Summer Reads

Grab your books and head to the beach! Or . . . not. I've read on a beach once exactly once in the past six years. The book? Infinite Jest.

In theory, summer is supposed to be a time for fun, breezy reads. I don't know that this is true for me. (But then again, I have a particular tendency to gravitate toward overly serious things. The summer after eighth grade, I read Hamlet. But don't worry--I didn't understand it.) As a kid, my favorite thing about summer was that I could pick anything I wanted to read. And to be sure, I went through my fair share of Choose Your Own Adventure books along with those that were out of my league.

As an adult, I haven't noticed that my reading habits change much with the seasons. But perhaps I'm anomaly. Do you gravitate toward different reading material in the summer? If so, what?

25 thoughts on “Summer Reads”

  1. I saw a list recently about this year's summer reads. I wondered at the time what a summer read was. I still don't really know. I think that means what I read does not change based on the seasons.

  2. Summer reading? ... I find that my consumption wanes quite a bit when I can be outside "doing" something, but what I do read doesn't change based on the season.

  3. So in the last month and a half, read both The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, about Shostakovich (under Stalin), as well as The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov's satiric farce of Satan visiting Moscow in the 30's. Recommend both. M&M now on my top 10 best reads list.

    I blame the Economist for TNOT, as they had a good review and Barnes is a Man Booker Prize dude, but I don't recall what made me order M&M (I had read Heart of a Dog a long time ago).

    Many similarities between the experiences of the composer Shostakovich and the writer Bulgakov. Both got a phone call from Stalin himself.

    1. Been a long time since reading M&M, but yes to its greatness. I believe our professor paired it with Faust?

      1. Yes, Woland == Mephistopheles.

        The Pontius Pilate chapters are an interesting read. In the Bible, Pilate is portrayed as the Governor of Judaea. In M&M he is the Proconsul. Yet recently, in 1961, they discovered a limestone block in an old theater in Caesarea Maritima that declared him to be the Prefect of Judea.

    2. A classmate of mine brought The Master and the Margarita on a study abroad trip, and because I didn't like this particular guy much, I didn't have any interest in the book. But I'll have to reconsider that opinion.

  4. I'm reading bs's roommate's Custer bio right now. First third has been very good.

  5. still trying to find time to get through the rest of Bury the Chains, Adam Hochschild's excellent and very readable history of the movement to end the slave trade in England. As I am a glutton for punishment, I will probably then look for his gory history of the Congo, King Leopold's Ghost.

    1. We're traveling an exhibition called Purchased Lives: The Domestic Slave Trade In New Orleans at the moment. The show was awarded a hearty NEH grant to travel to three sites, and has the possibility of traveling to the MN Historical Societie's palace of history in St. Paul several years down the line. This was a pretty powerful exhibition to work on, and still I think about some of the items we're displaying. We have a neck collar with bells attached that is the stuff of nightmares, and then there's the replica auction block I built to give a sense of proportion and scale. I learned a great deal about the trade and its lingering effects, not least of which is that the powerful and rich here in NOLA continue to deny the horrors of salvery and refuse to acknowledge that the source of their generational wealth was built on the backs of actual people.

      1. The f-i-l was the king of one of the old society Mardi Gras krewes last year (so old that they don't have a parade, just a obscenely formal event). He was the first Jewish King in the organization's history. Anyway, we attended as good family members and Sheenie looked around at the 1,000ish people in attendance, acknowledged that every single one was white, and told me the attendees' obliviousness to their privilege at events like this we're exactly why she refuses to ever move back.

          1. Also, your fil offered me a spot on the float for last year. When he quoted the price I nearly shit my pants. I had to politely decline as I work for a non profit.

            1. I've politely declined as well. Maybe in about thirty years. I bet the new b-i-l starts riding within two years.

  6. We went to a few garage sales over the weekend. I got

    Beowulf - new Seamus Heaney translation I'm very excited about
    Old Man and the Sea - To put on the PR's "to read" list.
    The Island of the Day Before - Umberto Eco. The Name of the Rose was a pretty challenging (in a good way) read. Probably not high on my list, but I do want to try to tackle Eco again.
    One Hundred Years of Solitude - I'm really liking Love In the Time of Cholera and should really finish it.
    Notes from a Small Island - I like Bill Bryson. We'll see what this one's like

    Total cost: $0.75

    1. Nice haul. I've read a couple of Bryson's books (A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country) and would echo your sentiment.

      1. I've read A Walk In The Woods, The Mother Tongue, and I think A Short History of Nearly Everything

  7. I'm reading Jefferson's America. Of course we all know about Louis and Clark, but Thomas Jefferson sent out teams to explore the upper Mississippi and Lower Mississippi areas too. Pretty interesting about Spain, France, and Britain's interest in the area west of Appalachians 1780-1805. For instance did you know that Spain sent out a regiment to hunt down the Lewis and Clark expedition and capture and/or kill them? They got lost and never found them, but just think of the implications.

    Pirate, you'd like this book.

  8. Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Adult nonfiction. Yeah, I know . . . the title is kind of gross. I really enjoyed Duhigg’s earlier book, The Power of Habit, so I figured I’d give this one a try. It was a quick read and not by any means bad, but I’m not sure I came away from it significantly smarter, faster, or better. It did confirm a couple of things I do that I thought were weird are actually useful: taking notes by hand and needing to manipulate data in order to understand it. One other idea I’ll likely apply in the future—when a project is stuck, change a variable (whether who is in charge of decisions, the location of a meeting, or something else) rather than continuing on in the same way and hoping things will get better.

    All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiley. Young adult novel. This book has two narrators—a black kid and a white kid who attend the same high school. Early in the book, Rashad, the black kid, is beaten by a white police officer who believes Rashad was stealing a bag of chips from a convenience store. Quinn, the white kid, witnesses the beating and is sickened by it, but to complicate matters, the police officer is someone who has always been a mentor and a role model for him. The chapters alternate narrators as each boy has to figure out how to navigate the week that follows the beating.

    Actual Spoiler SelectShow

    Citizen by Claudia Rankine. Poetry. I don’t often reread books, but I made an exception for this one. It’s still good. I was baffled by a lot of the scripts for videos on the first read through, but these made more sense this time around.

    1. P.S. I can't believe I left this one off my list. (I've been really tired lately, though.)

      A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, edited by Sun Yung Shin. Anthology of personal essays. The sixteen contributors to this anthology offer distinct perspectives on what it's like to be a person of color in Minnesota. While there are certain shared experiences (men of color frequently bring up being pulled over by police), there's no central, unifying point of view. It's interesting to compare and contrast the experiences of Native Americans, people whose families have lived in the US for generations, and people whose families came to Minnesota as recent immigrants or refugees. It's obviously quite a Minnesota-specific book, but I found a lot to appreciate in it.

  9. Sometimes I pick up nonfiction in the summer, or lighter fiction, but not always.

    I have made it to page 130 of Infinte Jest. 20 pages+ in the last 3 days. Screaming along now.

    1. I made it to an appearance of the word jejune in IJ, which was a nice little milestone of sorts. (Page 405.)

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