Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There is no reasoning, it’s quite a silly thing.

A lot of people ask me for reading suggestions - given the fact that last year I read over 52 books, I'm part of a book club, and my penchant for daily commute reading. Last week a friend was planning their impending summer vacation, and asked for some "summer suggestions."

I decided to bring some to you, too. And I've categorized them! Since summer reading can go many a way. Generally I think you can read whatever genre, whenever you want, but let's go with the theme - this ain't time to read the frigid, despairing pages of Cormac McCarthy! You're on a beach! By a pool! Lounging in the sun or relaxing in air conditioning!

The Good Ol' Blockbuster

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (& sequels) by Stieg Larsson

The books, the Swedish films, the rumors for the American film versions - this series is legitimately everywhere! And you know what? They're good! You can believe in the hype. At least - for now. I just finished the second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and I believe it's a vast improvement on the first. Perhaps because we get more of kick-ass rebel Lisbeth Salander? Or maybe because the translation's just better! I can't wait to read the third, and ALERT: the wonderful Swedish film adaptation is currently available on Netflix Instant Watch! The sequel was just released in theaters, and that's what I'm seeing tonight!

The Season of Passage by Christopher Pike

This one's an oldie. If you've been reading, you probably know that as a pre-teen and teenager, I was obsessed with Pike's eerie novels. However, this was one of his adult novels, and it's a wee bit sci-fi, a wee bit vampiric - and a total page-turner. It's been a few years since I last read it, I may have to delve in again!

For a Laugh

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler

Last year, Are You There Vodka, It's Me Chelsea cracked me up. This year's choice had me laughing out loud on the plane to San Diego in June. If she wasn't so funny about her practical jokes, she could be a sadistic pathological liar. Good thing she's hilarious!

Hot Mess: Summer in the City by Julie Kraut and Shallon Lester

I read this a few summers ago, and the emo references and teen language were great for a light, funny read. Also, if you've ever seen MTV's Downtown Girls, its star, Shallon, co-wrote this!

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

Though definitely a dark comedy (the usual Ellis satirical stuffs) I am fully convinced that whoever wrote the plot to Zoolander definitely read this book. It's about the 90s, supermodels, and terrorism: I'm JUST saying. (It's also really violent and sexual, not for the faint of heart!)

Thought-Provoking Fiction

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

You may have recently heard of this novel because Kiera Knightley, Carey Mulligan, and Andrew Garfield (the newest Spiderman) are starring in a film version. Read it before you see it! I love this novel wholeheartedly, and unlike Dragon Tattoo, I'm pretty sure the movie cannot live up to the written word.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

I read this last summer on the honeymoon - it was perfect to read on the beach with the warm Aruban winds lifting the corner of the pages every so often. It's a saga in the way of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, set in South America and following a family through tragedies and a nation's militant uprising. Allende's settings and characters come to life instantaneously with her gorgeous and illustrative writing.

Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe by Jenny Hollowell

I contemplated grouping this with the comedies, but it made me think - think at what exactly I was laughing at. It's funny, to be sure, but in an almost sad, depressive way. Want to take a look into the seedy business of Hollywood? Go ahead.

Evening by Susan Minot

I read this novel for a class in college, but it still sticks with me long after. The writing uses so many flash-forward, flash-backward plot devices and descriptions that make you think; and it makes you emotional (was it just me?). You'll think of your own memories (many of them summer memories) and your first loves, lost loves, and even regrets.

Perfect for Short Summer Attention Spans

Runaway (Stories) by Alice Munro

Munro makes so much plot in so little words. Her stories could be ten pages long and you'd finish feeling like you knew those characters; her descriptions are succinct, plain, and perfect. I just read this last month, my first by Munro, and I can't wait to read more of her works.

Nine Stories by JD Salinger

I indeed despise Catcher in the Rye - but I truly love this tiny book. In fact, a friend "handed it down" to me last year for the bridal shower, and it was filled with little notes and ticket stubs from all over the world. I recently passed it on to another friend, and told her to leave her mark and pass it on as well. It's writing you can get attached to, but want to share with everyone else.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

I don't think I can even write about how much I love this collection of essays and articles. Ever since I read it last summer, I can't stop thinking about certain moments in this book, and in her writing. I've already reread a few of these essays, and can claim Didion as one of my favourite writers of all time.

A Classic for a Time Escape

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

If someone were to ask me my favourite novel of all time, I'd say this one. I read it one summer many years ago when visiting my family in Panama. I was under a mosquito net, the jungle outside my window, the humidity on every inch of my skin - and I relished in how I remembered everything even more clearly that summer because of this book. Also set in a deep South American jungle, the writing, though translated, is the best. One day I intend to read it in the original Spanish.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

And now to France! This novel made me laugh many times, but like Hollowell's novel, there's an underlying sadness and desperateness throughout the text. Wonderful read.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

For my final suggestion, a return to old New York. I still can't get Newland Archer's character out of my head - Wharton writes in an exacting, witty way and she gets across a lot in few words. If you enjoy Jane Austen and her musings on courtship, Wharton does the same in a much more biting manner. I'm currently reading The House of Mirth by her, and I'm glad to recognize her clever writing again.

