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?
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.
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 Uncategorized and tagged with Alan Bennett, Alan Furst, eric Hoffer, Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, John Green, Patti Smith, Sharon Olds. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.