What I’m Reading This Summer

Except for birthdays and anniversaries, we don’t let holidays dictate our activities. We’ve been known to listen to Christmas music in July if the mood strikes us. We’re so wild that sometimes we give each other Valentine’s Day presents on days other than Valentine’s Day. This is the extent of the Magras clan’s rebelliousness.

One other sign of our rebel spirit is that we don’t let the season of the year influence our reading habits. We have friends who save lighter fare for the summer and, like students returning to school after a mindless July and August, crack open the weightier tomes right after Labor Day. We don’t go for that. We’ve read Thomas Mann at the beach and Nick Hornby when collegians are taking their finals. Our eclectic tastes obey no calendar.

I plan to be just as eclectic this year as well. The first official summer book of 2012 is going to be a work you probably haven’t heard of: Andrew Crowther’s Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan. Crowther, the secretary of the W.S. Gilbert Society (yes, there is such a thing) writes in the book’s prologue that when he tells people about his fascination with Mr. Gilbert, he usually receives a look of incomprehension, and he has to add “of Gilbert and Sullivan” in a sometimes-successful attempt to get them to understand. I know how he feels. I, too, am a fan of those fusty 19th century musicals and their crazy plots, an obsession that few people other than my wife, who bought the book for me, appreciate.

After that brief detour into nonfiction, I’ll spend most of the summer reading novels and short stories, with perhaps a play or two thrown in for variety. I don’t have a schedule, other than the review schedule that the nice folks at Bookreporter.com will assign to me. I’ll glance at the shelves in my office (or the virtual shelves on my e-reader), select a book I haven’t read yet, and plunge right in. Candidates include Lauren Groff’s Arcadia, T.C. Boyle’s The Women, Nadine Gordimer’s None to Accompany Me, Lars Iyer’s Spurious and Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods.

And I’ll probably read at least a couple of books that aren’t yet on my shelves. I enjoyed Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You so much that I plan to buy his latest novel, One Last Thing Before I Go, when it comes out in August. I’ve had my eye on José Saramago’s newly published first novel, Manual of Painting and Calligraphy, but haven’t bought it yet. And it’s only a matter of time before Michael the Beyond-the-Fringe/Madness-of-George-III fan finally purchases Alan Bennett’s Smut.

It’s going to be a busy reading summer.

How about you? What do you plan to read this summer?


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8 thoughts on “What I’m Reading This Summer

  1. I plan on reading all the books I received as gifts over Christmas and my January birthday this summer. I was quite lucky to have received so many books.

  2. Do read Arcadia when you can. It was such a lovely book. But I adore everything Lauren Groff writes. My not-realistic reading list (considering summer classes) includes Marilynne Robinson’s When I Was a Child I Read Books, finishing Murakami’s 1Q84 (enjoyed the start) and the Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn. This doesn’t include a huge stack of crime fiction and an equally daunting one of YA novels.

  3. Thank you for your comments, Anita and Lynne. It’s always nice to receive books as gifts, isn’t it? A couple of months ago, I read the first of the Patrick Melrose novels and quite liked it, although it’s not for all tastes. Nice review of “Skios”, Lynne. One more book to add to the list!

    1. Ah! I’ve got the Patrick Melrose novels are lined up here too. If you read Skios, I must know what you think of the ending.

      1. I’ll let you know. I’ve read “A Landing on the Sun” and seen productions of “Noises Off” and “Copenhagen”. When I finish his new novel, I’ll make a point of getting in touch with you.

  4. I’m finishing up Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, then moving on to The Red House by Mark Haddon and Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. Also, I have purchased Dave Eggers’ newest, and like you, I can’t wait for the new Jonathan Tropper! I’m pretty sure I have so many books lined up for summer that some of them will have to be delayed until fall, but that’s a good problem to have!

  5. I have the same problem, Sue. When you factor in the books I’ll be reviewing over the next few months, I probably won’t get through my stack until the end of the year at the earliest. But does that stop me from acquiring new books? Enjoy The Red House. I thought it was wonderful.

  6. I’ve heard good things about “Arcadia,” Michael. That’s on my to-read list as well. But right now, I’m working my way through some Iraq War literature: “Dust to Dust” by Benjamin Busch, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain, and “The Yellow Birds” by Kevin Powers. All three are powerfully good, each in their own way.

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