Summer reading recommendations from Other Press staff and authors.
Terrie Akers, Online Publicity & Social Media Manager
I just finished reading George Prochnik’s forthcoming biography of Stefan Zweig—an evocative portrait of Zweig’s years of exile at the end of his life—and am now turning to a collection Zweig’s short stories, including “The Royal Game” and “Letter from an Unknown Woman.” Over the past several years I’ve established a sort of tradition of reading Thomas Bernhard in the summer; his cranky, neurotic narrators are always entertaining company, and even more so with a cold beer under a hot sun. This year it’ll be Gargoyles. And finally, at the recommendation of just about every single person I’ve spoken to in the last six months, I’ll be reading George Saunders’s Tenth of December.
Mona Bismuth, Editorial and Marketing Intern
The Fall by Albert Camus
As a celebration of the centennial of Camus’s birth, I’ll be rereading this amazing (short) novel that everyone should read at least once.
Between Past and Future by Hannah Arendt
I first read this book as a mandatory reading for school. I now look forward to reading it for myself, as it is a very contemporary book that underlines the cultural challenges that our society is facing.
Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin
Written in jail, this semi-autobiographical novel is a Patty Smith favorite, and she brought it back into the spotlight. I cannot wait to read it in French.
Washington Square by Henry James
An American classic I never had the chance to read. Definitely on my reading list for this summer!
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
I guess it’s the hot read this summer…
Elizabeth Cohen, author of The Hypothetical Girl
This summer I am reading (over and over and over) the stories in George Saunders’s Tenth of December. My best friend sent it to me, which is a good example of why she is my best friend. I am awed by Saunders’s somewhat shocking array of characters and the disturbing feeling I get reading these. Like the one about a woman who chains her child to a tree in her backyard. WOWZA!
I am also reading a novel. It is called The Elephant Keepers’ Children. It is by Peter Høeg, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken, about two children whose parents disappear. I got it when I visited Other Press with my students this spring and I am so glad I did. It is long and literary and exciting and dreamy all at once and it will keep me engaged all summer.
On my night table is Matt Bell’s In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, just out this summer from Soho Press. CAN’T wait for this one!
Marjorie DeWitt, Editor
This summer I’m trying to catch up on what some call the “New Canon” in literature. I plan to finally read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I’ve also jumped on the Summer of Jest bandwagon and will be reading (or attempting to read) David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.
Jessica Greer, Senior Publicist
The Residue Years by Mitchell Jackson. Completely engrossing! So much so that I’ve missed my subway stops a few times. Mark my words, he’s the next Junot Díaz.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (again). Because no one does it better than Zadie.
Peter Stephan Jungk, author of The Perfect American
I’m reading the new novel by my friend, the French poet, novelist, and playwright Gaëlle Obiégly: Mon prochain. The title (“My Next One” in English) has a double meaning in French: “prochain” also refers to any fellow human being. Obiégly tells the story of a young woman who fails at writing the articles a newspaper has commissioned her to do—an impotence that puts her in touch with her own singularity.
The nonfiction book I am planning to read this summer is Malte Herwig’s Die Flakhelfer. The title means “Anti-Aircraft Auxiliaries” and recounts how from 1943 onward, the Nazis enrolled large numbers of teenage boys and girls as anti-aircraft auxiliaries. Herwig exposes how many German politicians, writers, and other known personalities of German society (i.e., Nobel laureate Günther Grass) were deeply enmeshed in Hitler’s army as youngsters. They all tried to hide their involvement until Herwig confronted them all with documents proving their participation in the war effort.
Charlotte Kelly, Publicity and Marketing Assistant
Right now, I am immersed in Minae Mizumura’s wonderful A True Novel (coming from Other Press in the fall!). For the rest of the summer, I am looking forward to reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new novel Americanah—I loved Half of a Yellow Sun. I am also planning to turn to Daniel Sada’s Almost Never and Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh; both have been sitting on my shelf for much too long.
Paul Kozlowski, Associate Publisher
I’m not sure that ‘summer reading’ differs in any substantive way from ‘year-round reading’ except for the fact that more of it happens outdoors than in. In addition to work-related manuscripts, I’ve been reading G. B. Edwards’ magnificent valedictory novel The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. It is a book that, by focusing on one life in a tightly circumscribed setting — the island of Guernsey — opens out and becomes a testament of universal suffering and joy. Ebenezer is one of the 20th-century’s great literary creations whose sharp-eyed yet sympathetic vision of the passing parade lingers long in the mind after the book is closed. As for non-fiction, I’m reading a couple of caustic critiques of ‘Internet ballyhooism’: Evgeny Morozov’s To Save Everything, Click Here and Jaron Lanier’s Who Owns the Future? Neither one is particularly well-written or well-edited, but both seem to be necessary provocations by guys who know what they’re writing about: how the adoption of new information technologies masquerades as progress, especially when it impoverishes the many while enriching the few.
Tynan Kogane, Marketing Associate
During the summer, when aimless wandering is more acceptable, I try to embrace the unpredictable proliferation of books and their subjects: I recently started reading Marina Warner’s Stranger Magic, which, for example, will probably make me want to reread The Arabian Nights (most likely Sir Richard F. Burton’s translation), and from there I’m guessing my interests will either shift to Burton himself—in which case I’ll tackle Edward Rice’s biography Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, a book that I’ve wanted to read for years—or Borges, especially the recently published The Last Interview, etc.…
Keenan McCracken, Editorial Assistant
Recently, I’ve been reading the poetry of Ruth Stone, especially What Love Comes To, which almost took the 2009 Pulitzer. Soon, I’m hoping to pick up The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers at the recommendation of a friend, and then probably Lygia Fagundes Telles’s The Girl in the Photograph. I’ve also had my eye on Cormac McCarthy’s long-forgotten second novel, Outer Dark, for a while now, which is probably a strange and depressing choice for a summer read, but I’m interested in seeing what early McCarthy was like.
