The 'Nation' Summer Reading List
With hot weather already upon us, it’s time to figure out what to read this summer. A quick poll of Nation staffers produced these eclectic titles. We also really want to know what you’re reading! Where better to turn for book suggestions than Nation readers, whom surveys tell us read, on average, one new book a week! We’re hoping to tap this collective literacy and publish a recommended reading list drawn from your suggestions. So, whether it’s light beach reading or dystopian sci-fi for a penniless staycation, please use the comments field below to let us what you’re reading this summer.
Katha Pollitt, Columnist
The Privileges, by Jonathan Dee
In this dark, clever novel for our time, a young Ivy League couple who think they are very special snowflakes claw their way into the 1 percent thanks to the husband’s financial skulduggery. Will they get away with it? Dee keeps you guessing until the last page.
Miriam Markowitz, Associate Literary Editor
The Mammoth Cheese, by Sheri Holman
I just finished The Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman, who has been marketed as an author of “women’s fiction” but is actually one of our greater American novelists. The story of a woman’s quest to save her family farm by honoring the new US president—who has promised amnesty to small, indebted farmers—with an enormous wheel of cheese has much of what I could want in a novel: dimensional characters and relationships, a tight storyline, existential depth and dread, and sentences of surprising beauty and originality.
John Nichols, Washington Correspondent
A People’s History of London, by Lindsey German and John Rees
The Olympics and the Jubilee? No. It’s the suffragists, silk weavers, militant match girls, Brick Lane anarchists, Tom Paine, William Morris and Karl Marx that make London interesting—then and now the great cauldron of radical ideas and action.
Eric Foner, Editorial Board Member
Blood, Sweat, and Toil, by Geoffrey G. Fields
A fascinating, kaleidoscopic history of the British working class during World War II, which upends many familiar stereotypes about the war and British society. It also demonstrates that there is still plenty of life in the field of labor history, whose death has been prematurely announced many times.
Dana Goldstein, Contributing Writer
A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
You’ll see no shortage of recommendations for Dave Eggers’s new novel. I’m reading it because as an avid urban biker, I’m fascinated by the story of a bike industry consultant who has put himself out of business by offshoring manufacturing work for companies like Scwhinn. The theme is topical, like that of most of Eggers’s work, but the straightforward writing and restrained emotion are timeless.
Ilyse Hogue, Blogger
This Is Your Country on Drugs, by Ryan Grim
One of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in a while is This Is Your Country on Drugs by HuffPo reporter Ryan Grim. His fantastic writing style combines personal experience with exhaustive research to lay out the tragi-comedy that passes for American drug policy. Highly recommend.
Sandy McCroskey, Web Copy Editor/Producer
L'Être et l'événement, by Alain Badiou
I’ve just about wrapped up L'Être et l'événement (1980), and have ordered from amazon.fr (there’s no Powell's over there!) the second volume of the contemporary communist philosopher’s magnum opus, Logiques des mondes (2006), and his just-published translation of Plato’s Republic. The books are also available in translation, but I’m not sure this syllabus would be anyone else’s tasse de thé... although I have read that Chris Hayes majored in the philosophy of mathematics and Badiou is all about set theory.
Ari Berman, Contributing Writer
Heaven is a Playground, by Rick Telander.
Classic and timeless look at basketball and street life during a Brooklyn summer in 1974 (required reading for new Nets fans). The inspiration for works like The Last Shot and Hoop Dreams.
Greg Mitchell, Blogger
Across the Great Divide, by Barney Hoskyns
Hard Times, by Charles Dickens
Following my usual mixing of low and high (or at least middle), I have finished Barney Hoskyns’s lengthy history of The Band—had to read this after the death of the great Levon Helm—and I am now turning to Dickens’s timely “Hard Times. Who knew that the full title is “Hard Times for These Times? The 1854 novel arrived just after my favorite Dickens, Bleak House. (Note: You should watch the PBS adaptation of that from a few years back.) As Peter Rothberg will testify, “Hard Times” is also the title of one of my favorite American songs, the Stephen Foster tune—see great versions from recent years by everyone from Dylan to Thomas Hampson, Emmylou Harris and Mavis Staples. “Hard Times” for the new hard times, for sure.
Dave Zirin, Sports Correspondent
Detroit I Do Mind Dying, by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin
This brand new summer 2012 edition of the 1970s classic about Black Power organizing in the Detroit auto plants contains a new introduction about Detroit today. It’s almost unspeakably inspiring.
Richard Kim, Executive Editor
Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, by Allison Bechdel
I can’t wait to dig into Allison Bechdel’s new graphic memoir. Bechdel’s first book, Fun Home, explored her relationship with her father, a closeted gay man who killed himself two weeks after his wife, Allison’s mother, asked for a divorce. Well, it’s obvious who the subject of this new book is. Nobody working in any genre anywhere touches the topic of the family as candidly, as finely and as bracingly as Allison Bechdel.
Roane Carey, Managing Editor
Malcolm X, by Manning Marable
So Much Pretty, by Cara Hoffman
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention is a brilliant biography—a deeply researched, thoughtful, complex portrait of the man and the movement that both made him and killed him. And So Much Pretty, Cara Hoffman’s debut novel, is a chilling, troubling portrait of the murderous underside of life in a depressed, environmenally ravaged upstate New York town. Billed as a mystery, it’s really a finely wrought literary meditation on the ravages of a misogynist culture.
Kate Murphy, Assistant Editor
Dune, by Frank Herbert
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
I’m currently reading Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel, a futuristic story about feudal families battling for control of the planet Arrakis, or Dune. I’m grateful that my copy has a glossary in the back so I can keep up with all of the lingo. I also just finished reading Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, which chronicles the months she spent traversing the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s terrific summer reading.
Frank Reynolds, Editorial Producer
The Problem with Work, by Kathi Weeks
There’s no better way to spend the summer months than thinking about waged labor, which is why I’m currently reading The Problem with Work, an inventive examination of how seemingly reformist measures such as universal basic income and reduced workweeks can be used as stepping stones toward a world beyond the daily grind.
Peter Rothberg, Associate Publisher
The Waterman’s Daughter, by Emma Ruby-Sachs
I just started reading Emma Ruby-Sachs’s debut novel. A former Nation intern, Ruby-Sachs is being hailed as an original, fearless new voice in contemporary fiction and I’m certainly digging her finely wrought story about a Canadian water company executive found dead in the black township of Johannesburg.