Each summer Other Press authors and staff like to come together and let each other know what we’ll be reading. So here it is, our 2016 summer reading list!
Nelly Alard, author of Couple Mechanics
Purity, the latest novel by Jonathan Franzen, has just been translated and released in French but I have been putting it aside for months and intend to read it in English, for I am a great fan of Franzen and his unique voice. I loved The Corrections, and Freedom even more, and I used to read a few pages of the latter every morning before starting my own writing when I was working on Couple Mechanics—I found him to be very inspiring for me. I can’t wait to discover his new work; I haven’t read anything about it, so I will open it completely fresh and curious!
Then I will at last try to read The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig. I’ve been told for years that it’s a masterpiece but for some reason always postponed reading it. Since part of my next novel takes place in the place and time he describes (Vienna and old Europe pre- and post-WWI), I think this is the right time for it!
And finally I am very intrigued by the work of Elena Ferrante and grabbed the first two of her Neapolitan novels last time I visited Gallimard, my publisher, who is also her publisher in France. I don’t know much about the novels but I’ve heard rave reviews, and since I fell in love with the city of Naples a few years ago, this seems to me to be perfect summer reading!
Bruce Bauman, author of Broken Sleep
I’ll be starting Stephen O’Connor’s Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings later this week. I’m a huge fan of O’Connor’s short stories, which are uniquely strange-beautiful-funny in style and substance. The fantastic review by Ron Charles in the Washington Post moved this to the top of my list.
I’ve read an early version of Steve Erickson’s upcoming novel, Shadowbahn, with a premise and imagery that just blew my fucking mind—I guarantee it will blow yours too. It’s Ericksonian in a fashion that recalls The Sea Came in at Midnight and Our Ecstatic Days, but also has the more “realistic” elements of Zeroville. Erickson’s 10 novels fuse poetry and imagination like no one else writing today—and I can’t wait to read the finished version.
William Belcher, author of Lay Down Your Weary Tune
I guess I approach my summer reading list the same way I approached ordering ice cream when I was 10. “Your eyes are too big for your stomach,” my grandmother would say, and I’d set out to prove her wrong. I couldn’t resist, and I can’t resist building a reading list that is twice the size of any Jim Dandy sundae.
This summer, I aim to read Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time, which takes its inspiration from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, one of my favorites; Sunil Yapa’s Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, which is set at the WTO protests in 1999; Sarah Schulman’s The Cosmopolitans, which I’ve been looking forward to for several months; Anthony Marra’s acclaimed collection The Tsar of Love of Techno (finally); and Jung Yun’s Shelter, which many friends, booksellers, and podcasters have recommended.
Lastly, I’ll continue my summer tradition of reading James Wright’s The Branch Will Not Break. Summer and poetry go together almost as well as summer and oversized sundaes. Almost.
Chris Cander, author of Whisper Hollow
I’ll be attending the Tin House Writers’ Workshop this July, so I wanted to read work by some of the visiting faculty, including my workshop leader, Alexander Chee. His sweeping Queen of the Night is an intricately researched saga about the life of a fictional opera singer in the mid-19th century. I’m also reading Dana Spiotta’s jump-cutting Innocents and Others, a tale about two women filmmakers and a blind phone phreaker that features a variety of narrative techniques: first-person essays, movie analyses and dialogue, third-person narration and interviews. Also the debut novel by one of my new favorite writers, Rebecca Makkai: The Borrower is the story of a scatterbrained librarian and a boy on the run.
Jonathan Rabb, author of Among the Living
The summer for me is always about rebooting, so I go back to the basics. I’m rereading Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow right now because he’s fearless with language, and I’d like to learn how to be that way too. I then plan to remind myself of the brilliance of Ivo Andric’s The Bridge on the Drina because, if you can make a bridge the most compelling character in a book filled with extraordinary characters, well…you can do anything. And I always return to Graham Greene. It’s usually The Heart of the Matter but, since it’s an election year, I thought I’d try The Comedians again. Or perhaps The Shipwrecked. We’ll see how things go.
Dinitia Smith, author of The Honeymoon
My reading is pretty eclectic this summer. I’ve just finished rereading Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence for a lecture I’m giving, and it is even more breathtaking in its tale of thwarted passion and a lost life than it was when I first read it years ago. I’m also reading Literature of London, a book of essays about the way in which that city is portrayed by novelists and poets—this for another lecture.
As usual, I’m reading several books at once, including Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Café, not just because it’s an Other Press book, but because it’s such a clearly written and engaging account of the great contemporary European philosophers, including Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. Recently finished are two novels by the Pakistani-born author Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.
I will spend some time on an alp this summer, so there will be time for reading between getting water from the well and cooking on the wood stove. I will have Tim Parks’ The Novel: A Survival Skill in my backpack. Tim is coming to Zürich in October and I’ll have the pleasure of hosting him. I also want to read The Terror of God by Navid Kermani about the Job story and our image of God in the face of suffering and injustice in the world. Then I want to read some more of Tomás González’ books. He became a friend when I visited Colombia some years ago. And he’s a terrific author. In English there is only one translation, In the Beginning Was the Sea, a wonderful book about a couple who leaves the city to live a simple life on an estate.
