Summer Reading: Your Fiction Suggestions


Ah, summer…. that part of the year in which I like to think I have time to read something besides philosophy. Help me keep the dream alive, philosofriends, and recommend some fiction. If you want to say something about why you’re recommending this or that particular work, be my guest. But you don’t have to. Because it’s summer. 

(We’ll do a separate post another time for non-philosophy non-fiction.)

Edvard Munch, "The Voice / Summer Night" (detail)

Edvard Munch, “The Voice / Summer Night” (detail)

 

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recent grad
recent grad
5 years ago

The Moviegoer (Walker Percy)

A rumination on boredom that is philosophically rich (so you don’t feel too guilty). It’s short and an easy read.Report

Bob Kirkman
Reply to  CW
5 years ago

Wow! Thanks for that!

(And here I was, about to recommend Octavia Butler . . . really, anything by Octavia Butler.?)Report

CW
CW
Reply to  Bob Kirkman
5 years ago

The Inheritance Trilogy is among the best fantasy I’ve read in a while.

I have read some of Butler’s short stories, but not the novels. I’ll have to put them on my summer list, though I’m not sure where to start!Report

Kenny Pearce
Reply to  CW
5 years ago

Yes. I would particularly recommend Jemisin’s short story “Valedictorian”.Report

Jerry dworkin
Jerry dworkin
5 years ago

Michael Frayn, A Landing on the Sun. A mystery, a romance between a woman philosopher and a civil servant, reflections on what “quality of life” might be.Report

Jeremy
Jeremy
5 years ago

The new Don Delillo book, Zero K, is quite good (I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m enjoying it thoroughly so far).Report

jdkbrown
jdkbrown
5 years ago

I’ll second Jerry Dworkin’s recommendation of A Landing on the Sun. Also: Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Quartet–the first book is My Brilliant Friend–and Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  jdkbrown
5 years ago

A second vote for My Brilliant Friend.Report

Holly
Holly
5 years ago

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe.
The Lives of Others, by Neel Mukherjee.Report

gstudent
gstudent
Reply to  Holly
5 years ago

Half of a Yellow Sun is just excellent.Report

Jessica
Jessica
Reply to  gstudent
5 years ago

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is also fantastic.Report

Tait Szabo
Tait Szabo
5 years ago

I second the recommendation of Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, and I would add the sequels. Also in the category of science fiction, I highly recommend The Peripheral, by William Gibson.Report

CW
CW
Reply to  Tait Szabo
5 years ago

Since Leckie has come up more than once, this may be of interest. (I know it’s non-fiction, but I hope Justin will be lenient.)

http://www.tor.com/tag/post-binary-gender-in-sf/

http://www.tor.com/2016/05/23/excerpts-the-geek-feminist-revolution-where-have-all-the-women-gone-kameron-hurley/Report

gstudent
gstudent
5 years ago

I know this claim sounds like an improbable one, but Curtis Sittenfield’s Eligible is quite good.

Also, Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night.Report

Matt
5 years ago

I just recently finished J.M. Coetzee’s recent novel, _The Childhood of Jesus_. It was good! It’s often a bit hard to describe what Coetzee is doing in his books – “allegory” is close to right, but not exactly right, I think. Some people may not like that style. I don’t think it was a good as _Disgrace_ or _Waiting for the Barbarians_, and I probably personally enjoyed it a bit less than _Diary of a Bad Year_, but it’s a very good book (with some interesting and somewhat amusing scenes involving dock workers taking philosophy classes and trying to convince one of the main characters that they are worth-while.) Like all of Coetzee’s books, it reads pretty quickly, if you’re worried about too much time investment.

