Critical Mass

What Are You Reading, Joyce Carol Oates?

By David Haglund

This summer, we’re asking past winners of and finalists for NBCC awards what books they’re excited to read. Below, Joyce Carol Oates, who received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award from the NBCC last year, weighs in. Click here for the rest of the series.

I don’t really distinguish between summer reading & any other sort of reading.

Much of my reading is for review—at the New York Review of Books—which includes reading back-titles, at times in considerable quantity. And much is miscellaneous, in literary journals and magazines—too various to list.

However, I’ve recently read, on our Kindle, while traveling in Italy, these interesting & engaging books—

Mattherhorn: A Novel of Vietnam by Karl Marlantes

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice & Other Stories (reread)

Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith, which I’d first read in high school.

Also, in traditional print: Lives like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and her Family’s Feuds by Lyndall Gordon and novels by the Canadian writer Jane Urquhart, the British writer Adam Thirlwell, the Japanese mystery/suspense novelist Natsuo Kirino, and the Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie.

Memory Wall, stories by Anthony Doerr.

Henri Cole’s remarkable book of poems Pierce the Skin.

Anthologies: Stories,edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio; The Dark End of the Street ,edited by Jonathan Santlofer and S.J. Rozan; Tales of Wonder and Imagination,edited by Ellen Datlow.

For research related to a novel-in-progress: The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin; At the Heart of the Web: The Inevitable Genesis of Intelligent Life by George Seielstad; The Light at the Edge of the Universe by Michael Lemonick; Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae by Gale Christianson.

And in galley form: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin, Sunset Park by Paul Auster.

Joyce Carol Oates received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award from the NBCC in 2009. In 2007 she was a finalist for NBCC Awards in both fiction and autobiography, for The Gravedigger’s Daughter and The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973-1982, respectively. She was also a fiction finalist in 1992 for Black Water. She won the National Book Award for Them and has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist on multiple occasions. She is the author of over fifty novels, as well as many books of stories, poems, and nonfiction. She teaches at Princeton. (Photo: Murdo Macleod)