Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Fiction Reading

Randall Stephens

Have you noticed all the newspaper and magazine articles on summer reading? Can you take your iPad, Kindle, or Nook to the beach? (Someone must have invented a waterproof case already.)

Over at the Chronicle and the Guardian, you'll find some great suggestions.

Can't get enough of the academy? Already missing the longstanding cold wars, never-ending committee meetings, and seeing what your sartorially challenged colleagues are wearing? Do you have a taste for higher ed schadenfreude and the drama of the academy? Then have a look at Ms. Mentors' list of academic novels. "In real life, academicians do have flashes of wit, and they love gossip," she writes. "They're honest researchers and dedicated teachers, and some revel in committee work. They may even have romances and happily marry each other, despite their terrible fear of fun. They rarely kill anyone, even at MLA meetings. But they do love to write about themselves and about the classroom as a site for contested and resisted hermeneutical hegemonies." She highlights "Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis; The Lecturer's Tale and Publish and Perish, by James Hynes; Changing Places and Small World, by David Lodge; Straight Man, by Richard Russo; and Moo, by Jane Smiley," and a score of others.

Maybe historical fiction is more your bag. Over at the Guardian Andrew Miller offers up his "Top 10 Historical Novels: From Rosemary Sutcliff to Hilary Mantel, the novelist chooses his favourite books drawing on history's 'rattle-bag of wonderful stories.'" He notes: "The books listed here share the essential virtues of all good fiction: the renewal of our sense of the world, of ourselves, of language, the extension of ourselves across time and space. And how odd it would be, how dull, if novelists and readers confined themselves, in the name of some dubious notion of relevance, to the events and style of one particular period." Among others the list includes: Kepler by John Banville; Rites of Passage by William Golding; A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel; Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar; and I, Claudius by Robert Graves.

That last bit reminds me that I need to order the HBO series Rome for our library. Intrigue, violence, military campaigns, ancient occult . . . It will make for some great summer viewing.

1 comment:

Philip White said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Randall. I'm 2/3 of the way through Sashenka by Simon Sebag Montefiore (writer of Young Stalin) and it's an emotionally moving, historically spot-on dive into pre-Revolution, Stalinist and modern Russia. I'm a sucker for well-written historical fiction (from Robert Harris, Alan Furst, etc) and Sashenka is in the top tier. Check it out: