A Summer Reading List



Prospective reading list for the summer.

First, I’ll finish Mikhaíl Bulgakov’s The Master & Margarita, not pictured here because I’m reading it on the Kindle. No new novels until I finish this novel! (Will break this rule).

I just finished another trip through Ulysses, again via audiobook plus tandem-rereading on the Kindle. I like big audiobooks (and I cannot lie), so I’ll get into Against the Day on mp3.

This weekend I read “The Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk,” the first story in a freshly translated collection from Nikolai Leskov. The Enchanted Wanderer is new in translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa ­Volokhonsky. I’ll be reading it in chunks this summer.

Speaking of reading in chunks: I devoured the first three novellas in Álvaro Mutis’s Maqroll series and then took a break to get some other stuff in. Break over.

Also: Matt Bell’s novel In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods.

And I still haven’t read Karel Čapek’s War with the Newts, so I’ll try to fix that this summer.

I also plan to read Evan Lavender-Smith’s Avatar, but I’d like to do it in one sitting, which means I need to free up a few hours.

Finally: Who knows. Reading lists are kind of ridiculous.

Some Books I Plan to Read in 2013


There are only a handful of forthcoming titles that I know about right now that I’m looking forward to reading next year: story collections from Sam Lipsyte (The Fun Parts) and George Saunders (Tenth of December), and a new novel from William Gass called Middle C. I’m also hoping Keith Ridgway’s Hawthorn and Child will finally get a US release, because I’d like to read it too.

There are a few newish books that I didn’t read in 2012 that I’ll try to catch up to this year—Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet, László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango, and Laurent Binet’s HHhH.

I do not currently possess any of these books.

I also look forward to reading Evan Lavender-Smith’s From Old Notebooks, back in print again from Dzanc (who I am sure will get the copy I ordered to me any day now).

At the top of my list though are the books I’m currently reading: Alvaro Mutis’s Maqroll novellas and Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds.

Stuff I’ve been saying I’ll read for a few years now that I hope to get to:

Cortazar’s Hopscotch, John Williams’s Butcher’s Crossing, Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke, and, at the top of the heap, Georges Perec’s Life A User’s Manual.


I have a few books by Thomas Bernhard that I’ll probably get into this year (when I feel called to a misanthropic monologue), and I’ll gobble up anything else by Barry Hannah that I can get my mitts on. I read William Gaddis’s “big books” last year, but I still haven’t read A Frolic of His Own, which I’ve heard is superior to Carpenter’s Gothic.

I’ll reread Moby-Dick this year (or at least listen to William Hootkins’s brilliant audio version) and I’ll probably end up rereading some book that I hadn’t planned to at all (this happened with 2666 and The Savage Detectives this year—who knows? I haven’t read Gravity’s Rainbow since college, and I haven’t reread Infinite Jest in full, and I’d love to go through Suttree again . . . ).

I dipped my toe into Finnegans Wake this year—I’ve found reading it on the Kindle late at night and then going through Joseph Campbell’s Skeleton Key the next morning is rewarding—and I’ll probably keep at it in 2013. Maybe I’ll make it to chapter 3.

But enough of my rambling—What books do you, dear reader, look forward to in 2013?

Summer Reading List: Tales of Adventure

Indulge yourself this summer by taking a fantastic voyage–literary or literally. To help you get started, check out the following tales of adventure.

William Vollman’s The Rifles, part of his as-yet-unfinished Seven Dreams series is a brilliant engagement of history, colonialism, identity, and all of those Big Profound Issues that we so adore in our modern literature. It’s also a really cool adventure story, the tale of John Franklin’s nineteenth-century exploration of Inuit territory. Sad, beautiful, breathtaking.

If you prefer your adventure tales uncomplicated by postmodern gambits, check out John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, a journalistic account of the writer’s 1996 ascent of Mt. Everest, and the disasters that befell his expedition. The word “harrowing” fits well, gentle readers.

On the lighter-but-not-too-much-lighter side, Jeff Smith’s self-published comic Bone is fantastic; even better, you can get the entire 1300 page run of the whole series in Bone: One Volume Edition. We use the word “delightful” here in an absolutely unpejorative sense, friends: the adventures of Fone Bone, his cousins Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone, and Thorn, Granma Rose, and the Red Dragon are epic in scope yet retain an honest humor that will keep in the most cynical folks laughing. A major literary accomplishment that has been unjustly overlooked.

