Summer Reading 2009

I’ve never really understood why summer books, like summer movies, are supposed to be less substantial and less challenging than books we read at any other time of the year. For most people summer is pretty much like every other time of year. Most of it is spent in climate-controlled environments–cars, trains, homes, offices, airports, hotels–that scarcely change with the season. How much time do people really spend reading at the beach or in a hammock? It seems that summer reading lists are all about the summer we wish we were having rather than the one we actually are having.

Generally my only concession to reading in the summer is that the book shouldn’t be too long. I don’t mind having to do some work unpacking an argument or a dense patch of prose fiction; I just don’t want to feel like I’m going to spend the entire summer with one book.

So here’s my ideal reading list for this summer. These are the books I intend to read this summer. I may not get through the list, although I’m determined to read a lot this summer because, for various reasons, I haven’t been reading very much this spring. Midsummer I may find other books I’m more interested in reading. That’s OK. Choosing books and wine are my favorite shopping activities, so I don’t like to get too programmatic about reading lists.

Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn. It sounds like it could be a novel of fey miserablism, but I really liked The Master and the blurbs I’ve read so far reassured me that Tóibín’s is more than the sum of its Brooklyn Irish cliches.

Ada Louise Huxtable, On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change. This has been on my to read list since it came out last fall. I’ve already started reading this collection of columns from Huxtable’s years as the New York Times architecture critic. She was there when Modernism ran out of gas and Post-Modernism arrived with a jolt of energy and some questionable buildings.

Jacques Rancière, The Future of the Image. Ordinarily I steer clear of philosophers writing about the cinema–has anyone, anywhere, really read both volumes of Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema and learned anything from them?–but Rancière is one of the most interesting aesthetic philosophers around. Besides, it’s a short book.

Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
. I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time, and this is the summer I’m finally going to pick it up.

Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice. This doesn’t come out until August. I didn’t love Against the Day, to say the least, but Pynchon is still Pynchon. He can’t be ignored.

Francis Mallmann, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. OK, so yes, summer reading should have an element of escapist fantasy about it, and without fantasy we will never change. The American in Provence/Tuscany genre is usually pretty reliable, but this year the crop is very thin, a sign that the genre is exhausted. What better way to escape the quotidian than to cook your way through another culture? 

Does anyone have any recommendations for a new book on the cinema?



  1. i’ve actually heard of people who have read both of deleuze’s books… 😉 however i don’t know if this was really usefull to them afer all….
    rancière is quite good to read and you are right, his books are short so that makes it a lot easier too. however i think that he is not the greatest of the french philosophers… when reading his books i often get the impression of having read the same thing somewhere else -e.g. didi-humberman shines throu a lot in rancières texts –
    oh, have a look maybe you might like didi-hubermans books too and consider them for your summer reading…
    best wishes, felice


  2. I’ve been reading The History of Italian Cinema:
    A Guide to Italian Film from Its Origins to the Twenty-First Century by Gian Piero Brunetta for a summer class. It just came out.


  3. Hi Felice:
    The name Didi-Huberman rings a bell, but I haven’t read any of his works. I’ll definitely take a look at his books. Thanks for the suggestion.


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