Reading for fun — what a novel idea! After braving the flood of required readings for class, at long last summer has come, and with it, the perfect opportunity to kick back and start reading for pleasure again. Though hitting the library to build your own reading list can be part of the fun, if you’re on the lookout for a specific book recommendation, we’ve got you covered.
This summer in particular presents the perfect opportunity to multitask with your reading — to mix both business (not to kill your summer buzz) and pleasure. With the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and a recent push for transgender rights, this past year has been one of great struggle for progress and awareness — now’s the time to educate yourself about these issues with your summer lit list. With no further ado, here are our recommendations for some great books that will both entertain you and, hopefully, introduce some more diversity to your personal literary canon:
“Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine
Enlightening but never preachy, serious but not stifling, “Citizen” is a rare book that, while explicitly didactic, can still entertain and delight. In her groundbreaking book of prose poems in the form of short meditative essays on race, Rankine explores the relationship between citizen and state — especially between black citizens and American systems of oppression. Through a series of brief, snapshot-like anecdotes, essays and illustrations, Rankine pieces together a portrait of injustice that’s at once heartbreaking, thought-provoking, moving and, at times, even funny.
“For Today I Am a Boy” by Kim Fu
For those of us who can’t get enough of a good coming-of-age tale, this book will hit the spot. “For Today I Am A Boy” follows Peter Huang, a Chinese-Canadian transgender woman, from childhood to adulthood. Paying close attention to the ways culture, assimilation and gender shape personal narratives, Fu paints a picture of Peter through connected though not necessarily adjacent blocks of time. Time is slippery in this novel — Fu tosses the narrative to and from the past, present and future in a constellation of causes and effects. In her exploration of Peter’s life, narrated with a voice as stirringly honest as industry-standard Holden Caulfield’s, Fu constantly treads the line separating Peter’s internal workings and external events, always sensitive to the connection between the two.
“Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee
Much to the excitement of “To Kill A Mockingbird” fans, Harper Lee’s first book after a long hiatus “Go Set A Watchman” will be released July 14. The novel is set 20 years after the events of “To Kill A Mockingbird” and focuses on Scout Finch as she visits her father in Maycomb, Alabama. Though the book hasn’t been published yet, judging by the greatness of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” we’re definitely still excited to get our hands on it — hopefully, Lee’s strong command of pace and characterization in “To Kill A Mockingbird” will carry through to “Go Set A Watchman.”
“Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides
Written by the author of “The Virgin Suicides,” “Middlesex” follows the life and adventures of narrator Cal Stephanides, an intersex man with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, a condition caused by a genetic mutation that effectively blocks the effects of testosterone. Gesturing towards his life in the theatrical style of the classical epic, Cal calls upon the Muses to aid him in his grand narrative task of telling his and his family’s story. He begins with his grandparents, then works through his exploration of his gender identity as a teenage runaway struggling with the burden of his family’s history. Sometimes hailed as a “Great American Novel,” “Middlesex” is written with the kind of energetic, muscular prose that launches novels straight into the literary canon — it’s a page-turning yet stylistically gorgeous book that fans of “The Great Gatsby” might crave.
“The Little Edges” by Fred Moten
For the poetry fans out there — unlike the anecdotal “Citizen,” which may be more palatable to those who aren’t yet big on poetry, “The Little Edges” is more orthodoxically poetic. It’s also the kind of poetry book that can (and will) make you wild about poetry. Often melancholic and always beautifully rhythmic — lulling in places with the swaying motion of the line — “The Little Edges” is musical and absorbing, the sound of the words hypnotic. In his poems, Moten intermingles African American Vernacular English and academic diction, challenging both racist views of the “respectability” of AAVE and the “proper” place of the vernacular.