I do not always do well with reading. This summer is not much of an exception, but I’ve become more of a habitual reader during it and have read a greater deal this summer than any previous attempts. Here I just want to point out some quick recommendations from what I’ve read.
I’m starting with this because I know this is what people will most want to skip. I didn’t read an excessive amount of poetry, this summer. To be quite honest I can name 2 poets I read a chunk of, and I will name both of them.
Now, when I was planning on writing this I had no idea that Heaney was going to go and die on me. Heaney is one of my favorite poets, if not my favorite, ever. His early poetry, which is most of what I’ve dabbled in to be fair, is incredible. It made me believe I could write about the farm life in a way that might make people willing to read it.
Now, for suggestions, I’d say that his book Death of a Naturalist includes most of what I most love of his and particularly loved this summer. If you are feeling frisky, pick up his Opened Ground because it collects poems throughout his career. If you’re poor or are afraid of purchasing a book of poetry, look up poems like “Death of a Naturalist”, “Digging”, “Midterm Break” and “The Outlaw” on google and you should be able to find them.
Here we’ve got a contemporary and a Canadian to boot. Brad is a great poet and his book, Ink On Paper, is probably the first book of poems that I’ve read cover-to-cover, or at least cover-to-cover within a two-day period. The book is wonderful, a lot of fun and really accessible due to his straight-talking style and the use of narratives to hold his poems together. It is a book that sets one chuckling and marvelling, and you should get it, because then you can say “Oh I’ve read the Brad Cran book, it came out in March, I’m positively contemporary!”. And saying that, to be sure, is priceless.
I read short stories sporadically and often didn’t revisit one writer more than once this summer. That being said, there were two that I did, and that was Charles Baxter and Alice Munro. I won’t bother telling you anything but that Baxter and Munro are great short story writers. Go look for a “collected” of Munro if not any volume at all, and find Baxter’s Gryphon which has a selection of his stories throughout a wonderful career in short fiction. Both are humorous in their way, powerful, and won’t waste your time.
I didn’t read much drama this summer, but what I did read blew me away. What I did read was a single play, but it was one of the most vibrantly wonderful plays I have read in a long time. There’s a sense that Shakespeare too much comes up when we think drama, I think, so please believe me when I say that this is a really exciting and powerful play (not that Shakespeare can’t be, though I’m more partial to parts of Shakespeare more than wholes).
The play is Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. It’s one of the most lively plays I’ve ever read, and that you’ll ever read. It’s about vanity, it’s about chivalry, it’s about love, and it’s just an absolute joy. The first scene, in my head, was one of the most wonderfully hectic I’ve found in a drama, and it makes me REALLY want to see the play staged. You’ll love it, you’ll love the characters, you’ll be saddened, you’ll adore the ending.
NOVELS: Literary Fiction
Swami and Friends by N.K. Narayan is probably my favorite piece of literary fiction I’ve read this summer, so suck it Faulkner. In many ways Narayan’s book feels like the Indian equivalent of Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, but with a bit more brutal politics and heartbreak added into the adventures. It revolves around a cowardly 10 year old named Swaminathan and his antics with regards to his boarding school(s) and a strike opposing the British arresting an important individual and a game of cricket. It’s really a fun book, light enough but not so light as to feel like you’ve wasted your time. Get on it.
Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. There, now nobody is reading anymore because they believe this book to be an absolute bore due to it being one of those books people are forced to read in High School. Hemingway’s book is great, though it comes off a bit more like a very long short story than a novel or even a novella. It involves an old man who goes fishing and catches a fish. It’s about life. And it’s really a great book. More depressing than Swami, though, so if you’re feeling down by what you’re reading, pick up the Narayan.
NOVELS OF GENRE
I hate to discriminate for Genre but everyone does it. These books in particular feel a bit out of place in their own genres simply because the writers are explosively powerful beyond what else I’ve dabbled with in said genres.
For Science Fiction there’s More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon. This book… This book is hard to talk about. The writing is in a class of his own, a class I’ve never met with in Sci-fi or in Fantasy, and by using the genre, more powerful (certainly) from a lot of literary fiction (which isn’t inherently better, but has most of the better writers, and most of the worst too). The book is centered around an evolution in the human line called Homo Gestalt, which features an identity spread between a group of, for lack of a less cliche sounding word, “misfits”. The style drops into poetry as well, and it really gives the book a novel feel simply due to the fact that you don’t often find such a confident language stylist in the area. It’s dense, but it’s short, and it’s worth gandering at.
Then there’s Terry Pratchett. Terry Pratchett is an amazing humorist and satirist, and you get that in his first (albeit, according to many, not the best) book of his Discworld series The Color of Magic. As well as being absolutely hilarious Pratchett is a very athletic writer when it comes to fantasy simply because his books are about 250 pages while the most beloved fantasy books (I’m looking at you GRRM) are twice or three times that. Pratchett takes you places quickly and effectively because he doesn’t need as many words as other writers because he’s just such a damned good writer. His world is not without complications, and yet, it is hard to find many “word dumps”. It might just be that the ones he does are unnoticed because they’re funny. The mere fact that Pratchett can consistently write short strong books makes him my new favorite (of, granted, a short list) Fantasy writer because his books are so smart and so damned short. I can’t stand long books, that’s why the novel is hardly my favorite form of literature, and Fantasy a genre I very often shy from.
I also read the first half a page of a harlequin.
All the best,