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Monday, May 23, 2005

Summer Reading List

Somehow all the sun and water and hint of summer over the weekend (don’t you just love the Bay Area?) has put me in a languorous mood. I’m feeling laid back, and looking forward to doing a lot of reading. Here’s my list of what to pick up this June at the library or your local bookstore:

1) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This isn’t a fair pick, as it doesn’t come out for another 3 weeks or so. But I’m 500 pages into the 647-page novel and I can’t put it down. I know the critics are going to compare it to the Da Vinci Code, but it’s so much better. Like Dan Brown’s bestseller, it’s a historical mystery that takes its protagonists into libraries filled with ancient manuscripts, into Byzantine churches, mosques, and through ruins. But the search here is for Dracula, and his role in the Ottoman empire.

2) Ponzi’s Scheme by Mitchell Zuckoff. This is a great narrative biography of that infamous con man, Charles Ponzi. Zuckoff does a terrific job of recreating the hopes and illusions of thousands of Americans who dreamed of getting rich and the man who blithely took their money.

3) Leeway Cottage by Beth Gutcheon. I read Domestic Pleasures by Gutcheon and enjoyed it so much I sent it to my mother and various friends. And that was before I realized she was married to my 8th grade English teacher, Robin Clements, a man so debonair (he had brown curly hair, a brown mustache and wore bow ties to teach) he scared me a little. I haven’t read this book yet, but I think it will provide the perfect summer mix of literariness and commercialism.

4 Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson. This is a gripping, true story of 2 men who dove to the bottom of the ocean to discover a mysterious submarine. I know the publisher had high hopes for this book when it was released last year, but I don’t know if it sold as many copies as expected. It’s now out in paperback and is a thrilling read – well-written and well-researched. I never knew the risks scuba divers took when they descended deep into the ocean.

Here’s what’s on my desk that I REALLY have to read for my book on early California:

1) The Democratic Party and California Politics 1880-1896 by R. Hal Williams. A classic, but not a thrill.

2) On the Old West Coast by Horace Bell. This is a fun one. Bell was a Ranger, a sort of outdoors police office, in the middle of the 19th Century. He was a muckraker, editing the Los Angeles newspaper The Porcupine and writing his salty version of the domestication of southern California.

3) Financing American Enterprise: The Story of Commercial Banking by Paul B. Trescott. I’ve had this book out of the library for 2 months now and it’s due tomorrow. I still haven’t read it. Better get cracking.

In other news, Martha O’Connor will be speaking Tuesday night at a Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books and on Wednesday night at Cody’s in Berkeley. Connor’s novel, The Bitch Posse, has been getting all sorts of raves and I am looking forward to reading it. She talked to M.J. Rose about the gestation of the book, which happened completely differently than her other, unpublished novels. The work just flowed, and even though her agent didn’t like it, Connor kept on writing. She found a new agent and came out with what she thinks is her best work.

3 comments:

Paul Epstein said...

Thanks for posting this list, Frances. I'm always interested in thoughtful reading lists - I have a big file drawer full of them (and review, and suggestions...) that I cull for my own "stack". I wonder if your other bloggees would be willing to post THEIR summer lists.

Here is what is in my stack. In all likelihood, I'll only get through the first six items during the summer.

1. Roald Dahl: A Biography
By Jeremy Treglown

2. The Fig Eater
By Jody Shields

3. Against Nature
By J.K. Huysmans

4. The Burglar Diaries
By Danny King

5. The Liberated Bride
By A.B. Yehoshua

6. I'm Not Scared
By Nicolo Ammaniti

7. L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography
By Katharine M. Rogers

8. Geek Love
By Katherine Dunn

9. An Unpardonable Crime
By Andrew Taylor

10. Despair
By Vladimir Nabokov

11. Headbirths or the Germans are Dying Out
By Gunter Grass

12. Three by Perec
By Georges Perec

daniel olivas said...

Yes, thanks for your list...Paul put it nicely. Let me jump in with a little list based on books I've read of late. It's a bit of a mix, some very new, some not so new:

1. The Hummingbird's Daughter: A Novel
by Luis Alberto Urrea

2. Dangerous Games: A Novel
by John Shannon

3. Chicano Sketches: Stories
by Mario Suarez

4. Dancing With Ghosts:
A Critical Biography of Arturo Islas
by Frederick Luis Aldama

5. Puerta del Sol: Poems
by Francisco Aragon

6. Every Night Is Ladies' Night: Stories
by Michael Jaime-Becerra

7. The Last King: A Maceo Redfield Novel
by Nichelle Tramble

8. AutoBioDiversity: Anthology
Edited by Howard Junker

9. Jamesland: A Novel
by Michelle Huneven

10. Women of Chiapas: Making History in Times of Struggle and Hope
Edited by Christine Eber and Christine Kovic

Frances said...

I love hearing other people's lists. It makes me see how many wonderful books there are in the world, and how few I actually come across. Daniel, your review of the Hummingbird's Daughter at Elegant Variation definitely caught my attention. And I like the name "The Burglar Diaries." Now, wouldn't it be remarkable if we actually ever finished the books on our list?