It’s that time of year again. Summer is here and out come the bronzers, the bikinis, and, of course, the beach reads.
There is something about the long days and the promise of vacation time that leads many of us to make a big pile of books to read during the hot months. Or maybe it’s simply a holdover from our schooldays, when optimistic teachers gave us a list of books to read over the summer break.
I asked some of the smartest young people on the right for summer reading suggestions. What are they hoping to read this summer? And what do they recommend others read? My contributors’ beach reading ranges from P.G. Wodehouse to Anna Karenina, representing the two competing strains of summer reading: something light to read at the beach and something heavy to spend an entire summer tackling.
It’s amazing how many of these contributors plan to read each others’ books. Some, of course, can’t resist mentioning their own.
Though long summer reading lists often seem like wishful thinking, these contributors have all inspired me to make the most of my summer. I am hoping to read an entire book just today–Muriel Spark’s Reality and Dreams. This short book about a film director thrown off kilter by an accident seems just the thing for a sweltering day, with its themes of sexual secrets and personal transformation. Spark’s books are often short, so if you’re looking to work your way through an author’s oeuvre as a summer project, she would fit the bill. The Scottish master died just a few months ago, so it’s a perfect time to reconsider her work.
Here are some other great suggestions, from the political to the personal. I’m hoping to feature even more on my website this coming week. I invite readers to e-mail me their own suggestions and thoughts on summer reading. Here are the recommendations:
Timothy P. Carney is author of the upcoming The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money.
Well, I’d say my own book, which comes out next week.
This summer I plan to read Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher and Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton. I just finished Jeremy Lott’s quick read, In Defense of Hypocrisy. Plus I will read the new Roberto Clemente biography.
Brendan Conway is an editorial writer at the Washington Times and a 2006 Phillips Foundation journalism fellow.
James Webb, The Emperor’s General Philip Gold The Coming Draft: The Crisis in Our Military and Why Selective Service Is Wrong for America Robert D. Kaplan, Imperial Grunts
Rachel DiCarlo is a Phillips Foundation fellow.
Three Junes by Julia Glass
Everyone has been talking about this book for several years now. I don’t know why I hadn’t picked up a copy until recently, but I’m thrilled I did. The book–comprised of three novellas, really–is stylishly written, rich and moving, with fascinating treatment of its characters and settings.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Adult readers laugh at loud at the subtle irony they hadn’t picked up on the first (or second) time they read Mark Twain’s signature novel. And what better time to read an adventure story than the summer?
Rebel-in-Chief by Fred Barnes
A superbly reported analysis of the motivating factors behind President Bush’s decision making. A worthwhile read for Bush critics and Bush fans alike.
Martha Washington: An American Life
Patricia Brady shatters the image of Martha Washington as the eternal plump frump in this dazzling volume and reveals a shrewd businesswoman, patriot, and lifelong confidant of the president.
Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball by Stefan Kanfer
Although the public thought of Lucille Ball as the alter ego of her most famous television character, the bubbly, child-like Lucy Ricardo, the dark paradoxes of the two were many. In this biography Stefan Kanfer sheds light on the wounded, but brilliant comedienne, including details of her tortured, but passionate marriage to Desi Arnaz.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
What other romance novel can maintain interest for more than 1,000 pages?
If I were going to name books by conservatives — I will certainly read Tim Carney’s new book The Big Ripoff and Jeremy Lott’s book In Defense of Hypocrisy looks like good beach reading. In literature I like to read short stories in the summer. I often reread Joyce’s Dubliners and the Collected Stories of Flannery O’Connor.
Rod Dreher is an editorial writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News and the author of Crunchy Cons.
This summer, I’m taking a much-needed vacation from reading about politics and current events. I’m reading about food. I’m halfway through Bill Buford’s superlative Heat, in which he chronicles his experience apprenticing in the kitchen of the famous New York chef Mario Batali, as well as his moving to Italy to learn meat-cutting at the hands of a Tuscan butcher. Buford has an irresistible style, which I fell in love with years ago reading his first book Among the Thugs, in which his curiosity about soccer hooliganism among the English caused him to start hanging out with them so that he could better understand them. I’m able to live vicariously my own fantasy of being a professional chef through Buford — and learning that I really, really don’t have the guts or the patience to step into that unromantic world. It’s a lot of fun to read about, though, and I particularly love his digressions into the meaning of food and food traditions in culture and community. Plus, Mario Batali is such an outsized Falstaffian character you can hardly believe he exists, and is allowed to roam the streets without supervision.
When I finish Heat, I’m planning to belly up to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, in which he takes an exhaustive look at where our food comes from. Pollan is an excellent journalist, and as I’ve become more interested in the relationship between food and culture, I find myself drawn to writers like him who can explore these mysteries with eloquence and thoroughness. My own amateur efforts in my home kitchen have taught me to recognize the difference between a supermarket chicken and one bought from a local farmer who raised her out back. Why do they taste so different? Is it merely aesthetics, or is there a moral dimension to this question? Does it matter where our food comes from, and how we choose to eat it, and what we think about it? I think the answer is, of course, yes, but I find myself entranced by writers like Pollan — and, in a different way, Buford — who have the intelligence and the artistry to explain why this is so, and what we might do about it.
When I get my fill of reading about eating and drinking — well, I’ll probably spend a week or two cooking, just to get it out of my system. After that, I hope to get around to a sustained reading of the works of the late Christopher Lasch, whose political and cultural criticism of both the left and right explored how neither contemporary version of these political traditions serves the needs of the American people at this stage in our history. I read his Revolt of the Elites this past spring, and it was a revelation to me. Political idea-mongering has become such a stale, predictable dead-end discussion these days. I’m thinking a Lasch revival might be just the thing to start some new, fruitful and creative conversations both among and between left and right. That, and lots of Italian wine.
Jeremy Lott is author of In Defense of Hypocrisy and a contributing editor to Books & Culture.
I don’t keep reading lists, as such, but here are a few books that I’ve bought lately and hope to read one of these days.
The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro, by Zachary M. Schrag (Johns Hopkins). As a fairly regular Metro rider, I’d wondered why there wasn’t a popular history of how this all came about. Now there is.
Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up, by Christopher Noxon (Crown). The author is onto something but I fear he’s going to go far too light on those who refuse to act their age. We’ll see if he’s tough enough on us.
Peter and the Shadow Thieves, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (Disney). Speaking of acting one’s age, did you know that in the original J.M. Barrie novel, Peter Pan was a villain? That’s not the case with this retelling, but at least the authors know how to keep a story moving.
Live and Let Die, by Ian Fleming (Penguin). A wandering Canadian recently told me there is a world of difference between the James Bond of the movies and the one of the Ian Fleming novels. Movie Bond is a cartoonish sixties superhero, he said, but Literary Bond is darker and far more interesting. I read the first novel in the series and — what do you know? — he was right.
Also, if readers want a lively read that will make them think, they should try my new book, In Defense of Hypocrisy (Nelson Current). It’s the best thing I’ve ever written.
Katherine Mangu-Ward is a 2005 Phillips Foundation Fellow.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Mandatory reading for people who are tempted by anarcho-captialism (read: all libertarians and any self-respecting paleo-con). A fictional depiction of a future United States where the national government has lost most of its territory and been replaced by the corporations with sovereign territorial franchises like Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong and ‘burbclaves. The most dangerous job in such a future is a Mafia-employed pizza delivery man.
And all that stuff is just in the first 10 pages.
American Gods and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Think Thor vs. Anansi vs. Aphrodite in disguise, unemployed, and hanging out at biker bars.
The Blandings Castle series by P.G. Wodehouse (Summer Lightning, Heavy Weather, Galahad at Blandings, and more) as semi-redeeming beach reading. Each can be read in a matter of hours. Many people prefer Jeeves and Bertie, but they are missing the subtle pleasure of Wodehouse writing about old people.
Joanne McNeil is a writer is Chicago, Il. Her website is joannemcneil.com.
Ann Quinn — Her work is shamefully neglected both here and abroad (not even a Wikipedia page to her name!). I found a copy of Passages at a used bookstore and was immediately taken with its experimental format. In it, a British couple alternate narratives; the result is an Ingmar Bergman-like dissection of their relationship. Just as compelling is the frenzied landscape; they have traveled to an unnamed Mediterranean island to seek information on the disappearance of the woman’s brother. The book is at turns lush and melancholy — read it during a thunderstorm. Sadly, Quinn killed herself in 1973 at the age of 37, leaving only 4 short novels. But that means I can read the remaining three this summer.
Terry Jentz, Strange Piece of Paradise — When Terri Jentz was 19, a man struck her several times with an ax. For the past fifteen she has personally investigated that horrifying attack. Her memoir is at once a gripping true crime story and an intelligent analysis of violence from a victim’s perspective; but if I can’t convince you, maybe Mary Roach (Stiff) will. “Imagine that it had been Truman Capote himself who’d been savaged in Holcomb, Kan., and that he had survived to describe his ordeal,” she said in a review for the New York Times.
Alan Moore, Lost Girls — If the elevated temperatures and poolside reclining chairs aren’t enough, comics can cure anyone’s reader’s block. I’m a recent convert to graphic novels after years of holding out. Jessa Crispin at Bookslut, who is doing for comics what Kingsley Amis did for science-fiction in the ’60s, was kind enough to recommend a list of good introductory titles last month; and I’ve since breezed through most of Neil Gaiman, Julie Doucet, and Art Spiegelman. Alan Moore (V for Vendetta and The Watchmen) is the genre’s standout author. This is a collection of comics featuring Victorian child-heroines Alice, Wendy, and Dorothy in adulthood and engaging in, um, “adult” activities. The London hospital to which J. M. Barrie bequeathed his copyrights has loudly objected, although they are not pursuing legal action. “At the end of Peter Pan, Wendy is a grown-up woman, with her own children. Therefore, if this has happened in the normal way, she has presumably had a sexual relationship. It struck me that this seemed like fair game,” Moore responded.
Amy K. Mitchell is managing editor of The American Spectator.
Summer reading is a guilty pleasure best indulged in domestically by seaside or poolside, abroad in a historic piazza sipping coffee or any place where your mind can roam and live briefly in a different time and place.
One such delight I allow myself each summer is to re-read an old favorite. This summer I was lucky enough to find my tattered and well-read copy of A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute in a box at the bottom of my closet at my childhood home. Immediately, I was again awash in the sounds, scents, colors, and vastness of Australia–we lived there for a time when I was younger–and it provided a virtual journey that I very much welcomed.
As co-founder of a conservative reading group, I’ve endorsed What Would the Founders Do? by Richard Brookhiser as our summer reading pick. A witty and informative book, Brookhiser uses the words and writings of America’s founders to help weed through today’s public policy issues and assist in finding the true classical liberal way. The book is also chock-full of historical tidbits. For instance, did you know that the original capitalist, Alexander Hamilton, founded the New York Post, formerly the New-York Evening Post, which is now owned by today’s leading media capitalist, Rupert Murdoch?
After devouring Lauren Weisberger’s mega-bestseller The Devil Wears Prada beachside on the island of Kaua’i last summer (it’s now a major summer blockbuster), this year I am treating myself to her Everyone Worth Knowing. It’s a light and fun read, as Weisberger has switched gears from my beloved magazine industry to the even more vicious world of public relations. Weisberger is a pro at showing that anyone who is supposedly “anyone” is hardly that at all compared to her chic New Yorkers.
