Summer Reading

. . . and the trouble it gets you into.

Ana Coqui is doing weekly #RomBkLove prompts on Twitter, and this week’s is about summer reading. (I’m grateful to Ana for starting this because I have enjoyed having more book talk in my Twitter feed again). I responded that summer is when I have the time and energy for longer, more complex books and reading projects. It’s during the school year that I’m more likely to need the break of “beach reads.”

And that project reading is the trouble I’m in.

I’d resolved to read TBR only for the rest of the summer, but then I mentioned in my #RomBkLove tweet that last year I’d read some of the Man Booker longlist–I thought I might read the whole thing, but because work ramps up with a vengeance in late August, that proved too much. Rosario, who usually reads some, asked me if I was going to try again. And I am, because this year’s list, announced last week, looks pretty interesting. So far I have read zero and own one (Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad on audio). Now I have ordered four from Book Depository and requested the rest from my library. See? Trouble.

This could spell disaster for my other summer reading project, Summer of Lymond 2. I got about 1/4 of the way through Dorothy Dunnett’s Queen’s Play on vacation. So there are still 300 pages of that left to go. . . . I feel a little over-burdened now. But I am reminding myself that all of this is For Fun. If I’m not enjoying a Man Booker reading, I can quit. (That’s easy for the library books. And the ones I bought can join the ones I didn’t read from last year on my poor ignored TBR).

What Else I Read on Vacation (Not As Much As I Wanted/Planned!)

Without You There Is No Us, by Suki Kim  Kim spent about 6 months in North Korea teaching English to the sons of the elite at PUST, a university funded and largely staffed by Western Evangelical Christians. She had reported from North Korea before and was essentially undercover during her time at PUST. A Korean-American, Kim had relatives in both her parents’ families who were trapped in the North during the war and never heard from again. She reflects on this history and what it means to her as well as the lives of her students–which remain largely opaque to her, despite how close she is to them in some ways. It’s a fascinating read and especially thoughtful on the paranoia and protective lying fostered by life in a totalitarian society. Not only can Kim not really know her students, can they ever know or trust each other?

Heaven’s Queen, by Rachel Bach  This is the third in Bach’s Paradox space opera trilogy, and made great plane reading as it’s action-oriented. It has been a couple of years since I read Book 2, and while the Save the World plot came back to me well enough to be swept along in the big denouement, I think I would have been more engaged in the human stakes and the resolution of the romance plot if I’d remembered details about past events better. It was still a fun end to an enjoyable series, with a kick-ass mercenary soldier heroine who has to grapple with moral decisions and find a way foward other than ass-kicking (though there’s plenty of well-written action, too).

About Those Man Booker Books

The ones I would probably have read anyway:

The one I’d never heard of that I’m most interested in:

  • Fiona Mozley, Elmet  sometimes the best thing about prize lists are the quirky books that you wouldn’t otherwise discover/read (Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake was that book a few years ago). This a debut novel that Mozley wrote while in a PhD program.

The ones I am least likely to get to:

  • Sebastian Barry, Days Without End  Cross-dressing Irishmen in 19th century America who adopt a Sioux girl, the horrors of war. One problem with these lists for me is that the books are often pretty dark. (I haven’t read Barry before and the fact that he writes about people in these same two families in multiple books is intriguing).
  • Paul Auster, 4 3 2 1  Because it’s like 800 pages. Doubtful.

The one I thought I wasn’t going to read until Frances of the Shadow (Wo)man Booker Panel bloggers said it was her favorite so far:

I’ll report as I go and look forward to seeing what other longlist readers have to say. The best thing about a project like this is following the conversation. And I hope to have something to say about Lymond 2 soon as well. I’d better get reading!

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14 Responses to Summer Reading

  1. Sunita says:

    I did not think the Booker longlist, of all things, would get me back on Twitter, but there you go. Book Twitter is too appealing, especially after I saw you and Rosario talking about it. I’m not going to try and read all of them either, but quite a few look interesting to me.

