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#1 dirac

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 02:16 PM

The Guardian runs a list of best books for summer reading. Comments? Suggestions? And what are you reading this summer?


Choosing holiday reading doesn't have to be about stuffing the latest blockbuster into your suitcase. From Renaissance Florence to the shores of Madagascar, we select the timeless novels that will turn the most restful holiday into an exotic adventure.



#2 bart

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 03:30 PM

Pretty ambitious selections compared to most summer lists. Lots of great stuff. But why only novels? Aren't histories, for example, or biographies suitable for " best summer reads"? :wink:

I re-read an old copy of The Leopard (Simon Schama's choice) last month. I also ordered the reissued dvd of the Visconti movie from Amazon (*) and I'm waiting for a quiet afternoon to get lost in it.

#3 dirac

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 03:53 PM

Pretty ambitious selections compared to most summer lists. Lots of great stuff. But why only novels? Aren't histories, for example, or biographies suitable for " best summer reads"? :wink:

I re-read The Leopard (Simon Schama's choice) last month. I ordered the reissued dvd of the Visconti movie from Amazon (*) and I'm waiting for a quiet afternoon to get lost in it.


The article does say it's listing novels only - my post is misleading when it says 'best books,' sorry about that. I don't think they mean to be discriminatory, although it's probably true that when many people think of summer reading they think of fiction.

(I think the Visconti film of The Leopard is wildly overrated, doesn't catch the essence of the book at all. It looks good, though.)

I wouldn't fancy reading The Death of Ivan Ilyich on a lovely summer's day at the beach, but to each his own. :o

#4 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 04:06 PM

Wow ... George Eliot's Romola made the list. I didn't think anyone but grad students read that one ... it's the Eliot novel you normally get to (with much eye-rolling) after Middlemarch, Adam Bede, Daniel Deronda, etc etc etc. It's dandy, but I can't imagine dragging it along with me on vacation in Italy. I'd definitely opt for The Talented Mr Ripley instead ... or, for, pot-boiling, way-back historical fiction about Italy, Robert Harris' Pompeii or Imperium (a page turner about Cicero!) neither of which made the Guardian's list, but both of which are immensely fun.

It's an odd list - it appears from the descriptions that the editors were focused more on vacation-related locale and subject matter than on actual lazy summer readability. I've always operated under the assumption that the reason we go to the dentist's is to read guilty pleasures like People and the reason we go on vacation is to read guilty pleasures like Angels and Demons. (Astoundingly silly and much more lurid than The Davinci Code -- fortunately, I listened to the audiobook, so no one I knew actually saw me reading it :wink: Take it with you to Rome.)

I loathed Atonement (which is perfectly readable) but I'm certainly the only person on the planet who did.

Anyway, M.T. Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing is on my iPod -- highly recommended -- ignore the fact that it's categorized as a "young adult" novel. Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety is on my nightstand -- also recommended, but you have to be into the French Revolution and not mind knowing how it will end.

#5 dirac

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 04:15 PM

I've always operated under the assumption that the reason we go to the dentist's is to read guilty pleasures like People and the reason we go on vacation is to read guilty pleasures like Angels and Demons. (Astoundingly silly and much more lurid than The Davinci Code -- fortunately, I listened to the audiobook, so no one I knew actually saw me reading it.


Iíll give it a try. I did have a go at The Da Vinci Code, hoping for precisely the cheap fun you describe, and although it was simply written and not especially long I couldnít get through it.

Robert Harris' Pompeii or Imperium (a page turner about Cicero!) neither of which made the Guardian's list, but both of which are immensely fun.


Iíve read Pompeii, it is great fun. I know bart has too, he mentioned Harrisí books on another thread back when. I also like Harrisí Bletchley Park novel, Enigma.

#6 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 04:44 PM

I've always operated under the assumption that the reason we go to the dentist's is to read guilty pleasures like People and the reason we go on vacation is to read guilty pleasures like Angels and Demons. (Astoundingly silly and much more lurid than The Davinci Code -- fortunately, I listened to the audiobook, so no one I knew actually saw me reading it.


Iíll give it a try. I did have a go at The Da Vinci Code, hoping for precisely the cheap fun you describe, and although it was simply written and not especially long I couldnít get through it.


Oh, it is really, truly tawdry! Anti-matter! Illuminati! Bernini! As preposterous as The Divinci Code was, Angel and Demons is even more so. Reading it after The Davinci Code is equivalent to eating the worm after you've finished off the whole bottle Mezcal.

#7 vipa

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 05:54 PM

I just read the "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" which is on the list. I picked it up just browsing in the library. I loved it and preordered the second book in the trilogy "The Girl Who Played With Fire."

A novel I recommend to everyone who asks - The Crimson Petal and the White. Anyone read it?

#8 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 06:18 PM

I just read the "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" which is on the list. I picked it up just browsing in the library. I loved it and preordered the second book in the trilogy "The Girl Who Played With Fire."


This is the third recommendation I've encountered for "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" this week -- I think I'll have to give it a shot!

I'm heading off for Amsterdam soon -- does anyone have an suggestions for appropriately themed books, fiction or otherwise?

#9 socalgal

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 07:04 PM

A few of my friends are re-reading "Atlas Shrugged" . I ' ve just started and am loving it.

#10 Helene

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 07:12 PM

I'm currently in the middle of Michael Pollen's "In Defense of Food". I'd just finished Paul Tough's book on Geoffrey Canada, "Whatever It Takes", and Sarah Vowell's "Assassination Vacation". (I love my Kindle.)

#11 sandik

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 08:04 PM

Ah, Sarah Vowell -- unfortunately, we're all caught up with her.

