What Are These Freaks Reading?
When summertime rolls around, all I want to do is stay inside and try not to sweat. I guess that’s why summer reading lists are a thing. In celebration of the year's most hellish season, I asked some writers I admire what books they’ve got piled up and...
When summertime rolls around, all I want to do is stay inside and try not to sweat. I guess that’s why summer reading lists are a thing. I don’t keep a running list, though. I just have stacks of books everywhere and when the mood hits I grab one. This year I’m determined to get through a few I’ve had stacked inside my house for at least five years now, like Gaddis’s A Frolic of His Own, Perec’s Life a User’s Manual, Sontag’s Death Kit, Sesshu Foster’s Atomic Aztex, not to mention piles on piles of new stuff. There’s so much coming out every week, and most people haven’t even started consuming what they got a year ago, or more. But it’s nice to be buried sometimes, and it’s nice to see that others are buried, too, and absorb shit from what they’re inhaling.
I asked some writers I admire what books they’ve got piled up and waiting and where those books came from.
Jesse Ball (The Curfew)
1. Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations, by R. C. Bell. Found at Myopic Books in Chicago. A Dover edition of this classic on human play.
2. Memories of the Future, by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. Given to me by a student. NYRB, so I am filled as always with eager anticipation.
3. Baroque Chess Openings, by Richard Wincor. A bizarre book by a brilliant man who appears to have been only a competent chess player. I am also only competent and like his obscure approach (as detailed in the book). I may give his method a try. Also purchased at Myopic.
4. The Nature of the Judicial Process, by Benjamin Cardozo. Purchased at Myopic. A book about how judges think when making judgments (by a legendary justice).
5. Agricola and Germania, by Tacitus (translation). If you don't like Tacitus, your world is a little smaller and paler in my estimation.
6. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas S. Kuhn. A book on systems of knowledge and ways of thinking in science. Bought at Myopic as a gift for someone who already owned it (a prescient gift).
Molly Brodak (A Little Middle of the Night)
1. The Cousins' Wars, by Kevin Philips. About five years ago I read Wealth and Democracy by him, which is a book that should replace all math books, science books, history books, English books, every textbook in every school in America. This one is considerably larger and deeper and I have a lot of reverence for it, which is somehow why I have not 'let' myself read it yet.
2. Songs of Stories of the Ghouls, by Alice Notley. The few times I've opened this it seemed like a neurotic, rambling, serious inside joke that wanted me to close it back up and not return, but I won't.
3. Canada, by Richard Ford. My mom sent me this book for my birthday because the main character's dad robs banks, which is something she thought I could relate to. The blurb says it is "luminous" and "destined to become a classic" which makes me already hate it.
4. The Penguin Atlas of African History, by Colin McEvedy. This book has extremely beautiful pale blue maps on every other page, showing various anthropological changes to population/politics using various shading patterns and symbols. Someone already highlighted all passages relating to diseases or plagues.
5. Prehistoric Life, by DK Books. I regularly flip through this book but I plan to force myself to read it cover to cover soon. It's childish and has overly colorful digital artists' renderings of extinct animals and plants that will look dated in ten years but it's very comforting somehow. Still, I can't believe I bought this book; it probably cost $50.
6. Inside the Blood Factory, by Diane Wakoski. I bought this book for $1 because I sort of felt bad for it and I also liked the mellow 70s cover style. The poems seem sort of mystical/hysterical and I will feel even more sorry for it when I read it.
Claire Donato (Burial)
1. New Religious Movements: A Documentary Reader, by Dereck Daschke.
2. Look at the Bunny: Totem, Taboo, Technology, by Dominic Pettman.
3. Ghost, bySarah Tourjee.
4. Foreign Correspondent, by Joanna Howard.
5. Unequal Before Death, by Marcelline Block and Christina Staudt.
6. The Organism for Poetic Research. PELT 2 + accompanying cassette tape.
7. Moscow Symposium: Conceptualism Revisited, Boris Groys (ed).
8. Heath Course Pak, by Tan Lin.
9. Middlemarch, by George Eliot.
10. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll.
11. The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith.
12. Fishboy, by Mark Richard.
13. Against Interpretation and Other Essays by Susan Sontag.
14. Music for Porn, by Rob Halpern.
15. Nilling by Lisa Robertson.
16. Exilée / Temps Morts: Selected Works, by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.
17. Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, TC Tolbert and Tim Trace Peterson (eds).
18. Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, by Daniel Clowes.
Brian Evenson (Immobility)
1. Pathmarks, by Martin Heidegger. Always try to start the summer by reading some high theory...
2. Killing Critics, by Carol O'Connor. O'Connor's Mallory is the basis for Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
3. Remember Why You Fear Me, by Robert Shearsman. Everybody who knows anything about horror and literature has been recommending this one to me. Really looking forward to it.
4. Red Moon, by Benjamin Percy. Werewolves, written by a guy who has a voice like Darth Vader. What's not to like?
5. Signs of Life, by M. John Harrison. Been slowly working through all of Harrison's work, which is excellent. My friend Brian Conn recommended this one.
