Ahh, the sound of those two words together—what two words in the English language have a more idyllic set of associations? And what more blissfully dreamy occupation can there be than making a summer reading list? Janet Maslin in Friday’s New York Times suggested a summer reading list of women writers, of, well, let’s say women’s fiction. Most of the titles are a bit too fluffy for my taste, but I have been known to read fluff now and again (and sometimes even to read crap), and could very well pick up one of them for a long plane trip one day. The only one I would definitely put on my list is Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. I have not read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, her big hit, but I did read Dragon Bones and liked it.
I try to keep a general to-read list going on goodreads.com, but there are some titles that have been there for ages and are not what I would consider summer reading. There are some books there that I will quite possibly never read unless I have to have my leg in traction for six weeks some day. But there are others that I definitely want to read, but for some reason would not make a summer list. What makes a book a good summer book? A certain lightness is desirable, but not essential, and in fact there cannot be too much lightness in the list as a whole, or it will just get unbearable. There is of course a fantasy element to making a summer list, because I know I will never read that exact list of books, because I will end up picking up something else on a whim. But none of that matters when I start making the list; all that matters is the vision of sitting in the shade in an Adirondack chair while my children and dog take care of themselves, the garden weeds itself, my corporeal self does the housework, dozens of yoga classes, and runs twenty miles a week.
(In no particular order)
2666 Robert Bolano
When Skateboards Will Be Free Said Sayrafiezadeh
Brooklyn Colm Toibin
Home Marilynne Robinson (Winner of the Orange prize)
Do Not Deny Me Jean Thompson (“the American Alice Munro”—Since I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by Munro, who just won the Man Booker International prize, I probably can't go wrong with Thompson.)
City of Refuge Tom Piazza
A Mercy Toni Morrison
The Thing Around Your Neck Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Once a Runner John L. Parker
Shanghai Girls Lisa See
Indignation Philip Roth
The Forgotten Garden Kate Morton
Prague Arthur Phillips
Don’t Cry Mary Gaitskill
Those last two authors I had the pleasure of hearing read the other night at a Behind the Book event at KGB. I confess that even though I own books by both of them, I have never read anything by either; I will try to rectify that shortcoming as soon as possible. I'll get started just as soon as I finish Absurdistan.