As always, some of my holiday reading is work-related. I’m looking forward to All We Know by Lisa Cohen, which promises to be an eloquent and revealing biography of three lesbians who lived in the first half of the last century. Also relevant to what I’m writing at the moment is Louis Aragon’s Paris Peasant, an impressionistic account of life on the streets of the French capital between the two world wars. Before the end of August I need to reread Veronica by Mary Gaitskill, since I have been commissioned to write an introduction for a new UK paperback edition of the novel. Gaitskill is a writer I have admired since she first arrived on the literary scene with a collection of short stories called Bad Behavior. She’s a unique and often uncomfortable voice. Last summer I read—and loved—All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, a poignant and spikily witty novel about a young woman with a suicidal sister. On the strength of that, I’m thinking of reading one of her earlier books, A Complicated Kindness. The longest movie I have ever seen is Bela Tarr’s black-and-white masterpiece Sátántangó, which runs almost seven and a half hours. It was adapted from the novel of the same name, by the 2015 winner of the Man Booker International Prize, László Krasznahorkai. Since movie adaptations are rarely an improvement on the novels from which they are drawn, I expect Satantango to be extraordinary. Also for enjoyment—if that is the right word—I will be reading Submission by Michel Houellebecq. He is a writer who divides people—some consider him one of the great moralists of our time, others as merely provocative and sentimental—but his novel about a France that has been taken over by Muslims ought to be a stimulating read, especially at a time when it seems that the issue of immigration might be taking my country, the UK, out of the European Union.
Terrie Akers, Marketing Director
So far this summer, I’ve read Bluets (Maggie Nelson can’t put pen to paper without something brilliant coming out), Slade House (ditto David Mitchell), My Brilliant Friend (finally), Wave (utterly heartbreaking), The Girls (nothing could ever live up to that amount of hype), and Quicksand, which Other Press will be publishing next March (never mind the previous parenthetical: the hype starts here, and it is REAL).
I looked back at my summer reading list from last year, and realized that I ended up reading precisely none of the books I intended to read, though I did end up reading plenty of others. So at the risk of jinxing it, here’s what’s next on my list: Problems, 10:04, and A Little Life.
Mona Bismuth, Editorial and Marketing
I consider myself very lucky to be able to go back to my home country for a couple of weeks this summer, and I intend to make the most of it by matching my readings to the colors of the French flag. I will get back to my now-abandoned shelves of dusty books and, with delight, immerse myself in the reading of a few of these on a Parisian terrace or a quiet beach in Brittany. As we grow up, our summers seem to get shorter and shorter, and by going back to Marcel Pagnol’s Jean de Florette and Manon of the Springs, two novels that work on me like Proust’s madeleines, I hope to propel myself back into those everlasting childhood summer reads, and travel to an old-school southern France for a few hours.
Waiting for me in France is Bibiche, a novel by Albertine Sarrazin. I read a few years ago and with great pleasure her autobiographies about life in prison for women in the 1960 and the years that followed (The Runaway, Astragale, and La Traversière). I am now very excited to discover her work as a novelist, in a newly published edition of this book from 1962. Still within the French female writer spirit, I also really want to find out about Histoire d’une petite fille by Laure, originally published in 1943. This book influenced the works of George Bataille such as Blue of Noon and the infamous L’Abbé C, as well as, among others, Michel Leiris and the American novelist Kathy Acker with her novel My Mother: Demonology.
But those days in France will be short, and on my TBR pile is Novel with Cocaine, by M. Ageyev, a novel that has been on that pile for a while now. I intend to use these lengthy New York summer days to get into this Dostoyevskian literary treasure from 1934.
Julia Judge, Subsidiary Rights Intern
I’ve been hearing a lot about The Border of Paradise by Esmé Weijun Wang, and though I’m only ten pages in, I can already tell that this story will haunt me in the best way possible through fall. Also on my list is Mary Cantwell’s Manhattan, When I Was Young and L. J. Davis’s A Meaningful Life, as I’m eternally curious about the ghosts of New York’s past.
Esther Kim, Associate Publicist
I’m in the middle of The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks as well as The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner. The Shepherd’s Life is lovely, very pastoral, very sheepy. I haven’t yet read Lerner’s fiction, but his essay, which first appeared in the London Review of Books, is brilliant and well argued.
My summer reading list includes James Salter’s novel A Sport and a Pastime, Phillis Levin’s fifth collection Mr. Memory & Other Poems, and Mia Alvar’s debut short-story collection In the Country. Salter came recommended as “a writer’s writer.” As for Levin, I’ve been obsessed with her since “May Day.” Last but not least, I met Mia Alvar through Girls Write Now and her transnational themes hit close to home. (If there’s anything to counteract that Brooklyn novel-gazing, it’s this.)
And every summer, like the last, I mean to tackle and finish Ulysses by James Joyce. Maybe this’ll be the one.
Christie Michel, Marketing Associate
This summer I’m going to be reading a selection of bell hooks’s work: Communion: The Female Search for Love, Writing Beyond Race, and Feminism Is for Everybody. I’ll also be reading Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts and The Art of Cruelty, and Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red and Eros the Bittersweet. I’m excited!
Lauren Shekari, Director Subsidiary Rights
As a native Texan who won’t be heading home for a visit this summer, I am planning to read Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry while binge-eating tacos in an attempt to counteract the homesickness that sometimes hits me. I’m also hoping to finally have time to start reading Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan, which I have been dying to get to for ages. So many books, so little time!
Maria Whelan, Publicist
I actually bought a new nightstand this weekend to help maintain the mass of books I’ve been piling on for summer reading. My current reading list is extensive and slightly overwhelming. It includes The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel, Anne Tyler’s retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in Vinegar Girl, Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet, and last, but definitely not least, I will be standing outside of Brookline Booksmith at midnight on July 31 to get my copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two because every summer needs a little bit of magic.