Summer Reading

One of my priorities for this time in Oxford is to catch up on real reading: not blogs, not Twitter, not Gawker, but real books, damn it. Usually if I am going through a drought in my writing, it is because I have not been reading enough. So here's the first round of books I pulled out and stacked on my windowsill:

Big World by Mary Miller - Compact but powerful short stories. This was the first book I read here--devoured alongside a dinner of oysters, beet salad, and the biggest pour of Macallan's I have ever been served in a bar. Here is the typically strong opening to "My Brother in Christ":

"You're wearing Coco Chanel," he says to the girl at the bar. She was watching him. They all watch him. The pills he takes makes this pleasant, like he's a scuba diver and they're a school of fish. 

The Delivery Man by Joe McGinniss Jr. - This was the second book I read here, finishing it in the charmed setting of the balcony at Square Books. The author (son of THAT Joe McGinniss, yes) sought the help of Bret Easton Ellis to shape the manuscript, and the influence shows. But I liked it, and I thought there were some really interesting craft techniques at work. When this book came out, my friend Mark Athitakis did a great interview with Joe for the Washington City Paper; you can read it here

Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room by Kelli Russell Agodon - "My husband asks for a poem. / I have many, but none // to share." I have a feeling reading this is going to make me want to write poems, and that's so exciting. 

The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception by Martha Silano - One of the only books I went to the AWP Conference determined to buy. Her work always has great energy and lush detail of color and taste; her voice just hollers from the page. 

Native Son by Richard Wright - I'm embarrassed to have never read this.

History of a Suicide by Jill Bialosky - I've heard this is great, but I confess that I'm steeling myself to tear up more than once. Jill is my editor at Norton, just a lovely woman, so I know her story of losing a sister will hit me hard, especially as someone with a fiercely loved sister of my own.

Tourist in Hell by Eleanor Wilner - When Eleanor Wilner came to Cafe Muse, I was dumbstruck by how good her work was. I've been reading it on the pages of POETRY for a while now, so I don't know why I had never thought to get a collection before. 

If you're looking for something for your summer reading list, my friend Carolyn Parkhurst's third novel--The Nobodies Album--is coming out in paperback. I heard her read from it at Square Books last summer and bought two copies: one for myself, one for the shelves of Grisham House. Here's her very funny "trailer" for the book: