Before the meandering days of summer entirely give way to the classwork, paper-writing, and grading of fall, let’s discuss: what was the best thing you read this summer—and why?
I—Molly Hiro—got through several great contemporary novels, but my favorite was Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. Egan’s 2011 Pulitzer-winning work is ostensibly about the 1980s rock scene, but even for someone, like me, not terribly interested in that terrain, it’s a great read. She’s a terrific observer of human interactions, and a creator of flawed but magnetic characters. I loved most a late chapter from the perspective of an adolescent and set in the near future, written entirely in Powerpoint-like “slides” (admittedly, at least one of my English faculty colleagues didn’t like this part at all!).
I (Cara Hersh) was super excited to read Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending since he wrote one of my all-time favorite novels, Flaubert’s Parrot (which I also highly recommend—especially to any of you who liked Madame Bovary). The Sense of an Ending won the Man Booker prize last year and I can see why—this novella has an intriguing plot, which centers around a middle aged man who discovers that his deceased best friend’s girlfriend’s mother (did you get that?) has inexplicably willed him his friend’s diary years after the friend’s death. In addition to a compelling plot, with a nice twist at the end, this short book is a thoughtful rumination on time, history, humans’ capacity to remember, and growing older.
I—Leah Becker—was completely taken in by Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake this summer. The novel is about a young girl who, on her ninth birthday, realizes that she can taste her mother’s emotions in the birthday cake that her mother bakes her. What she eats does NOT taste good. As Rose grows up and tries to cope with this cursed “gift” she finds that not much is what it seems and perhaps she is not the only one in her family with peculiar talents. I enjoyed this book because it was the first work of Surrealist Fiction that I had ever encountered and turned out to be unlike anything I had read before! Just image one of Salvador Dali’s surrealist paintings splattered across the pages of a book and you’ll get the idea!
How about you? Share your own favorites in the comments and help us all keep our “must-read” lists well-stocked!