Our annual round-up of what Other Press authors and staff are reading this summer.
Terrie Akers, Marketing Director
I’m moving from Portland back to New York this month, and most of my belongings are now in boxes. I’ve left just a couple of books unpacked: Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help and George Saunders’s CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. Short stories before bedtime will be the perfect salve for endless days of cross-country driving, I think.
Once I arrive at my new home in Queens and the boxes are unpacked, I’ll settle in with some New York fiction: Jonathan Lethem’s Dissident Gardens.
Marjorie DeWitt, Editor
I’m looking to dive into Gilead, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, and S., which has one of the most amazing designs and packages I’ve ever seen. I’m also eager to read what is sure to be an Other Press classic, A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz. Keep an eye out for that next February!
Yannick Grannec, author of The Goddess of Small Victories
The first three volumes of À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust—because I’ll be on an island (and I can’t escape).
Berlin Diaries: 1940-1945 by Missie Vassiltchikov and a secret manual of mental manipulation and psychological torture by the CIA—because they complement the documentation for my next novel.
Jessica Greer, Publicity Director
Wild Stars Seeking Midnight Suns by J. California Cooper.
My grandmother is an ardent fan of Cooper’s and has been singing her praises for many years so I was happy to have some time to turn to this vibrant collection of short stories this summer. I’m in total agreement with Essence Magazine who noted that, “Leafing through these stories is like propping open a screen door and peering into the homes of family and friends. . . . The master storyteller sweeps us into their lives and makes us care deeply about them.” As I get deeper into the collection, I particularly love stumbling upon a moment that I have no doubt resonated with my grandmother in her own reading; it feels as if we’re bonding over a shared experience, despite our distance from one another.
Judith Gurewich, Publisher
I just finished David Leavitt’s The Two Hotel Francforts, and found it so intelligent, thoughtful, and unusual. It’s set during World War II in Lisbon, and is about war, love, seduction, and exile, with a deep understanding of the thin line that separates homoeroticism and heterosexual desire. A must-read, in my view.
Charlotte Kelly, Associate Publicist
I just saw Michel Gondry’s new movie “Mood Indigo” and since it was such a zany experience, I’m really excited to read the novel that it’s based on, Foam of the Daze by Boris Vian. I’m also looking forward to diving into Cristina Henríquez’ s The Book of Unknown Americans, which I’ve been reading so many great things about. I’ll be spending many hours on the train during my vacation, so I’m thinking that it might finally be time to dive into my copy of The Goldfinch, which was gifted to me this Christmas (I’ve been politely explaining that it’s my “next read!” ever since). And since I’m going to be spending time in Prague, I’m going to bring along some Kundera, maybe The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, which I haven’t read yet.
Marie Luise Knott, author of Unlearning with Hannah Arendt
The book I am actually waiting to read is Arbeit und Struktur (Work and Structure) from Wolfgang Herrndorf. After having been diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor in 2010, the author wrote a diary on his website that was thoroughly edited after he shot himself last year. In very sensitive language (I’ve been told) the book struggles with life and death and with the concepts we live by—providing deep insights into human existence and resistance.
My next book is probably Sofi Oksanens novel When the Doves Disappeared. I was fascinated by the way this young Finnish author, in her last novel, Purge, convincingly showed the fate of people overruled by history who nevertheless try to pursue their own happiness. What amazed me was the freedom she gave to all her protagonists, and the quick changes of narrative time, which we are more accustomed to seeing in (good) cinema.
For sure I will find some time to go back to Montaigne in between (no need to explain, I guess, why this philosopher is always on my table). And if we have a good, long summer here, I will continue my “Easter book” and read the second volume of Don Quijote that came out in Germany four years ago. Susanne Lange worked for years to translate this major work anew, and with her marvelous translation she shows that Cervantes really is our contemporary.
Keenan McCracken, Associate Editor
Just started Peter Handke’s Short Letter, Long Farewell, which seems to be yet more proof that a person can have sordid political views and still be a masterful writer. Also looking to get my hands on Sea of Dreams: The Selected Writings of Gu Cheng.
Christie Michel, Marketing Assistant
Other than Other Press books, this summer I’ll be reading An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. I enjoy her nonfiction writing, and am excited to see what she’s done in her debut novel.
Nicole Nyhan, Editorial and Publicity Assistant
I also plan to read The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa and to reread James Tiptree, Jr.’s SF short story collection, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. As for new books, Karen Russell’s Sleep Donation is first on my list.
George Prochnik, author of The Impossible Exile
In this summer of proliferating, grim geopolitical events I’ve been reading mostly about half-forgotten wars, imaginary conspiracies, and fresh takes, novelistic and nonfiction, on some of the more familiar historical nightmares. A friend inspired me to pick up C.V. Wedgwood’s extraordinary work, The Thirty Years War, an eloquent, masterful account of one of Europe’s most pointless and horrific mass conflicts, the war engulfing large swaths of the Continent between 1618 and 1648. You can hear the tidal swell of Gibbon’s sentences beneath Wedgwood’s prose in a line like the concluding sentence of the book’s first paragraph: “Diplomatists hesitated, weighing the gravity of each new crisis, politicians predicted, merchants complained of unsteady markets and wavering exchanges, while the forty million peasants on whom the cumbrous structure of civilization rested, dug their fields and bound their sheaves and cared nothing for the remote activities of the rulers.” Even when describing the darkest events, the exquisite potency of Wedgwood’s language makes the book thrilling to read. The recent NYRB classics reissue includes a terrific introduction by Anthony Grafton.
