ProfHacker Summer Reading Guide 2012

Ah, summer. A few months in the middle of the year when a reader’s thoughts turn to. . . well,. . . reading. The rest of the academic year may be filled with more pragmatic kinds of materials, but summer holds out the promise for a return to pleasure reading.

Here at ProfHacker we’ve shared our holiday gift guides with you (see 2009, 2010, and 2011) and Billie has written a post about crowd sourcing your summer reading. In what follows, we share with you some suggestions for books (both e- and paper) to consume over the next couple of months.

Mark’s Recommendations

  • Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner – I have a friend who was certain nothing new could be done with the literary genre of Aspiring Poet Abroad after Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, but this book proved him wrong.
  • Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander – My wife asked me to stop reading this book at night, because I was laughing so hard I was waking everybody in the house up. But I also felt guilty laughing, because this is a book about the lasting effects of the Holocaust. A (dark, dark) comedy about genocide.
  • MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman – For another unorthodox look at the Holocaust, there’s this magisterial examination of Art Spiegelman’s classic Maus, full of interviews, sketches, drafts, clippings, and primary sources. The package also contains a DVD with a digital copy of Maus that is the closest most people will get to the rare Voyager Company CD-ROM of Maus from the early 1990s.
  • Rise of the Videogame Zinesters by Anna Anthropy – Subtitled “How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form,” this is one of the best book about videogames I’ve read all year. Anthropy argues that everybody should make videogames, and she shows us how.

Ryan’s Recommendations

  • As I mentioned in our Holiday Gift Guide, each year my wife buys me a new edition of Moby-Dick. I won’t be able to wait that long, however to buy and read China Miéville new novel, Railsea, which reimagines Melville’s epic in a science fiction mode.
  • Though I spend much of my time in the nineteenth century, I do try and read a few works of contemporary fiction each year. Last summer I read (and loved) Eleanor Henderson’s novel Ten Thousand Saints in hardback, and this summer it’s available in paperback.
  • I’ve written before of my affection for Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. I try to read it once yearly, often in the summer. My favorite edition is Jeffrey’s S. Cramer’s fully annotated edition, which always reveals something new about the text.
  • Matthew K. Gold’s anthology Debates in the Digital Humanities has shown up all over the academic world since its launch at MLA last January. To judge by the number of “mind blown” blog posts and tweets I’ve seen about it, it’s a must-read whether you’re newbie in the field or a veteran looking for a DH course text.
  • Last week I drove across the country, during which time I greatly enjoyed listening to James Gleick’s The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, which tries to explain how the idea of “information” came to be and then came to define modern society.
  • Ken Jennings’ (yes, of Jeopardy fame) book Maphead is a fun read about maps and the people who love them.

Anastasia’s Recommendations

  • As a huge James Joyce fan, I love Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of her Father’s Eyes, a graphic novel that combines memoir with a biography of Joyce’s daughter Lucia. The book is particularly intriguing as a form of powerful and accessible scholarship. If you haven’t read Bryan Talbot’s Alice in Sunderland, I suggest picking up that one too: both of these graphic novels probe at literature and its connection to networks of history and myth that surround them.
  • While most of the young adult literature that gets attention these days is science fiction and fantasy, there are a number of great novels outside these genres for a more serious summer read. Two novels on cancer stand out as grim but thoughtful reflections: John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a story of two teens who meet at a cancer kid support group, and Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, following a boy’s coming to terms with his mother’s cancer with haunting illustrations by Jim Kay.
  • MIT’s platform studies has several recent titles for catching up with the history and impact of often under-analyzed systems. Check out Jimmy Maher’s The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga for a walk down memory lane and Steven Jones and George Thiruvathukal’s Codename Revolution: The Nintendo Wii Platform for reflection on a console that might still be in your living room.
  • If you enjoyed the new Avengers movie anywhere near as much as I did, I recommend taking a look back at the history of the characters–but if you’ve never read classic Marvel, be prepared for a very different team of superheroes. Start with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s The Avengers Omnibus for a blast from the 60s with such powerful heroes as…Ant-Man.
  • I find the abstract idea of ultramarathons fascinating. For a glimpse into that world I suggest picking up Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run, which combines memoir with vegan recipe book.

Jeff’s Recommendations

Natalie’s Recommendations

Brian’s Recommendations

  • It appears that we’ve got more than one ProfHacker who is looking forward to getting in some science fiction this summer, and it appears that despite what Penny Arcade thinks, we seem to be fans of China Miéville’s work. Natalie has recommended Embassytown, which is great if you want your SF crossed with linguistics; and Ryan has recommended the new Railsea, which makes sense if you like Moby Dick as he does. My choice for summer reading, then, is Miéville’s Perdido Street Station. If you want a book that could be slotted easily into SF, steampunk, horror, or fantasy, that includes chaos theory and speculation about artificial intelligence, not to mention the coolest monster you will EVER find in a book, then this is for you.
  • Jeff and Ryan have already suggested a few academic reads about the digital humanities with Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence and Matt Gold’s (edited) Debates in Digital Humanities. Both are excellent and well worth your time. I’m going to suggest a companion to these books: Stephen Ramsay’s Reading Machines, which explores algorithmic literary criticism. And if you need further accolades, Ramsay even comes endorsed by Stanley Fish. Imagine!
  • Finally, some poetry. Just last week, Natasha Trethewey was named the new U.S. Poet Laureate, and I’d recommend you check out any of her four volumes. Native Guard won the Pulitzer a few years back, and it’s a favorite of mine to teach, but I’ve found plenty to enjoy in each of her books. And sure, she works at Emory with me, so that’s cool too.

Erin’s Recommendations

  • Some of my favorite contemporary writers have new novels coming out this summer, so their work is high on my list. At the top is the new book by John Irving, In One Person, a novel about a bisexual man who falls in love with a transgendered woman. I’ve loved Irving since I first read A Prayer for Owen Meany upon a friend’s recommendation when I was in high school, and the early reviews of his latest effort sound promising.
  • Tana French is another writer whose books I looks forward to, and her fourth, a novel titled Broken Harbor will be published in late July. I’ve already pre-ordered it. French is an American writer who lives in Ireland, and her novels are set in Dublin. Her first three novels, In the Woods, The Likeness, and Faithful Place all feature different members of the Dublin police force, and if you like psychological suspense novels and/or crime fiction, buckle your seat belt. Her work is both smart and compelling, and I can’t wait for the new one.
  • Speaking of suspenseful novels, Gillian Flynn also has a new book, Gone Girl. I really enjoyed her earlier novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, and the buzz for her third book is so loud that it’s almost deafening.
  • One of my favorite features of the Kindle is the free samples–like many people, I use these to bookmark things that sound interesting so I don’t forget them later on. I loved the first several pages of Julian Barnes’s Booker Prize winning novel, The Sense of An Ending, and I’m looking forward to returning to the rest of the novel. Also from the Booker short list, Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues is on my list. Edugyan’s book explores the world of 1940s Paris, jazz, and post-war Germany.
  • Finally, a few favorites that I’ve already read but loved so much that I want to pass them along: Stephen King’s 11/22/63, which I raved about on Twitter (and to anyone else who would listen) in December, Alice LaPlante’s Turn of Mind and S. J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep.

George’s Recommendations

How about you? What’s on your reading list this summer? Please share in the comments!

[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by KOMUnews]

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