Summer Reading

Finally, I have free time. Summer is here, and I’m able to invest a relaxed mind into some non-mandatory reading. The list of novels and non-fictions that I want to cozy up with is ever-expanding, but I think I’ve narrowed it to a manageable amount. I’m trying to include a bit of everything – a little classic literature, some educational text, an uplifting narrative, and a soul-crushing memoir. And of course, a couple reads to inspire travel.

The list, and reasons why:

1. Tales From Nowhere (Lonely Planet):

I actually started reading this travel-writing collection in January, enticed by several authors on the index page (Pico Iyer, Rolf Potts, and Simon Winchester, to be specific), and it’s fantastic. In every narrative, the author finds him or herself “Nowhere,” albeit in very different places – at the edge of the world, or at the edge of a swimming pool.

Everyone has likely experienced their own sense of being “Nowhere,” in a place where time stops and awareness is heightened, where you feel no cell phone, fax or letter can reach. I’m excited to wander through the rest of these far-flung and decidedly original tales.

2. J.D. SalingerFranny and Zooey

Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye was one of those books I was supposed to read in junior high, but didn’t actually get around to until a couple years ago – and it’s all the better that it worked out that way, as Holden is arguably a character that only a young but (slightly) mature heart can understand. The feelings of restlessness, frustration and a need to search for meaning are a set with which I’ve been well acquainted.

I actually don’t know much about Franny and Zooey, but I can only hope it will be as influential a novel as Catcher. And hell, I could use a little more classic culture.

3. Jonathan Lethem – The Fortress of Solitude

I can’t remember where, but I’ve heard Lethem described as one of the few great authors of our generation. Solitude explores two the friendship of two teenagers living in Brooklyn in the 1970s, in the throes of booming hip-hop culture – along with good recommendations, my love for New York, graffiti art and music are what drew me to this book.

4. Haruki Murakami – Kafka on the Shore

My first introduction to Murakami was through his tragic romance, Norwegian Wood. I was then pulled through his bizarre, dreamlike novel, Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and strangely enticed by his other short stories (one appeared in The New Yorker involving ex-girlfriends and spaghetti). Kafka is Murakami’s second-most recent, and looks to be as wonderfully odd as the rest of his books.

5. Dave Eggers – What is What

I was instantly intrigued by the idea of Eggers, the author of what I feel is one of the most honest twenty-something coming-of-age memoirs of our time, recounting the tale of one of Sudan’s lost boys, Valentino Achek Deng. Though it looks to be heart-wrenching, What is What is one of those stories I feel I just have to read.

6. Michael Pollen – The Omnivore’s Dilemma

It is a uniquely American predicament: we’ve too much food, and we’re killing ourselves with it. Pollen explores how we’ve arrived at this place, and emphasizes a more conscious way to look at how we eat by analysing the way we feed ourselves now. His take on food tradition and culture is especially interesting, and I feel I owe it to myself to be exposed to the realities of what I put in my body.

7. Don Oberdorfer – The Two Koreas

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that I am fascinated by Korea, and Oberdorfer’s book has been acclaimed as a great historical perspective on the current political climate. As I hope to return to Seoul within a year, I figure I should take advantage of this free time to deepen my political and cultural education.

8. Rolf Potts – Vagabonding

Reading Potts’ book has become somewhat of a rite-of-passage for travelers and travel-dreamers – currently, I’m part of the latter stock. Similar to Mike over at Vagabondish, I’m planning to read this book as much for inspiration as to light a fire under my ass to get out in the world.

(Updated 05/23/2007)


6 Responses to “Summer Reading”

  1. 1 imani May 22, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    Just wanted to let you know that Murakami has a new novel out this year so Kafka isn’t his latest any more. 🙂 It’s called After Dark.

  2. 2 dailytransit May 23, 2007 at 9:20 am

    Thanks Imani – I’ll have to check that one out, too!

  3. 3 Jen Casey May 23, 2007 at 11:48 am

    “What Is The What” is on my list, too!! Also, I just read a great new book called “When We Get There” by Shauna Seliy. It’s about an immigrant community in western Pennsylvania, with all sorts of flavors of Eastern Europe and one boy’s search for identity and community (and a search for his mother). It’s beautiful. Not necessarily about travel, but I was amazed at how different and “apart” an immigrant community can be, with its traditions and rituals, foods, etc. Beautiful story. Anyway, happy summer reading!!

  4. 4 dailytransit May 23, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Jen, thanks very much!

    Another great book about immigrant communities in the U.S. is Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee. One of my favorite books to be sure, check it out on amazon here.

  1. 1 Burmese Pickled Tea « The Daily Transit Trackback on June 9, 2007 at 8:06 pm
  2. 2 Franny & Zooey « The Daily Transit Trackback on June 21, 2007 at 8:58 pm
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