Summer Reading 2013

Gates of November cover

Crying of Lot 49 cover

Major Operation cover







I’ve usually posted reading lists days to months after the season, but this summer, it’s time for a change. As mentioned in the Spring 2013 list, “I’ve put together a list of 13 books that help alleviate some of the above backlogs while still proceeding with other reading.” Indeed, I’m a little bit excited about this whole “pre-planning” thing. I’ve considered my reading habits and have included 3 non-fiction, 8 fiction, a book of poetry, and a play as leading actors in my summer reading extravaganza. Considering book length and type, I have every reason to believe that this is perfectly doable during the 13 or so weeks between June 21st and September 21st. I expect that I’ll be updating this post regularly as the summer progresses. Keep an eye out. Here are the books:

Digital_Humanities by Peter Lunenfeld, Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Todd Presner and Jeffrey Schnapp
An enthusiastic and inspiring introduction to the possibilities of Digital Humanities that, for some reason, does not motivate me to drop everything and meld digital tools with close reading.

Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity by Etienne Wenger
I read through a selected sample of roughly 40% of this book on how groups of people interact and learn together and found that though it had its moments, I was getting frustrated by Wenger’s constant hedging on words and meanings. Frankly, I read “By so-and-so, I mean so-and-so and not so-and-so” one too many times.

Kagan’s Superfecta: And Other Stories by Allen Hoffman
These stories had entertaining New York Jew personality and humor. Occasionally, they were so entertaining that the plot dragged and they became tedious. Recommended for those who enjoy Isaac Singer, but the contemporary version whose jokes occasionally misfire.

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
A Künstlerroman that has all the appeals of other Potok novels with addition of an artist protagonist. Enjoyable but a bit repetitive since I just recently finished Davita’s Harp.

Major Operation by James White
A hospital for aliens? Exploring, from a medical perspective, a new planet tentatively called “Meatball”? Yes and yes, in this fast-paced, occasionally abrupt (some would say staccato) collection of interrelated short stories. Recommended for science fiction fans, though perhaps not beyond.

Lyrical Ballads (1798 edition) by William Wordsworth & Samuel Coleridge
A classic, though upon re-reading it straight through I see how inconsistent the poems are. “Tintern Abbey”, “We Are Seven”, “Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew Tree”, “Old Man Travelling…” and a few others are still great, while a lot of the character studies are trite in hindsight.

The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
I’ve been slowly pushing my way through the dense dialectic presented in this book. But I think I’m going to put it down. This is one to read with a class, or at least a group, and be discussed while it is being read.

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
Stoppard is smart, that is obvious. His plays on character and time are masterful, though I admit that some of it went right over my head.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (au) by Haruki Murakami
Thoughtful exploration of consciousness that was marred by dull characters and disappointing climax.

The Age of Innocence (au) by Edith Wharton
Started listening to the Brilliance Audio production, but just could not get into a story that rested on the foibles of New York society life. Like previous Wharton books, the quarter of this one that I read was not to my taste.

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Pynchon gives his meta-mystery a noir feel, like mixing the character of Nathanael West with the depth of Neal Stephenson. I understand the following this book has, but couldn’t help feeling that the time deciphering the intricacies of this book beyond a first reading would not be time well spent.

The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols
[In Progress. Moved to Fall 2013.]

Gates of November by Chaim Potok
Didn’t get to this one.

The Nick of Time: Essays on Haiku Aesthetics by Paul O. Williams
A lucid collection of essays discussing various aspects of haiku writing and community from a moderate/conservative view of the form.

So out of the 13 books I had set out for myself this summer, I ended up getting all the way through nine. That’s less then one book a week! A big come-down from my past productivity. Two major reasons for this: 1) I’ve been driving Ashley’s Bug or taking the bus to work, the former doesn’t have a CD player and the latter has moved me more towards podcasts, so my audiobook listening, which has contributed heavily to me booklists in the past, has been on hiatus. 2) I gave a few books on the list, Communities of Practice and Society of the Spectacle a lot of time before putting them aside. In general, I’ve had less long reading sessions over the summer. Not sure if that’s because I’ve been busy, or for other reasons. I know that some time has been spent watching All Creatures Great and Small and 30 Rock on Netflix. In any case, looking over the books I had actually read, there is in my mind a lull. Probably my favorite of the summer was My Name is Asher Lev, but I also enjoyed The Nick of Time: Essays on Haiku Aesthetics and Murakami’s book to a certain extent. Hopefully my Fall Reading list will inspire more excitement. Currently getting through The Milagro Beanfield War which is solid and witty, but a little slow-going.

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1 Response to Summer Reading 2013

  1. Pingback: Spring Reading 2013 | Life in Oleg

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