I haven’t had enough time to write the follow-up to my Summer 2017 non-fiction list, which doesn’t bode well for actually reading the books themselves. But I thought that even if I spend the whole summer working and and only gazing wistfully at my books, my fiction picks might be useful for you regardless. Also, some reading is still taking place in this house, at night and on Saturdays and coffee breaks, so not all is lost.
1. The Bookish Choice. Years ago, I read Elif Batuman’s The Possessed that combined Russian literature and Central Asia – two equally worthy subjects, if you ask me. Her first novel The Idiot is apparently also bookish, which makes me inclined to like it. Also in its favour: 1) a nice cover and b) Artfulreader’s approval.
2. The Experiment. George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo has a pretty unlikely premise that involves president Lincoln, his dead son and several ghosts. It promises to be like nothing else I’ve ever read, a mix of the grave and the grotesque. I’m not sure I’ll like it, but it definitely sounds more interesting than most of the stuff out there.
3. The Elegant Melodrama. Thus Bad Begins by the great Spanish writer Javier Marais gets its title from Shakespeare and apparently a few of the themes, too – treachery, revenge, sex and death. Some say it has more style than substance, but I’m not opposed to style.
4. The Unlikely Recommendation. I had never heard of Anthony Marra before @bibliobimbo (from Da Bookstagram) recommended his The Tsar of Love and Techno. I still don’t know much about him, but rarely have I heard such uniform praise („bloody brilliant“) from people whose taste I trust. The book looks very ambitious – in a good way – and and the Russian theme draws me in, too.
5. The Neglected Favourite. I love Jeanette Winterson’s writing, but my dirty secret is that I’ve only read her Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and The Passion. The Stone Gods has been on my list for a long time and I picked it over the other Wintersons because of the science fiction theme. Would be interesting to read a story in space by one of the great stylists in English.
6. The Future Classic. There seems to be a consensus that Naomi Alderman’s Baileys Prize winning The Power will be a classic. I don’t care about that, but if Margaret Atwood recommends something, I take note. The premise of girls and women suddenly manifesting dangerous powers certainly sounds refreshing.
7. The Must-Read. I read Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things when I was very young. I remember that it was a very good book, but that’s pretty much all I remember. It’s been 20 years and we now have Roy’s second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. I suspect it’ll be as big, varied, beautiful, sad and maddening as India.
8. The Other Book. I haven’t met anyone who thinks that John Williams’s Stoner is a bad, mediocre or even just a good book. Opinion is a little bit more divided on his Augustus, but not by much (4.27 versus 4.18 on Goodreads). People also compare it to I, Claudius – always a good sign in my book.
9. The Exotic. The Garden of the Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng has been on my TBR since I heared Krista Kaer talk about it. I try not to read European and American writers only and this story about memory, war and – I hope – beautiful gardens set in Malaysia sounds like something that would educate my soul.
10. The Stories. Raymond Carver is known for his short stories and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is his most famous short story. I can only take white American males in limited quantities, but sometimes that’s just the ticket.
11. The Gift. Most of the time, I don’t recommend that people buy books for me, because I’m an ungrateful bastard and often don’t read them. I buy my own books. There are exceptions, however, and when Victoria gives me a book, I’ll always make an effort to read it. A Girl From The Coast by Pramoedya Ananta Toer is about an arranged marriage in Indonesia and this description surely doesn’t do the book justice.
12. The Sinister Comedy. I first heard of Molly Keane in the memoirs of Diana Athill whose judgement I trust in everything and anything. Athill praises both Keane and her most well known work, Good Behavior, to such an extent that I simply have to read it. It’s a very dark comedy of manners and @liinabachmann called it “exquisite”.
13. The Classic. Another dirty secret – I’ve only read Sylvia Plath’s poetry, which means I’ve never read The Bell Jar. I know. I wonder if it’s too late now? But I try to steadily, if not speedily, address my classics deficit and this is the next on the list.
14. The Summer Read. I don’t think Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk is in fact a traditional summer read, but something about the vacation in Spain, the mother-daughter relationship and the confusion regarding identity and reality speaks to me. I also like the name and imagine reading it by the pool, in the heat.
15. The Bookstagram Bait. I bought the Diary of a Provincial Lady (E.M. Delafield) purely because the looks and the mood it evokes. I imagine myself reading it under the apple tree at our Estonian country house, drinking tea and lounging carelessly. And as it’s the 21 century, I’d also be making a flatlay.