Summer Reading with The Narrator

It’s exactly 21 days post-Memorial Day, and by now you’ve likely been inundated with summer reading recommendations from any and everyone with two cents to share. But Wednesday ushers in the 2012 Summer Solstice — with a staggering 96 degrees in NYC! — and for the sake of The Narrator, let’s treat that as the official start of summer, shall we?

Check out what’s on our nightstands, in our beach bags, and what will likely keep us crouched in bookshop corners this summer (besides the A/C). And who knows? This summer, a couple of Narrator book reviews might pop up from the picks below too! Enjoy!

Sarmada by Fadi Azzam

I’ve started, and hope to finish, Sarmada, a novel by Syrian writer Fadi Azzam. I picked it up on the recommendation of The New Yorker’s Book Bench blog, and, so far, it hasn’t disappointed (I’m 40 pages in). There’s one particular passage, at the beginning of the book, that’s perhaps the most harrowing yet beautiful passage I’ve come across in any piece of writing in quite a while. In any case, my interest in the book (and Syria) isn’t solely a timely one, that is it’s not solely due to the atrocities currently being inflicted upon the Syrian people, but also due to the fact that my mother is Syrian, and, years ago, I traveled to Syria, where I stayed with distant relatives in a village outside of Homs.

— Derek Loosvelt, Writing Prompts Editor

I’m kicking off my summer reading list by attempting to overcome my science fiction snobbery, starting with Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. I’m not sure when my English major told me to dismiss an entire genre, but somewhere along the line, I shamefully did. Here’s hoping this trip into the post-apocalyptic future can change my tune.                                                                                                            

 — Rebecca McCray, Staff Writer

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

When it comes to my mantle and my bookshelves, there must be such a thing as summer cleaning. Bibliohoarding has become A Thing at my house, so for every new book I buy this summer, I’ll read one that’s been gathering dust. For the new: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (because I can’t resist dysfunctional family tales); and the neglected: Voluntary Madness by Norah Vincent (because “vacationing” in a mental ward isn’t entirely unappealing). 

–Rose Gorman, Arts Editor 

I plan to read My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer because I’m looking for a new poetic hero, and I’m not as familiar with his work as I should be. But I should read a slew of self help books too because my life is a mess!                                                                                                              

— Geer Austin, Contributor


Home by Toni Morrison

At the top of my summer reading list is Home by Toni Morrison. Not only would I read anything by Morrison (including her shopping list), but this story of a black Korean War veteran returning to racist America to face his demons is a compelling subject. To add to the spice, it received mostly rave reviews but a particularly snarky one from the LA Times, so I’m looking forward to adding my own opinion to the mix.                                                                            

— Deborah Clearman, Contributor

My version of summer lovin’ is a good book about love, like A General Theory of Love, written by three MDs.  Since I’ve studied love experientially, I think it’s time to put a little theory into my practice. bell hooks, in another book about love, inspired my reading list: “Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition.” I’m also a sucker for science that tries to unravel the “mysteries” of the human heart.
— Erin Ehsani, Contributor
What are your summer picks? Tell us in the comments!