Summer Reading, Part II: Books! Books! Books!

My galloping start to the summer’s reading has been sidetracked–only a little–by my introduction to The Good Wife and finally working my way through True Blood. That still has not stopped me from collecting a massive pile from the library. When we left off, I had just started Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry. Here’s how my end-of-May and June reading has gone so far:

Sexing the Cherryby Jeanette Winterson: I definitely liked this better than Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. You can tell that Winterson’s imaginative voice is at work here, as she spans a series of centuries through the use of her characters. Though it’s not always easy to tell which voice is the Dog Woman’s or which is Jordan’s, their voices capture a mood and place so eloquently.

The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan: I forgot that one of McEwan’s nicknames was “Ian Macabre.” Read this book, and you’ll figure it out. I won’t say too much to spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet (ahem, sister!), but I feel it takes Lord of the Flies and updates it for contemporary British family life. And if you have read it, I’m dying to talk about it with you.

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan: I feel that McEwan’s “hopeful” outlook starts around here, and will lead into Atonement and Saturday (yes, I am a McEwan fan).  It’s a little creepy, but so good, and it captures paranoia perfectly. I highly recommend this one–but don’t read it while you’re home alone.

Headhunters by Jø Nesbo: I’ve never read any of the Harry Hole mysteries, but I am going to put them on my reading list. I’ll confess that I put this book on the list because it was just made into a film, starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:

AKA Jaime Lannister, in his much better-looking Game of Thrones Season 2 beard and unkempt hair.

So…all admiration for this very foxy Dane aside, the book is excellent. Nesbo and his translator have provided an entertaining, suspense, and darkly funny work that I could not put down. The twist at the end is unexpected, but makes the book even more thrilling.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd: Having devoured Watchmen, and enjoying the film version with Natalie Portman, I was expecting to love this. And I didn’t. Maybe it’s just a testament to Hugo Weaving’s sonorous delivery of V’s speeches, which come across as a bit over-long in the graphic novel.

Persepolis I and IIby Marjane Satrapi. My all-time favorite graphic novel is Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. And that’s in danger, after reading Persepolis. I read both parts in a gulp; I was compelled by Satrapi’s voice, the cartoon-like graphics, and the terrifying narrative that I as a Westerner could not even envision. I would very much like to teach an excerpt of this to my composition students.

The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst: having read his Booker-winner and his latest, I can tell that it’s a “first novel.” The style isn’t as refined, but the story is no less compelling. Told before the AIDS crisis hits, you see the culture of England in the early-to-mid 1980s, before disillusion and disease struck.

Possessionby A.S. Byatt: I saw the film before I read this book, and there is no way that Aaron Eckhart does Roland Michell justice. Featuring a cast of intricate characters, academic backstabbing, and a historical romance, Byatt blends several genres, while also incorporating subtle digs at academia. I think it’s a must-read for English majors, especially graduate students.

In One Personby John Irving: truly heartbreaking and affirming all at once, this chronicles the story of Will, a young man who realizes that he is bisexual (and possibly pan-sexual) and will live as a “sexual suspect” in 1970s and 80s New England. I would recommend it.

Inkheart and Inkspell by Cornelia Funke: delightful and scary fantasy for anyone who loves books. To say more would just be to pull apart the threads that hold this trilogy together (Inkdeath is also on my list).

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler: I’ve never seen the film, but I could easily imagine Humphrey Bogart’s drawl merging with Philip Marlowe’s narrative. It’s classic noir action, though some overt racism and homophobia places the story directly in its historical era.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spyby John le Carré: I saw the filmed adaptation back in January, and I had a very compelling reason to want to see it:

Hello, lover.

My inexplicable love for Gary Oldman aside, the film was well-cast and excellent, though some plot points confused me. I decided to read the book, and I’m glad I did. You see, it’s not your ordinary spy novel, nor is George Smiley the classic debonair Bond. He’s a washed-up, middle-aged spy forced into retirement by a disaster, and his marriage has been hijacked by one of his colleagues. But Smiley turns out to be a patiently fierce individual, and a dangerously proficient spy, one who draws you in with his very inocuousness. I honestly think it sets a standard for the spy genre, and it gives a glimpse into Cold War England. Next up: Insurgent by Veronica Roth (the sequel to Divergent).

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