On the off chance that I can find some quiet harbor this vacation, I’ve set aside Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady and Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full. After all, it’s not a summer list if doesn’t include reading to sweep one away into the depths of history and imagination.
Julian Sanchez is a contributing editor of Reason.
Hmm, gosh, a lot of what I’m reading… in fact, almost everything on my list, is research stuff for a book I’m working on. So it’s a kind of weird/skewed list. The one book I’m currently reading not for that is The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse. Oh, and I recently read Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks, which was very good, so I’ll recommend both of those. At some point, when I can pull myself away from book stuff, I’m hoping to get through Chuck Klosterman’s Killing Yourself to Live, Deepak Lal’s Reviving the Invisible Hand, David Schmidtz’s Elements of Justice and Pierre Manent’s A World Beyond Politics?
The book-project-related stuff I’ve either just finished, am reading, or is next on deck (about a third of each — I’ll star the ones that I’ve finished and seem like they might interest someone not doing my psycho project):
The Captive Mind *** – Czeslaw Milosz Obedience to Authority *** – Stanley Milgram Primates and Philosophers and Good Natured *** – Frans de Waal The Rebel *** – Albert Camus Eichman in Jerusalem and Responsibility and Judgment – Hannah Arendt Modernity and the Holocaust – Zygmunt Bauman The True Believer *** – Eric Hoffer Whistleblowers – C. Fred Alford Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution *** – Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd Identity and Violence – Amartya Sen The Roots of Evil – Ervin Staub Conscience and Courage – Eva Fogelman Shake Hands With the Devil *** – Romeo Dallaire An Ordinary Man – Paul Rusesabagina Discipline and Punish *** – Michel Foucault Homo Ludens – Johan Huizinga
Ilya Shapiro, a Washington lawyer and AFF member, writes the “Dispatches from Purple America” column for TCS Daily.com.
Skepticism and Freedom: A Modern Case for Classical Liberalism by Richard A. Epstein
I’m already sold on classical liberalism, of course, but I look forward to having this engaging work by one of my former professors and intellectual mentors stir memories of IHS seminars and Koch Fellowships of years past. And maybe, just maybe, provide new ammunition to throw at well-meaning but misguided friends and colleagues.
Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left by David Horowitz
Horowitz is a bomb-thrower, as it were, and so it is fitting that this book’s cover features a fuse being lit. With positive blurbs from Rich Lowry, Norm Podhoretz, and my friend Victor Davis Hanson, this linkage of two of the great enemies of freedom is sure to get my blood up.
Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Mitchell A. Baird
I spent two weeks in the Middle East earlier this year and realized that Israel is Western civilization’s great bulwark, and America’s tripwire, against Islamofascism. This compendium, part reference book, part narrative, will bring me up to speed on some background I may be lacking as I think about and write in this area in future.
Lost Highway: The True Story of Country Music by Colin Escott
I got this coffee table book for my birthday in late June and can’t wait to dig into the rich history of a genre that occupies a not insignificant part of my iPod.
The Green Bag Almanac 2006
This self-described “entertaining journal of law” indeed provides all the clever lawyerly humor one could ever hope for. I subscribed too late for the Scalia bobblehead, but look forward to more nuggets of wisdom like this Almanac, which, among other things, publishes the best legal writing of the year past.
Foreign Affairs, July/August 2006
I’ve subscribed to this journal for years but never seem to get around to reading it, even though it’s only published six times a year. Inevitably I end up scurrilously skimming it on business trips while waiting to board a flight to Santo Domingo or some such. Not this time: off to the beach for Dmitri Trenin, Frederick Kagan, and crew!
Like Foreign Affairs, each issue of the Economist is a new book to read–except this one arrives on your doorstep each and every week, which can be daunting. This is why I steal every moment I can to read this “newspaper.” Like the time two years ago when I took it at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic.
