Top Ten Books on my Summer Reading List
One year ago I listed the books I was planning to read for the Summer of 2012. Here is the list for this Summer, albeit a bit late. There are ten books, some of which I am already committed to read and some I merely hope to read. As such it is subject to change without notice.
1. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. This is really three novels (thus the use of Trilogy in the title). It is a classic of Science Fiction from the 1950s. This is for a class at the University of Chicago's Basic Program of Liberal Education.
2. The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection edited by Gardner R. Dozois. This is a massive (600+ pages) anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy stories from 2011. It is also for the class noted above.
3. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. I am rereading this for the big summer read of one of the reading groups to which I belong. Grass's most popular and possibly his best novel. The Tin Drum uses savage comedy and a stiff dose of magical realism to capture not only the madness of war, but also the black cancer at the heart of humanity that allows such degradations to occur.
4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families. The setting is familiar territory for Steinbeck and he creates an epic saga that suggests the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.
5. Cato: A Tragedy by Joseph Addison. This is a play from the eighteenth century, first produced in 1713, inspired generations toward a pursuit of liberty. Cato, A Tragedy is the account of the final hours of Marcus Porcius Cato (95–46 B.C.), a Stoic whose deeds, rhetoric, and resistance to the tyranny of Caesar made him an icon of republicanism, virtue, and liberty.
6. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Our Science Fiction group has selected this book for August. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? These are some of the questions addressed in this award-winning novel.
7. Spin (Spin Saga #1) by Robert Charles Wilson. In this novel the stars go out. They all flare into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier. The world gets stranger as the novel, also a selection of our Science Fiction group, proceeds.
8. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. A good friend and business partner of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins created this sensational tale of madness, betrayal, and greed. It is thrilling from beginning to end. Since its original publication in 1860, the novel has never been out of print.
9. The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution by Denis Dutton. The Art Instinct combines two fascinating and contentious disciplines—art and evolutionary science—in a provocative new work that will change forever the way we think about the arts, from painting to literature to movies to pottery. Human tastes in the arts, Dutton argues, are evolutionary traits, shaped by Darwinian selection. They are not, as the past century of art criticism and academic theory would have it, just “socially constructed.”
Our love of beauty is inborn, and many aesthetic tastes are shared across remote cultures—just one example is the widespread preference for landscapes with water and distant trees, like the savannas where we evolved. Using forceful logic and hard evidence, Dutton shows that we must premise art criticism on an understanding of evolution, not on abstract “theory.” He restores the place of beauty, pleasure, and skill as artistic values.
10. Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco. Exuberant and wise, wildly funny and deeply moving, Ilustrado explores the hidden truths that haunt every family. Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize, Ilustrado was called by the judges “brilliantly conceived and stylishly executed . . .It is also ceaselessly entertaining, frequently raunchy, and effervescent with humor”.
11+. Books that did not make the cut but sit near the top of my TBR pile (the one closest to me). include:
In the First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Savior Generals by Victor Davis Hanson, a group of thrillers by Lee Child, Brad Thor, and Nelson DeMille, and Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman.