I was listening to NPR‘s Morning Edition on the way into work today and I caught a segment where some independent book sellers were giving their picks for a summer reading list, and I thought I would share it with all of you. Below are some of the ones I found most interesting:
My Mistress’ Sparrow is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides
By placing James Joyce next to Denis Johnson, Chekov next to Grace Paley, Nabokov next to Lorrie Moore and Stuart Dybek next to Miranda July, Jeffrey Eugenides makes familiar voices fresh and new and invites us to read authors we might not have picked up otherwise. He edits like a fan, not a scholar, and isn’t afraid to pick favorites, which is exactly what makes this a book you’ll want to keep forever and give to all your friends.
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Set in 1946, on a failing farm in the Mississippi Delta, Mudbound is narrated by six characters who trade brutal prejudices and curse the circumstance that determine their fates. Struggling to raise her children on a mucky, isolated farm with her pragmatic husband and his sour, bigoted father, city-bred Laura McAllan welcomes the unexpected arrival of her charming young brother-in-law Jamie. But when Jamie forms a tentative friendship with the soldier son of the black sharecroppers on the McAllans’ land, the hateful precepts of the Jim Crow South draw the story to its inexorable conclusions. I’ve heard a lot about this book, it is supposed to be absolutely fantastic
What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyn
Irina Reyn’s deft debut novel dusts off Tolstoy’s great 19th-century romantic heroine and re-imagines her as a complex — yet still dreamy-eyed — modern woman of today.
All the elements of Tolstoy’s moralistic epic are evident, transplanted to New York, particularly to the Russian émigré community in Queens: Anna enters a bland marriage to an older man (a regulation Russian businessman); she develops a passion for an enthralling lover (David, a would-be writer); and there is even a suggestion of a train station — naturally, Penn Station.
Yet this novel is no more a strict homage than a pale modernization; Moscow-born and Brooklyn-based Reyn creates in Anna a fully formed character, whose dreams and realities clash like the two cities that make Reyn such an observant, wry writer.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
London, 1946. Juliet Ashton, having published a collection of quaint wartime newspaper columns, is searching for her next, more proper subject when a letter arrives from the small island of Guernsey off the English Channel.
The correspondent explains he has come into possession of a book of hers, and an exchange of letters begins. As they banter about books and life, Julia is soon exchanging letters with other islanders, too. What might continue like an amiable BBC comedy turns more serious as the islanders reveal the origins of their unique literary society.
You can read excerpts of all of these and the rest of the books on the NPR website. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to pick all of these up!