When I was a kid, our public library had this summer reading program where you would keep track of the number of books you read during the summer in order to receive prizes, like gift certificates to the local ice cream store. I participated in it every year, until I realized that my friend and I were the oldest kids still doing it at age 10 or 11. I quit out of embarrassment. But I continued to keep track of the books I read that summer.
I’ve always had a competitive drive when it comes to reading. With others, of course, but mostly with myself. Since my summers spent skulking around the children’s section of the Bronxville Public Library, I’ve obsessively kept lists of books I’ve read and books I’d like to read. I love reading lists of books that other people make so that I can mentally – and sometimes, physically – cross off the ones I’ve already read. (I still carry around a handwritten list of Time’s 100 Best Novels, which I’ve been working my way through since 2008.) I know it’s unlikely that I’ll ever read all of the books I want to read in my lifetime, but I’m going to try to read as many as I can.
I’m coming into this summer fresh off a month-long spell of not being able to finish a book. Luckily, that spell has just been broken and I’m hoping I’ll be able to get through some of the following books that I think will make for some good summer reading. So. Behold, my summer reading list!
Author: Jean Stafford
Year Published: 1947
OK, I actually just finished this, but it was the first book I read in June, so I think it still counts. This is a book about two children – Ralph and Molly Fawcett – who travel each summer from their home outside Los Angeles to their Uncle Claude’s ranch in Colorado. Over the course of the novel. the siblings confront the precipice between childhood and adulthood in different and startling ways. Spoiler alert: This book is dope.
Author: Tana French
Year Published: 2008
I’m reading this excellent mystery/thriller right now. My friend Jen chose it for our next book club discussion, which I’m sad to say is over a month away because I actually can’t put this book down. (I almost missed my subway stops during my commute this morning.) The Likeness is Tana French’s second book and follows a character from her first novel, In the Woods, which was a pretty big deal when it came out in 2007.
Author: Kingsley Amis
Year Published: 1954
For a long time, I’ve been telling people that Lucky Jim is one of my favorite books, if not my absolute favorite book. I actually say this about books all the time in attempts to get other people to read them but I really mean it about this one. Lucky Jim has always been a summer-y book for me, since I read it at the very end of my freshman year of college. (School didn’t end until June for me.) My opinions about many books have changed over time, so I’m looking forward to revisiting Lucky Jim this summer and seeing if I still feel the same way about it.
Author: Anthony Powell
Year Published: 1951 (A Question of Upbringing)
Welp, this is actually a twelve-novel cycle. I’ve intended on starting it for a long time and I intend on finishing at least the first novel, A Question of Upbringing, or the “First Movement”, which consists of the first three novels, by the end of the summer.
Author: Nancy Jo Sales
Year Published: 2013
What can I say? Sometimes I like a good beach read, as long as it’s not the chick lit sort. (Though based on my current schedule, I’m not so sure that I’ll actually get to the beach this summer.)
Author: Laurent Binet
Year Published: 2012
I’ve been wanting to read this book for the last year and I think I’ll finally get around to it this summer. This highly praised historical novel is about the hunt for Reinhard Heydrich, known as the “Butcher of Prague”, during the Second World War. I’m really hoping HhHH lives up to the hype.
Author: Jami Attenberg
Year Published: 2012
Another book from last year I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Luckily, someone just loaned me a copy of this family drama, so I will definitely get to it pretty soon.
Author: Richard Hughes
Year Published: 1973
I read The Fox in the Attic, the first novel in Hughes’ intended The Human Predicament trilogy earlier this year. I was completely pulled in by the story of Augustine, a young Welsh aristocrat who escapes accusations of the murder of a young girl for his German cousins’ castle outside of Munich. I wanted to take a break between The Fox in the Attic and the second novel in the trilogy, The Wooden Shepherdess, but I think enough time has passed now for me to get started on this one.
Author: David Foster Wallace
Year Published: 1996
Haha. I don’t know. I kept telling myself I’d read Infinite Jest this summer but like, we’ll see.
Author: Harvey Swados
Year Published: 1986
Short stories about Brooklyn (and the rest of New York City) in another time.
Author: Barbara Tuchman
Year Published: 1978
I miss reading history books – I was a history major in college – but I find that now I can’t get through them unless they’re written with some sort of narrative. I’ve had A Distant Mirror on my list for a while and the book examines the fourteenth century through one figure, a French nobleman named Enguerrand de Coucy.
Author: Rachel Hartman
Year Published: 2012
And I’m gonna round out this list with a young adult fantasy novel because WHY NOT?
So, happy summer reading! I’m going to check back in later this month with what I’ve read during the past three months. (You can check out what I read from January through March here.)
Images via New York Review of Books