I usually compose and publish such a list each year. I’d also appreciate you mentioning a book or two that is on YOUR list for the summer. It’s how I find those hidden gems.
In no particular order (though the last book looks to be fascinating):
Drood. By Dan Simmons. I started reading this book a week ago and am just starting to get a feel for it. Dan Simmons imagines a terrifying sequence of events as the inspiration for Dickens’s last, uncompleted novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, in this unsettling and complex thriller. In the course of narrowly escaping death in an 1865 train wreck and trying to rescue fellow passengers, Dickens encounters a ghoulish figure named Drood, who had apparently been traveling in a coffin. Along with his real-life novelist friend Wilkie Collins, who narrates the tale, Dickens pursues the elusive Drood, an effort that leads the pair to a nightmarish world beneath London’s streets. Ultimately this is a tale of envy and its effects.
Wicked / Son of a Witch. By Gregory Maguire. I’ve seen Wicked on the bookshelves for years. But until co-worker John Roby and his wife went to see the Broadway musical of the same name a few weeks ago I never gave this book much thought. Until now. This Barnes & Noble edition combines two modern classics spun from the imagination of author Gregory Maguire. Wicked, told from the perspective of Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West, gives the wildly entertaining prehistory of the Emerald City of Oz before the arrival of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Woodsman. The saga continues in Son of a Witch, the whimsical coming-of-age story of Liir, the Wicked Witch’s secret son.
There’s a third installment to the trilogy, A Lion Among Men, that was only recently published.
Atlas Shrugged. By Ayn Rand. A book that I’ve been meaning to read for fifteen years and have finally decided to do so. Seems especially relevant in our current day. I’ve read what I consider the trilogy of “totalitarian” novels (Huxley’s Brave New World, Benson’s Lord of the World, and Orwell’s 1984), but this one may top them all. I’ll soon find out.
Jesus of Nazareth. By Pope Benedict XVI. I’ve been reading this book since receiving it as a Christmas gift. It’s a wonderful book, but not one that you can just fly through. I’ve been in the section on the Beatitudes for weeks. Wonderful stuff.
The Screwtape Letters. By C.S. Lewis. I’ve read this book a dozen times. Why? Because it’s simply the best book on the subject of evil I’ve ever read. And because I’ve been working on writing a study/devotional on this book for over two years. Maybe one day I’ll finish.
The Problem of Pain. By C. S. Lewis. Because every year I read at least one Lewis book I haven’t read before. This year it’s this one. The subject is the universal question, “Why would an all-loving, all-knowing God allow people to experience pain and suffering?”
The Heart Set Free: Sin And Redemption In The Gospels, Augustine, Dante, And Flannery O’Connor. By Kim Paffenroth. As Augustine, Dante and O’Connor are among my favorite authors it was hard to pass this book up. I didn’t. In Christian experience, one of the central themes recurring over time and in the attendant literature has been sin and redemption. From this book one sees selected snapshots of this issues from the Gospels (first/second century), Augustine (fourth/fifth century), Dante (thirteen/fourteenth century), and Flannery O’Connor (twentieth century). According to Paffenroth, ‘these thinkers offer timeless criticisms of four of the greatest and most flawed societies of all time – Israel, Rome, medieval Europe, and America – and they do so in a way that raises their critiques out f the particular historical context and renders them relevant today.’
We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers. By Marcus Brotherton. I actually bought this for Nolan for his summer reading, but hope to grab it from him once he’s finished. We’ve both read Stephen Ambrose’s original Band of Brothers, and watched the HBO series. These are the stories of 20 of the surviving men from E Co, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne, the original Band of Brothers. They were the men of the now-legendary Easy Company. After almost two years of hard training, they parachuted into Normandy on DDay and, later, Operation Market Garden. They fought their way through Belgium, France, and Germany, survived overwhelming odds, liberated concentration camps, and drank a victory toast in April 1945 at Hitler’s hideout in the Alps. Here, revealed for the first time, are stories of war, sacrifice, and courage as experienced by one of the most revered combat units in military history. In We Who Are Alive and Remain, twenty men who were there and are alive today—and the families of three deceased others—recount the horrors and the victories, the bonds they made, the tears and blood they shed…and the brothers they lost.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Why? Because this looks like a damn fun book. I’ve yet to read Austen despite owning two or three of her books. So why not read this version of Pride & Prejudice first?
From a review:
This may be the most wacky by-product of the busy Jane Austen fan-fiction industry—at least among the spin-offs and pastiches that have made it into print. In what’s described as an “expanded edition” of Pride and Prejudice, 85 percent of the original text has been preserved but fused with “ultraviolent zombie mayhem.” For more than 50 years, we learn, England has been overrun by zombies, prompting people like the Bennets to send their daughters away to China for training in the art of deadly combat, and prompting others, like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, to employ armies of ninjas. Added to the familiar plot turns that bring Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy together is the fact that both are highly skilled killers, gleefully slaying zombies on the way to their happy ending. Is nothing sacred? Well, no, and mash-ups using literary classics that are freely available on the Web may become a whole new genre. What’s next? Wuthering Heights and Werewolves?
What’s on your list this summer? I’d really love to know.