Here’s a quick look at the books we’re reading this summer, including exciting new works by some of our favorite authors.
For the most part, summer reading lists tend to be lighter fare – but this year, so many of our favorite authors have written compelling new works, we’re willing to step up to the challenge of deeper reading while hanging by the deep end of the pool.
House of Names by Colm Toibin. One of our absolute faves, Toibin is a master of subtle, spare prose that packs a wallop. His newest novel is a real departure in place and style. Instead of Ireland or Brooklyn, House of Names takes place in ancient Argos and tells the tragic story of Clytemnestra, whose husband (Agamemnon) sacrifices their daughter. Hell hath no fury, Sweeties, like a mother scorned.
By the way, for those of you in New York this summer, drop by The Morgan Library to see the exhibit Henry James and American Painting, which was co-curated by Toibin – one of James’s most ardent admirers. The show explores James’s love of the visual arts and his friendship with painters such as John La Farge, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler. It’s on until 10 September.
The Essex Serpent: A Novel by Sarah Perry. This historical novel – about a scientifically minded widow, a preacher man, and the search for the truth about a deadly water serpent that has been terrorizing their village, is a page-turner that is burning up the best-seller charts and no doubt, soon to be headed to a movie screen near you. Nature, love, loneliness, and mystery –all based on real life events. Plus, we shouldn’t judge this way, but what a gorgeous cover!
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. It’s been twenty years since Roy’s debut novel, The God of Small Things, was a must-read on every book group’s list. Perhaps to make up for the wait for a follow-up, she has delivered a doorstopper of a book. More than 400 pages, Ministry is a very complex novel that is about post-partition India told mostly through two characters – Anjum, a transgendered woman facing tragedy, and Tilo, an architect in a complicated love affair. Have some (iced) coffee nearby when reading this one, Sweeties; it demands attentive reading.
Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977- 2002 by David Sedaris. Our favorite humorist returns with the first of two volumes of his diaries, which he has been keeping for 40 years. Sedaris fans already know that he keenly observes and records everything he comes across – turning his private musings into witty essays. This is like having access to the source material and it’s just as rewarding as the polished finished works. If you don’t want to haul around the heavy hardback, Sweeties, Sedaris also recorded the audiobook version – a great option for long drives or flights this summer.
Poems from the Divan of Hafiz, translated by Gertrude Lowthian Bell. It’s not often that one watches a film and comes away wondering just what poetry they were quoting, but such is the case with the new documentary Letters from Baghdad, which tells the story of Gertrude Bell, AKA the “Queen of the Desert”, whose list of achievements in early 20th century Middle East are too numerous to list here. One of those accomplishments, however, was the translation of the works of 14th century Persian poet Hafiz. Celebrating both human and divine love, these are extraordinary works that have been translated countlessly over the years. Bell’s lyrical approach is still considered the most accurate. A great companion to Letters from Baghdad, which you really should see, Sweeties.