Summer is a time when those who like to read usually have more time to strike a few of those novels they’ve been meaning to get through off the list. As for myself, it is also the time to spend less hours going through newspapers and journals and wrap myself in my other literary love: longform writing and fiction. It is so nice to have the time to read for no purpose other than enjoyment and I am clinging to it with a vicious, desparate strength because I know that this state will not last forever. That said, here are some books that I would recommend reading over the next month (or whenever, really).
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Favourite Quote: “Who has decided—who has the right to decide—for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight?”
Funny story surrounding my reading of this environmental science book: it was assigned as one of the texts for an American Literature class that I was taking during my last term as an undergraduate student and I decided that I was not going to read it. (It sounded too scientific for my tastes and I was up to my knees in about a dozen other projects.) Long after the class had ended and I received that A-, I felt pretty bad about not reading the book and decided to crack it open. As it turned out, it was good enough for me to finish when absolutely no one was pushing me to. Although some of the issues that the book deals with are indicative of environmental concerns during the 1950s and 1960s—the widespread spraying of DDT and pesticides, for example— it will still make you ask important questions about the environmental and health costs we pay for rapid development in a way that is all the more prevalent now. And make you temporarily afraid to go outside or eat food.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Favourite Quote: “Everyone has secrets. It’s just a matter of finding out what they are.”
I don’t want to say that this book drew me in to the point where I was neglecting most other aspects of my life in order to finish it (hello, reading cliché!), but that is exactly what happened. Here is the plot 4-1-1 for the uninitiated: After being accused of libel, Swedish financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired by a retired CEO in order to dig up information on the disappearance of his niece. Blomkvist invites young and tattooed (tattoos=edginess and subversion) detective Lisbeth Salander to help him and they start digging up information on a string of murders that happened over forty years ago together.
That said, this summary alone will not draw in those of you who are not die-hard fans of Swedish crime fiction (guilty…). The writing is magnetic if not beautiful and the plot, while slow at times, is a modern take on classic crime fiction. I’m pretty surprised that I haven’t purhcased this book earlier, actually, since I remember seeing everyone reading it on the bus about five years ago and wondering what it was all about. (That said, I’m almost always late to the party when it comes to all things arts and culture.)
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Favourite Quote: “You wanna fly, you gotta give up the shit that weighs you down.”
You do not need me to tell you to read Song of Solomon (I think the Nobel Prize it received in 1993 kind of did that for us), but I’ll just say that it is a novel that everyone needs to read at least once or miss out on a world that is as gripping as it is powerful. The story, which explores Milkman’s coming of age as an African American in the mid-twentieth century, deals with far-reaching questoins of how racism, opression and alienation shape the identities and experiences of both individuals and the communities in which they live. It is also a story about a quest for self-knowledge, an understanding of how one’s history shapes one’s present. The subplots and the characters of Toni Morrison will draw you in immediately with their complexity and their integrity, but it is also the image of how one person’s escape towards liberation can hurt those that are left behind that will end up staying with you for a long, long time.