Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What To Read This Summer

So this year has seen one juggernaut after another in terms of books and there are plenty of big summer books that I will be picking up. I know for many folks summer is when people have time to read and are looking for good summer reads. So I am providing options for those compiling their lists. Below find a variety of books, some chunky sagas and others light beach reads...and if you have other books you are picking up let me know.

1. Barkskins by Annie Proulx. I am late to the Annie Proulx game, most famous for writing the short story Brokeback Mountain and the Pulitzer winner The Shipping News. Her latest is a 700 plus page saga that traces a family French Canadian loggers from the late 1600s to the present, touching on important issues about our relationship to nature and the role we have played in the current ecological crisis. It's getting tons of praise. If you want one of a door stop of a book to keep you busy this summer this is it!

2. I have yet to read Joe Hill, Stephen King's son who has built a solid writing career that quickly came out of his father's shadow. This year saw the release of The Fireman, another 700 page epic about a world where people spontaneously combust and a hero seeks to save the species from the burn. I have my copy already and think this will be a good one to pound back while lying in the sun in my backyard.

3. Homegoing is the debut novel of 26 year old Yaa Gyasi and is another multi-generational tale starting in 18th century villages in Ghana that takes the readers to the slave holding South, the Civil War and 20th century Harlem. The buzz has been deafening for this one and Gyasi has managed to keep it succinct (305 pages). This is one of the 'IT' books this year so if you want to show off your bookishness walk around reading this one this summer.

4. For some lighter reading, pick up Manuel Gonzale's The Regional Office is Under Attack! I am currently listening to the audiobook and it is hilarious and something completely different. The story lays out as a history of a now gone organization (the Regional Office) that is some sort of spy/assassin/cult body that is being attacked by disaffected former members keen on stopping the Regional Office before it grows too powerful. It's clever, fast paced and something perfect for the beach.

5. Viet Thanh Nguyen recently won the Pulitzer for his debut novel The Sympathizer, which I recently finished and am still digesting. This is a heavier read, following the tale of an unnamed Communist spy infiltrating the Southern Vietnamese military as it flees to the United States after the victory of the Viet Cong in 1975. There are so many profound issues being dealt with: conflicting and shifting identity, torture and war and the resentfulness and anger those infuse among the participants. In Nguyen's writing you feel the work of Graham Greene, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrisson influences, it really comes off as an ode to some of the great writers of the 20th century. This was a pretty impressive effort and I hope more people pick it up.

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