Jun 27, 2012

by English Muse

Jesse Kornbluth here, from HeadButler.com, recalling the summers when I did nothing but read.

A friend suggested I pull together a reading list for the summer. I had a hard time taking her seriously. She’s one of the smartest, best-read people I know — I’d much rather read her list than mine.

But I understand why she’d like mine. Most of the books that you hear about elsewhere do fall onto my desk each week. I read at least a page of each. And then I give them away and look for an old, forgotten page-turner.

So what you’ll get here is balance: some new, some old. What you won’t get are books that take all summer to read; I have had the summer of reading Tolstoy, and while it was life-changing, it was only possible because I was a kid and my bills were small.

What you really won’t get here is rigorous intellectual challenge. New ideas? Yes, I hope so. But if, like me, you find the news close to unbearable, what you want from a summer book is a wallow in intelligent pleasure. And at a length you can handle in a weekend.

So: short books, mostly fiction, masterfully written, satisfaction highly likely. Slather on the sunscreen, pour the iced tea, and have at them.

Mission to Paris: The latest from Alan Furst, again set in France, again in 1938. If you’ve read any Furst, you have reason to hope this will be both delicious and exciting; if you haven’t, you showed up at just the right time.

The Stories of John Cheever
: 700 pages, but they go down like gin-and-tonics on the manicured lawn of a Connecticut hostess.

Defending Jacob: Everyone in this family annoyed me. But the set-up is bullet-proof: A teenager is killed, and it sure looks as if the killer is his classmate, son of the DA who prosecutes homicides.

The Fault in Our Stars: The best book I’ve read this year, and I say that even though it’s a Young Adult novel about kids with cancer. Just do it, for God’s sake.

50 Shades of Grey: Women beaten down in their marriages or limited in their sexual expression will find delight here. I don’t see how anyone else might — the sex is so bad you soon start to skip it. And isn’t that why you bought it?
Better choices:
The Garden of Eden: Hemingway’s surprising novel about a couple on their honeymoon who make it a threesome.
Jules et Jim: The French classic about three in what might be love
Smut: Two Alan Bennett short stories about Brits who step out of the box
A Sport and a Pastime: James Salter’s classic about a lost American man and a French shop girl.

Levels of the Game: In one epic tennis match, we learn everything about Clark Graebner and Arthur Ashe.

Bonjour Tristesse: Francoise Sagan wrote this sophisticated beach romance when she was 18.

The Quiche of Death: A London PR executive retires early to savor the joys or English country life. As if.

Just Kids: Patti Smith’s fevered memoir.

The Kid from Tomkinsville:
A baseball novel. For kids. Maybe, but I read it again every few years.

The Queen’s Gambit: The more I tell you, the more you’ll wonder why. Just buy it. Read it. And pass it on.

These Days Are Ours: 20something New Yorkers, in the months after 9/11. Pitch perfect.

Sharon Olds: Poems that tell stories.

The True Believer: As we move closer to the election, Eric Hoffer’s short book will make more and more sense.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin: A note, left in a chateau: “Arsene Lupin, gentleman burglar, will return when the furniture is genuine.”

Radioactive: This inventive approach to the lives of Marie and Pierre Curie literally glows in the dark.

Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag: All the pleasure of finding a treasure, but without spending a dime.

Jesus’ Son: Like your humor black? It doesn’t get blacker.

Dora Lives: Surfing’s baddest boy.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 at 1:21 am. It is filed under Decor and tagged with , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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6 Responses to “Kids have summer reading lists. Why not one for adults?”

  1. Wendy says:

    Ooh, I haven’t read any of these yet! Must add your list to my little black book of books to read!

  2. Manny says:

    Hi Jesse! 🙂
    I can totally understand you about reading Tolstoy, I just recently finished War and Peace and it took me over a month to finish it, though I did thoroughly enjoyed every seconds spent reading the book, except maybe for the second epilogue. It was quite dry but I made it through ’til the end. And it was also one of those life-changing book for me too!! :)) Maybe the fact that I fell in love with one of the characters. Hehe.
    Thank you so much for this reading list! I might refer to this the next time I head to the library! Have a nice day!! :))

  3. Mary says:

    What a wonderful list! Some of these I’ve read and some are on my nightstand, but I think I will be adding to the “to read” pile! Thank you! Also – I totally understand the Tolstoy comment. I’ve done that too. I actually started 1Q84 and realized that although it is interesting, it is not a summer book – I put it down and picked up Mindy Kaling’s book. Ah…much better.

  4. Tina says:

    What fantastic suggestions!! I want to upload them all to my Kindle!!

  5. Luli says:

    My summer reading list includes as many romance novels and feel good stories as possible!!! Cheers.

  6. Luli says:

    Minus 50 Shades of Grey. It’s not really my cup of Earl Gray but to each its own.

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