The National Catholic Review

With the nationwide heat wave forcing us indoors, summer reading has become an even more essential part of the season. Respected book-blog The Millions suggests a comprehensive summer reading list and looks ahead to some of the most anticipated forthcoming books of 2010. Included is Rick Moody's latest novel, The Four Fingers of Death (Little, Brown and Company; July 28th), which Garth Risk Halberg calls "a 700 page supercollider." Moody takes his love of metafiction to the year 2025, when his main character, writer Montese Crandall,  wins the right to author the novelization of the 1963 horror film "The Crawling Hand." This novelization, as you might expect, becomes part of the novel itself, in what Halberg refers to as a "Vonnegut-inspired sci-fi romp." Also covered is Tanya French's Faithful Place (Viking; July 13th), the third novel in French's Dublin Murder Squad series, which follows Frank Mackey, an undercover cop grappling with family demons past and present.  At 19, Frank and his girlfriend Rosie Daly planned to catch a ferry to elope to England, away from their broken alcoholic families; when Rosie fails to meet him, he assumes she's left without him. Over twenty years later, Rosie's suitcase is recovered from an abandoned house and Frank is left to unravel the mystery of her disappearance. Chosen by independent booksellers as their favorite novel for July and earning starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist, Faithful Place appears to be French's best novel yet. For August, Millions contributors recommend, among others, Encounter (Harper; August 17), Milan Kundera's latest essay collection and Sympathy for the Devil (Night Shade Books; August 1), a reprint anthology edited by Tim Pratt, with stories, by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon and others, all focused on the devil.

For those readers more interested in the sciences, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the Periodic Table by Sam Kean (Little, Brown and Company, July 12th) is an entertaining glimpse into the stories behind each of the elements in the periodic table. Yes, you read correctly. In a recent review for Media Bistro's Galley Cat blog, Jason Bogg explains that:

With 118 elements currently listed in the periodic table, the task of chronicling their discoveries and applications is nothing short of herculean, but Kean not only accomplishes the labor admirably, but structures it in such a way that makes the journey through the table a joy rather than a slog...It's crammed full of compelling anecdotes about each of the elements, plenty of nerd-gossip involving the Nobel prizes, and enough political intrigue to capture the interest of the anti-elemental among us.

On my own summer reading list is Death is Not an Option (W.W. Norton; July 5th), a short-story collection from newcomer Suzanne Rivecca. Rivecca, a former Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University, brings a startling level of insight and humor to her series of female protagonists as they cope with sexuality, identity, faith, sexism and trauma. And in a less gimmicky application of metafiction, Rivecca's characters -- like a woman who contemplates the authenticity of the hippie persona she performs or another character who works at a crisis-center hotline and cultivates a dismissive flippancy to distance herself from the tragedy she encounters on a daily basis -- explore how they use narrative in their own lives to structure their identities and make sense of their experiences. Garnering praise from no less than Lorrie Moore, who characterizes Rivecca as a "wonderfully lively and fearless new writer," this debut collection is clever, engaging and unsparingly honest.

Summer reading suggestions? Considerations? Comment below!

Regina Nigro

Comments

we vnornm | 7/9/2010 - 3:29pm
Thanks for all the book ideas, and selecting "the best of the best" from The Millions.
 
The books on the devil and the periodic table are especially intriguing to me.
 
Thanks for the work that went into winnowing down thousands and thousands of books into something manageable.
 
bvo
MICHELLE FRANCL-DONNAY DR | 7/8/2010 - 7:02pm

Thanks for the suggestions!  Summer is my time for digging deep into a topic that the academic year pace would only let me surf...this summer:  silence.

Two good "working" reads so far:

Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird, OSA.  A pithy and wonderfully frank book about deepening a practice of  Christian contemplation (and up for discussion here and here - with more to come). 

A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland.  I'm jealous of her hermitage, but found her careful analysis of silence, its graces and risks to be compelling. 

One just for fun: The God of the Hive by Laurie King.  Sherlock Holmes lives again. And he's married.  This series by King comprises the best Holmes "sequels" I've ever read.  At the risk of being heretical, better than the originals sometimes.  No theology in this one, despite the title!
 
Now I'm off to explore the Millions' list for more ideas.