Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind
– DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
So now it is May. The school year is winding down and the waves of heat that define the summer are making themselves known. Vacations and stay-cations are right around the corner. This is my favorite time for reading. Sitting on the patio of my favorite drinking hole with a good book is like heaven to me. Having something that can take me away from bus stops, train terminals, airports, and long car rides is essential. And then there’s the times you just lay out in the sun on a blanket in a park. All of these moments need good books and that’s what I’ve got here, my list of my favorite summertime reads. Take a gander and pick one out. Hopefully there’s something for you to help pass that time while you lounge away next to the hotel swimming pool.
The Son by Philipp Meyer
Like Cormac meets McMurtry, like East of Eden meets Giant, The Son is a book worthy of Texas. Through the interweaving narratives of three generations of Texans, it tells the story of a family, of blood both shed and shared, of love and of hatred, of rise and, inevitably, of decline. This is the best novel of 2013 and was my contender for the Pulitzer Prize that was handed out to Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.
Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene
Travels With My Aunt is my favorite Graham Greene novel to just pick up on a lark and spend the afternoon reading. The polar opposite of his darker, more serious novels such as Brighton Rock and The End of the Affair, it is a summer breeze of a novel that recounts all the adventures of a mousy retired bank manager who meets his aunt for the first time at the occasion of his mother’s funeral. Hippies, drugs, CIA agents, and more haunt these pages which owe far more to Wodehouse than they do Dostoevsky. Perfect reading whilst travelling, especially if you happen to be riding a train.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Ignore its reputation, Moby Dick IS an accessible read. Moby Dick is also funny, exciting, thrilling, harrowing, psychedelic, dense, breezy, informative and obtuse. Moby Dick is the Citizen Kane of the American novel and I’m glad to have finally set aside my preconceptions and knocked it out. One of the best reads of my life. So why don’t you dip your toes in this epic novel whilst lounging on the beach and let out the damp, drizzly November in your soul. You won’t regret it.
When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord
One of the first great reads of 2015, When We Were Animals is the fusion of Children of the Corn and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History we all didn’t know we were waiting for. Part coming of age tale, part thriller, and all a strange variation upon the concept of the werewolf, these words keep speaking when you close the book. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much when I started this book but WOW! once I finished it I knew it was gonna be on my top 10 for 2015.
The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey
I wrote a longer piece talking about how much I loved this book. So, long story short: The Girl With All The Gifts is the best zombie novel since Max Brooks wowed us all back in ’06 with World War Z! M. R. Carey (novelist/comic book writer Mike Carey) gives us Melanie, a young intelligent girl who is more than she seems. At times heart-wrenching, humorous, and horrific, this book belongs on your shelf alongside Richard Matheson’s classic masterpiece I Am Legend.
Area X by Jeff VanderMeer
If The Girl With All The Gifts was my favorite book of 2014, then Area X was the best book released that year . Published as three novels and released over nine months as The Southern Reach trilogy, it is truly meant to be read as one large novel. With shifting points of view and perspectives, Vandermeer’s style and technique keeps you as undermined and unsettled as the characters and landscape in the book. Inspired by the flora and fauna of his home in Florida, Area X is the story of a piece of land that has just gone wrong and the effect it has on the people who live there, the people who work there, and the people stuck there. An amazing mixture of literary fiction, horror, and science fiction, Area X is what you would expect to get if Stanley Kubrick and John le Carré decided that 2001 would be based on the existential dread of Lovecraft instead of the cosmic optimism of Arthur C. Clarke.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Paperback released on 6.02.15)
Once I started this novel, a finalist for the National Book Award, I couldn’t put it down. Crisscrossing through time, this novel intermingles the narratives of a group of people both before and after a civilization destroying flu epidemic. Showing just how ephemeral our present day culture and relationships are, Station Eleven is the perfect novel for the fans of the films of Sophia Coppola. If you dug The Time Traveler’s Wife, you’ll enjoy this fantastic read.
The Just City by Jo Walton
Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Jo Walton tackles the nature of consent and volition in her newest masterpiece, The Just City. When the goddess Athene selects scholars from across time to create a real life version of Plato’s Republic, questions arise about the place of women in that world, what constitutes consent in sexual relationships, and the very nature of slavery. Like When We Were Animals above, The Just City already has a place allotted for it in my top 10 of 2015 list. Good stuff.