David Skinner is editor of Doublethink and an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard.
One book I have started and am hoping to devote some time to this summer is Conversation: History of A Declining Art by Stephen Miller (Yale University Press). So much of what we know and learn, so much that delights and edifies us, so much that is beautiful, comes in the form of talk. And yet shooting the breeze seems more difficult than ever, with our mania for abbreviation, cliché, retailspeak, and the metaphors that fill out business books. One can hardly remove a bottle of beer from its case without some blowhard saying now you’re really thinking outside the box. Ugh. We were once too good for such bumspeak. In his lovely history, Miller recalls the wonderful oral culture we’ve left behind.
Peter Suderman is assistant editorial director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He maintains a blog on film and culture at www.alarm-alarm.com.
I just finished reading Phillip Lopate’s wonderfully comprehensive anthology of film criticism, American Movie Critics. It is delightful in too many ways to list them all. Here, though, are a few: It’s a handy guide to a century’s worth of movie critics, a miniature education in how to write snappy, insightful pop culture criticism, and, most importantly, a fantastic read. Being a movie geek, I’m also enjoying The Film Snob’s Dictionary, by David Kamp and Lawrence Levi, a deadpan guide to being a film nerd that both respects and lampoons the sometimes inexplicable obsessions of cineastes.
On the fiction side of things, I’m currently in the middle of reading William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer, the book that’s credited with inventing the street smart, gritty subgenre of science fiction known as cyberpunk. When I’m done, I plan on re-reading Philip K. Dick’s hallucinatory 1977 novel A Scanner Darkly, which is being made into a movie by director Richard Linklater. The book blends drug binges, totalitarian security states, and identity confusion into a perfectly paranoid post-modern literary trip.
If I make it through all of that, I’ll start in on Brecht on Theatre, a book that collects all of the theoretical writing of mid-century Marxist drama theorist Bertolt Brecht. Despite his hard left slant, Brecht’s writing contains some of the most powerful, precisely articulated views on the relationship between politics and the dramatic arts; his work is a must for anyone interested in cultural criticism.
And finally, for those not interested in drama geek wonkery or obtuse science fiction, let me put in a hearty recommendation for my colleague Tim Carney’s upcoming book, The Big Ripoff, which makes a clear, convincing argument that government regulation serves to bolster the power of big business rather than limit it. Happy reading!
Eve Tushnet is a freelance journalist who has written for National Catholic Register, National Review, New York Post, USA Today, and The Weekly Standard, among other publications. Her website is at http://www.eve-tushnet.blogspot.com.
What books are you hoping to read this summer?
I’m crazy with my reading lists…. Thus far I’ve only read one thing from the summer list, but hey, it is Anna Karenina, so it’s a hefty chunk of prose. As for the rest of the list, I suspect I’ll get to The Imitation Of Christ, The Dark Night Of The Soul, and Graham Greene’s Heart Of The Matter, but will not read the rest. Off-list reading: Moab Is My Washpot (Stephen Fry’s autobiography–good, but if you haven’t read anything by him you absolutely must check out The Liar, possibly the funniest book I’ve ever read) and This Can’t Be Happening At Macdonald Hall! (Still as funny as it was when I was in fifth grade….)
And what books do you recommend others try to read this summer?
Hmm. Well, besides The Liar…. Kathy Shaidle, who runs the Relapsed Catholic blog, is also a phenomenal, poet, really excellent. Her collection, Lobotomy Magnificat, is sort of “if Eliot were a pissed-off Catholic chick.” Other possibilities: Mishima’s Death In Midsummer. I read this in the summer of 2002. Good beach read! Denis de Rougemont, Love In The Western World. Completely awesome. Florence King, When Sisterhood Was In Flower. I like this even more than Confessions Of A Failed Southern Lady.
Kelly Jane Torrance is arts and culture editor of Brainwash. Her Web site is kellyjanetorrance.com.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Andrew Stiles