Also somewhat overlooked is Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno. In Bone, protagonist Fone Bone lugs around a massive copy of Melville’s masterpiece Moby-Dick everywhere he goes–and while that book is undoubtedly a desert island classic, Benito Cereno is an underappreciated gem of a tale. Revealing the strange secret at the heart of this book would spoil it, so suffice to say that the short novel enigmatically investigates slavery and colonialism in ways that beg for closer analysis. Good stuff.

Perhaps, though, you beg for the real thing. In that case, we recommend Ultimate Adventures (from Rough Guides) for all your camel-trekking-in-the-Sahara, rock-climbing-at-Joshua-tree, Pacuare-River-rafting needs. Beautiful photography and tantalizing descriptions are coupled with informative “Need to Know” sections that spell out the who-what-when-where-and-how that will help you get your adventure under way.

Also in the exploratory vein, Where to Go When: The Americas, from DK’s Eyewitness Travel, serves as a kind of travel almanac–the kind that makes you wish you were very, very rich with an excess of free time. If that were the case, you’d be spending nine days in May on the Amazon River, spotting pink river dolphins, gorgeous macaws, and darling squirrel monkeys instead of reading this blog right now. Even if you’re not excessively rich with nothing more pressing to do other than trek the Alaskan fjords, The Americas is fun daydreaming material–perhaps the realist response to Vollman’s Seven Dreams. In any case, Ultimate Adventures and The Americas both come out at the end of this summer, giving you plenty of time to plan that awesome adventure getaway for next year.

Summer Reading List: Primer–Beach Reading and School Reading

The end of the Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer, and with it, summer reading. This week Biblioklept will offer up some swell reading suggestions that will both entertain you and make you a better human being (seriously). In advance of that, let’s start with a silly question: just what is “summer reading” and how is it different–or is it different–than any other type of reading?

We’ll divide summer reading into two distinct camps: there’s elective summer reading, which we will henceforth call beach reading (no beach need be involved, as we will soon see), and then there’s the summer reading forced upon young people, henceforth known as the mandatory summer reading list. Let’s look at mandatory reading first, and then quickly dismiss it.

The lists. Oh the lists. We imagine most of our audience has been through the whole mandatory summer reading drill: schlepping around Barnes & Noble (or B. Dalton, back in the day), diligent Mom with said list clutched in hand, the embarrassment of the whole thing summed up in the piles of A Raisin in the Sun and A Separate Peace displayed in the aisles, the sullen look of an emerging sophomore gripping various honeybee-colored editions of Cliff’s Notes, the indignant cries of younger siblings, also forced to read, your never-read copy of My Side of the Mountain foisted upon them. The list seems impossible: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man? The Aeneid? Tess of the D’Ubervilles? Christ on crutches! Almost everything else in the bookstore seems doubly alluring by comparison. We want to read what we want to read, not what you tell us we want to read

This isn’t to suggest that a codified summer reading list should be done away with, of course. Summer reading helps to keep young people’s minds engaged during a time when they’d otherwise, let’s face it, consume naught but the cotton candy fare of Grand Theft Auto and Flavor of Love. Without the rigors of summer reading, students would return to school in the fall with their mind-muscled atrophied, puny, impotent. Still, having someone mandate what you should read is never fun. We had to go back years later, on our own, to appreciate much of what was forced upon us in youth.

That said, summer is a fine time to go back to those very lists. Just because you didn’t “get” Don Quixote when you were fifteen (and really, why would you have?) doesn’t mean that you won’t find it hilarious now that you’re older and your frames of reference have so greatly expanded. Ditto Moby-Dick, The Turn of the Screw, Walden, et al. There’s no rule that what we are calling here “beach reads” have to be light and fluffy. Still.

Ideas of just what constitutes beach reading, are, of course varied. But for many of us, beach reading implies a book that we can read on the beach or by the pool or swaying in a hammock in our backyard. Beach reading is a book that we can still follow after three beers on the porch. Beach reading can be trashy and lurid; beach reading can be literary junk food. Beach reading is genre fiction in cheap mass produced paperbacks, the kind of books we’re happy to leave at the condo when we’re through with them. Someone else will find them, digest them along with a blender of margaritas. At the same time, for a lot of us beach reading is the time to play catch up with all those books that have been stacking up in the margins of our homes, neglected, unread. In any case, summer is a time that many of us put renewed energies into pursuing the endangered pastime of reading, and over the next week Biblioklept aims to aid the cause.