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Lazy Sunday Reads

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It’s Sunday, a week before the long 4th-of-July weekend. I have to regroup and finish current readings in time for the Atlas Shrugged read-along scheduled to begin on Wednesday 1st of July. I’ll schlep the door stopper with me to Arizona for the long weekend. It would be fun to sit in the pool and chill out with the book.

I’m about halfway through We Are Not Ourselves and am feeling slightly stuck. It’s not a plot-driven but an intimate scrutiny of a family in which husband and wife are not on the same footing in their aspiration to the stakes of American Dream. The writing is superb but my mind can be less patient than what the author is revealing on his pace. So when I feel stuck, I put it down and read a tale from Grimm’s Fairy Tales! The kitty also reminds me to take a break too! He would sit on the book and demand pampering!

On Summer Reading

Staff writers at The New Yorker shared about their summer reads. You’ll be surprised how few titles of “beachy reads” are on the list. I, for one, is not a fan of beach reads either. If I want something soapy I’ll watch TV, which I have abandoned for years for some quality reading. There’s mention of John Muir, whose writings about Yosemite have provoked many to come see the monumental national park. There’s the mention of audio books—a good solution to books that you read when you were young but are hesitate to revisit because of their sheer size. Dostoevsky is favored over Tolstoy. Summer is also the season of far-flung immediacy—learning the rhythms and conversations in some distant city. One of the answers to this is Egyptian-Israeli novelist Yitzhak Gormezano Goren.

What are you reading this summer? I want to peruse some letters from middle age Japan, history on how Paris becomes Paris today, an introduction to the Buddhist doctrine, and Atlas Shrugged along with some very brave, charming book bloggers. Also, I find myself become increasingly satiated with crime fiction as many books in this genre have pretty much the same plot.

“Uncharted Territory”

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It’s summer. All kinds of summer reading lists are out. You see them at the bookstores, in the libraries, on the papers. I saw this interesting summer reading list on NPR website. It caught my attention because it claims to to be an “off-the-beaten-path” one—pun intended. Books about maps or related to maps.

Understories by Tom Horvath. Never heard of this author. It’s a collection of short stories.

Astoria | John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival by Peter Stark. This one sounds intriguing: In 1810, John Jacob Astor sent out two advance parties to settle the wild, unclaimed western coast of North America. More than half of his men died violent deaths. The others survived starvation, madness, and greed to shape the destiny of a continent.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen. I love maps and love exploring places beyond my comprehension. When twelve-year-old genius cartographer T.S. Spivet receives an unexpected phone call from the Smithsonian announcing he has won the prestigious Baird Award, life as normal-if you consider mapping family dinner table conversation normal-is interrupted and a wild cross-country adventure begins, taking T.S. from his family ranch just north of Divide, Montana, to the museum’s hallowed halls.

Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents by Jim Malusa. Sounds interesting not not my cup of tea. Not too into books that cover so many locales.

Death of a Unicorn by Peter Dickinson. British mystery. It has nothing to do with unicorns or fantasies. Worth a read by the pool.

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove. Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods.

Summer

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Do your reading habits change in the summer? Do you take your books outside more? Do you curl up in the air conditioning? Do you read fluff instead of serious books? Are you too busy playing in the sun or gardening or whatever to read much at all?

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It’s summer time although it doesn’t feel like it here. Summer is cold in heavily fogged in San Francisco. We have to wait until Indian summer to descend on us in the fall. But nonetheless the cold doesn’t stop the deluge of summer reads featured in the bookstores. My reading taste usually doesn’t change for the season, but I would read more non-fiction, mysteries and thrillers. This is especially the case when I’m on the run. Imagine trying to read Toni Morrison and William Gaddis between pool, hikes, and the slot machines. I would not admit to myself that I should have been reading a lower grade of fiction, like a mass-market romance. But a book with less nuance would be more appropriate for trips because it doesn’t require much effort to ease back into the story after you leave it for some time. Some of the great summer reads would be Argo, In the Garden of Beasts, and Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir, books that I have read and enjoyed this year. San Francisco is rarely hot so most buildings (even restaurants) are not equipped with air condition. I don’t like eating out on the usually rare, hot days in town because even a fine-dining restaurant has no a/c. In Palm Springs, I split my reading time between the pool and the sitting room. Dry heat is more bearable and with the mist I find reading outside very pleasant.

“Summer Reading”

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s). What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! Also tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

On social media people share their first swim of the season and barbeque grill fired up for the first time. Summer is here. The bookstores are rolling out their summer reading titles. These summer books, to my amusement, are quite diverse in their target audience and intensity of the subject matter. My reading for once is not influenced by change of season, weather, or travel plan. That said, I tend to pick lighter books that don’t require much brain juice to comprehend so I can bring with me to the pool. Summer reading always has an academic connotation: students are loaded with a pile of books to be completed over summer holiday. I think students should be given wide latitude in deciding what they want to read, instead of the Moby Dick-model. At Barnes & Noble and some local bookstores, I was a little taken aback by some of the titles: Columbine? Lolita? My school made me read Lolita in 10th grade but I don’t think some parts of this country would even allow that book to be shelved in public libraries! Interesting is that many of these summer reading books were once banned books: Leaves of Grass, Madame Bovary, Jungle, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Bell Jar. I read most of these in school, except Bell Jar, which was required reading for a literature course in Freshman year of college. Bell Jar is too depressing as a summer book. 

As much as I don’t make a list for summer, I have inclined toward including travel books—memoirs and narratives. Dreaming in French captures the Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis. People Who Eats Darkness is a true crime story of 21-year-old Lucie Blackman who went missing in Tokyo. The city had simply swallowed her up. The Geography of Bliss is a grump’s journey to look for the “unheralded happy places.” These are great books to sizzle in imagination and far places. They are easy readings that you can pick up without having to back-track between pool times and cocktail hours.

Booking Through Hot Reads?

btt buttonNow that summer is here (in the northern hemisphere, anyway), what is the most “Summery” book you can think of? The one that captures the essence of summer for you?

(I’m not asking for you to list your ideal “beach reading,” you understand, but the book that you can read at any time of year but that evokes “summer.”)

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Moleskine’s Answer: Past experiences have it that so-called summer reading is synonymous with brainless and fluffy novels that made me wonder why I have even bothered with them. Recently I found a book called The Scenic Route by Binnie Kirshenbaum that might challenge this stereotypical notion. To be honest, the scenic cover is what attracted me at first. Obviously this soft-focus jacket art is a sure-win allure to woman readers even though bookstores do not make an effort to market it as chick lit. The story evokes that of Under the Tuscan Sun, except this is fiction: a divorcee woman met a man at a cafe in Italy and decided to cancel all her plan and drove along with him. It’s perfectly set up for the beach although I am not sure if I’ll get to it this summer. My whim overrides everything else, even the season.

For me this summer would be one highlighted with Victorian mysteries and other literary thrillers, as my recent acquisitions have revealed. I’ll be taking up Rebecca, The Moonstone, The Heat of the Day, Angel’s Gme, and some of Agatha Christie mysteries.