I’ve just stared Vasili Grossman’s _Life and Fate_, but don’t know if I’ll make it through this summer or not. The brilliance of it is clear right away, but working through it does feel a bit like re-fighting the battle of Stalingrad on one’s own.Report

Dale Miller
5 years ago

Julie Schumacher, Dear Committee Members… the letters of recommendation produced by an English professor in trying times. Was recommended to me by my Provost’s executive assistant.Report

Fritz
Fritz
5 years ago

Karl Ove Knausgard’s six-volume *My Struggle* is pretty awesome. Fourth volume just now coming out in English. The whole thing is a 3600-page commitment, but definitely worth it.Report

HK Andersen
HK Andersen
5 years ago

Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson. Or Anathem, especially if you are working on a dissertation and feeling like it may be driving you a little bit mad.Report

Kenny Pearce
5 years ago

Ursula Le Guin’s short story “Solitude” and (to a lesser extent) the stories in Four Ways to Forgiveness should be read alongside Wittgenstein’s Lectures and Conversations on Religion. Four Ways to Forgiveness also features a complex portrayal of a society struggling to move forward after the abolition of a brutal regime of slavery.Report

Daniel Groll
Daniel Groll
5 years ago

The Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Gosh. A truly rollicking tale. Very funny in parts. And super duper learned (but not at all boring) with respect to the history involved.

The entire Patrick Melrose series by Edward St. Aubyn. Though I would not call it light.

The Empire trilogy by J.G. Farrell. If you like A Dance to the Music of Time (and other series that are long and don’t really have a plot), you will like these.Report

Adam Omelianchuk
Adam Omelianchuk
5 years ago

Graham Greene’s novella The Tenth Man (1985), which illustrates how one can wrongly take advantage of another’s selfless sacrifice even if it is fairly offered. Set in World War II, a group of men being held prisoner by the Germans draw lots so as to supply three of their number to be shot for punitive reasons. The story is about how one of the men named Chavel trades his wealth for his life to a willing prisoner who then leaves his newly acquired estate to his sister and mother. As the story unfolds, Chavel wrestles with his act of cowardice and is indirectly confronted with the resentment that comes from the surviving sister who would give back the estate for the life of her brother.Report

Michel X.
Michel X.
5 years ago

For scifi:

Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven
Peter Watts – BlindsightReport

Jessica
Jessica
Reply to  Michel X.
5 years ago

I second Station Eleven! One of the best books I’ve read in the last 2 years. If you feel like being emotionally devastated, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is excellent.Report

Axel Arturo Barceló
Axel Arturo Barceló
5 years ago

Nadja Spiegelman’s “Im supposed to protect your from all this” is out in August. I am about to finish an uncorrected proof version and it is great.

http://axelbarcelo.blogspot.mx/2016/05/i-am-supposed-to-protect-you-from-all.htmlReport

Alan White
Alan White
5 years ago

A very strong second on Dale’s (if I may) recommendation of Dear Committee Members. (While reading Corey Robin’s recent depressing account of the literal disintegration of CUNY I couldn’t get Schumacher’s book out of my mind.)

A *very* strong recommendation of Fredrick Backman’s A Man Called Ove—delightful read—extremely well-written. Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins is another. I liked The Whites by Richard Price as well, and Louise Erdrich’s The Round House. I did read The Childhood of Jesus but Matt’s (again if I may) right that it’s not for everyone—friends loved it but I found it too contrived. (I did love Disgrace; Waiting for the Barbarians not so much.) The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Moore is a fun read.

One suggestion: find friends and form a book club. I’ve been in a faculty club since 2002 and we read 4-5 books a year–all the recommendations above are from that.

