Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Reading Conquests

Every summer, you hear people talk about summer reading. Maybe it's a summer reading list for school, or just casual summer reading on the beach, but everyone seems to think, at least at the start of the season, that they'll be tucking a stack of new books into their brains during the sunny season. Usually, these people get distracted: the ocean, the job, the video games. So how does one go about tackling a summer reading list?

Hint: You won't need a suit of armor.

Start by making a list. Mine included six books that I've been meaning to get through. Next, get a hold of one of those books. Then all you need to do is start reading, and try and read at least once a day. You don't need to set goals for when you'll finish by, or set aside great lengths of designated reading time. Just be sure to read. If the book's good (or, if you're like me, and will want to finish anyway), you'll find the motivation to get through it. Starting's the tricky part.

So which volumes have I defeated this summer? Well, while I only did battle with two of my original six opponents, I did find four others lurking around the castle. And what fun would reading them had been if I couldn't look forward to the satisfaction I would get out of blogging about them? So here goes:

The Time Machine and the Invisible Man (by H. G. Wells)
Two science fiction classics that I simply had to experience first-hand, these novellas are clever works from the late 1800s. "The Time Machine" was much shorter than expected, but still enjoyable. I would recommend these highly, but only for those interested in the classics (or early sci-fi influences). In case anyone's planning on trying it, I should warn you: it's surprisingly annoying to be invisible.

This Perfect Day (by Ira Levin)
No, not I'm a Lemon, which is pretty much what I hear when I glance over the author's name. A recommendation from my dad, this book was written only 41 years ago (so close to perfection!), so it's a little quicker than Wells. It's a long story, but a good one, with a few twists toward the end that even I couldn't see coming. It tells the tale of a dystopian future in which everyone lives as a big happy "family," pacified under the power of Uni, the supercomputer. So it's Brave New World or 1984, but with a style reminiscent of the Tripod Trilogy. The protagonist is young, at least to start off, which was a boon in my book. I couldn't put the thing down, so it gets a thumbs up.

People of the Book (by Geraldine Brooks)
Some of the best books I've read alternate between two different stories each chapter. It's like watching a TV show that switches character focus throughout the episode; it keeps things interesting. This novel tells the tale of the restoration of an ancient Jewish haggadah, but flashes back to the book's history, taking readers to war-torn nations and ancient civilizations. Each side story comes complete with unique characters and exotic settings, and it's all supposedly extrapolated from the little we do know about the real-world artifact. It's a masterpiece.

Deception Point (by Dan Brown)
I had already read his other three, so I figured I'd complete my collection of popular Brown novels. Of course, now that he's written "The Lost Symbol," I'm once again one book behind. But I may remain that way; although this selection was fast-paced and amusing, it just can't compete with the realism of "People of the Book" or the imagination of "Time Machine." It's a spy story with a few too many cliches. Fun, but nothing special.

Zeitoun (by Dave Eggers)
The summer required reading for the Tufts Class of 2015, this piece tells the incredible story of a family of  Muslim Americans in New Orleans during Katrina. The best part: it's true, based straight from interviews with the actual protagonists. The experience is eye opening, and the reader will be unable to feel anything but righteous indignation at the characters' frustrations. If the disasters of the early 21st century are a new piece of American history, then this is the best history book I've ever read.

Hocus Pocus (by Kurt Vonnegut)
Vonnegut is brilliant, there's no denying it. When I set out to tackle "Breakfast for Champions" this summer, I found "Hocus Pocus" on my bookshelf and thought, "Probly just as good, right?" Wrong. While "Slaughterhouse Five," "Cat's Cradle," and "Player Piano" were some of the most enjoyable novels my high school ever assigned, this one just can't compete. The repetition, disorganization, and obsessive focus on sex and Vietnam just gets bothersome. The author has been known to grade his own work. He didn't bother putting this one on his list, and I don't blame him.

Well, there you have it. Six novels in twice as many weeks: no world record, but no summer slacking either. Read something good lately? Post below. Cause when school starts, I won't have time to try out your suggestions...there'll be too many "Programming in C++" manuals to enjoy.


  1. Dan Brown gives us suspense and thrills on every page. Unlike other stories, (or most at least) he doesn't focus on just one characters path in the story, he switches between them, on both sides of the conflict, to keep us hooked with the story, making us want to read more. Another thing with Deception point is that you truly don't know who's good, bad; innocent, or guilty; you would just have to read and find out what even the most unlikely of people will do to get what they want.

  2. Very true! I do like Dan Brown's works, and yes; I love the alternating story-telling. So there are certainly lots of authors who can take things to a whole new level, past Brown - but he's still a fun read!


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