Summer Reading Finale: August

School has started back up again, which means that my for-fun/for-dissertation reading is going to drop off (not too precipitously, I hope!). August was a busy month, so as you can see, my summer reading did not keep up the breakneck pace of May, June, or (especially) July. Nevertheless, I read some great stuff that I want to share:

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang: This graphic novel takes three narratives, built out of an Othered experience in America, myths of origin, and fantasy. In short: it’s fantastic, and I cannot wait to teach it to undergrads in future survey classes.

The Color of Magic (Discworld, Book 1) by Terry Pratchett: I’ve heard quite a bit about Terry Pratchett, so I started with Discworld, Book 1. I don’t think it’s for me–it’s quite surreal and strange, and I had a hard time getting into the narrative.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk: Translated from Turkish, this novel follows poet Ka as he embarks on a return trip home and runs into a fateful love affair. It’s a story full of fears facing the colliding worlds of “east” and “west,” coming home, writing, and freedom. I highly recommend it.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy: This story is scary. Quite possibly the scariest thing I’ve read to this day. McCarthy soaks you into a world reminscient of the Old West and then completely stamps on it with his words. One of the best postmodern deconstructions of US mythology I’ve read yet, and the prose is brilliantly sparse. That said, I’m not sure I can watch the movie. I don’t want Javier Bardem ruined for me.

Small Island by Andrea Levy: the BBC mini-series is absolutely fantastic, but it does not even do full justice to this warm-hearted novel. The lives of Queenie, Gilbert, Hortense, and Bernard all intersect after World War II, forcing our notions of what it means to be “English” to change, especially since Hortense and Gilbert are Jamaicans, who claim the birthright of sovereignty to the Crown. It challenged quite a few of my own racial/cultural suppositions, and I think this would be a great alternative to White Teeth for a British Literature survey (especially for upper-division courses).

The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro: I’ve loved the other two books I’ve read of Ishiguro’s and I fully expected to love this one. I didn’t. It felt like wandering into a slow-moving endless dream, where awkward, incongruous things happen at once for no good reason. Which is super effective and brilliant, but so difficult to read about for 550 pages.

Messy by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: the Fug Girls’ second book is even better than the first. Better writing, and great, rounded, dynamic female characters. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The Summer without Men by Siri Hustvedt: my Norske friend recommended this book highly, so I picked it up at the library. Truly fantastic glimpse at a writer’s evaluation of her life, her crumbled marriage, and her relationships with other women of all ages surrounding her. If you didn’t know Siri Hustvedt (as I didn’t before), she’s married to fellow novelist Paul Auster. My Norske friend likes her work better than his, and now, having read them book, I agree.

Well, that’s the summer, folks. Thanks for reading! What are some titles I should add to my Fall list? 🙂



Filed under Books

2 responses to “Summer Reading Finale: August

  1. DJ Ian

    Pratchett isn’t about narrative: he’s about text-as-experience and atmosphere. I felt the same way you did about Discworld I, but I was guilted into reading on…and thankful for it, I am.

  2. MJB

    Sounds great (and like you were very productive this summer!) I would recommend _Pillars of Salt_ by Fadia Faqir. It’s this really wonderful multi-voiced narrative about two women’s lives in Jordan.

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