Every July, Literary Arts staff members recommend their favorite books for summer reading. Share your favorite books with us, too, by leaving a comment on this post or visiting us on Facebook. What are you reading this summer?
Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle (recommended by Jenny Chu): This collection of lectures is a meditation on the poetic life. Not merely for poets, this book is for anyone who lives life in all its integrative dimensions. A multifaceted and synthesizing book, Ruefle finds the beauty, humor, and intelligence in life’s unfettered unknowns.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (recommended by Susan Denning): A book about marriage, motherhood, and being an Art Monster—a person who exists solely to create. With 46 chapters and short paragraphs, it’s concise and lovely.
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (recommended by Jennifer Gurney): Jhumpa Lahiri’s disarming, multigenerational story crosses oceans and cultures to bring a fresh perspective to the complexity of family, the nature of politics, and the power of regret. It’s one of the books we’ll be discussing in this season’s Delve seminar on Lahiri’s work.
Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge by Peter Orner (recommended by Paige O’Rourke): My favorite thing about the short story is that it makes every word count. With entries that never hit the ten-page mark and are sometimes contained within a solitary paragraph, Peter Orner’s short story collection Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge is a perfect example of brevity that loses none of its impact in the process. Read through a few of them during your lunch break, skip around between sections as the mood strikes you, or devour the entire collection in one relaxing afternoon—what better kind of summer read is there?
Powers of Two by Joshua Wolf Shenk (recommended by Andrew Proctor): This nonfiction book challenges the myth of the lone genius and shows how creativity, innovation, and genius is often shared. Think of Jobs and Wozniak, Maria and Pierre Currie, McCartney and Lennon. It’s a wonderful book that is helping me to think about my work in a whole new way. The book will be published on August 5.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (recommended by Mary Rechner): Over the years I’ve tried to read The Brothers three times, but I now have a new source of inspiration/motivation: my sixteen year old son just finished it and keeps asking me what page I am on (25). Other novels I hope to read this summer (wish me luck) include Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie and The Residue Years by native Portlander Mitchell S. Jackson.
Traveling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker (recommended by Evan P. Schneider): In Baker’s 2010 novel The Anthologist, Paul Chowder is commissioned to write an introduction to a poetry anthology. Traveling Sprinkler picks up where The Anthologist left off, but Paul has moved on from poetry and has begun to experiment with writing and playing music. All the while, Paul chain smokes cigars in his Kia Rio and wants badly to be reunited with his ex-girlfriend, missing the days they just stayed up late talking about everything and nothing together.
The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld by Justin Hocking (recommended by Mel Wells): Hocking’s story thrums with quiet tension as we watch him get pummeled, nearly drown, and finally discover the euphoria of turning around, paddling into his fears, and riding out the forces that seemed to be trying to kill him. The narrative cleanly balances introspection and observation, transcending memoir tropes to become a witty, heartfelt meditation on modern life.
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