With summer in full swing, it’s high time to enjoy some leisurely reading. Here’s what our staff will be reading this summer:
Mislaid by Nell Zink (recommended by Amelia Ayrelan Iuvino): Timely and incisive, fast-paced and humorous, like a Shakespearean comedy of errors, Mislaid deals with themes of race, gender, and sexuality in 1960s rural Virginia. Peggy Fleming, a white lesbian who finds herself in a doomed marriage to her gay college poetry professor, leaves her son behind and runs away with her daughter, where they take on the identities of a black family and go into hiding until unlucky coincidence brings the family back together.
H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (recommended by Amanda Bullock): H Is for Hawk recounts the year following the sudden death of Helen Macdonald’s father, when she adopts and trains a goshawk, one of the world’s deadliest raptors. The book is part memoir of Macdonald’s grief and obsession, part nature writing and meditation on wildness and captivity, part history of falconry (Macdonald is an experienced falconer when she takes on her goshawk), and part literary biography of the writer T. H. White. Aptly compared to Philip Hoare’s The Sea Inside, H Is for Hawk is at once beautiful, sad, and celebratory.
Dandarians by Lee Ann Roripaugh (Recommended by Susan Denning): Roripaugh’s fourth book contains prose poems and variations on Japanese forms. Many of the poems focus on misunderstandings and mistranslations of words her Japanese mother used while Roripaugh was growing up. There are echoes of the Japanese haibun form and lots of lyrical word.
In the Country by Mia Alvar (recommended by Megan Gex): Summer time is perfect for short stories that whisk you away from the everyday. Written by a blossoming literary talent, this collection features nine remarkable stories about the Filipino diaspora. Each tale is wonderfully crafted, remarkably complex, and beautifully heartbreaking.
The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham (recommended by Jennifer Gurney): Cunningham repurposes the fairy tale of the same name to spin a modern story of two brothers. Poetic but not overly sentimental, it packs an emotional punch in its 250 pages, and its depictions of wintery Brooklyn will help you stay cool this summer.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (recommended by Paige O’Rourke): I know, I know: shameless self-promotion for Portland Arts & Lectures. But the truth is, there are no words to describe the importance of this book, because Claudia Rankine has already used them all. Go read this book. Go read this book. Go read this book. Right now.
Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (recommended by Andrew Proctor): My wife and I are reading the entire Harry Potter series with our son, Finn, this summer as part of the Multnomah County Library’s awesome summer reading project. I have never read the series, so it is an interesting discovery for me. I am struck by how much danger and darkness there is in the lives of Harry & co. I am impressed that the books are riskier than I imagined. On the adult side of things, I LOVED Jenny Offill’s book Dept. of Speculation and notice that she will be at the Tin House Writer’s Workshop this summer, where she will conduct a reading that is free and open to the public!
(Recommendations by Mary Rechner): My summer’s fictive dream: uncanny shapeshifting (Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), searing female experience (Elena Ferrante’s Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay), postmodern musings on art, truth, and time (Ali Smith’s How to Be Both).
Carry the Sky by Kate Gray (recommended by Mel Wells): So often I find myself choosing between gorgeous language, a taut plotline, and compelling characters. Gray’s debut novel contains all three. Wear sunscreen if you read it outdoors, because it will pull you in and hold you there until the last page.
The Literary Arts staff also want to know what’s on your list. Share your freshly read favorites with us by commenting below or visiting us on Facebook.
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