Oh yeah–and read poetry. Lots of poetry.Report

Lisa S
Lisa S
5 years ago

I recently whipped through Lexicon, (Max Barry) — a bit of thriller, sci fi, with a phil language, propaganda/rhetoric edge.Report

John Pittard
John Pittard
5 years ago

My non-philosophical “reading” is nearly always listening rather than reading. Some of the better fiction audiobooks I’ve listened to recently: Purity by Jonathan Franzen (pretty good, certainly entertaining), Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (amazing), The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O’Connor (very good), and Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (highly entertaining and well crafted).Report

Moonbaby
Moonbaby
5 years ago

The Sellout by Paul Beatty – an incredible piece; absurd, hilarious, horrifying, allegorical, and real. Beatty writes a strange story about a black man (raised by a jungian psychologist who runs all sorts of strange experiments and training on him) who is taken to the supreme court for starting a marajuana plantation in California and enslaving white workers.Report

Jeff
Jeff
5 years ago

Stoner by John Williams. A most penetrating representation of academic life that is at turns illuminating and heartbreaking.Report

Pekka
Pekka
5 years ago

Remainder by Tom McCarthy — a strange and compelling tale of a man’s obsessive quest to relive various minutiae of everyday life.
The City and the City by China Mieville — a fascinating blend of fantasy and police noir, with an added twist of multiple objects occupying the same physical space.
Reading now: The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes — so far, a fine fictional imagining of Shostakovich’s life, fears, and compromises under Stalin’s regime.
I’d also second (third, whatever) Station Eleven, St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose series, and Dear Committee Members.Report

Doug MacKay
Doug MacKay
5 years ago

I fourth Station Eleven. Would also recommend Nick Harkaway’s novels: .
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1100593.Nick_Harkaway
Literary adventure – very fun.Report

Sara L. Uckelman
5 years ago

The best books I’ve read this year so far are Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmonds (I’m reading Endymion now). All three have kept me up past my bed time too many nights in a row because I can’t put them down. If you like the Canterbury Tales, John Keats, science fiction, or some intersection of these, these are for you.Report

Nathaniel Goldberg
Nathaniel Goldberg
Reply to  Sara L. Uckelman
5 years ago

Agreed! Brilliant books, especially Hyperion. A couple of notches below, but still worth the read, are Dan Simmons’s Ilium and Olympos. If you like Homer and science fiction, these are for you.Report

Matt
Reply to  Sara L. Uckelman
5 years ago

At first I thought you were reading Hölderlin and so was going to ask if it’s worth the effort I expect it takes. I may just have to risk it at some point.Report

Jerry dworkin
Jerry dworkin
5 years ago

I second, third and fourth the Melrose novels. How can you resist passages like this?

As a guest, Emily Price had three main drawbacks: she was incapable of saying please, incapable of saying thank you, and incapable of saying sorry, all the while creating a surge in the demand for these expressions.

Asked if he was his own worst enemy: I certainly hope so,” Patrick replies. “I dread to think what would happen if somebody else turned out to be better at it than me.”Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
5 years ago

So what do you like, anyway? I always keep the collected stories of Lydia Davis by my bedside–they’re good to read in bits. Some of them are one-liners

Idea for a Short Documentary Film
Representatives of different food products manufacturers try to open their own packaging.

but they’re not just jokes and there are more extended ones too. Sometimes perhaps they remind me of the tinier Kafka stories like “Give It Up!”

Also if you want short stories, read Alice Munro. Her stories tend to be long for stories, but pack much more in like that–there’s often a moment when they come unmoored in time, like Proust in thirty pages. You could try her Collected Stories though I think you should read them all. Here’s the five stories I recommend starting with (or, you know, read one of her collections).

If the description “The author of an extraordinarily popular children’s series finishes it off with a book in which the minor characters gather at the main characters’ house, bickering and thinking of their conceptions of the main characters while waiting for them to return” appeals at all, try Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson, which is one of my favorite books (not simply one of my favorite children’s books). “Waiting for Godot at Pooh Corners” isn’t so far off. Another children’s book that I will unreservedly recommend to adults is The Crane by Reiner Zimnik, whose hero spends the whole book on the (construction) Crane, quite a bit of it not communicating with any other human being except for someone who sends him a message in a bottle every year.Report

Jonathan Light
Jonathan Light
5 years ago

American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis is always good for summer.Report