Book Recommendations from our Summer Reading

To start up the English Department blog for the new academic year, we have asked some of the department’s graduate students and faculty to reflect on the reading they have done over the summer and to recommend a few titles (either academic or popular) that they enjoyed.

Kea Anderson returned to Moby Dick this summer but also recommends The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. She describes it as “a fun contemporary twist on the old epistolary form. The narrator is a servant, a darker, ironic Pamela, who has killed his master and become an entrepreneur, rather than married him and regretted it.”

Natalia Cecire recommends A.S. Byatt’s Angels and Insects which comprises two novellas, “Morpho Eugenia” and “The Conjugial Angel,” and, for the more academically-minded, former Berkeley Professor Carolyn Dinshaw’s 1999 book Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern.

Catherine Cronquist Browning suggests the New Zealand-born Ngaoi Marsh’s Artists in Crime, a novel that mixes puzzles, allusions and romance perfect for lovers of mystery novels. For the devotee of the Victorian novel, she recommends The Half-Sisters by Geraldine Jewsbury, a much-admired contemporary of George Eliot and Charles Dickens.

Emily Hilligoss reports on two book recommendations that came from her summer reading: Stoner by John Williams and Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever by Walter Kirn. She writes, “The latter is the book I wanted to write after four years of undergrad at an elite institution that shall remain nameless; the former (which has nothing to do with marijuana) is the book I would eventually want to write as an academic.”

Annie McClanahan recommends the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro–from Never Let Me Go to When We Were Orphans to The Unconsoled. Annie remarks on their strange and uncanny nature and writes that “these novels are at once intellectually and formally compelling and absolutely gripping as narratives.”

Professor Sam Otter greatly enjoyed Joan Didion’s Where I Was From, in which Didion “revisits her own writing and her fascination with the state of California.”  As Professor Otter notes: “Quite timely.”

Professer Genaro Padilla recommends Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, “a long, weird, compelling novel.”

Professor Sue Schweik offers the following titles: The Heroines by Eileen Favorite (a “beach reading novel designed for English majors”); Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America by Tiny (Lisa) Gray-Garcia; Humanimal: A Project for Future Children by Bhanu Kapil; and Book: The Sequel. First Lines from the Classics of the Future by Inventive Imposters edited by Clive Priddle.

Monica Soare offers Talia Schaffer’s The Forgotten Female Aesthetes: Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England as a reminder that “popular” culture is an important way to understand a literary time period. To that end, she also recommends the feminist blog

Mia You recommends the “extraordinary” Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector by Benjamin Moser which chronicles the eccentric and glamorous life of a 20th-Century figure who has been described as “that rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf.”