The Nation Summer Reading List

The Nation Summer Reading List

Jennifer Egan, Tony Judt, Sontag remembered and more! Find out what Nation staffers are reading this summer and tell us what’s on your list.


With the summer season 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 want to know what’s on your summer list.

John Palattella, Literary Editor
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt
As austerity campaigns carry the day in Europe, many are wondering if a single currency has crippled the EU. How did economic and political unity come about in Europe? Was a single currency necessary for unity? Tony Judt’s Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 explains that and a lot more.

Miriam Markowitz, Associate Literary Editor
Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, by Dwight Macdonald
One Day I Will Write About This Place, by Binyavanga Wainaina
I’m reading Dwight Macdonald’s classic screed Masscult and Midcult in a new collection of his essays out from New York Review Books, as well as One Day I Will Write About This Place, a memoir, by the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina.

Betsy Reed, Executive Editor
A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
Displaced Persons, by Ghita Schwarz
Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín
Like everyone else, I am reading (and loving) Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. Less trendy but also riveting is Ghita Schwarz’s novel Displaced Persons, about postwar Jewish refugees in New York. I also recently read Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep and Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, about earlier generations of New York immigrants—great books which have given me a new perspective on this great city.

Katha Pollitt, Columnist
Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag, by Sigrid Nunez
A wonderful novelist remembers Susan Sontag as writer, mentor, woman, friend and enthusiastic lover of a vanished New York.

Richard Kim, Executive Editor, Online
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Embassytown, by China Mieville
I am reading The Brothers Karamazov because it is reportedly Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton’s favorite book, and only now does it feel like there’s enough space to figure out why. Also just finished Embassytown, by China Mieville because I will read anything that man writes.

Teresa Stack, President
Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War, by Annia Ciezadlo
A strange mix of sensuous writing about food, evocative first-hand reports of living life during wartime (in Iraq and Beirut), and the stresses of adapting to a new family and culture. Ciezadlo’s work feels both dizzying and strangely grounded. And it makes you hungry.

Frank Reynolds, Editorial Producer
Landscape and Power edited, by W.J.T. Mitchell
I just finished the essay collection Landscape and Power, which I’ll be thinking about as I fly across the country next week.

Kate Murphy, Research Director/Assistant Editor
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu
I just started reading Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins. Once I picked it up I noticed it features a blurb from The Nation on the back cover, so I went back and read our (very positive) review of it from 1976. I also just finished a novel called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu. It’s strange, sad, and funny; I randomly picked it up at one of the literary department’s book grabs and loved it.

Greg Mitchell, Blogger
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (on Kindle)
This year I will not list a book but a mode—namely, I am now reading my first book ever on Kindle (after having four of my own published that way since last October). It happens to be The Great Gatsby but that’s mainly because we had already bought as e-book a few months ago. Good summer book, but reminded that first quarter of it is weak. Reading via Kindle in bed quite enjoyable—as you get older the larger type helps—but haven’t taken it out for a test drive on the road yet. My summer tip for others, though not exactly beach reading, is acclaimed new memoir, by my friend, frequent co-author and friend of The Nation, Robert Jay Lifton.

Mark Hertsgaard, Environmental Correspondent
To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918, by Adam Hochschild
Personally, I’m reading at the moment Adam Hochschild’s marvelous new book, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918, which tells in rich, evocative prose the fascinating stories of the heroic individuals who spoke out and organized against that most futile and fateful of global conflicts, the First World War. Inspiring, instructive, poignant, To End All Wars is the best kind of history, teaching us not only about the past but how to live today.

Gennady Kolker, Publicity Director
The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr
I’m currently reading The Shallows, which I think is essential—it’s critical for us to reflect on (if not understand) the consequences of our increased reliance on digital media for consumption of information.

Peter Rothberg, Associate Publisher, Blogger
The Keep, by Jennifer Egan
Moment in the Sun, by John Sayles
I just finished 2010 Pulitizer Prize winner Jennifer Egan’s 2006 minor masterpiece, The Keep. Must reading for anyone who fell for her remarkable Pulitzer-winning Goon Squad. It mesmerized, moved and totally creeped me out. Now, I’m turning to Moment in the Sun, the new tome by filmaker John Sayles, which tries to tell the definitive tale of the twentieth century in an interlocking series of narratives and characters taking up almost 1,000 pages!

These are all interesting suggestions, by literate people but we 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 appropriate for a penniless staycation, please tell us what you’re reading this summer.

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