Summer is always when my reading drastically spikes, a habit developed long ago in my childhood and also a result of the library summer-reading program. Since my early thirties, I’ve maintained a quasi-routine with my summer reading: a couple of novels, a collected or complete poems by a poet, a couple full-length poetry collections, and a book or two on the craft of writing. In addition, I throw in some nonfiction.
Below is what I’ve finished thus far. Currently I’m reading William Faulkner’s Collected Stories and the newest Ann Beattie short-story collection, The Accomplished Guest.
Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems: 1927-1979
My wife bought me this book on a trip to San Francisco last year. She had asked what book I’d like, and this was my answer. I read the poems while in Lithuania in May; as a result, Bishop has become one of my favorite poets.
Aaron Brown, Acacia Road
On my return flight from Lithuania, I read this book, the first full-length poetry collection by a good friend. I’m fortunate as well in that I saw several poems in earlier forms when Aaron and I were swapping poems. He writes as though he’s twenty years older than he really is.
Louise Erdrich, Shadow Tag
At some point I will have read all of Erdrich’s novels, not just because she’s a fellow Minnesotan. In each of her novels, I am immersed in a world. I read this book in two or three days. As always, her characterization is vivid, her prose envy-inducing.
Tony Hoagland, Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft
I picked up this book in a bookstore in Salina, Kansas. Hoagland has a real knack for discussing the craft of poetry in a way that is neither too lofty nor too rudimentary.
George Hughes, Reading Novels
This work of narrative theory was the most “technical” book I read, but I finished it having a greater appreciation for the work of novelists. It also made me want to work on my own abandoned novel.
Czeslaw Milosz, Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition
I read this book while in Lithuania in May, and it was fitting since Milosz grew up there. An excellent memoir that helped me understand the history of the region.
Benjamin Percy, Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction
I picked this book up last Christmas season from a Barnes and Noble, but it wasn’t until June that I got around to reading it. This is the first book I’ve read by Percy, and I left it very impressed. In explaining different aspects of craft, Percy incorporates examples from all kinds of writing: “literature” as well as more “popular” texts.
Brian G. Phipps, Before the Burning Bush
I’m reviewing this poetry collection for a magazine. I was impressed with the way Phipps weaves together the spiritual, the personal, and the athletic (hockey, in this case).
Neil Postman, The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School
As with other work by Neil Postman, I was challenged in many ways. I underlined so many passages in this book. I only wish Postman was still around; his critical eye would be valuable now.
Catherine Price, How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life
I wrote a previous post about this book, and I’ll comment more on the book in next week’s post. Suffice to say, though, it revolutionized my approach to my phone.
John Steinbeck, East of Eden
I had the book on a shelf for several months, and our vacation to South Dakota and Minnesota proved the perfect time to read this 600-page novel. I’ve read four other books by Steinbeck, and I enjoyed each of them immensely. This novel was phenomenal.
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad
I’m still trying to make my way through the list of Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction, and I was amazed by this novel. The inventiveness of the “literal” underground railroad, the way the novel varies its chronology and perspectives.
Paul Willis, To Build a Trail: Essays on Curiosity, Love & Wonder
This collection of a couple dozen essays I read in one day while on my vacation. Willis has an eye for detail and the wit for understated humor. A very enjoyable read.
Brian Zahnd, Radical Forgiveness: God’s Call to Unconditional Love
In April I read Zahnd’s A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace. That book stretched my thinking in important ways, forcing me to consider my views regarding violence. This book had the same result in that I was both challenged and inspired to reevaluate my views regarding love and forgiveness.