"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Monday, July 18, 2011

Some Summer Reading

This summer I was supposed to read the eight books that I will be teaching this next school year. So far, I've read one. And my summer's pretty much over. Teachers start back at school on August 2 this year (and if you think that's early, last year we were back to school in July). So I have two weeks to read about eight books. Not to mention all the other household chores and writing goals I might have had for the summer.

What follows is a list of books I have read this summer. A couple of them I started reading long ago. Some of them I read in a quick bout of concentration. I usually have several books going at once, so don't judge me on my sluggish readingness.

I'm particularly proud of the variety of genres on this list: Non-fiction essay, science-fiction, YA science-fiction, literary international fiction, memoir/humor, science-fiction, and general (perhaps literary if you're not too snobby) fiction. See? It's not all sci-fi.

I'm in the process of adding full reviews of these books on my Shelfari over to the left. Scroll over the book to read my complete thoughts. You can also navigate with the arrows at the bottom of the shelf to see other books I've read this year. Let me know if you've read any of them. I'd love a little conversation.

In the meantime, here's a few sentences about each of my summer reads:

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman

I wish I were as savvy as this guy. I was introduced to this book just as I began blogging and actually strive to make my posts--at least the ones that aren't about my son--sound as smart as Chuck Klosterman. He writes long, complicated essays about pop culture. Everything from Star Wars to Saved By the Bell. I never watched Saved By the Bell. Now I kinda wish I had.

Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

This is a superfluous entry in the Ender series. It takes place after the war in Ender's Game but before he ever gets to where he is in Speaker for the Dead. Ender's Game has long been one of my all-time besties, so it pains me to speak ill of Orson Scott Card. He is always an entertaining read, but it took me a long while and a few starts and stops to finish this book because there was no clear conflict. We don't really learn anything new about Ender so it's unclear about what purpose it serves in the Ender canon.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson

A teenage girl awakens with few memories and has to figure out who she is. I like the language of this book, but the story is thin. Clever imagery and poetic interstitials are barely enough to sustain you once you find out--early on--what is so special about her and how she got that way.

So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

The one book I've read for next school year, it's a long letter to a friend (which makes a short book) from an African, Muslim woman describing her life from marriage to the man she loves to his taking of another, younger wife without divorce, which is allowed in Islamic law. I should have read this book in college. I would have been all up in arms about that. Oh, I still understand the feminist plight. But now I can't help feeling like she should have seen it coming.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I'm going to rehash my own line and say I love Tina Fey because she's nerdy in all the right places and she's exactly my age. I feel I understand her, and therefore she understands me, even though I don't think her description of "becoming a woman" is especially funny. Her writing can actually be a little vulgar. It seems like sometimes she's crass just because she can be. I think she's much funnier when she's smart and subtle.

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

Haldeman begins with a captivating premise--a guy presses a button emitting "gravitons" and accidentally starts sending himself into the future at exponentially farther and farther points--but it doesn't really pay off. The first problem is that the main goal of the protagonist is wanting to go back to his own time (he can't find a time machine that goes into the past), but I see no reason for him to want to do that. The far future is increasingly fascinating (maybe that's just me), and he should want to play that out as far as it goes. But he doesn't. The end.

Room by Emma Donoghue

A woman and her five-year-old son are locked in the backyard shed of the man who kidnapped the woman seven years ago. The boy, Jack, has never been out of that small space. The story is narrated by the boy, from the precocious five-year-old's point of view. The section leading up to their escape (no spoiler; it's inevitable) is heartbreaking, and the rest of the mother and son's "recovery" is no less affecting.

Looking back at what I just wrote, I'm not sure I'm recommending these books or just criticizing them. But you should check them out. I don't regret reading them. If I truly disliked a book, I'd stop reading it. (Unless it's on the IB English reading list and I have to teach it next year. Then, like I try to teach my students, I read it whether I like it or not.)


  1. Okay. Get cracking. This should remind you of college days.

  2. When I was teaching, it was a year round program so I never had summers off. My reading lists then were determined by what my students' future schools were assigning.

    I love Tina Fey and have been meaning to read Bossypants for a while now. Room has also been on my To Be Read pile for a few months.

  3. My husband LOVES Chuck Klosterman. I'm proud of myself because this summer, I finally read "Lord of the Flies." I was never assigned it in school, but my daughter was and she insisted I read it. I'm glad I finally did.

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for the comment on Room on my site. I think it was well written and a neat idea, but the weaknesses were too annoying for me. As a short story i think it would have been very powerful.

    I read a Klosterman recently (Eating the Dinosaur). I wasn't particularly impressed by him or his insights. I don't know what he looks like, but I kept thinking 'Why don't you just get a haircut and a real job?' as I read. I think I'm getting old.


  5. @ Shelley: Late nights ahead, for sure.

    @ MJ: I wouldn't mind teaching a year round schedule. You get a few weeks vacation throughout the year.

    And those two books are pretty quick reads. Go for it.

    @ Lola: Also love Lord of the Flies. It's a pretty thorough indictment of human nature, though. Not enough people read it and learn from it these days.

    @ Moody: I think your haircut jibe is kinda the reason I'd really like to be him someday. Who needs a real job when he gets paid to do what he does?

  6. Eight books in two weeks...wow. I hope that they are real page-turners. I just started American Gods by Neil Gaiman and am really liking it. I may look into one or two of those that are on this list above (afterward).

  7. I am kind of bummed that Cards newest Ender book isn't very good. At first I was excited because I hadn't seen that one before, now not so much. I think he is getting too wrapped up in his "online community" and taking too may suggestions from his fans and his work is suffering for it. At any rate, it looks like you have your work cut out for you. Most times I have 4-5 books going at the same time, depending on where I am at. But since my office is all torn up now to replace the floor I am down to just three. It's a little limiting. Can't wait to get my space back and organized!

  8. @ Michael: American Gods is pretty awesome. I wish that were on my reading list to teach. Alas.

    @ darev: I agree that Card shouldn't be taking advice or suggestions from fans. Exile isn't great, but it's not awful, and if you've read all the other Ender books, you kinda have to read Exile, too.

    I've heard really good things about his new Pathfinder book. That's my next Card read.

  9. Bossypants was already on my Amazon Wishlist from the FIRST time you mentioned it, but I just added Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, too!