What's a Common Reader -- and what is Uncommon Reading?

Virginia Woolf defined a common reader as someone who is not a scholar; not a critic. A common reader "reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others. Above all, he is guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole." By that definition, I'm definitely a common reader -- reading an uncommonly large and diverse collection of books.

Monday, July 4, 2011

What I'll Be Reading This Summer: A Selective List

Given the pace at which I consume books, it would be pretty difficult to come up with a comprehensive list of summer reading. But I've put together a kind of menu, of sorts, made up of books I'd like to read or re-read between now and Labor Day, for my amusement as much as your entertainment. We'll see how well I do on this!

  • Re-reading The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier; I remember it as one of my favorites of her books, and reading Daphne by Justine Picardie prompted me to re-read at least one of the author's books.
  • Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee, of which I received an advance copy via Amazon's Vine program, looks like an interesting fictional glimpse into the phenomenon of the new India.
  • Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason, is a book that I've started reading only to put down and forget about too often: time to do something about this!
  • I've also had an advance review copy of The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt sitting here far too long; time for me to read it!
  • The Haves and the Have-Nots by Branko Milanovic -- as the political campaign season starts to creak into gear, I thought it would be interesting to delve into the issue of the wealth gap.
  • I need to see what all the fuss is about, so I'll be trying The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo, despite my fatigue with Scandi-crime.
  • The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt isn't out yet, but I got an ARC at BookExpo, so I'll be able to read about famed bookhunter Poggio Bracciolini and the Renaissance. Already, I know this is a book I wish I'd written myself. Grrr.
  • I don't usually read memoirs, but Read My Hips is written by a friend; I heard early excerpts from its predecessor four years ago in a Media Bistro class, so I need to see what Kim Brittingham has produced.
  • The sequel to Lev Grossman's The Magicians, The Magician King, will be out in early August; I'm waiting to hear if I'll get an early copy from NetGalleys or if I'll have to tough it out until August but either way I'll want to read it.
  • It's time for me to delve into Geraldine Brooks's novels; I'll be starting with March.
  • After falling in love with Joseph Boyden's two novels, I'm looking forward to reading his short stories, Born With a Tooth.
  • I'd like to read both of Patrick Leigh Fermor's books about Greece, Mani and Roumeli. I've just started on the former.
  • Monica Ali has taken an odd step in her latest book, imagining Princess Diana as an American housewife. At least I think that's what's in store in Untold Story. 
  • For my own research for my next book, I'll be tackling Edward Ball's The Genetic Strand, about DNA and family history.
  • A Greater Journey by David McCullough recently landed on my doorstep. A neighbor wants to borrow it, so that's one prod; I'm also more interested in reading about Henry James than I am in reading more by him. Hmm....
  • The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark looks like an above-average historical novel. 
  • I first heard about Oil on Water by Helon Habila on NPR and the interview grabbed my interest.
  • William Boyd pulled a fast one on the publishing and art world with his fake biography, Nat Tate. I enjoy the author, so I'll have fun with this.
  • Tides of War is a book that I ordered from the UK; Stella Tillyard is a fab biographer, focusing on the 18th century, so this novel by her set in the same period is a must-read.
  • Colin Cotterill, author of the wonderful and whimsical Dr. Siri mysteries, takes a detour into Thailand in Killed at the Whim of a Hat.
  • Being in a re-reading frame of mind, I think I'll go back and dabble in some books by Mary Stewart and Monica Dickens.
  • Alexandra Robbins assures us that The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth; with the wave of Internet IPOs reaching dot.com bubble levels, I'll be interested in this!
  • The Scarlet Contessa has been sitting here for nearly a year; unkind treatment of a novel by Jeanne Kalogridis of one of the most colorful women of the Italian Renaissance.
  • Michael Dobbs has offered up another appealing-looking thriller in Old Enemies
  • Paradise Lust by Brook Wilensky-Lanford is the story of a bizarre quest for the Garden of Eden
  • Utter escapism: the new novel from Deanna Reynolds, The Dark Enquiry.
  • Elizabeth Aston is also the novelist Elizabeth Pewsey, whose Mountjoy series of novels I adore and re-read often. Some more of them will be out on Kindle (hurrah!) and I'll be sampling some of her Austen sequels.
I'm sure a lot more will cross my path as the weeks go past, but as long as you keep tabs on this blog, you'll know what I've found worth reading, what is utterly unmissable, and what I think you should avoid at all costs! Happy Summer!

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