It’s no secret that we Algonkians are voracious readers. This summer, we’re excited to dive into a wide variety of books, from the eclectic (The Decameron, Emily Post’s Etiquette, Yakuza Moon) to the wildly popular (Bossypants, A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Hunger Games) and everything in between.
What are you looking forward to reading this summer? Tell us and you’ll automatically be entered to win one of three West of Here pint glasses and Algonquin Book Club tote bags.
Chuck Adams, Executive Editor:
Because I read just about all day long–at least when I’m not editing–I don’t do a lot of “pleasure” reading, and when I do, I’m jealous of my time. This summer, over the 4th of July week, I plan to take a bit of vacation, and during those precious days, I hope to read one or all of the following:
In the Garden of Beasts by Eric Larson — I chose this one because of a personal fascination with evil, pure and simple, and also because I find tales of the war era in Germany to be pertinent to our own times, as cautionary tales and as reminders of why we cannot just accept everything our government says and does.
The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault — This was a novel I read when I was young, circa the late ’60s, and it was the first by Renault that I had encountered. It led me to read all of her Grecian novels, and they remain vivid in my memory. I recently read a similar kind of novel by a young writer who claimed never to have read those earlier novels, and I enjoyed the new book–about the legend of Achilles, being published by Ecco sometime next year–so much that I want to go back and revisit Renault’s work, which I remember as being masterful and transporting.
Just Kids by Patti Smith — Like Smith, I was finding myself as a person in New York during the late ’60s, and I gather from reviews that she has done a wonderful job of making that city in those days come alive on the page. I did not, however, get to consort with anyone quite like Robert Mapplethorpe, so I hope to be introduced to an experience that goes beyond mere nostalgia.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan — I want to read this one for many reasons–awards, friends who rave about it, big bestseller–but especially because when I look on Amazon I find so many negative reviews. I love books that people either love or hate. I, of course, expect to love it.
Stephen Ashley, Publishing Coordinator:
The first on my to-read list is The Magicians by Lev Grossman. With the last Harry Potter movie coming out in less than a month and my childhood nearing its official end, I’m going to venture out and read about grown up wizards. But, let’s be serious, I’ll never really grow up. There are too many exciting YA books coming out. I can’t wait to tear into Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens (Lord of the Flies with less assmar and more pirates? Yes please) and Sean Beaudoin’s You Killed Wesley Payne (“young adult noir mystery” is probably the closest I can get to complete happiness in four words, though “so much ice cream” is a close second).
Kelly Bowen, Publicity Manager:
My summer reading list usually comes down to two important factors: What is the easiest to read at the beach? And what is the perfect drink to pair with that book?
After spending one sweltering summer with my book club discussing the daunting 2666 by Roberto Bolano, I’m excited to read Between Parentheses alongside a huge pitcher of fruity red sangria. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife yet, so that’s definitely next on the list (with a white Russian, of course!). Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan with a very CapeCod-ish vodka spritzer sounds like the perfect Sunday summer afternoon. And I also managed to snag a copy of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern at BEA, and can’t wait to dive into it. (I haven’t figured out the right drink for that one and accept any suggestions you might have!)
Jordan Castelloe, Intern:
Right now I’m about halfway through Virginia Woolf’s intricate, deeply weird novel Orlando about a man who lives forever and changes genders a few times along the way. It’s sort of like making your way through a big plate of fettucine alfredo– you never want it to end, but it’s better in small doses. I’m juggling some lighter fare to balance it out: Foul Matter by Martha Grimes, a madcap murder mystery about the world of publishing in which writers go to homicidal lengths to get their books published and editors have mob affiliations. Ah, if only.
I’ve got big plans for tackling Boccaccio’s The Decameron this summer. Sounds impressive and literary, right? It’s actually a humongous compilation of medieval sex jokes. They also happen to be great stories, but I’m mostly interested in the sex jokes. Next on the list is Cormac McCarthy’s The Road because at this point four different people have made me swear that I would.
