Read These (someday…): What I’m putting on my summer reading list

By , May 17, 2012 3:46 pm

Originally posted at In Our Words, and crossposted with permission.

I read in cycles: for a few weeks, I’ll read constantly, plowing through book after book. Then I’ll pause, only to gorge myself on Netflix Streaming. I’m pretty predictable in that way, and take time to build up a list of to-read while I’m working my way through The Wonder Years or Scrubs. I’ve just finished my Netflix phase (and rewatching The Office was delightful), so here’s my book list:

I just started rereading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. He, along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, are the Big Three of classic science fiction, and Foundation doesn’t disappoint. It’s modeled after History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, following the waning days of the twelve thousand year Galactic Empire, and the scientists (the titular Foundation) attempting to avoid a dark ages expected to last thirty thousand years.Foundation is simply good fun: classic sci fi, galaxy-spanning conflicts, and – like most Asimov – full of intelligent and believable characters trying to do their best in an imperfect universe. Asimov kept adding to the Foundationseries, but start with FoundationFoundation and Empire, and Second Foundation, in that order. If you’re dying to keep reading after that, you’ll still have lots more set in the Foundation universe to keep you happy.

As much as I enjoy rereading old favorites, I’m also excited to dig into some books I haven’t read before. Top of that list for this summer is To Say Nothing Of The Dog by Connie Williams. I heard this mentioned on NPR one day, and jotted it down in my ever-growing “Read These (Someday.)” list. Released in 1999, To Say Nothing is described as “science-fiction fantasy in the guise of an old-fashioned Victorian novel.” It’s also supposed to be very funny. As someone who enjoys sci-fi/fantasy, time travel, and humor, I’m excited to see how this turns out.

Moving away from sci-fi, there are a few memoirs I want to check out this summer. First is Lying: A Metaphysical Memoir by Lauren Slater. Slater uses her life’s story as the basis for her memoir, but also openly questions the truth in her own writing. She discusses her childhood illness (assuming she was really sick), her seizures as a reflection of her emotional state (if she wasn’t faking them), and her artistic creation as an outlet for her physical self (assuming she didn’t make the whole thing up). The book is marketed as fiction, and I’m interested to see how (if!) Slater can both successfully construct a narrative and openly question the narrative itself. I also want to check out The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston. Kingston’s family came to California from China when she was very young, and she uses her memoir to describe the tug of the reality she felt around her and the stories her mother told her of life back in China. The book weaves Kingston’s own experiences with fairytales and stories of Chinese woman, and I’m excited to see the result.

I’ve covered fiction, I’ve covered memoir, but I also have some more traditional nonfiction on my list. First is Side by Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-PalestineI’m fascinated by the history of Israel, particularly as a Jew who is not very supportive of the State of Israel itself. This book is supposed to teach the same time period of the last hundred years, but show both what Israeli students are learning in their classrooms and what Palestinian students are learning in their classrooms. I hope the book will tease out some sort of truth somewhere in the middle. I also love pop science books, which is why I have Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the AnswerThis book, which seems to follow in the footsteps of Freakonomics and The Tipping Point, examines how common sense works (and often doesn’t work). In particular, it examines things that – in retrospect – seem obvious (although the book description is short on what that list might look like).

I could go on and on, and probably won’t even make it through these books before I’m distracted by something else. To put my cards on the table, my book lists (one for fiction and one for nonfiction) currently have over one hundred books on them, and I add more at the rate of one or two a week. Please let me know in the comments what other books I should add, and help me reprioritize the ones I’m already eyeing.

And happy reading!

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