Let it be known that I am an adult, and despite my career in children’s books, I do still love to read books for my people my own age. I don’t often have time, and when I do, I don’t always manage to finish (see here, for instance). But I do have a master’s degree in twentieth-century American fiction under my belt, after all. It’s come in more than handy for what I cover at Booklist, but there’s all this unused postmodern critical theory rattling around in my brain that’s growing dustier by the day. (It could be argued, of course, that I should make room in that part of my mind for lovelier, more useful things like cookie recipes, birthdays, and how to spell accommodate, but I digress.)
I’m hungry for something nearly impenetrable,
high-flown, and terrifically literary.
Books for children are a true delight and I feel lucky that it’s my job to read them constantly, but when summer rolls around, it’s not a fluffy, breezy beach read I’m looking for; no, I’m hungry for something nearly impenetrable, high-flown, and terrifically literary.
Against the Day, by Thomas Pynchon.
I started this one several years ago, and I don’t even remember why I gave up. Maybe because it’s about 1,000 pages? I’m sure my bookmark is still in there somewhere! If I remember correctly, this one has some shadowy, global conspiracy and an unlikely, possibly drug-addled protagonist stuck in the midst of it all. Am I right?
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Many of my very intelligent friends have raved about this book, but Donna Seaman’s review really solidified it for me, particularly this list of accolades for Adichie: “MacArthur fellow Adichie … is a word-by-word virtuoso with a sure grasp of social conundrums in Nigeria, East Coast America, and England; an omnivorous eye for resonant detail; a gift for authentic characters; pyrotechnic wit; and deep humanitarianism.”
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.
One of my dear friends has been bugging me to read this for ages because she’s dying to talk to me about it, and I’m genuinely interested for multiple reasons. First, it’s about art. I love art! Second, I should talk to my friend about this book before she forgets all about it.
The Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway.
(And this time, I mean it.) This is, honestly, probably the only book I’ll finish this summer. I’ve made more progress since I last reported on my personal reading, and I finally got to the part where Harkaway reveals what makes the world Go Away. Now I’m ready for the dénouement!
I loved Housekeeping when I read it in college, and I loved Gilead even more. I still haven’t read Home, but I have a copy of Lila in my desk that I gaze wistfully at each time I open my drawer. Robinson’s novels are wise, quiet, and so sensitive to human frailty, and I adore everything she does.
On Beauty, by Zadie Smith.
White Teeth is a personal favorite, and I’m ashamed that it’s the only Zadie Smith novel I’ve read so far. Her incisive cultural commentary is so seamlessly integrated into her stories that they’re both entertaining and edifying—that’s my ideal summer reading combo.
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel.
I am fascinated by the history of the Reformation in England, and I’m a sucker for PBS period dramas. Now that there’s a Wolf Hall miniseries, I’m doubly interested in reading this book for myself. I suppose I should read Bring Up the Bodies, too!