Summer: It’s too hot to exercise outside, and it’s also too busy to curl up with piles of books indoors in the sweet, sweet central air conditioning of our new apartment. I’ll admit: I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. Or maybe it’s more like a reading slowdown. And admittedly, I haven’t been writing blog posts or book reviews, either. So before you start asking, “What have you even been doing all summer?” (hint: so much work), here’s what I’ve been reading in summer 2018.
Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
Four Seasons in Rome is Anthony Doerr’s reflection on a year spent in Rome on a writing fellowship with his wife and newborn twins. This book goes deep through the layers of Doerr’s year there and swirls the beauty of Rome, the stress of being first-time parents (to twins!) in a foreign country, the strangeness of living abroad, and the process of establishing a writing habit after all these major life changes. This book is simply stunning; I didn’t want it to end.
Choose Your Own Disaster by Dana Schwartz
At what point do you consider a choose-your-own-adventure book “read”? I’m not entirely sure. But I read through one path of Dana Schwartz’s choose-your-own-adventure memoir in one night, so I think that counts. I enjoyed Choose Your Own Disaster, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. I think it’s one of those cases where you can tell from the book cover whether this Millennial pink book with its multiple choice shenanigans is your cup of tea.
I enjoyed Schwartz’s ability to balance humor with weighty life moments. I saw myself in those moments in the book where I was deciding the career path ahead of me or standing in the streets of a foreign city wondering whether I should just stay there. I really connected with the book in that regard. I also admire Schwartz’s technical feat—it’s not exactly easy to write a choose-your-own-adventure memoir and figure out how to craft a cohesive story no matter the route your reader goes. I can’t speak for all possible versions of this book, but my experience reading Choose Your Own Disaster was fun.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Baby Teeth instigated a new fear for me: What happens if a future child of mine is a downright psychopath? All I know is that I didn’t have this fear before I read this book, but now I do.
Perhaps you can tell from my own emotional reaction that this book is stunningly written. The story is gripping; I read it in less than 24 hours; it’s hard to put down. Somehow, Stage constructs a world in which every single word this 7-year-old says is deeply terrifying, effed up, and nearly demonic. The dual perspectives makes this even creepier; not only do we see what Hanna says to her mother, Suzette, but we know the malicious intentions behind every word and action. I found myself empathizing with Suzette as she deals with wanting to love her child and give her the best life possible while wanting her life back. The ending was haunting even as the story came to a resolution; I know this story will stick with me for quite a while.
Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition
Yeah, yeah, I know this isn’t quite as accessible as other books on this list, but the Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition!) is taking up a significant portion of my reading time. I’m reading a few chapters each week for the first class for the University of Chicago’s editing certificate program, and I’m learning so. much. new. stuff. Stuff like: The dedication page is typically before the table of contents. And the table of contents is just labeled “Contents” on the page. And there are three different ways to style mottoes. And en dashes are used with compound adjectives when one of its elements consists of an open compound or when both elements consist of hyphenated compounds.
If you’re not an editor or writer, you’ve probably skipped to the next section by now, but if you’re still reading and your career is going to involve the book publishing industry, it’s worth reading—or at least skimming—or at the very least reading the table of contents for each chapter so you know what’s in it.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
I received an advanced reader’s copy of Rachel Kushner’s latest novel, The Mars Room, but didn’t get very far. There wasn’t a specific reason I stopped reading it; it may have been that we were moving to a new apartment at the same time. I haven’t given up hope that I’ll try this again, but I have moved it from my “to read/currently reading” shelf to its place among the other K books.
Tell the Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams
I got about 50 pages into Tell the Machine Goodnight and really like it. I am determined to pick it back up and finish it, but it’s been a month or so, so I may have to start over. But that’s okay—I really enjoyed the writing style and story thus far. It’s a book that alternates between the perspective of Pearl, who works for Apricity Corporation and administers readings of its happiness machine, and her son, Rhett, who is emotionally distant from his mother and—gasp!—unhappy. The machine, which gives people seemingly random suggestions that will supposedly make them happier, is an interesting idea and a way to examine our tech-heavy society. And I was pleasantly surprised by the shift to a second voice of narration; giving Rhett a voice and a chance to tell his story balances the book nicely so far. I didn’t know what to expect in this book when I picked it up, but the alternating parent-child narrations and the futuristic setting are doing it for me.