Megan Fishmann, Publicist:
Lately I’ve been on a real nonfiction kick, trying to learn more about the strangest of the strange (I figure this will help balance out the insane amount of time I read things like Us Weekly). I recently finished Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy by Melissa Milgrom and now am eager to begin yet another taxidermy book, Kingdom Under Glass by Jay Kirk. Continuing my reading streak on all things deceased, I’ve got The Red Market (a fascinating look at the illegal human organ trading market) by Scott Carney on my bedside table. Not one to buck this odd passion I’m investing so much time in, I bought The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke at our local independent bookstore, Flyleaf. I hear this one is an incredibly moving memoir, and I’ve got my handkerchief ready.
Katie Ford, Assistant Marketing Manager:
My fiancé came home from a weekend in WV with a mason jar of strawberry moonshine. I refuse to touch it for fear of going blind, but it reminded me to pick up Max Watman’s Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw Adventure’s in Moonshine, an Indie Next List pick chronicling the history of moonshine in the U.S. Maybe it will give me the information I need to talk my fiancé out of converting the bathtub into the still of his dreams.
I’m also going to pick up George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series to read by the pool. I think I like the HBO miniseries, but I can’t make it more than 10 minutes through an episode without getting confused and asking, “Wait, who’s that?” The books have been at the top of the bestseller lists, convincing me I’m not alone.
Amy Gash, Senior Editor:
Whenever I have time to read for pleasure I almost always choose literary fiction. This summer, though, I’m determined to branch out with some nonfiction and genre titles:
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
All I know about Cleopatra I learned from Elizabeth Taylor so I’m ready to be transported to the ancient world and enlightened by this biography of an apparently shrewd and formidable politician. And what’s the real dish on her relationships with Antony and Caesar?
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
I recently acquired a mystery, which is unusual for Algonquin, and now I’m eager to read some of the best of the genre. I’ve been hearing about the adventures of Maise Dobbs for years. Maybe I’ll get hooked on this series and find myself in bed in the wee hours of the night with a flashlight – just like I used to do with Agatha Christie as a kid.
Emily Post’s Etiquette (17th edition) by Peggy Post
My son is leaving for college in September and I was thinking I should send him off with this book. Truth is, though, he’d never in a million years open it. But I realized I would. I’ve already found it helpful in a number of situations. And, believe it or not, I actually like this kind of information, so this summer I’ll be enjoying flipping through the 900 pages!
Brunson Hoole, Managing Editor:
I just started City of Thieves by Marc Benioff. I may be the only person who hasn’t read this; it’s been recommended to me many times by many people, and I was starting to feel stubborn. I saw the paperback at the bookstore and was smitten by the cover–and the fact that it’s short (I’m into achievable goals this summer). It doesn’t hurt that it’s a somewhat whimsical and macabre adventure. I’ve already laughed out loud on the bus while reading Pete Dexter’s Spooner, a logical follow-up to the equally rambling and outrageous A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, so fellow passengers weren’t surprised to see me chuckling to the dark humor in this one.
Simon Winchester’s Atlantic looks appealing, and like something I can dip in and out of while reading The Commodore by Patrick O’Brian. It’s taken me only ten years to get to number seventeen! (Remember, achievable goals.) I love the sea–and a sea story–so it’s fitting that these should travel to the beach with me this summer. I bought a paperback copy of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall to give to someone, but the package was too appealing to part with. It seems like a sprawling yet detailed romp more likely to expose me to some actual history than the Showtime version (The Tudors–I’ll admit to enjoying a few episodes on DVD) of the Henry VIII period.
Andra Miller, Editor:
I don’t know what’s in the air, but it seems I have a bunch of books about violent, aggressive young women in my pile. I’m in the middle of the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and then I want to read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson. My husband and I began listening to the audio recordings of the Stieg Larsson books over several long car trips this past year, but now our son, at 18 months, is old enough to actually pay attention to the stories, so it seems we have to move on to more benign listening. To keep me from getting too surly this summer, I have The Help and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer at the ready. And maybe this summer I will finally get to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which I’ve been wanting to read for years!