    My summer reading is like yours; I get the chance to read longer, more complex books, and to try new authors and subgenres. I have to be careful not to overdose, though; I still remember what I call my Summer of Lymond. I read all the Lymond books that year, and while it was fun and immersive, a lot of the plots and characters blur together. I’m spacing out the Niccolos as a result, reading 1-2 a year (I read #3 in June).

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Every time I talk about books/reading on Twitter, I remember why I wanted to be on Twitter in the first place. I’m trying to focus more on that. It’s probably time to clean some of the more political stuff out of my feed, for my own sanity. I end up seeing the same “news” tweeted about over and over again.

      I am enjoying Lymond 2. I might want to pick up the pace a LITTLE bit faster than one per year, but it was something I really looked forward to getting underway as part of my vacation ritual.

      I read 100 pages of Lincoln in the Bardo last night, so maybe this Booker project isn’t as ridiculous as it seemed! (It was very good and I can see why people would rave about it on audio, though I also wondered how some of the dialect representation would/would not transfer). Saunders does an amazing job of differentiating so many voices.

      • Sunita says:

        I was worried about coming back to Twitter and getting sucked into threads I left Twitter to avoid, but so far so good. It helps that I have gotten used to different forms of procrastination, since that’s when Twitter is the most attractive to me. 😉

  2. Yay Lymond 2!

    Yes, my Twitter feed is very low on book talk, as well, so I’m very happy when I see booklogging posts (I’ll put up my next one for tomorrow). I just finished a nonfiction book I’d been reading for months, and felt like a kid in a candy store as I dug through the TBR for another to replace it. I went with THE REBELLIOUS LIFE OF MRS. ROSA PARKS.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I think I’m getting the hang of Dunnett. I found this one much easier to get into than Game of Kings (though I ended up really enjoying that, it took me multiple tries). They are much easier to read in paper for me–I switched to ebook on the plane but kept wanting to flip to the map/character list at the front. Luckily my local used book store always seems to have them in stock.

      • Janine Ballard says:

        May I recommend bookmarking the map / character list in your ebook the next time you read something like that on an airplane? I find bookmarking (plus using the search feature) very helpful with ebooks.

        • Liz Mc2 says:

          That’s good advice! It is still (on my old Kobo) way slower than flipping in a paperback. I just didn’t want to stick such a big book in my carry on. First world problems!

        • KeiraSoleore says:

          I cannot read Dunnett in digital. Audio was hard, too. I need to be able to flip back-n-forth between the pages, especially to the maps and character lists.

      • Sunita says:

        For Niccolo #3 I went back and forth between print and ebook (I’ve been picking up the trade paperbacks at USBs as well, even though I had the e-versions in my TBR). I like being able to flip back and forth, like you, but the print is tiny in the paperback so I need really good light.

        • Janine Ballard says:

          I found Dunnett hard to read in print for the same reason–small font size. But I can see that being able to flip back and forth could be really helpful.

        • Sunita says:

          Yes, and with so many characters and complicated, action-filled scenes, having two pages open at once helped too.

        • Liz Mc2 says:

          The ideal might be paperback open to map (which renders very poorly on a small eink screen anyway) while reading on ereader.

          Though I sometimes struggled with the smallish print, with this kind of prose I also like seeing more of the words at once than I can on my Kobo–I guess because I sometimes lose focus and have to reread a bit. But it also just feels like a bigger page gives me more context for each sentence. It’s odd how the brain works.

          Anyway, I am enjoying it!

  3. rosario001 says:

    I reminded myself of how much I loved Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake when I leafed through Solar Bones, which seems like the sort of book I’d normally run a mile from.

    The Auster is on my unlikely to read (or rather, unlikely, unless it gets on the shortlist) category as well, but the Sebastian Barry does appeal to me, for some reason. I’m planning to suggest we read it at my book club.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      We wouldn’t try these projects unless we were willing to take on the sort of books we usually run a mile from! And sometimes you really connect with one against all odds.

      The Barry had no one else waiting for the audiobook so I am going to try it after all. You and Sunita persuaded me.

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