Shahan Mufti, author of The Faithful Scribe
On my nightstand these days is Kamila Shamsie’s novel Burnt Shadows. It is about a Japanese woman who leaves her home in Nagasaki after the atomic bomb and begins a life in the newly formed country of Pakistan, many thousands of miles away, only to find more war. The story of a search for home away from war is timeless.
With South Africa on my mind, I will be packing Rian Malan’s The Lion Sleeps Tonight for the beach this summer. I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time. Malan’s first book, My Traitor’s Heart, about the last days of apartheid, was first published in 1990 and is one of my all-time favorite works of narrative nonfiction.
George Prochnik, author of The Impossible Exile (forthcoming from Other Press)
The flip-a-switch weather this summer in New York, from crazy storms to blazing swelter, put me in the mood for extravagant books, and I started with Donald Rayfield’s wonderful recent translation of Gogol’s Dead Souls. The book has an uncanny way of introducing scenes along lines that evoke standard big 19th century novel set-pieces, then abruptly crashing through the looking-glass of Gogol’s Ur-Russian imagination to end up somewhere truly weird and riveting. Meals start like club dinners in Dickens and finish as mad feasts from the Book of Revelations.
I’ve also been reading some of Robert Byron’s early work, in which he begins making the case for Byzantine civilization against classical culture and what he contemptuously deems “the centuries of Triumphant Reason” that followed the Crusaders’ destruction of Constantinople. Both The Byzantine Achievement and The Station are worth reading, for all their occasional lurches off the rails. Paul Hazard’s The Crisis of the European Mind: 1680-1715 is next on my list. And I’ve gone back to Stefan Zweig’s The Struggle with the Daemon: Hölderlin, Kleist, Nietzsche, a fascinating suite of studies in which Zweig strives to anatomize what he calls the “daemon of unrest” driving this trio’s creative passions. Zweig dedicated the book to Freud and opens it with a tantalizing epithet from Nietzsche, “I love those who do not know how to live, except by going under, for they are those who cross over.”
Sarah Reidy, Publicity Director
I’m currently zipping through Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, which is a perfect beach read if there ever was one. After that, I plan on finally cracking open the galley of Marisha Pessl’s newest, Night Film, which I’ve been hearing raves about. Other books on the TBR pile include Lauren Groff’s Arcadia, Jami Attenberg’s The Middlesteins, and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.
Lauren Shekari, Subsidiary Rights Director
I always feel like I am about a year behind on my non-work-related reading. I’m going to do my best to put a dent in my bedside pile this summer starting with How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid, then moving on to From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón. If I am really driven I might also manage to put a dent in the epic novel The Son by Philipp Meyer. Wish me luck!
Peter Stamm, author of We’re Flying and Unformed Landscape
I’ve just come home from a stay in Tuscany, in the former home of Gregor von Rezzori (I was invited by his widow, the fascinating Beatrice Monti della Corte) so I plan to finally read Rezzori’s Memoirs of an Anti-Semite and also the books of the wonderful authors I have met in Tuscany: Michael Cunningham’s famous The Hours; Alba Arikhas Major/Minor, about her childhood and youth as the daughter of the famous painter and holocaust survivor Avigdor Arikha; Maaza Mengiste’s Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, about the revolution in her native country, Ethiopia; and my old friend Andrew Sean Greer’s new novel The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells.
I just finished Herbert Asbury’s 1933 classic, The Barbary Coast—what a wild ride through the seamy side of old San Francisco. Also, for the language and period touchstones, I liked Horatio Alger’s first novel, Ragged Dick (1868); it comes off as a quaint guide to New York, but has its moments. A friend recommended Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, so I hope to get to that too.
Sam Toperoff, author of Lillian and Dash
During these latter years I’ve taken to rereading books and authors that have stuck with me over time. As a result I’ve taken on the Brontës again, as well as Jane Austin, E. M. Forster, Raymond Carver, Joseph Conrad, J. M. Coetzee, Pat Barker—you know, all the biggies. At this particular moment I’m rereading Jose Saramago’s Death with Interruptions because I remembered it so fondly. It’s an intellectual game and fun for my brain. I’ve just finished Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains. That one is to give my soul a cleansing.
Thomas Van Essen, author of The Center of the World
I always think that the summers of my middle age will be like the summers of my childhood: hot and endless and filled with more time than books can fill. So I make plans and lists as if there was no such thing as a job to go to and a book to write. But here it is anyway. I plan to read The Outcry, Henry James’s last novel. It’s about a rich American trying to buy a Reynolds portrait that is an English national treasure. A friend recommended it since The Center of the World concerns an English painting that winds up in America. I will also read The Clover House, a novel by Henriette Lazaridis Power. I will be appearing with Ms. Power at an event at the Boston Public Library on July 30. Her novel sounds really interesting so I am looking forward to reading it and talking with her. I have two Other Press galleys that I have started and am anxious to complete: The Faithful Scribe by Shahan Mufti, a wonderful memoir about Pakistan, and Love and Lament by John Milliken Thompson, a moving family chronicle novel set in the South in the years just after the Civil War. And every summer I like to reread a book that means a lot to me. It will be Dickens this summer: Great Expectations or Our Mutual Friend. I can’t decide, but I know I can’t go wrong.
Bobby Wicks, Associate Publicist, Academic Marketing
I’m currently reading The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco.
After that, the queue is:
Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Life Itself by Roger Ebert
…and a reread of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun (The Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Sword of the Lictor, The Citadel of the Autarch, and maybe also The Urth of the New Sun).
If these all don’t get read in the summer there’s a strong possibility they’ll be read in the fall or winter or eventually.