What’s your summer reading list?

I’m building my list. I’m curious what you’re reading or read and loved.

I have a few below, some obvious (in that a couple are trendy bestsellers) but I welcome suggestions. We will be in Spain (specifically, the Pyrenees) for three weeks in August, after swapping houses with a professor there. So Spain-related history or really anything is welcome. (Keeping in mind that they’d need to be in English, since my Spanish can only barely get me through a newspaper.)

  1. All Our Names, by Dinaw Mengestu. I loved his first novel, was lukewarm on the second, have enjoyed his short fiction in The New Yorker a lot. All in all I think he’s one of the freshest current fiction writers.
  2. The Discovery of France, by Graham Robb. France was mostly uncharted, disunited, and decided not “French” until the early 20th century. This is a history of the discovery and conquering of France. I would enjoy analogous books about Spain. This one is (so far) refreshingly well written and short, as history goes. Too many brilliant books are longwinded.
  3. Silkworm, by “Robert Galbraith”. Crime fiction by J.K. Rowling, reputed to be quite good. I enjoyed reading The Cuckoo’s Calling.
  4. Africa Must Be Modern, by Olúfémi Táíwò. A Nigerian philospher calls for a culture shift in Africa. I bought it after reading Gregg Zachary’s review.
  5. Peaceland, by Severine Autesserre. An ethnography of the humanitarian crisis/peacekeeping/conflict expat crowd by my favorite Congo expert. I am partway through and will try to find time to blog about it soon.
  6. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. I know nothing about this book other than a lot of people talk about it and it won the Pulitzer. That is not usually enough to get me to buy a book but it’s so easy to hit that little “send to Kindle” button.
  7. So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy, by various authors. A collection of science fiction short stories by minority and formerly colonized writers.
  8. The Golden Hour, by Todd Moss. A development scholar and former State Dept official (who is also my friend) has written a thriller about an academic who gets appointed to the State Dept to use his conflict scholarship to save the world and get the girl. I mean how can I not read this?

50 thoughts on “What’s your summer reading list?

  1. I read Shadow of the a Wind in Spain this April. It’s a wonderful fictional account of Spanish History. I’m currently loving The Island of Knowledge and highly recommend it.

  2. This is probably too obvious, but I enjoyed reading Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia when I lived in Barcelona a short time. If you don’t know it, it’s his memoir on joining the communist army in the Spanish Civil War–interesting in several ways. It’s easy and to see how Animal Farm must have grown out of the experience. Quick, easy read too.

  3. A Heart So White by Javiar Marias is excellent. To understand how soccer fandom is mediated by memories of the civil war and Catalonian nationalism I recommend: Fear and Loathing in La Liga by Sid Lowe (A history PHD who writes about Spanish soccer for the Guardian).

  4. I’m 2/3 of the way through the baileys prize short list, and haven’t been disappointed yet. Goldfinch and Burial Rites are my favourite of those so far,

  5. The Pyrenees? Then try A Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky. K is pretty reliable no matter what he writes about, and this is an important topic and a fine book.

  6. For Whom the Bell Tolls, a solid Hemingway novel set during the Spanish Civil War, is a favorite of mine. Also, Death in the Afternoon

  7. Hugh Thomas: The conquest of Mexico (not about Spain itself but about New Spain).

    If you want something on modern Spain George Brenan’s The Spanish Labyrinth” is a nice if dated account with interesting hypothesis on geography.

    For myself my reading for the summer is: Twitter.

  8. Boundaries: The Making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees. It’s an excellent account of nation-building at the boundary of nascent states.

  9. Montaillou, Networks of the Brain, Spivak DGv1, Stillwell Naive Lie Theory, Mercenaries Pirates & Sovereigns, Elliptic Tales, Boosting, Hatcher, May, What They Still Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School

  10. oh your twitter post asked what I was reading. Only ones I would pass on to recommend to you would be Montaillou and Mercenaries Pirates & Sovereigns (she also mentions in the intro another author who seems interesting as well).

  11. Below are some of the best audiobooks I have got from Audible. Only the first one is particularly Europe-related.

    History
    Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 by Tony Judt
    Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnsons’s Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965 by Michael R. Beschloss
    Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
    Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse
    Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
    Against All Hope by Armando Valladares

    Pop science
    The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond
    Gang Leader for a Day by Sudir Venkatesh
    Everything is Obvious: How Common Sense Fails Us by Duncan Watts
    The Information by James Gleick
    Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson
    Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande
    Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
    The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intutitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris
    Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner

    Fiction
    The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
    Blindness by Jose Saramago
    Naked by David Sedaris
    Nexus by Ramez Naam
    A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
    How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid

  12. Bienvendio a la madre patria!

    My recommendation is Paul Preston, The Spanish Holocaust. It’s a painful read, but knowing that past explains much of modern Spain, including the Catalan independence movement and the roots of the opposition to the People’s Party. It may also hold lessons for other countries emerging from prolonged conflicts and dictatorship, but I am hesitant to draw those connections — for somoeone with experience in modern conflicts, it is the persistent strength of the Spanish state in the midst of a total war for control of it what stands out.