Summer Reading: The Beauty of Lists

Do you ever have nights when the internet is calling your name, in a voice not to be denied?  When you just can’t stop clicking, going from website to website?  When it happens to me, it’s a bit akin to Odysseus and the sirens, except that I don’t have the magic ear plugs or whatever to protect me, so I just keep clicking away.  I can’t explain the phenomenon but I’ve noticed (oddly enough) that it always seems to occur when I’m facing a day filled with tasks I don’t want to do or appointments I don’t want to keep!

Today my clicking compulsion centered on summer reading lists, which abound this time of year.  I adore lists of summer reading recommendations!  Although I don’t really change my reading selections by the season, it’s always fun to see what other people are reading, or what they think you should be reading; I’m a bit lazy and checking out lists of reading recommendations is also an easy way for me to stay somewhat current with new books, as many summer reading lists heavily feature newly published work.  Since I’d hate to keep the fruit of my “labor” to myself, I’m listing the lists my clicking has uncovered!

Tibout_Regters_-_De_belastinginner_-_2252_-_Rijksmuseum_Twenthe
This 18th century fellow is, I believe, actually doing a tax tally. I like to think, however, that he’s doing a booklist!

I rely pretty heavily for my reading recommendations on the book section contained in The Guardian.  Although it can be a little frustrating when there’s a lag in the U.S. edition (I’ve sometimes waited for months before a particular title becamse available in the U.S.), the Guardian covers numerous U.S. as well as U.K. authors and its reviews are truly excellent.  For 2019 it’s published an excellent “Summer Reading Guide,” with a hundred recommended fiction and non-fiction titles.  The guide lists relatively recent books, covers a wide variety of genres (such as “Modern Life” and “Page Turners,”which are thoughtfully listed with the title) and encompasses non-fiction as well as fiction.  I found some interesting fiction recommendations here, of books I had either forgotten (Tom Rachman’s The Italian Teacher) or didn’t know about, such as Halle Butler’s The New Me.  The Guardian doesn’t have a pay wall (an increasingly rare occurrence), so no problem with access.  I really love The Guardian’s book section.

The New York Times has also compiled a Summer List of seventy-five titles from a similarly wide variety of genres such as “Thrillers,” “Travel,” “Crime,” Horror,” “Outdoors” and so on.  Unlike The Guardian’s more traditional format, the Times’ list is more of an interactive affair, so more clicking is required.  Also unlike The Guardian, the Times has a paywall, so if you’ve exceeded your monthly quota of free clicks, you may have to wait until next month to see the list.

The Washington Post has given a slightly different twist to its summer recommendations, coming up with “100 Books for the Ages.”   Want to know what to read when you’re 43 years old?  Why, Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs, of course!  Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle is for the 24 year olds, while Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex is recommended for the age 30 set.  O.k., o.k., I know it’s gimmicky but it is kind of fun!  And it’s quite encouraging to see Herman Wouk’s Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author recommended for the centenarians among us.  The Post has also a more conventional “20 Books to Read This Summer,” which is a bit heavy (for my taste) on non-fiction, such as Steven Gillon’s biography of John F. Kennedy Jr. (The Reluctant Prince) and Evan Thomas’ bio of Sandra Day O’Connor (First).  Although pretty conventional, the fiction choices are of all the latest & trendiest, so you’ll be well able to impress the other lawyers when you’re standing around the water cooler.  And there is one piece of exciting news:  Colson Whitehead has a new novel, The Nickel Boys, which will be available on July 16th.   The Washington Post, like the NY Times, has a paywall; if you’ve only one free click left I’d go for “100 Books for the Ages.”

Bustle’s “30 New Books Coming Out in June 2019 To Look Forward To Reading This Summer” is worth a glance.  Each title has a brief descriptive paragraph, which is a nice feature.  The article also contains internal links to additional recommendations for different genres such as graphic novels and rom-coms.

Just as a reminder that tastes differ, and that mine differ quite a bit from the terminally esoteric, I usually check out the seasonal reading recommendations from contributors to the Times Literary Supplement.  Each contributor offers a chatty little paragraph discussing his or her reading choices, which can be particularly interesting if you have a thing for a particular contributor, such as the great classicist Mary Beard.  On a somewhat less elevated level, the New Yorker’s writers have compiled a “What We’re Reading This Summer” feature, which, as you might expect, covers a select but quite broad range of fiction, memoir, and non-fiction.  Both publications are picky about subscriptions so your access ability may be limited if you’re a non-subscriber who browses them on a frequent basis.

To find some recommendations that offer different perspectives on race and gender, NPR’s Code Switch Book Club has some interesting selections drawn from its listeners’ recommendations.   These include Kwame Appiah’s The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity and Uzma Jalaluddin’s Ayesha at Last, a modern take on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in Toronto’s Muslim community.

