“Summer reading” usually falls into two categories: ambitious (either a worthy classic or a respectable contemporary author - think Infinite Jest) and light (a thriller or romance - think Gone Girl). My own summer reading track record, however, has pretty much defied these groupings. I got some weird looks on the beach two years ago when I was flopped on my towel with Tom Segev’s One Palestine, Complete. The next year I was dragging around my 700-page biography of King Hussein. And then Proust has been thrown in there somewhere this whole time (worthy classic, okay).
I’m a proponent of year-long reading, preferably in my bed, but I still like the idea of summer reading. Stretched out on a lawn chair or a beach towel with a book in hand - does anything really sound better? Moreover, it’s good to get an annual reminder that there are other things to do than just scroll through Pinterest.
So, I designate summer reading to be anything that you’ve been meaning to read for the longest time but haven’t gotten around to it yet - a novel, a biography, a 20-page New Yorker profile. No judgement! Most of all, it should be something that interests you, and not just the latest hyped-up bestseller that everyone is talking about. I never read Freedom and have yet to feel like I missed out. This isn’t the time to try to impress people - it’s the time to remember why you loved reading so much in the first place.
Without further ado, here are the two main books I’m reading this summer:
En Finir Avec Eddy Bellegueule (Finishing Off Eddy Bellegueule) - Edouard Louis
I first read about this one in a an article in the Paris Review and was fascinated - by the setting and the author. Situated in northern France, the semi-autobiographical novel describes a rural French village facing a level of poverty that we are shocked to find in a developed country. An unsavory account of a way of life he knows all too well, Louis veers away from Les Misérables. “For many years we’ve made the mistake of confusing love with politics, as if supporting something politically meant loving everything associated with it, to the point of romanticizing poverty and misery to support the people who endure them,” he says in the interview. “I’ll support prisoners who fight unjust conditions in jail, but that doesn’t mean I want to have dinner with them every day.” At only 200 pages, it’s the perfect size for reading on my morning commute.
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
“Didn’t you read that in high school?” Nope. Ironically, I read Jean Rhys’ prequel Wide Sargasso Sea instead. But when I saw my sister’s old copy destined for the library book donation box, I had to fish it out and delve into the tale of the “madwoman in the attic” myself. If it wasn’t clear already, I really really like French literature. That being said, I could use a good dose of Brit lit to mix it up.