Read "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" on a trip last month -- not especially well done, but some very funny moments, and it's a great summer book.

Am in the middle of the anthology of New Yorker food writing, and re-read Anthony Bourdain's first essay on restaurants, which still makes me kind of queasy...

#12 papeetepatrick

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 02:17 PM

Am about 10 pages into Casanova's 'History of My Life', probably being read for different or reverse reasons from Ms. Bentley, although her recent review reminded me that previously I had tended to skip thought to 'the good parts' (she focuseed on those too, it seems). But it's all good, his childhood is extraordinary, and Fellini fury about how 'there are no children, no families, etc.' only comes later when the episodic nature of the amorous adventures begins. I don't know how long it will take me to finish it, or whether I'll feel the need to given there are about 1300 pages of text, followed by copious notes up to 200 more pages, but I'll see. It's got a lot of character, more than I remembered perusing it before, when I thought it a more pornographic version of some of Mozart's operas. I really don't know why Fellini made the film, maybe as a deconstruction of Casanova, but it's pretty well-known that he hated Casanova as representative of some kind of national stain. Anyway, the kind of book you can get a lot out of, even if you don't read all of it. He's not really one-dimensional, though.

#13 bart

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 11:00 AM

I'm in the middle of re-reading The Leopard (thanks to this thread) and have just finished the equivalent portion of the Visconti film. The newly released dvd contains both the original American version and the original and longer Italian version. The Italian version, with restored image and sound, and presented in a wide-screen format, is much superior. I mean, MUCH superior. Both image and sound have been restored, and some wonderful scenes (I'm thinking of the battle scenes in Palermo) have been give the scope and TIME they deserve.

I noticed that the book is described in the Amazon.com review as "an Italian equivalent to Gone With the Wind." :) This is possibly the single most wrong-headed phrase I've ever read in internet criticism. The book is profound and subtle. It helps to care about, and know something about, the period, the individuals bound up in their social classes, the issues.

Consider this, drawn almost randomly from dozens of similar examples:

Don Fabrizio [the Prince] had certainly had his worries those last two months; they had come from all directions, like ants making for a dead lizard. Some had crawled from crevices of the political situation; some had been flung on him by other people's passions; and some (these had the sharpest bite) had sprung up within himself, from his irrational reactions, that is, to politics and the whims of others 9"whims" was his name when irritated for what in calm he called "passions").


Or this, which takes place on an early morning country shoot. (Ants seem to play an important role, metaphorically and literally, in Sicilian country live.)

But though a shot had killed the rabbit, though the bored rifles of General Cialdini were not dismaying the Bourbon troops at Gaeta, though the midday heat was making men doze, nothing could stop the ants. Attracted by a few chewed grapeskins spat out by Don Ciccio, along they rushed in close order, morale high at the chance of annexing that bit of garbage soaked with an organist's saliva. Up they came full of confidence, disordered but resolute; groups of three or four would stop now and gain for a chat, exalting, perhaps, the ancient glories and future prosperity of ant hill Number Two under cork tree Number four on the top of Mount Morco; then once gain they would take up their march with the others toward a buoyant future; the gleaming backs of those imperialists seemed to quiver with enthusiasm, while from their ranks no doubt rose the notes of an anthem.

And that's just material on the periphery of the story.

Margaret Mitchell, despite her many virtues, it is not.

The Leopard is a much richer book, and much richer as a film, than I could possibly have appreciated in my youth, when I had seen (and lived) less of life and knew very little of the great events through which Lampedusa's characters lived.

#14 papeetepatrick

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 11:08 AM

I noticed that the book is described in the Amazon.com review as "an Italian equivalent to Gone With the Wind." :) This is possibly the single most wrong-headed phrase I've ever read in internet criticism. The book is profound and subtle. It helps to care about, and know something about, the period, the individuals imbedded in their own way in their social classes, the issues.


I'm sure it is a wrong-headed conparison, but 'Gone With the Wind' is definitely profound, if not subtle. It is about the ruling classes and their point of view and doesn't really intend to be 'sensitive to issues' of the social sort. There's enough of that elsewhere. I still like 'Gone With the Wind' for 'documenting' the Southern ethos in a way that has made it known much more widely than have much greater pieces of literature by Faulkner, McCullers, O'Connor, Welty, or even, to balance out 'Gone With the Wind', W.J. Cash, whose polemic of the South 'The Mind of the South' was searing and often accurate, but also unbalanced and merely hateful in a number of ways, and reaction to it lead to his suicide. These 'socially unfair' books, films, plays are all important to know the 'pure narrowness', whether it is 'Mein Kampf', 'Triumph of the Will', 'Das Kapital', 'The Communist Manifesto'. These are all forms of propagande, but those have to be read to understand what the truth of social and political problems are if the critiques are to really be more than propagande themselves.

#15 GWTW

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 11:31 AM

'Gone With the Wind' is definitely profound, if not subtle

I totally agree, but then given my moniker, I would agree, wouldn't I? :)

I'm currently reading 'The Children's Book' by A.S. Byatt. Although different in every which way from Gone With The Wind, other than its length, it can also be characterised as being profound yet not subtle. It is a very sprawling book - almost a social history of the English upper-ish middle class from the end of the Victorian Age and through the First World War. It is written very densely and all of Byatt's literary devices are on display - she has included stories and plays 'written' by a couple of the characters; there are very extensive descriptions of scenery and art; the narrative perspective changes every so often, etc. And yet it works - the book moves at a good pace and the characters, all flawed and none the definite 'hero' of the book, are real and draw one in.


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