*     *     *

Do not, under any circumstances, pick up Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I couldn't even finish it; what a self-indulgent snooze-fest. And I absolutely love her magazine writing! I was super disappointed. Okay, okay - I know a lot of people love it, and maybe you hate one of my own suggestions. To each their own! Let me know if you love/hate/can't wait to read what's listed! Any suggestions of your own?


  1. I loved Eat, Pray, Love and am reading it for the second time right now ;)

    I read a couple silly, girly novels - Lady Luck's Map of Vegas and Literacy and Longing in LA - both quick summer reads.

  2. I'll second the Ishiguro recommendation 100% for a great summer read; I read it poolside in France. And Jenny Hollowell's book is a great vacation book as well. I guess I like a little thought-provoking fiction with my sunscreen?

  3. I hated Eat, Pray, Love with a fiery passion.

    I just started The Art of Racing in the Rain and I was crying by page 8. It has since become much less tear-inducing, chapter 1 just killed me. I'm not sure if I can recommend it - I'm only halfway through :)

  4. I couldn't STAND Eat, Pray, Love!

    I am however really into "The Jungle" by- Rudyard Kipling. It's an easy read but it keeps me highly entertained between training for management and class preparations! :)

  5. I couldn't finish Eat, Pray, Love either. It sits covered in dust on my book shelf.

    Awesome suggestions! I am going to read Glamorama as soon as I finish Imperial Bedrooms.

  6. Wow I need to write some of these down. The Dragon Tattoo series is on my list but I worry about all the hype around it. And I am curious to read Never Let me Go now that I saw the trailer.

  7. Hah, I thought I was the only one who didn't get the Eat, Pray, Love hype! Thank goodness! Thanks for the suggestions. Currently I'm staying safe with the popular "The Help" and I really enjoy it! I start talking with a southern accent when I put the book down :)

  8. Excellent list. Most of these I haven't read but I've had them on my to-read list for awhile. I only browsed through Eat, Pray, Love and wasn't a fan of the small amount I read so I didn't even bother reading it.

  9. Sarah - to each their own! I do love Gilbert's reporting, I just can't get behind reading about her own life.

    Zan - it's true! We do have very similar tastes... :)

    Hillary - ah, yes! And, I've never heard of this Rain book - I just read the synopsis and it seems SO sad. Totes adding to my "to-read" ha.

    Sarah - Nice!

    Liz - doooo it!

    Jessica - The trailer gave away too much, but I think you'll enjoy it just the same!

    Erica - Haha, those kinds of books are always fun. I usually talk in a British accent after reading Austen.

  10. Josh - Thanks! I know you read a lot!

  11. I AM SO glad you (and some other commenters) feel the same about Eat, Pray Love. I couldn't get past 20 pages. How awful. What I hate more if the people who are like "OMG YOU MUST read eat pray love." Oy.

    I'm reading "How Did You Get This Number" by Sloane Crosley and it's hilarious. In same light as Chelsea Handler but not as silly. And I'm not going to lie I'm also reading Russell Brand's book.

  12. Kristen - Yes, I don't understand the Eat Pray Love hype. I think it's pretty self-absorbed writing.

  13. Kristen - and that comment comes from a person who catalogs an aspect of her life on a blog. HA. ;)

  14. Thanks for posting this list. I'm going to add them to my (ever growing) to-read list.

    I loved Eat, Pray, Love, but I know quite a few people who didn't like it.

    The world would be boring if we all liked the same things! ;)

  15. I've been hearing a lot of great things about the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movie, so I guess I'll pick up the book before I see it.

    I loved Nine Stories. I read it in my Creative Writing: Fiction class in college.

    I've been looking for more books to read. Thanks for the suggestions!

    I just finished reading Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (absolutely loved the movie, book was better) and then I read Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by the same authors. Also very good. Both of these are considered "teen fiction" in the book store, but I loved them.

  16. Amber - your last sentence = truth.

    Kyle - I've heard many good things about Cohn & Levithan; I'll have to add them to my to-read! I also love teen fiction. :)

  17. i am so stoke that you just posted all of these lovely suggestions!

  18. Erica - yay! So glad you enjoy :)

  19. I too hated Catcher in the Rye but I am willing to give Nine Stories a shot.

    I had a like hate relationship with Eat Pray Love. There were some parts I enjoyed and others that I hated. I liked reading about the locations, not so much about her. I made the mistake of reading Committed, her second book. Awful awful awful. The more I think about that book the more I dislike it.

    Anyways, great suggestions. I will be adding on to my reading list.

  20. LOVE Chelsea Handler. I've read all her books. Now that I'm in LA I'm definitely going to check out one of her shows.

  21. Ginny - Glad there are more Catcher haters, ha.

    That Ain't Kosher - I'd love to see one of her show tapings! She's ridiculous.

    Shallon - yay!