Summer Reading, Part III (B): July, cont’d.

Here’s the rest of my July reading:

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I haven’t read Middlesex yet, but I plan to very soon. The Marriage Plot was, I thought, an excellent retelling, critique, and inversion of the comedies-of-manners present in 19th century novels. I also greatly enjoyed the 1980s setting–we get to hear about a theorist named Derrida. 🙂

Money by Martin Amis. I loved Times Arrow but I did not love Money. I do think that Amis captures the opulence and shallow ideals of the 1980s with his rather satiric voice. Also: once I’d read Money, Ian McEwan’s Solar made a lot more sense.

Club Dead and Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris. Books 3 and 4 of the Sookie Stackhouse adventures. We meet Alcide, who is slightly less charming than he is in the HBO series. However, Bill is gone, and the series immediately improves. Eric loses his memory and, inexplicably (though agreeably), his clothes, as well. For true guilty pleasure reading, Ms. Harris delivers.

Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. Victorian novels and heroines can be either angel-in-the-house (Esther Summerson), maddening-and-annoying-tease (Cynthia Kirkpatrick), or some form of inert doormat (Amy Dorritt, Molly Gibson). I honestly liked all of them, except Cynthia, so it was kind of refreshing to read Mary Barton and meet a heroine who was a product of her times, but not as trope-bound as some of her contemporaries. The female friendship is also delightful, and the realism that Gaskell grounds the novel in makes the story a must-read.

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace. Can you believe I’d never read any of the Betsy-Tacy books? I got started, and I find it delightful already. Over the school year, I plan to read the whole series.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning (book 1) by Lemony Snicket. I enjoy dark humor, but this got a little too dark for me. Which is a shame, because Daniel Handler’s narrative voice is amusing and wry.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan. A wordless novel, Tan perfectly captures the culture shock and confusion experienced by anyone who makes their way in a strange land.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. I’ve read The Dark is Rising, and I been wanting to read the entire series. I found this to be enjoyable and interesting, particularly the intersection of history and fantasy.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I’ve seen both adaptations, and I actually prefer the Tim Burton adaptation, which, as it turns out, to be very faithful to the novel. Dahl’s voice is wry and playful, though always considerate of his young readers.

Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. Again, I loved it. The pictures also make it a highly read. I would also recommend Wes Anderson’s film adaptation.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg. I can’t believe I hadn’t ever read this, either. But it’s another delight. I remember imagining what it might be like to run away and live in a museum…Konigsberg presents a playful, but also somewhat realistic glimpse at the day-to-day difficulties of running away from home.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. I make it a point to try and read Newbery winners and Newbery Honor books. Told in verse, this story focuses on a Vietnamese girl’s evacuation to the United States and the changes she undergoes to maintain her sense of self with her new surroundings. One of the best young adult novels I’ve read.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. I admire Curtis’s style, and the way he tackle his subjects, particularly young African-American men. The epilogue of this novel is deeply moving, and demonstrates Curtis’s activist vision, one that I hope will transfer to his young readers.

Seeds of America, Book 1: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. I don’t always enjoy historical fiction, but Ms. Anderson gives an evocative voice to the enslavement of African-Americans in this Revolutionary War-era tale. It forces readers to think about history from a slave’s perspective, and how loyalties were often not dependent on ideals, but on how individuals were treated.

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris. More Sookie. More Eric. More Pam. Less Bill. All is well.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. I’m making my way through all of McEwan’s works, and I was particularly curious to see why this is the one that won him his (to date) only Booker (so maybe I’m biased). I can totally understand now. From a style perspective, the narrative is tightly crafted, and the story is…symmetrical. The end is a great way to bring us back to the beginning, and I think it’s an interesting commentary on humanity.

Black Dogs by Ian McEwan. I also really enjoyed this. It’s less macabre than his earliest stuff that I’ve read, but it also uses a simple image to create a sense of dread or horror that lurks at the edge of the text. And I think he effectively confronts our means of perceiving ourselves, of perceiving evil in the world.

Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick. I loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret passionately, and I love this just as much. Selznick’s drawings tell just as effective a story as the text, and together, the two create an unforgettable reading experience. I cannot recommend it enough.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Burgess uses obscure language to convey a much more sinister and disturbing story. While it seemingly focuses on the poor choices of a petty criminal, Burgess critiques totalitarianism in ways that converse nicely with Georege Orwell and Arthur Koestler. If I was to teach a class themed on State Violence and the Novel, this would be at the top of my list.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles. Technically, I read this book in August, but since I finished it today, I’ll include it here. I liked Fowles’ very postmodern writing techniques of re-writing a Victorian novel. Both satisfying and unsatisfying, maddening, and thrilling. Fowles deconstructs our process of reading the novel, our expectations for the novel, and he analyzes them. Did I mention that there are three endings to the text?


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