It’s July, and that means summer books and summer reading, especially for faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Literature.
When we asked them to share what they’re reading right now, they came up with a wide-ranging list of fiction and nonfiction titles: the story of a masterpiece painting that went missing two centuries ago, a detective novel set in southern Virginia, short stories about 19th and 20th century India, and many more.
Marlon James, Moon Witch, Spider King. The second volume in the Dark Star trilogy, which reimagines the fantasy-horror genre in a pre-colonial Africa that is at once surpassingly strange, achingly familiar, and harshly beautiful.
—David L. Pike
I just read, for the first time, Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance, and it has rocketed into my all-time favorite category. It’s beautiful, joyful, sorrowful, and mirthful; it is, in short, life.
I am currently up in Vermont and brought with me Gabriela Alemán’s newly translated book of short stories Family Album, with a mix of genres (detective fiction and adventure) that tweak what we think we know about Ecuador. (Gabby also happens to be an old friend, so there’s that, too.)
The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction, Edited by Zoë Bossiere and Dinty W. Moore
The 84 short essays that comprise this book range from funny to ingeniously shaped to heart wrenching, and break open wide the conventions of how we tell our stories.
The Very Best of Rabindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore
A prolific writer and the 1913 Nobel prize winner, Tagore's short stories cross genres and comment about religion, politics, and gender in 19th and 20th century India.
I recently read Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby. It's a contemporary detective novel about (among other things) race, homosexuality, and trans identity in southern Virginia.
I've been zipping through a variety of things like Robert Harris's thriller, Pompeii (Penguin, 2003) and Jonathan Harr's non-fiction, The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece (Random House, 2005). More slowly, I've been savoring Michel de Montaigne's amazing Travel Journal about his journey on horseback through France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy in 1580-81. I've also read Christine Jackson's new biography, Courtier, scholar and man of the sword: Lord Herbert of Cherbury and his world (OUP 2021). Right now, I'm toggling between two works of historical criticism: Giorgio Agamben's philosophical essay, The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form of Life (2011) about the Franciscan order and Benedetta Craveri's The Age of Conversation (2001) about the literary salons of 17th and 18th century France.
Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson—codebreaking in WWII and beyond.
A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley— strife on the farm.
—Bruce J. Berger
Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
I loved the way this book wove through so many different stories of different women, while keeping a throughline narrative; I was enthralled throughout.
Right now I'm reading a book called The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar. The novel is about a Syrian American trans boy who finds a journal of a famous Syrian American artist whose past is linked to his family and to the queer and trans Syrian community.