Thanks to the almost 1,000 Nation readers who took the time to send us their summer reading choices. We’re reading each submission carefully and getting great tips in the process. This is our first Nation Reader’s Summer Reading List. Watch this space for future editions coming soon.
Thomas Deerfield, Anchorage, Alaska
The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg
Heinberg’s books are always well-researched and written. He elaborates the challenges of our times and brings a reality check to the bumper-sticker memes that rule America’s mass media. We recommend all of Richard’s books, especially Peak Everything and Searching for a Miracle. These are not trivial books. They require attention and they do “go deep” on deep subjects. However Richard’s style is quite readable.
Lillien Waller, New York, New York
The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Anyone who has read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog posts and essays can appreciate his particular brand of insight into politics and culture. He’s funny and erudite, yes, but his comic fan zeal for the world he lives in—and the one his son will inherit—makes me believe he can fly. Figuratively speaking, Coates is a child of the hip-hop generation. But he is quite literally a child of the black power generation, and his book is a testament to both. (I love, too, that the book’s title has a genealogy that traverses MLK to Mos Def to Talib Kweli. Like, yeah. Of course.) The writing blends staccato rap rhythms with nonlinear poetic construction—it works. But it also recreates, as far as I can remember, what it was like to be young. One of the things this book says about child-parent relationships, while not necessarily new, is powerful: that even while battling back against our parents and their decisions for our lives, we may still somehow become—with any luck—the best parts of who they were.
Rick Bockrath, Indianapolis, Indiana
The Rubber Band by Rex Stout
Totally stuck in reading the old Nero Wolfe detective stories by Rex Stout, which I haven’t looked at for decades. Great sentences, words and detectable difficulties. All in New York, late 1930s to 1950s. Same principal characters, each of his own distinct nature.
Brent Schaus, Montréal, Quebec
Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson
A non-fiction account that grew from an article Hunter had written for The Nation. A chance to glimpse his style before the onset of gonzo.
David Weber, Exeter, New Hampshire
A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare’s Plays Teach Us About Justice by Kenji Yoshino
This book’s appearance on the scene was tarnished by Garry Wills’ perverse and irresponsible review in the Times, so friendly mention elsewhere is itself a small contribution to justice. The book has interesting and useful things to say about some recent compromises of justice like the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, but mostly it is a steadily fascinating explication of twelve Shakespeare plays where the theme of justice is centrally addressed or importantly implied.
E. Haraldsdottir, Brooklyn, NY
Miss Gazillions by Richard Weber
Found a second hand copy on Amazon, bought it on the basis of a starred Publisher’s Weekly review there. Loving it, sophisticated irreverent fun, perfect summer read. Hoping for more from this author.
John Grooms, Charlotte North Carolina
The Other Eighties: A Secret History of America in the Age of Reagan by Bradford Martin
Martin convincingly shows that today’s mainstream accounts of the 1980s are far too “Reaganocentric.” Left out of that view, says Martin, are the millions of Americans who countered the dominant GOP narrative of the decade by pushing back against the Reagan agenda, offering a kind of counter-reality to the era’s tide of glitz, money-worship and conservatism’s culture wars. Martin is a highly readable social historian, and he covers a lot of ground. He explores the decade’s various grassroots movements: a nuclear freeze, the fight against South African apartheid, opposition to U.S. interference in Central America, and the battle for gay rights, abortion rights, and more federal funding of AIDS research. And, of course, rocking out to alternative rock music, which, Martin accurately notes, “enabled communities of fans to explore identities in opposition to mainstream social political mores.” Martin’s challenge to the shallow, mainstream view of the 80s as an embrace of “Morning in America” clichés, complete with Rambo, big hair and MTV, is long overdue and finally brings a welcome look under the surface of the decade’s pleasant corporate fantasies.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Stewart