I’ve also been looking back at Joseph Conrad’s novels, an author I haven’t read in years. Right now I’m reading the intriguing Under Western Eyes, which tells the story of conspirators, counter-conspirators and a number of characters caught on a spectrum between those two positions in Russia and (in exile) in Switzerland. Conrad often riffs off of Dostoevskyian themes; but the pervasive paranoia among Conrad’s revolutionaries is unleavened by Dostoevsky’s infusion of ecstatic orthodox faith—and often feels harsher, as well as more contemporary in consequence.
I’m also engrossed in Göran Rosenberg’s A Brief Stop On The Road From Auschwitz, a memoir that frequently reads like a novel in its wrenching sequences of images and voices. The struggle to remember and to survive the consequences of unbearable memories imbue the pages of the book with an active dynamism that’s rare in this genre. Present and past keep switching places until I find myself thinking of Faulkner’s observation, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Anjali Singh, Editorial Director
I have now heard Judith deliver multiple passionate speeches about Andre Maurois’ French bestseller from the 1920s, Climates, which Other Press republished in a new translation in 2012, and so it has risen to the top of the pile. I feel like I may be the last person to discover her, but I can’t seem to turn around without hearing friends extolling the virtues of Elena Ferrante, and I’m hoping I’ll finally get a chance to read My Brilliant Friend and The Days of Abandonment. I think all of the above have in common the fact that they are sad love stories, so I’m not sure yet what guilty pleasure I’m going to find to balance them out—maybe Angela Pneuman’s debut Lay it on My Heart which just landed on my desk in a big-mouth mailing and which might be just the right thing for a week in the North Carolina mountains, where I’m heading soon.
Edgard Telles Ribeiro, author of His Own Man
I have reached a stage in my life where I don’t read anymore: I re-read. And right now I am re-reading André Gide’s Les Faux-Monnayeurs, the title of which in English eludes me; and D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. Quite a double feature, to be honest, and it happened by chance. I hadn’t touched a Gide novel in more than thirty years, for fear that his literature might have somehow “aged.” But, to my surprise, it remains as young and fresh as ever. As for Lawrence’s masterpiece, it would be hard to find a novel dealing with such delicate relationships as this one, where love and possessiveness blend constantly and magically.
Rupert Thomson, author of Secrecy
This summer I want to read Zone One, Colson Whitehead’s zombie novel, An Angel at My Table, the second volume of Janet Frame’s searing, hallucinogenic autobiography, Last Stories by William T. Vollmann, because he’s an absolute original and because it’s his first work of fiction for nine years, My Brilliant Friend by the reclusive Italian writer Elena Ferrante, and the dauntingly vast and exhaustive History of the Surrealist Movement by the French philosopher Gerard Durozoi. Since I’m appearing at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, though, I also have to read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, which is my choice for an Australian TV book show, and a novel that made a huge impact on me in my twenties; Summer House with Swimming Pool by Hermann Koch; and The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. Of course the books I have to read may turn out to be books I want to read—but not necessarily.
Jeff Waxman, Marketing Manager
I’ve spent a lot of time in airports and on airplanes this summer, so I’ve had even more time to read than usual and for reasons I can’t explain, my reading list is a little heavier on nonfiction than its ever been. But then nonfiction ain’t what it used to be.
I bought Geoff Dyer’s new book at Common Good in Minneapolis after a great evening talking books with Twin Cities booksellers. Another Great Day at Sea is a lighthearted piece of reportage that seeks as much to explain the daily lives of deployed seamen as it does to emphasize how little either the reader or the author can understand. The benefit is that you get access to a new New Journalism, one that takes you inside another culture without presuming or pretending that Dyer’s experience is anything remotely complete and Dyer’s insistence on remaining, goofy and self-awarely ignorant, between the reader and the subject has an often charming truthiness.
I first heard of Preparing the Ghost by Matthew Gavin Frank from Katharine Solheim, a bookseller at Unabridged Books in Chicago when she posted a Billy Sunday cocktail recipe from it to Instagram. This charming book-length essay is ostensibly about the first photograph of a giant squid and the man—Moses Harvey—whose lifelong obsession with strange animals and fame led to it. In truth, it’s a deeply weird tale of the author’s own discursive preoccupation with the nuances of truth and fact, what can be known and what must be invented, and with mythology and obsession. Very cool.
Bobby Wicks, Publicist
I’ve brought Michael Chabon’s Maps and Legends and John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold on vacation with me to Florida, and I plan on reading them both in their entirety either on the beach or by a pool. While visiting my parents, I found Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose in my old closet and I think I’m going to read that again too.