Summer Reading Short Stack

I've pulled together a short stack of summer reading (except for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is on hold at the library).

There's one spy book, set just before World War II — by the wonderful Alan Furst. It's called The Foreign Correspondent. There's a lot of fog and cigarette smoke in his novels. Mysterious women and men with interesting jobs. Sex. In Paris. The men are newspapermen, or film makers. Did I mention that the women are mysterious? I could stop reading entirely after this book, and spend the rest of the summer recreating its mood by installing a fog machine, wearing sunglasses at night and calling everyone I know dahling.

And yet, we all know the fog lifts, and we take off our sunglasses and we realize that the foreign correspondent isn't quite everything we thought. And when that happens, you need chocolate. Maida Heatter is an expert in the area of dessert and her Book of Great Chocolate Desserts is a classic. What she does not know about chocolate desserts need not concern us. And Anne Tyler will set you straight about how the heart works, if the chocolate hasn't already, in Digging to America.

The book on the bottom of the stack, which I plan to read as the summer ends, because it is not really a book for the summer, is by Irene Nemirovsky, a French writer who was deported to Auschwitz and died there, shortly after writing what may turn out to be one of the best pieces of fiction to come out of the Second World War. It's called Suite Francaise and has just been published here in the United States.

Those two boxes? They're several of the rescued recipe boxes I've been buying on eBay. You'll be hearing about those this summer. One common thread is that for a long time, and even now, American women lavished an incredible amount of attention on dessert.

That, and the Hitchhiker's Guide, and all of your emails, blogs, poems and stories, will accompany me through what looks like a rich and eye-opening summer. I know what litlove is reading, thanks to her terrific essays about reading American classics for the first time. I'd be interested to hear what's on everyone else's list, if you have a moment to tell us.

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11 thoughts on “Summer Reading Short Stack

  1. I love Anne Tyler, so will be interested to see how you get on with that, and I have the Nemirovsky also – but you’ve seen my summer list! You’ll get to it before I do!

  2. I don’t know — the chocolate might divert me for a while. Now, if everyone in our corner of the blogworld lived in San Francisco, you could all come over and have dessert and sit under our big blue umbrella on the patio and talk about summer reading. It’s beautiful today, and we ate outside for the first time in a long time. I love this time of year. (And for our friends on the other side of the globe, there’s all that cozy winter reading!)

    And, PS, That’s one fine review of The Great Gatsby, litlove!

  3. If you like mysterious women and men with interesting jobs (quite a bit of spying in fact), sex and Paris (and most of the rest of Europe), you could hardly do better than Casanova’s memoirs. The whole thing (12 parts) would easily get you through summer and makes very entertaining and compelling reading. You won’t be able to stop. And, by the way, he loved chocolate as well. I must have read it at least 3 times by now.

  4. Oh, I’m back to a favourite from my younger days: Hubert Lampo. I’m reading ‘De heks en de archelooog’ (The witch and the archeologist), never translated into English I fear. In fact I think only one book was ever translated into English: http://tinyurl.com/f5wo5. It is in fact his most famous book and quite a good read. Very mysterious and the book that started my love of Antwerp. The price at amazon is outrageous though…
    After that I think I’ll be re-reading one of Bob de Uyl’s books, not sure which one though. He also seems to be untranslated, which is a great loss for the English speaking world.
    The last English language book I read (in fact at least 60% of what I read is in English) was Microcosm by Norman Davies, about the history of Wrocław as a microcosm of Central Europe. Great book.

  5. Oh good to see that Hitchhikers is lined up, I look forward to hear what you think about that one. I have a some books waiting to be read:

    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close ~Jonathan Safran Foer
    The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials S.) ~Philip Pullman
    Northern Lights (His Dark Materials S.) ~Philip Pullman
    Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency ~Douglas Adams
    and some more but i don’t remember the titles.

  6. I read Suite Francaise a couple of months ago and it’s beyond fantastique. Eloquent, well-crafted, and a story that is just so meaningful with characters that you become attached to quite quickly.

  7. Edwin, Hubert Lampo sounds very interesting: Flemish magical realism. And even though not widely available (and $56 on Amazon), my guess is that the English translation of The coming of Joachim Stiller is available from the library, either directly or through interlibrary loan.

    Hello Ingrid, I loved your pirate guy! Are the Phillip Pullman plays still going on in London? When I was there a few years ago they were at the National Theater, and sounded very good.

    Hi Doth — Thanks for coming by! I’m so glad to hear you liked Suite Francaise. I’m looking forward to it.

  8. Well to give you the whole story (hope that’s ok) I didn’t know Philip Pullman at all. But since I really am working on my vocubulary and dictionary (preparation for the writing course) (I basically want to learn new words) I thought that children books probably would be a good place to start. Mainly because my fantasy is running away with me all the time, so that should be a good fit. And they do read a bit easier too. So I looked up several lists of recommended English children books, and Philip Pullman appeared on all of them, and he seemed to have received very good reviews for his books. So thats why I picked them and I look forward to read them.
    Plays on the West End you say ? I had no idea, but now I have to check ! If there are some – I am going to watch them for sure ! (Learning new things about London all the time, thanks 🙂

  9. Hello Lily,

    Reading your blog is such a pleasure — your writing is lovely!

    This summer I am reading a children’s Arthurian series by an English author. The series is called The Dark is Rising and the writer is Susan Cooper. They were written in the 60s and 70s. http://www.greenmanreview.com/dark_is_rising.html

    They are quite wonderful, so far — I love children’s fantasy by English authors (Harry Potter, His Dark Materials).

    On my summer list, as well, I have Their Eyes Were Watching God. I have recently finished Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (this book was so wonderful — beautifully written and so haunting) and I plan to read another of his books this summer. Probably Remains of the Day.

    I recently read a review of Suite Francaise — I have it on request from the library. I have also recently re-read a couple of old favorites, namely The Mists of Avalon and In Cold Blood (for book club). It was wonderful to read them both.

  10. Hi Julie — What great summer reading! I read those Dark is Rising Books when I was a kid. I remember bringing them home in the library and hunkering down in my bedroom for a long, long time. But, I can’t remember anything about the plot or the characters. Just that they were so good. I’d really like to hear what you think about them, from an adult perspective.

    As for Their Eyes Were Watching God — my post today has something about that book, which is one of my favorites. I read it first in college, and then more recently in my book group. And it was a lovely book, both times. As for Ishiguro, you should read Remains of the Day — it’s another book on my list of things I often give people. There’s something about the unreliable narrator’s voice that’s heartwrenching.

    Your book club reading sounds like a lot of fun!

    I’m so happy to hear your virtual voice, Julie. But we still have to go and have a nice lunch on Larkin Street before the summer ends.

    Cheers, L

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