2016 Summer Reading Recommendations

Alright. Now that we’ve had some time to relax and decompose after finals, it’s time to start reading! Lucky for you, your favorite professors have offered up some good recommendations to keep you busy this summer. Happy reading!

First, suggestions from the wonderful Casey Andrews:

My list includes things I am actually working on this summer rather than books I’ve read fully and wish to recommend. Most of these I’ve started and am eager to get to in their entireties.

1)      Richard Jenkyns, Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond.

Jenkyns is a renowned classics scholar who has written essential studies of Jane Austen and the use of classical writings by Victorian authors. Since 2004, Jenkyns has held a position at Oxford as “public orator,” and the role suits him well, speaking with depth and insight to popular audiences. This latest book is a chronological survey stuffed with sharp readings and occasional jabs, guiding us toward the best works by great classical authors. If you have been unable to take Leonard’s class on The Epic (or simply need a refresher), this is a fantastic book for you. http://smile.amazon.com/Classical-Literature-Journey-Virgil-Beyond/dp/0465097979/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461799878&sr=1-1&keywords=jenkyns+classical+literature

2)      P. N. Furbank, E. M. Forster: A Life.

This biography is typically considered the definitive life of Forster and, like Richard Ellmann’s Joyce  and Carlos Baker’s Hemmingway,  one of the great examples of the genre. I’ve read Forster in scattered ways—a couple of the early books, a few late essays, A Passage to India numerous times—but with Furbank as my guide, I’m looking forward to following Forster’s work in total.  http://smile.amazon.com/E-M-Forster-Life-Harvest/dp/0156286513/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461799467&sr=1-1&keywords=furbank+forster

3)      Vera Brittain, Testament of a Peace Lover.

I’ve dipped into this selection of Brittain’s letters written for a pacifist audience during the Second World War, but this summer I will finally get to read cover to cover. (Alas, I don’t foresee time to go to McMaster University and read the complete collection. Some day…) http://smile.amazon.com/Testament-Peace-Lover-Letters-Brittain/dp/0860688437/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461799733&sr=1-1&keywords=vera+brittain+testament+peace+lover

Now from the fantastic Laura Bloxham:

I have three categories of recommendations for summer reading. First, I’ve been rereading classics this year: late Austen, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion; Wilkie Collins, Woman in White; Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd. Nineteenth century novels are deep luscious places to spend time. If you’ve read Jane Eyre, read Villette; if you’ve read David Copperfield, read Little Dorrit. Spread out the reading over lunch hours.

Second, read beach trash. I read mysteries. Try Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), The Cuckoo’s Calling. And then the next two in the series. Intriguing play on the American mean streets tradition: man wounded in battle comes home, is lonely, opens a detective business, hires a secretary who is not the ditz Sam Spade would have hired. Or pick your own books that do not require you to mark them and do analysis.

Third, read a good piece of non-fiction, a provocative piece of history or biography of something that takes you out of your own preoccupations. Consider Bryan Stephenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. This book is a largely narrative-based account of individuals unjustly imprisoned and the fight to restore their freedom. Stephenson spoke on campus last year.


And now…

Vic Bobb’s response to the call for a recommendation for a book worth reading this summer:

So. It’s summer. Time to travel the world…except that you’ve got a job at a fruit stand that’s going to give you a half-day off every Wednesday (until the cherries come in over the Fourth, when all leaves are cancelled)…or at Powell’s (so you don’t want a day off)…or running a grain elevator (which leaves you wishing you could get as much time off as your cousin at that fruit stand)…or selling hot dogs from a pushcart at a beach on Lake Chelan (so you’re too broke to travel even if you did have more than two days off in a row)…

So. You can’t go there? Read your way there. Fly, on the wings of Fiction. Here’s a book suggestion from every continent (with a little cheating on Antarctica). I’m suggesting novels that I don’t think anyone else is going to recommend.

Africa. JM Coetzee, Life and Times of Michael K. (South Africa, 1983) Saying cheerfully that this novel is not as bleak, hopeless, and depressing as Coetzee’s Disgrace is approximately like insisting that it is good news that you have arterial bleeding rather than final-stage bubonic plague. But Michael K is a fine work of art, Coetzee can write, and the book’s final image is actually hopeful and positive. Sort of.

Asia. Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country. (Japan, 1948) You’ll still be noticing fresh delicacies and details in this narrative the sixth time you read it. Shimamura loves and is committed to the purity and beauty of art as intensely as is Bohumil Hrabal’s Hanta in Too Loud a Solitude…but Shimamura could never be mistaken for the little man in a Prague cellar compacting wastepaper bales….

Australia. Nevil Shute: choose one from among In the Wet; On the Beach; Beyond the Black Stump; The Far Country; or No Highway, and you’ll probably want to read the rest (and more). Shute is Australian by adoption; among the books I’ve suggested only No Highway dates from before his 1950 emigration from Blighty to Oz. Not a deep artist, but a wonderful storyteller—with a full two dozen worthy books to choose from.

Europe. Michel Quint, In Our Strange Gardens (France, 2000) A very fine novella based on the experiences of Quint’s father in occupied France, and afterward. You will be horrified to discover that you have burst into spontaneous cheers for…an act of utilitarian ethical decisionmaking in a book about Duty and Doing the Right Thing Because It Is Right.

North America. Douglas Coupland, Microserfs (Canada, 1995) Once you’ve been delighted by this romp among Silicon Valley / Redmond types, you’ll want to back up to Generation X (1992) and Shampoo Planet (1993 and set in the Tri Cities, though not officially), and then to leap ahead to jPod (2006). Other Coupland novels tend to step on their own shoelaces late in each book. That’s a shame, because at his best, he’s good. (If you like these Coupland novels, give Englishman Nick Hornby a try. And if you like Hornby’s High Fidelity, About a Boy, How to Be Good, or A Long Way Down, take a look at Coupland.)

South America. Humberto Costantini, The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis (Argentina, 1984) An insidiously draw-you-in novel so interior as to make Proust & Woolf look like action-thrillers. It gets better and better and suddenly it is best. A very [very] fine—and disturbing—novel, indeed. [Those unfamiliar with the Dirty War need to learn a little bit about Argentina in the late 1970s before reading this book.] Do not glance at the last pages of this novel before you arrive there legitimately. This is a gut-punch-ending story, and even a hint of what’s coming would do incalculable damage to your experience of the book.

Antarctica. Cheating. Read Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel, the 1838 The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym

Bonus Continents. If you’re not already familiar with the novels of Penelope Lively and Pat Barker (England) and Anne Tyler (USA), make http://www.betterworldbooks.com your next stop. For Lively, start with City of the Mind, The Photograph, and Moon Tiger; then read everything except Heat Wave. In Barker’s case, read Union Street, The Ghost Road, and Double Vision; then go to town on her remaining novels. For Tyler, start anywhere and keep going.

Happy Summer, regardless of where you are.

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