This week's diary does not explore my reaction to a recent novel or collection of short stories for two reasons. The first has to do with real life: the end of the school year is a busy time trying to round up books and start inventory (I'll still be at it for weeks into the summer and other library administative tasks), I was assigned to create a new class for the last three weeks of the year for a configuration of students new to me (a blast but wow, was I worried about pulling it off) and projects for my professional obligations (I'm the local education association secretary, a regional officer for the school librarian association and part of a superb regional council of secondary teacher-librarians who share book reviews and who are a tremendous Professional Learning Community).
The other is uncertainty whether the book I read this week is diary-worthy and looking over what I plan to read in the upcoming weeks. A lot of those certainly appear diary-worthy. So, although I don't have a schedule set, the summer reading list may include:
Harvard Square by Andre Aciman: While bringing his son to Harvard for a pre-university tour, a father looks back at a grad school summer when, as an immigrant North African Jew, he was befriended by a larger-than-life immigrant North African Arab taxi driver. It is shaping up to be a strong story of friendship and its limits. The nostalgia for long days reading and studying is infused and, to this book fiend, infectious.
Another reason this novel is reverberating is that the narrator spends hours and hours with his books, trying to read them all for classes and before he risks losing his position as a Harvard grad student. My summer reading is for myself (well, and this diary series), so the pressure is far less. But the gathering of books, tracking them down and the idea of hours and hours with them during long summer days and long summer nights is striking a chord in my heart.
On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman: A lovely, loving story of a Sri Lanka neighborhood that focuses on the small lives of families, individual members of the families, and how their lives are interwoven in the days when civil war approaches. The writing reminds me in the early going of both the growing up years of Saleem in Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children and the attention to individuals and family interplay in The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri. Less than a third into it and I adore this book.
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann: Three crossings of the Atlantic Ocean in different eras form the narrative of McCann's latest, including the time George Mitchell went to Northern Ireland to try to broker peace. I'm expecting lyrical wisdom.
All That Is by James Salter: A naval officer returns from World War II to become a book editor in the days when publishing was a small group of small houses. But as with so much else after the war ended, this world is on the brink of change. I expect personal and professional insights from this highly lauded author.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and Life After Life by Jill McCorkle: I could hardly be the only person to do this, but two anticipated novels coming out at the same time with the same title are a bit much to resist. Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie stories have been masterworks of how seemingly disparate timelines become one interwoven narrative, so now that she's playing with time, I'm in. McCorkle's novel centers on a retirement center and its neighbors, with characters of all ages.
White Dog Fell from the Sky by Eleanor Morse: Set in apartheid South Africa in the late 1970s and neighboring Botswana, a medical student flees the former for the latter. The novel is being touted to those who love the writing of Abraham Verghese and Edwidge Danticat. And as someone who loved the former's Cutting for Stone and who admires the latter, I really want to try this one.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey: A married couple homesteading in 1920 Alaska are having a rough time. In a rare bit of fun, they build a snow child that is gone the next morning. But they do see a young, blonde girl running through the trees. As someone who has always loved fairy tales, I want to read this one.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: The music business as told in a time-hopping, broken-up narrative. I've been meaning to read this highly regarded book since it came out.
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud: Although former bestselling chicklit author Jennifer Weiner tried to use an interview Messud gave in which she took umbrage about whether her main female character was likeable (because, really, how often is a man asked that question?) into another one of her screeds against literary fiction, the novel deserves to be considered on its own merits. Elementary teacher Nora appears to be one of Barbara Pym's Excellent Women. But when she becomes involved in the lives of a glamorous family whose child, her new student, is bullied, it's certain that boundaries will be crossed. This brings to mind Zoe Heller's remarkable Notes on a Scandal, about other teachers who didn't know how to not cross the line.
Are there other books that should be considered for reading this summer? If there are other titles we should be looking at, let me know. And if you're interested in writing a diary in this series, please let me know and I'll bring you into the schedule. There is no such thing as too much consideration of contemporary literary fiction.
Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule
|DAY||TIME (EST/EDT)||Series Name||Editor(s)|
|SUN||6:00 PM||Young Reader's Pavilion||The Book Bear|
|Sun||9:30 PM||SciFi/Fantasy Book Club||quarkstomper|
|Bi-Monthly Sun||Midnight||Reading Ramblings||don mikulecky|
|MON||11:30 AM||Political Book Club||Susan from 29|
|Mon||8:00 PM||Monday Murder Mystery||Susan from 29, michelewln|
|Mon||11:00 PM||My Favorite Books/Authors||edrie, MichiganChet|
|TUES||5:00 PM||Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left||bigjacbigjacbigjac|
|alternate Tuesdays||8:00 AM||LGBT Literature||Texdude50, Dave in Northridge|
|alternate Tuesdays||8:00 AM||All Things Bookstore||Dave in Northridge|
|Tue||8:00 PM||Contemporary Fiction Views||bookgirl|
|Wed||2:00 PM||e-books||Susan from 29|
|Wed||8:00 PM||Bookflurries Bookchat||cfk|
|THU||8:00 PM||Write On!||SensibleShoes|
|Thu (first each month)||11:00 AM||Monthly Bookpost||AdmiralNaismith|
|Thu (third each month - on hiatus)||11:00 PM||Audiobooks Club||SoCaliana|
|FRI||8:00 AM||Books That Changed My Life||Diana in NoVa|
|Fri||6:00 PM||Books Go Boom!||Brecht|
|SAT (fourth each month)||11:00 AM||Windy City Bookworm||Chitown Kev|
|Sat||9:00 PM||Books So Bad They're Good||Ellid|