6. The River Through the Trees, by David Peak. Poor David Peak, crushed by all these big books. But I'll probably start at the bottom of the pile and work up.
Shane Jones (Daniel Fights a Hurricane)
1. The Recognitions, by William Gaddis. Have had this on my list for at least a year. I keep dipping in and out, loving it, then reading some other, shorter book. I asked for this on Twitter and a guy in Rhode Island sent it to me. Gaddis blows people up on the page (from the 100 pages or so I've read).
2. Lightning Rods, by Helen DeWitt. My wife read this and liked it. DeWitt seems really interesting and I eventually want to get to it because it's mostly about fucking in the workplace, I think.
3. The Mandarin, by Aaron Kunin. I'm pretty sure this book is for me, but it's been sitting for like two years unread. Rebecca Wolff gave me this copy during lunch at a Thai restaurant in Albany.
4. Night Moves, by Stephanie Barber. Ordered this from PGP and then for some reason never read it. It keeps moving around my apartment, following me.
Sean Kilpatrick (fuckscapes)
1. Kissssss, by Steve Katz. Caught a review touting Katz’s level as under the common slur of influence. Hope it’s fucking mean enough. Us word saladers get caught yawning too. All right.
2. Expressionist Texts, by Oskar Kokoschka. Some forms of batshit kill together.
3. Desires, by John L’Heureux. “He would walk around on his skinned feet, leaving bloody footprints up and down the corridors, looking for someone to love him.”
4. Nathanael West, by Jay Martin. West never plagiarized Horatio Alger. He popped a dildo in his ear for science. Reading this and Mishima soon. Let’s end how they did.
5. Us He Devours, by James B. Hall. He wrote Yates Paul, His Grand Flights, His Tootings. Here’s the proud simple line being fantastic. Titles like early Arthur Kopit: Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad.
6. Zone, by Mathias Énard. Evenson’s translations. Electric Flesh. Electric Flesh.
7. The Works of Rabelais. Reading this over my short lifespan.
Ben Mirov (Hider Roser)
1. Strange Travelers, by Gene Wolfe. I like Gene Wolfe's writing a lot. He is one of my favorite writers, but I haven't really read many of his short stories. I've had this book for about a year, I think. I took it from my dad's bookshelf.
2. The Explosions, by Mathias Svalina. Mathias is a friend of mine. I really like his writing. I'm especially attracted to how imaginative it is.
3. Mellow Actions, by Brandon Downing. Brandon's work is always fun to read. I like to think of his poems as collages, but I'm not sure he would describe them that way.
4. The Naomi Poems: Corpse and Beans, by Bill Knott. My friend Clay just moved to Massachusetts. He was clearing out his books and had two copies of this, so he gave me one. I don't really know Bill Knott's work, but a number of poets have recommended him to me.
5. A Perfect Vacuum, by Stanislaw Lem. I've been meaning to read this book for a long time. My friend Clint found it in the Strand in New York, I think. It's a collection of fake book reviews.
6. Hogg, by Samuel Delany. I've always been a fan a Delany's writing, especially his older sci-fi, but also his nonfictional writing. I tried to read Hogg before. I was reading it and then I gave up reading books for a while, but I want to finish it.
7. The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss. This is the second book in a trilogy about a legendary hero telling the story of how he became a hero. It seems like pretty straightforward fantasy writing so far. I'm sort of losing interest in it.
Adam Robinson (Adam Robison and Other Poems)
1. Antigonick, by Anne Carson (illustrated (a lot) by Bianca Stone). Read it for the pictures.
2. As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh, by Susan Sontag, edited by her son, David Rieff. You think you like Susan Sontag, but who has the time? These fragments solve that problem.
3. Young Tambling, by Kate Greenstreet. The guy who told me to see Fishbone became my best friend because of it. Go see Kate Greenstreet.
4. The Skin Team, by Jordaan Mason. The publisher told me this is an immersive book. I'll say. I won't even need to fill the bathtub.
5. Nazi, by Jeremiah Rush Bowen. With no preface, Nazi launches into 400 pages of internet people telling each other why they’re Nazis. “You’re a Nazi because you breastfeed.”
6. Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension, by Michael Heald. The author sold me this for $5. There’s some stuff about Malkmus in it, but in a good way.
7. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. It’s like the point is to make me uncomfortable.
Andrea Seigel (The Kid Table)
1. Crap Kingdom, by D. C. Pierson. I’m a few chapters into this. We have the same publisher, so I asked my editor for it.
2. Ticknor, by Sheila Heti. I went apeshit for How Should a Person Be? So I immediately ordered this.
3. When Panic Attacks, by David D. Burns. A therapist I’m no longer seeing told me to read this and do the exercises for my anxiety because I won't take drugs. I can't seem to get on board.
4. The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This book has been in my bedside reading pile for approximately two years. Every time I try to read more of it, I get anxious that I have cancer (see above).
5. Instyle, December 2012. I like to go through holiday gift guides and cut out things I think people would like. I haven't had time yet because I had a baby.
Previously by Blake Butler - The Miami Heat Reader