Thursday, June 07, 2007

Adina Kahn wonders what she'll read this summer

Summer is approaching, and that means it’s time to put together a summer reading list. As I was contemplating what books to put on my list, I realized that in recent months my reading has primarily consisted of bestsellers: THE THIRTEENTH TALE, THE KITE RUNNER, THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN, and THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER among others. As an agent, I always strive to stay informed about what is popular and whose books Matt Lauer or Oprah have decided to plug on their shows. While I’m always aware of new book releases, both big and small, my goal for the summer is to go beyond the buzz and actually read some of the lesser known titles. But if you’re not taking advice from Matt or Oprah, how do you go about finding out which books are worthwhile to add to your summer reading list?

New York magazine recently ran a great article about “The Best Novels You’ve Never Read.” Professional critics and writers were asked to come up with the best “under-the-radar book” of the past ten years. In an article titled “Read Any Good Books Lately?” from the New York Times, a handful of writers such as Stephen King, Nora Ephron and Michael Crichton were asked what their favorite books have been in recent months. These articles are great starting points for crafting an eclectic summer reading list. Magazines and the internet are great sources for information; still, my favorite thing to do is to go into a bookstore and just browse the shelves.

As serious readers, we should all be making an effort to share information about lesser known books. Word of mouth can be a very powerful tool for a writer--a recent example being THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER, which never made it onto the hardcover bestseller lists but blew everyone away in paperback once the buzz built.

Don’t get me wrong, my summer reading will definitely include the new titles from Ian McEwan, Don DeLillo and Khaled Hosseini. But I also hope to discover some new talent in unexpected corners.

And now I put the question out to the readers of this blog: read any good books lately?


  1. My summer reading list is heavy on dead white European males.

    For fun and profit, I'm reading Gibbon unabridged (have almost finished vol. 1).

    For mind and spirit, I'm reading Quijote in Spanish right now. Or, rather, el famoso hidalgo is reading me.

    After two volumes of Cervantes, I don't know what dreams will come. We shall see.

  2. I have the habit of rereading books I have loved. This is similar to the unadventurous practice of always ordering the same thing on the menu for fear of being disappointed by something new, but it is a habit I acquired when I could not easily -- or cheaply -- get books in English. I have read the first 18 of Patrick O'Brian's sea novels twice now, and I am currently rereading Jim Fergus' One Thousand White Women, which I really enjoyed. But I have also started reading Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, primarily because my husband, who is not easily impressed, loved it so much that I know it must be very good.

  3. ghostwriter8/6/07 9:19 AM

    Too bad The Memory Keeper's Daughter was so poorly written. Could have used a good editor,

  4. I read Susan Minot's short book, Monkeys, which was quite fun. I'm also looking forward to reading Evening, partly in anticipation of the movie, I must guiltily confess.

  5. here are links to the articles from New York magazine and the NYT you mention, for people who want to see what those have to say.

    it's a blog, right? that means you can link to stories on this crazy Internet thing. Sheesh.

  6. I'm reading Vimy by Pierre Berton right now. It's a very evocative read, and the way he narrows the focus every once in a while to individual officers and men is masterfully done.

  7. Upon the death of Kurt Vonnegut I've been rereading some of his work. Always good. A couple of my favorite authors have books coming out this summer; J.A.Konrath, Mark Terry and Lois Winston so thats probably my list.
    However if you want a good read I could send you a story about a woman who was reincarnated as a dog. She struggles to over come the challenges of being one of the smallest dogs on the planet while finding her soul mate. In the end she realizes a soul mate doesn't have to be a husband or lover but just someone you really connect with and who makes you happy.

  8. Some of my favorites from the past year: The Keep, Chasing the Dead, and Fun Home. All great reads.

    I'm looking over at my summer stack. Let's see. We've got The Raw Shark Texts, Rant, Wicked Lovely, and uh...duh Harry Pooterhole.

    Prepare to go cross-eyed.

  9. Brion Morton...anything he's written.

  10. I loved Helen Dewitt's _The Last Samurai_, which is one of the ones NYMag lists. It is not nearly as hard-going as the description makes it sound though! A genius boy with a taste for Kurosawa looks for his unknown father and seeks a congenial husband for his sad mother. Good holiday read. I was just thinking about it recently and wondering if she had written anything else.

  11. I recieve a book catalogue with wonderful under-the-radar books.
    The catalogue is called Bas Bleu - probably on the web. Look there for some wonderful reads. A few from the past:
    The All of It (Jeannette Haien)
    The Country Life (Rachel Cusk)

    I also keep one of Jhumpa Lahiri's short story collections on my nightstand, just to study the great writing. There right this minute sits: Interpreter of Maladies.
    Read on!

  12. Kathleen Stander12/6/07 8:51 PM

    Just finished Monica Holloway's memoir DRIVING WITH DEAD PEOPLE ... a book that kept me turning the pages even when it annoyed me ... memoirs/essays are my favorite -- I'm an obsessed David Sedaris person, and although Holloway's book wasn't need-an-adult-diaper funny, it hooked me and kind of kept me for 323 pages. I recommend the book to any woman who graduated from high school in the early 80's, as I appreciated the AquaNet/Journey/preppy clothes references.
    In a minute I'm going to start either Joyce Carol Oates's MISSING MOM or BETWEEN, GEORGIA, by Joshilyn Jackson. Largely, I choose titles based on jacket summaries and cover designs. Of course, I never go wrong picking up J.C.O.

  13. Thomas Trofimuk14/6/07 12:00 PM

    I just finished The Book of Mary, by Gail S. Sobat. I loved it. I'll be reading the new collection of poems from Tom Wayman. Both these reads are for reviews...Waiting for the Wayman to arrive!(Just in the finishing movements of a new novel called: "It's like this" Has to be with my agent by month's end).

  14. OK, just back from the bookstore with these recommended beauties:

    The Yiddish Policemen's Union (Michael Charbon)
    A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
    Falling Man (Don DeLillo)

    Taking them ALL on vaca w/ me:)

  15. There are people out there, like me, who blog about random books. If I read a best seller, it's usually a fluke. I get my books at the library so I read what they have. I read primarily YA and if anyone needs some YA books to add to their list, I've got you covered on my Need To Read page on my website.

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