Summer Reading List

25 June 2019
Laird Hall on a perfect summer day

With comps finished, grades turned in, and seniors graduated, it is officially time to welcome the summer. For most of us, the summer is when we catch up on pleasure reading we couldn’t make time for during the academic year. For that reason, we’ve put together a Second Laird reading list comprised of books that the profs agree are perfect for college summers. Here are their recommendations:

George Shuffelton: “I’m going to throw in a suggestion that’s not terribly serious. I’d recommend Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine. A short, very funny book about someone in their twenties taking reading a little too far (and getting a parrot as a result). It helps to have read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, but that’s a good rainy day read too.”

Tim Raylor: Alain-Fournier, Le Grand Meaulnes.

Adriana Estill: “It was in college that I really started sinking myself into poetry collections rather than individual poems, discovering how even as these forests had really beautiful trees in them that could stand alone, the whole forest was a complex, breathing ecosystem that I needed to walk within and be canopied under. In that spirit, I’d like to recommend Ada Limón’s recent book, The Carrying. At its heart, this is a book about adulting, by which I mean: how do we carry on when grieving, when marking loss? How do we make sense of our limits and the way they retrain our dreams? How do we figure out ways forward amidst pain, recalibration?”

Arnab Chakladar: “The book I always say that no one should have graduated without reading was not in fact written in English, though it has probably been read far more in its English translation than in the original Spanish. I am referring of course to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, as translated by Gregory Rabassa. This is the novel of the second half of the 20th century in terms of influence (Ulysess is probably the one for the first half of the 20th century) and it is also a thrilling, mind-boggling meditation on storytelling, writing, history and identity. It rewired my brain when I first read it at the age of 18 and later I found that almost every late 20th century writer I liked was in conversation with that book in some way or the other. If you’ve already read it, good for you — maybe take up Crime and Punishment, Middlemarch, Our Mutual Friend, or Invisible Man instead then.”

Pierre Hecker: “Wait, are you saying not everyone spends their summer reading Shakespeare!? There’s a lot to be said for finding work that isn’t what your professors would recommend. So my self-cancelling advice would be to encounter some new voices. Tommy Orange’s (a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal nations) There There might make you rethink what an “American” novel should look like. And if you’ve ever had a sibling or wondered what’s up with siblings, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister the Serial Killer, set in Lagos, is a refreshing treat (that I’ll be teaching in my Murder course next Spring!).”

Greg Smith: “If you want a novel that will bend your mind, try Remainder (2007) by Tom McCarthy. Best novel of the 21st century (he said, hoping to engender an argument).”

Mike Kowalewski: “My recommendation is Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926). An alternately lyrical and disenchanted User’s Manual for the “Lost Generation.” Not a good source for role models (a recent book on the novel is entitled “Everybody Behaves Badly”). But it is a seminal modernist text and one of the most famous works of American fiction.”

Chris Martin: “I’m always happy to pass on some gems. I will, achingly, limit myself to seven:”

  • Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown (science fiction as political organization, liberation, ethics)
  • Top 40 by Brandon Brown (poetry, ethics, music criticism, ekphrasis, memoir)
  • The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram (ecology, linguistics, poetry, magic, phenomenology)
  • Alphabet by Inger Christensen (poetry, fibonacci, anthropocene)
  • The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard (architecture, philosophy, poetry)
  • I Remember by Joe Brainard (poetry, memoir, art, queer life)
  • They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib (music criticism, poetry, black life, memoir)

Beth McKinsey: “I would suggest three books: Americanah by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie, Jane Hamilton’s The Excellent Lombards (she’s a Carleton alum), and Gregory Blake Smith, The Maze at Windermere — the list can’t go out without this one on it!”

Peter Balaam: “Hope I’m not too late. But moving quickly and I literally can’t choose.”

  • John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  • Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier
  • Richard Wright, Native Son
  • E B White, Stuart Little (every summer!)
  • Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (movie reviews)
  • My “no apologies” entry: Hermann Hesse
  • M. Rilke, Poems, Letters to a Young Poet
  • James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
  • Henry James, Portrait of a Lady
  • Hemingway, In Our Time
  • Flannery O’Connor, The Collected Stories; Wise Blood
  • Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
  • Willa Cather, The Professor’s House