I have been a sucker for a book challenge ever since reading the entire summer reading list in the fifth grade (we were supposed to pick, like, two books out of 25 classics, so being a dork I read them all). The most recent, I suppose, was this very blog—in which I challenge myself to review every book I read—but now I’ve become interested in this girl from 746 books’s “20 books of summer” challenge, despite that the challenge is no more than “make a list of 20 books you’d like to read and then read them.”
But in addition to being a dork, I am a contrarian, so I am going to use the challenge to read books I don’t want to read. Specifically, the items cluttering up my to-read shelf for months or years that somehow I’ve never gotten around to. Either I got them for free and felt bad throwing them out, or I worry they’ll be depressing—very literary of me, I know—or I’ve tried to get into them and failed but have the good intention to try again. I will force myself to read them in the order they were randomly sitting there when I walked over to the shelf. Happily, because my book shelf is disorganized, this random selection includes a couple of books I actually was hoping to read sometime soon. Unhappily, Hunger by Knut Hamsen was still on the shelf, and I had given up on that book as unquenchably repellent and was just wating to donate it.
Also unhappily for the Diverse Books movement, though most of these writers are women and one is a transwoman, I think every one of them is white. I am not the hugest supporter of identity politics, but I do make an effort to keep my blog from being all white. All I can say is I’m going to try to make up for it in the fall, maybe take some recommendations from this blogger’s list.
Ok! Here is what the rest of my summer looks like:
- My Sister Life, by Maria Flook
A memoir written by a woman whose sister disappeared as a young teen, and was later discovered to have become a child-prostitute. Pros: Recommended by a friend with good taste. Cons: Sounds depressing.
2. Rethinking Normal, A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill
The story of a bullied teen’s decision to transition into being a woman. Cons: Got it for free at a Lambda event; don’t like teen fiction; probably very political in a rote, generic way. Pros: The author makes a cute girl; topic is inherently interesting.
3. The Rules of Inheritance, by Claire Bidwell Smith
A memoir by a woman whose parents were both diagnosed with cancer when she was fourteen—and who have both died by the time she’s 25. Story of loss and coming of age. Pros: This book was written by a friend of mine and I have been meaning to read it for years! I bought it when it was new in hardcover! Cons: Worried it will be depressing.
4. Simians, Cyborgs and Women, by Donna J. Haraway
Some mind-bending cultural theory by a History of Consciousness professor at U Berkeley on what feminists can learn from cyborgs, and how early primate research falsely created femininity. Pros: I am already in the middle of this, and am really looking forward to getting back to it! Cons: Hell of dense.
5. Animal Sanctuary, by Sarah Faulkner
A quirky book from Starcherone press about an eccentric ’60s movie star who opens an animal sanctuary. Cons: Sounds annoying and not plot driven; I was talked into buying this by its publisher at AWP. Pros: I like the cover.
6. Omon Ra, by Victor Pelevin
A satirical novel about the Soviet space program by a contemporary Russian writer of cult acclaim. Pros: I have liked past Pelevin books. Cons: Pelevin is kind of opaque and self indulgent. I must have picked this up for free off a slush shelf at work.
7. Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, by Michelle Tea
A YA book about a mermaid by a McSweeney’s author. Cons: I hate YA and the premise sounds way too twee. This was a freebie that I never intended to read. Pros: It’s set in Boston and I have liked an earlier Michelle Tea book.
8. The Crooning Wind, Three Greenlandic Poets
Oh my God, why do I even own this this!?!!
9. Woman Rebel, The Margaret Sanger Story, by Peter Bagge
A graphic novel about Margaret Sanger, an early crusader for reproductive rights. Cons: Didactic and neo-liberal. Hideous drawings. Pros: An interesting topic. Graphic novels are usually quick reads.
10. Hunger, by Knut Hamsun
Published in 1890 and hailed as the beginning of the modern psychological novel, Hunger is about a young writer slowly starving to death in a generic small European capital. Cons: Relentlessly creepy and unpleasant. Pros: It’s a classic! I can say I’ve read it!
11. I Love Dick, by Chris Kraus
I can’t figure out what this is about, exactly, but it’s a feminist classic novel from the ’90s, (or is it a text?). Pros: I’m looking forward to reading it. Cons: It will probably have no plot.