Sarah Rose Nordgren, Publicity Assistant:
Mister Skylight by Ed Skoog – Ed Skoog’s debut poetry collection on Copper Canyon Press comes highly recommended to me, and since I haven’t had much time to read poetry lately, I’m very excited to delve into it this month. The Stranger raves “Ed Skoog’s poetry is so ambitious it takes my breath away.” I’ve been told it’s exactly the kind of strange, idiosyncratic and moving work that I love to read.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – This book has been recommended to me by several people who know my tastes for imaginative and experimental novels, and it’s been on my “to-read” list for over a year. The publisher’s description says that Mitchell “erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.” I’m sold.
Emily Parliman, Assistant to the Publisher:
Over the last week or two, multiple people have told me that they’re reading John Banville and are blown away by his writing. So, I’m going to try for a “literary” turn in my summer reading and start The Infinities or The Sea after I finish devouring Suzanne Collins’ compulsively readable trilogy.
Kelly Policelli, Assistant Managing Editor:
First on my summer reading list is Bossypants by Tina Fey, which my husband bought for me in hardcover just this week. I love Tina Fey’s work, but I’m particularly interested in reading her memoir because we’re from the same town and went to the same public high school. (And, no, it was not like “Mean Girls”). Every summer I read one classic paperback, preferably on the beach, and this year it’s going to be The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I managed (cunningly) to avoid reading this book in both high school and college, but with the economy the way it is, and the fallout from global warming seemingly coming to fruition in the midwest, it seems like a good time to read an American epic about dust bowls and the Depression. And I’m planning to download Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks to my iPhone using the free Kindle app, for summer reading on the go. I’ve been a huge fan of Geraldine Brooks since I read Year of Wonders. This is an author who can make the Plague romantic and transporting and delicious. I admire that. Plus, I’m a sucker for good historical fiction (i.e., I’m a real geek).
Craig Popelars, Marketing Director:
My summer reading began with Michael Crummey’s Newfoundland novel, Galore, and was quickly followed by S.J. Parris’ Elizabethan thriller, Heresy—both recommended by the fine booksellers at Flyleaf Books. I’m well into Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, which I’m enjoying immensely. And since I just returned from our family vacation in Yosemite National Park, where I was simply awestruck by nature in its grandest form, I have John Muir: Nature Writings waiting in the wings. After a seventeen mile hike up Yosemite’s Half Dome, it’s now in my blood to celebrate the man who helped preserve this national treasure. And since I’ve read all of Louis Bayard’s novels, I hope to read his latest, The School of Night. Finally, the one galley that I’m most eager to read this summer (and since we’re into the thick of baseball season) is The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. That’s my literary six-pack that should keep me refreshingly cool all summer long.
Kathy Pories, Senior Editor:
First thing: I have to read Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton since second to eating food, I like nothing better than thinking and reading about food—and it’s been beckoning from my nightstand for a while. After that, The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (yes, I’m catching up late on what I should have already read). And carrying on with that theme, I finally will get a chance to read Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. It’s a crime that I haven’t read this yet, and it’s just out in paperback. (And all of these in the real live bonified physical book form. Sorry, Kindle, you are a good workhorse, but you don’t hold a candle to my treasured real books, the kind whose pages I can bend and waterlog and whose spines I can break.)
.Kendra Poster, Rights Director :
People have asked me how certain of our books compare to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, so I have a copy of that which I’ll definitely read this summer. And I so loved Tina Fey’s much-emailed “Prayer for a Daughter” that I’m seriously considering picking up Bossypants despite the gross cover. I also have a stack of cookbooks I can’t wait to get to. Perfect bedtime reading, a recipe at a time!
Shannon Ravenel, Editor-at-Large:
The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver — Dale, my husband, lived in Mexico City close to the time of the book’s setting. His house was two doors down from Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s house. He remembers people whispering about them.
