earns his way into the Hitler Youth.  There is a third narrator who enters the story later and gives urgency to the plot, as well as presenting a mystery of sorts. The highlight of the book is the people we love and the details of their lives.  All that is presented in short narratives and gorgeous prose.  The novel grows from pieces into one story.
D1DBAD68-DB46-4657-B1FA-052E571B4018Daniel Brown’s The Boys in the Boat is non-fiction, narrative history.  It is similar to
Doerr’s novel in that it is a person’s story primarily, one of the boys in the boat at the University of Washington who wins a spot rowing at Hitler’s 1936 Olympics.  The central figure lives in Spokane and in Sequim, before moving to Seattle.  It is his early life, his struggles with abandonment and poverty, that makes him our cherished center of the story.  All of the boys in the boat have circumstances that provide back stories and qualities necessary for great collective achievement.
But you just have to trust me.  These books belong on the top of your reading list this summer.

 

 

poetry_rankine_citizen_fThom Caraway:Citizen: an American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf, 2014). This book won the 2014 National Book Critic’s Circle awards for both poetry and criticism. One book has never been nominated in both categories, much less won, so I am very interested in reading it. In a long series of prose poems, cultural critiques, and artworks, the book explores issues of racial identity in America.

30ywarMy Thirty-Year’s War, by Margaret Anderson (Knopf, 1930). Anderson was the founder and editor of The Little Review, one of the most influential and important little magazines of the Modernist period. Anderson published, in serial format, James Joyce’s Ulysses, and was tried for obscenity as a result. The magazine was always on the brink of financial collapse, but she published everyone we still consider important (including Mina Loy, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and many others). With Harriet Monroe, Anderson is one of the most important poetry editors of the 20th century. This is her autobiography.41MBJ0BJq+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The Blue Buick: New and Selected Poems, by B.H. Fairchild (Norton, 2014). I’ll read anything written by Fairchild. He’s one of the best living American poets, and will be visiting Whitworth in the fall of 2015.

Well, that’s a start!

 

 

51jt1hDk0GL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_the-hired-man

Amowi Phillips: 

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

 

 

 

Casey Andrews: I’ve been spending a year reading about peace and war, which I realize is not everyone’s ideal for the beach, but here are a few suggestions regardless.

Parade's EndFord Madox Ford’s Parade’s End tetralogy. One of the great modernist monster-pieces, but with an engaging plot and characters to pull you through the dense, impressionistic passages.

And, if you don’t feel like hundreds of pages worth of Ford’s prose, there is the excellent mini-series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard. According to Stoppard, this film—more than any he has worked on—feels like one of his own original plays.

200px-The_World_My_Wilderness-cover

Rose Macaulay’s The World My Wilderness. A young girl named Barbary returns to London in 1946 after serving the French Resistance. She wanders the rubble, living in the bombsites and trying to make sense of a war that was supposed to bring peace but instead leaves devastation. Macaulay was a supremely popular comic novelist, but this is my pick for her finest work of serious fiction.

the-love-charm-of-bombsLara Feigel, The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War. This “group biography” traces in marvelous detail and great storytelling a set of five writers as they experienced the London Blitz and its aftermath—among them Rose Macaulay, Graham Greene, and Rebecca West.

1303921Helen Zenna Smith, Not So Quiet… The romance novelist Evadne Price got a contract to capitalize on the success of Erich Maria Remarque’s antiwar novel All Quiet on the Western Front. Writing as Helen Smith and basing her novel on true stories, she chose to write a book even more brutal than Remarque’s about the realities of war from the perspective of volunteer ambulance drivers and nurses. There are plot twists and turns and enough hard-edged, tough talking female characters to make Orange is the New Black jealous.

 

 

downloadDoug Sugano:

The Housekeeper and the Professor, Yoko Ogawa.

 

 

 

41FD2KGPX9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Laurie Lamon:

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (Just won the Pulitzer….it’s gorgeous!), and  The Collected Poems of Czeslaw Milosz !

 

Vic Bobb: Reading in the Summer.  It’s the thing we’re born for.  Reading is what Summer is for.  Summer is the definition of Readingin the Unfallen State.  This is a delicious subject.  (Especially if you eat bacon while you’re Reading in the Summer.)

BB0493_3I’m going to open the summer with the bizarre magnificence of Faulkner’s Snopes Trilogy.  The Hamlet.  The Town.  The Mansion.  This triplet work (published in 1940, 1957, 1959) has some slack moments, but is immense and wonderful (and very funny) and faulknerian…and its capacity to immerse the reader in the character of Mink is astonishing and implausible (and, to some writer / readers, awe-inspiring).  I commend my beginning-of-summer choice to your attention.

111201However, if you’ve never managed to click with Faulkner, you can skip the Snopeses and go directly to some contemporary English writers: sample one each from Penelope Lively [The Photograph, or City of the Mind, or Moon Tiger…virtually any Lively novel, in fact, except Heat Wave, which I insist is a forgery, with a lame ending that could not have come from so wonderful a writer as P. Lively]; and Pat Barker [Double Vision, Ghost Road, or Union Street]; and Graham Swift [Last Orders or The Sweet-Shop Owner]; and Penelope Fitzgerald [The Book Shop or Offshore]; and John Berger [To the Wedding]; and Joanne Harris [Five Quarters of the Orange]; and Julian Barnes [Metroland or Staring at the Sun]; and Ian McEwan [assuming you’ve already read Atonement and Saturday, try On Chesil Beach or Amsterdam]; and Anita Brookner [Hotel du Lac or A Friend From England]; and Nick Hornby [How to Be Good, A Long Way Down; or the stunning creative nonfiction / memoir Fever Pitch {don’t worry: you Shakespeare_Wrote_for_Money_loresdon’t have to know or care a thing about soccer for this book’s writing to blow you away}; or the offbeat goofiness of The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping vs the Dirt, Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and More Baths Less Talking]; and Barbara Pym [An Unsuitable Attachment]; and Kazuo Ishiguro [The Remains of the Day or Never Let Me Go]; and PD James [The Black Tower, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, or The Children of Men]; and Martin Amis [Koba the Dread, or Night Train; plus any of his books of essays].  Yes, there are some good and celebrated writers missing from that list, but by now you’ve gotten to July, and it’s time to widen your scope, and take in some literature in translation.

But that’s a list for another time….

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