Well, I could keep going but I’m sure you’ll agree that enough is enough, at least from me!  Do you have any great lists or recommendations you’d like to share?  If so, I’d love to see them.

Oh — before I forget — the painting at the beginning of this post is called The Tax Collector and is by Tibout Regters, an 18th century Dutch artist.

12 thoughts on “Summer Reading: The Beauty of Lists

  1. Hahaha, yeah, enough is enough. I’m with you, I love lists but as you say, they can become encroaching.

    I am so ignorant of those interesting sources you share. Personally, I draw the curtains, see my books, and go from there. But I admit I am going to take a look at those links. (I love reading about books and possibilities. That stays in my unconscious, and helps me make future decisions of what to buy and read).

    I also want to participate in more challenges and events, but realize I am a slow reader, and while I like reading others who do those, I am happy to pass.

    But I must say I loved reading a new post from you. Always.

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  2. I do love reading lists, but unfortunately so many of the summer ones are not the kind of books I would read or enjoy. I tend to go for Classics or Modern Classics or translated lit. Mind you, there are still enough lists of those kind of books about to have a bad effect on my TBR…. ;D

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    1. I know what you mean, about the books that tend to be included on these lists; I’ve always had a little trouble understanding the concept of “the beach read” (although, mind you, I love a nice, relaxing story as much as the next anyone! One reason I like The Guardian’s recommendations so much is that it DOES tend to have less junk). Although I have more time now, I’ve always tended to use summers for longer works. As for your TBR lists — well, fair is fair! After reading your review of the Oxford City Tales series, I’m now awaiting the arrival of my copy of “Tales of Madrid”! (thanks again for the recommendation, BTW).

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    2. I agree with you on this point! List are fun! They can encourage those who may not be as frequent readers to become interested in starting to read more, albeit mostly new fiction works. I will read almost any genre, yet I throughly enjoy classics, modern classics, and translated literature the most. It is disappointing to not see more genre inclusive lists. I do appreciate when bloggers create lists themselves.

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      1. I’m afraid your point that most lists are very heavily weighed towards modern fiction is correct, which is fine if that’s what you mostly read! My reading trends in that direction, which is probably one reason I like these type lists so much; so frustrating, however, for readers with a more classical bent. Your very interesting comment has made me realize (too late, alas) that I could have included one of those lists of “the 100 best novels written in English” types (there are several around; in keeping with my bias towards The Guardian, I really like theirs; if you’re interested, you can find it at https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/17/the-100-best-novels-written-in-english-the-full-list . My second thought is — what fun to my own list, as you suggest! It will have to wait for a bit, but perhaps a future “Miscellaneous Monday”?

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    1. Silvia: I’m afraid it’s very, very tentative at this point and may not happen. I’ve never traveled in Spain and I can’t tell you how much I want to, even if briefly. The Prado is doing a fall exhibition on two 16th century female painters, Sofisnisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana; since I’m doing my little research paper on Sofisnisba that would be my excuse. So — we’ll see (keep your fingers crossed for me!).

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  3. I don’t think I read seasonally either. But I love book lists of all stripes. 😀

    I used to read The Guardian site all the time. In particular, I loved the Not the Booker postings. Now mostly rely on bookish podcasts and youtube vloggers for reading suggestions – and I follow the annual Tournament of Books on the Morning News website which helps me keep abreast of new releases. The Millions website always posts a yearly “books we are excited about” that I usually look at at least once. Otherwise, I am constantly playing catch up reading older books or some author’s back catalog.

    I have two permanent lists that I keep on my PC (a) 1000 Books to Read Before You Die (one of the many iterations, I’m not sure which one) and (b) The Guardian’s 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read. I have no plan to read all of these books, but when I read a classic, I go to both lists to see if I can check it off.

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  4. Ruthiella: so nice to meet a fellow list addict (do you know, I wasted 30-40 minutes on the internet — which really WAS calling my name that night–searching for a clinical term to define this condition? I found something, but it wasn’t very satisfactory!). Thanks for the info about your sources for recommendations. I’ve yet to explore available podcasts and vlogs and I wasn’t aware of the Millions website but I will definitely check it out.
    I, too, love The Guardian’s Not the Booker postings — so much fun! Although I’ve never suggested any candidates I HAVE picked up some good reading suggestions there. I also like The Guardian’s “novels everyone must read” list, which I look at from time to time to measure my “progress” (more realistically, lack thereof!). The 1000 Books to Read Before You Die is quite absorbing (like you, I’m not sure which of the many editions I have; mine is pretty old), particularly for those like myself who tend to read more reviews about books than the books themselves!

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  5. I’m not generally a seasonal reader except maybe at Christmas. I enjoy the Guardian book & author interviews but blogger book reviews are my favourites. Thanks for visiting & commenting on my blog. 🙂

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