Factory Girls, by Leslie T. Chang — Living this close to China, you do get interested. I loved Country Driving, by Peter Hessler (her husband) about small new cities in China and persuaded my book group to choose this one for July.
Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster’s Daughter, by Shoko Tendo — I like Japanese writing. This one is about the dark side of Tokyo.
.Elisabeth Scharlatt, Publisher:
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany — In anticipation of a trip to Cairo, which I’m hoping to get to some day.
Essays by Wallace Shawn — What I’ve read so far is marvelously fearless with impeccable politics.
Last Call by Daniel Okrent — The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, to read in the garden with a tall Bloody Mary.
The Great Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough — Essential for Francophiles, of which I am one.
Drink, Play, F*&K by Andrew Gottlieb — Must finish reading my step-son’s hilarious spoof of Eat, Pray, Love.
Oh, and Bob Dylan’s Chronicles.
Ina Stern, Associate Publisher:
Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks — I was given an advance reading copy at a dinner I attended at BEA, at which Banks was a speaker. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read a book of his since The Sweet Hereafter, which remains one of the most haunting books I’ve ever read, so I’m really looking forward to this one.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein — I read some of this in manuscript when it came before our editorial board, but when we lost it to another house, I stopped reading. (Sometimes, when you lose a book you really like, it’s just too hard to keep reading!) Now that it’s four years later, and it’s a big bestseller and all my friends have read it and loved it, I think it’s time for me to get over it and pick up a copy.
.Michael Taeckens, Online and Paperback Marketing Director:
I was dazzled by John Jeremiah Sullivan’s recent pieces in the New York Times Magazine and the Paris Review, so first up is his highly acclaimed debut, Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son. I also plan to read Ann Patchett’s new novel State of Wonder, because more than a few people have said it’s better than Bel Canto, which knocked my socks off. Also on the roster: Paul Lisicky’s The Burning House, some Annie Dillard I haven’t yet explored (The Maytrees, Holy the Firm, Teaching a Stone to Talk), Nick Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, The Selected Letters of Emily Dickinson, and The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.
.Laura Williams, Art Assistant:
I just finished and loved our soon to be published Maman’s Homesick Pie, and I also saw the movie The King of Pastry, which was great. This has prompted some interesting discussions with a friend about how chefs have a slightly different relationship to time because of everything they have to do at once. So this summer, in keeping with the food theme I am going to read Bill Buford’s Heat.
Anne Winslow, Art Director:
I’m interested in reading The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht, primarily because it’s gotten great reviews and everyone comments on author Tea Obreht’s exquisite writing. A young person who writes as well as she does seems surprising to many reviewers, though I can’t fathom why. I found this to be true as well with The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. Rachman, also a young author, has crafted a perfect novel. Language, voice, characterizations, plot–it’s all wonderful. But really, this is the nature of great fiction writing. The reader is transported. A gifted author can accomplish this no matter what his or her age–hearkening back to Truman Capote and Other Voices, Other rooms. Maybe it’s surprising now, because we’ve all been told, or assumed, that young people don’t read (as much) as older generations did. The Imperfectionists and The Tiger’s Wife are evidence that this curmudgeonly view is patently untrue, though I must say, there IS a lot of JUNK out there by authors of all ages.
Growing up as a kid I remember listening in on my parent’s bridge parties, but oddly they never taught any of us kids to play. I think this is true for most of my generation and below because it’s really hard to find a bridge club which is not held in a senior center. Anyway, I bought a bridge application for my Mac and used it to teach myself. Then a friend, who knew how avid I was to learn, gifted me with the 1957 edition of the classic bridge reference, Goren’s New Contract Bridge Complete by Charles H. Goren. The writing style is direct and authoritative yet still manages to be friendly. Goren never steps anywhere near the irritating realm of cutesy and gabby, a fault which plagues many how-to books. Largely because of Goren I know enough to play with my aged–but still expert–bridge playing relatives, and sometimes, I even win. The best thing with reading a reference book is that you are never done reading.