Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

What Are You Reading This Summer? [Part II]

By Carmela Ciuraru


Summer reading from Peter Mendelsund, What We See When We Read (Vintage):

My reading list:
Unforbidden Pleasures by Adam Phillips
Network Aesthetics by Patrick Jagoda
The Bathroom by Jean-Phillipe Toussaint
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
Inherent Disorders by Adam Ehrlich Sachs
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch

Summer reading from Mary Norris, Between You and Me (W. W. Norton):

Every Single Second, by Tricia Springstubb (HarperCollins). I don’t make a habit of reading books aimed at eleven-year-olds, but the author is a friend, and her middle-grade reader pairs an old-fashioned tender-hearted heroine with a plot drawn from the evening news. Structured compellingly. If I were a girl joining the library’s Summer Reading Club, this would definitely be on my list.

The Life You Save May Be Your Own, by Paul Elie (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Interwoven biographies of Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, and Dorothy Day—American Catholics who corresponded with each other—this tome (472 pages, with another 62 pages of notes) will anchor my summer reading as I commute to the office on the A train. Signal malfunction causing delays? No problem. If I can read, I can sit on a train.

Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery. Having somehow missed this childhood classic, I plan to remedy that, as it is set on Prince Edward Island, where I am going in August. Maybe I do make a habit of reading books aimed at eleven-year-olds.

Hogs Wild, by Ian Frazier (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Reported pieces by a favorite, some of which I read in the line of duty (Frazier writes for The New Yorker, where I am a copy editor) and others that I missed. For a proofreader, reading something she’s not getting paid to read is the ultimate compliment.

The Relic Master, by Christopher Buckley (Simon & Schuster). A caper, set in 1517, involving the Shroud of Turin? Bring it on!

They May Not Mean To, but They Do, by Cathleen Schine (Sarah Crichton Books/ FSG). A family story set on the Upper West Side, by a writer who is consistently entertaining. This will do very well for the beach, thank you.

Stink, by Romy Ashby (Folio Club). With a vintage photo of Coney Island on the cover, a transgender narrator, a magician, and a mysterious bookseller, this book has elements of a picaresque coming-of-age story, somehow reminiscent of Carlos Ruis Zafón’s “Shadow of the Wind.”

Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond, by Richard Jenkyns (Basic Books). I know it sounds daunting, but Jenkyns writes in a lively style, skipping over the boring parts. This book offers a crash course in the classics for far less than it would cost to go to Oxford.

Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips (Back Bay Books/Little, Brown). Apollo, Athena, Hermes, and the gang share a London town house. I’ve been meaning to read this 2007 novel for years—nine years, to be exact.

The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery (Atria). I hope to satisfy my curiosity about octopuses, after which I will never eat one again.

The Iliad of Homer (Macmillan/FSG). One for the road: The audiobook of the translation by Robert Fitzgerald (my favorite), as read by Dan Stevens, “Downton Abbey”’s Matthew Crawley. I listened to him read the Odyssey last year. Have epic, will travel. Even a traffic jam is easier with Homer.


Summer reading from Idra Novey, Ways to Disappear (Little, Brown):

On my next escape to the greener regions beyond New York City, I’m going to bring The Prank of the Good Little Virgin of Via Ormea by Amara Lakhous.  Algerian born and long a resident of Italy, Lakhous writes with such verve and humor about human absurdities and cultural conflict that the larger, darker truths in his fiction wash over a reader unexpectedly. Last summer, I savored his inventive, internationally acclaimed novel Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio and can’t think of a single book I’ve read in years that’s anything like it.

Also hoping to read this summer:

Yaa Gyasi’s Homecoming

Robyn Schiff’s A Woman of Property

Jung Young Moon’s Vaseline Buddha

Annie Proulx’s Barkskins


Summer reading from Chris Offutt, My Father, the Pornographer (Atria Books):

The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
My top favorite of all–Jean Rhys!
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
George Orwell.


Summer reading from Helen Simonson, The Summer Before the War (Knopf):

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi: Just read this stunning debut.  A powerful epic that explores both the Ghanaian and American histories of slavery. 

Roxanna Slade, by Reynolds Price: Vivian Jennings, who owns Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, is the ultimate independent bookseller, and when I visited her on my recent tour she gave me a copy of this as one of her all-time favorite books.  

Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Moue: Cameroonian immigrants to New York dependent on wealthy employers who are about to hit the great recession?  Schadenfreude and guilt all over the Hamptons this summer?

Leaving Lucy Pear, by Anna Solomon: Set in 1917, in Massachusetts–how can I resist a passionate novel of shame, secrets and maternal guilt? 

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah: Long on the bestseller lists. I swallowed some envy here and ordered my own copy. Can't wait to retire under a tree to read this tale of occupied France in World War II.

The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney: Just in time for Labor Day. I have the 2016 Bailey's Prize winner on pre-order.

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett: I've already read an advance copy (publishing on September 16th), and I can tell you this sprawling tale of family secrets will ease us into fall.