My 2012-2013 Reading List
    (Summer 2012 into the School Year)
    I organize by series, and by genre.
    I usually give
    Author, Title, Year of Publication
    Brief summary & rating  
    Genre, Length, Dates I read the book
    If you look back at older summer reading lists, you'll see how differently I usually move through books during the summer.  This year, I was packing up my books, painting, and searching for the perfect house.  I know I read, but since I didn't keep track, I don't really remember what.
    Read for fun.
    Read challenging new authors. 
    Read in your favorite genre. 
    Read what's too easy,
    if you don't have the time and energy for more. 
    Read anything. 
    But READ.
    Max Brooks World War Z  (2006)
              Zombie lovers alert!  This is the best zombie book I have read yet.  Brooks uses a Studs Terkel documentary style; his novel is a collection of recollected events told by a wide variety of zombie-apocalypse survivors from around the world.  Warning: it is not too gruesome - people don't want to remember the gross stuff in detail - but they are remembering when zombies almost wiped out humanity.  Things get...icky.
              I hear there's a new movie, and I can see why; I'll probably even see it - but I know I'll prefer the book.  Hearing about individual's experience is far more interesting than the "action and brains" approach that a movie is sure to employ. 
              Speculative fiction.  342 pages.  Read over a few days in late December, 2012.
    Mary Sharrat Daughters of the Witching Hill  (2010)
              Sharrat learned about the true story of the Pendle Witches.  She explains here: "In 1612, in one of the most meticulously documented trials in English history, seven women and two men from Pendle Forest were hanged as witches, condemned on 'evidence' provided by a nine-year-old girl and her brother, who appeared to suffer from learning difficulties. The trial itself might never have happened had it not been for King James I’s obsession with the occult. His book Daemonologie—required reading for local magistrates—warned of a vast conspiracy of satanic witches threatening to undermine the nation."  Read more at http://www.marysharratt.com/books_dwh_about.html
              Sharrat creates characters we care about.  Her two narrators tell a fantastic story of how prejudice and ignorance intertwine, leading to accusations of witchcraft being heaped upon herbcraft healers.  At the same time, she accurately portrays the lives of common people of the post-Shakespearian countryside; FYI, there's no mention of the Bard.  Life is much harder for the rural folk.  Warning: the back cover is a spoiler and is not accurate.  Skip it.
              Historical and light speculative fiction.  352 pages.  I read half, accidentally took a break, and then started over because it was worth it.  Late December 2012.  I bought the book on the left, but I thought the different covers were interesting.  Maybe the publisher hoped to appeal to different readers.  
    Barbara Kingsolver Flight Behavior (2012)
               Dellarobia Turnbow is 28 and miserable.  When she sets out to make a radical change, she comes upon something unexpected.  Protecting this discovery requires preventing a logging project ... and before she knows it, many people in her small Tennessee town are drawn into the scramble to solve the problem, and major media wants to tell her story.  Kingsolver displays the conflicts that arise as proponents of science, religion, politics, economic need, and conservationist ideals debate a major environmental issue.
             As usual, avoid the summaries and reviews; they will probably reveal too much.  If you must know more, Kingsolver's site tells you enough to explain the book without revealing more than you'd find out early in the novel: http://www.kingsolver.com/books/flight-behavior.html
             Realistic fiction.  448 pages.  Read in three days over winter break, 2012.  Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors. I buy every book she writes, immediately, in hard cover. I have never been disappointed.  This one inspires a second reading, and some extensive self-directed study afterward. 
    Stephen King The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012)
              If you look back through the pages, you'll see that I read all 7 of the Dark Tower books.  This is an extra book, set between two of the novels.  Although it could stand alone, the reason I loved it was that I got to hear about these characters once again.  I was surprised, actually, how much I had missed them.  Now I understand why my husband rereads the whole series over and over.  King really has a magnificent way of making me care about fictional people.
              Speculative fiction.   336 pages.


    Snorri Sturluson The Prose Edda  (2005)
              Did you like The Lord of the Rings?  You might know, then, that Tolkein was a scholar, and one subject he studied at length was Norse myth.  Elements of these stories are woven into Tolkien's Middle Earth.  (The name "Middle Earth," for example, was not his original idea.)
              These ancient stories are worth reading on their own.  Since I am generally interested in mythology, I am pursuing a self-education in various traditional histories.  In this book, you can learn about powerful heroes, battles with giants, and preparations for Ragnarok, the end of the world as we know it.
              Translated and with an Introduction and notes by Jesse Byock.  With ancient texts, the translator makes all the difference.  Byock is clear and interesting, and makes the old stories come alive.
              Norse mythology.  180 pages.  Read in September/October.
               (I read two or three other books about Norse myth and tradition, too, but I borrowed them from friends and can't recall the titles.)
              (I did start The Poetic Edda, translated by Carolyne Larrington and published in 1996, but I got busy and didn't finish it.)  
    Stephen King Different Seasons (1982)
              I finally read "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption."  Although I love King's more psychological works, I avoided this one because I'd heard the movie version was really harsh, and not my cup of tea.  Be warned: the story is rather harsh... but in typical Kingsian fashion, the author makes us care for flawed and struggling characters.  Rather than filling this story with supernatural horrors, King sets this novel in a realistic prison; that's scary enough.
             Each novella is paired with a season; this one begins the collection with "Hope Springs Eternal."  The third entry, "The Body," is the story on which they based the movie, Stand By Me. 
             Speculative fiction, 4 novellas.  500 pages.  Read in the spring. 


    Louise Erdrich The Round House  (2012)
              Erdrich's 14th novel, like the others, is set in and around a Native American reservation in North Dakota.
            13 year old Joe and his friends wander the res, passing time and narrowly avoiding getting into trouble.  Meanwhile, Joe gets caught up in solving a mystery which involves violence, a twisted up legal system, and his own mother.  Erdrich's coming of age story also offers sometimes lyrical commentary on discrimination and prejudice, myth and spirituality, and revenge.
            I have read almost every one of Erdrich's works, and I have never been disappointed.  
            Realistic fiction.  321 pages.  Read in the spring. 


    G. Willow Wilson Cairo  (2007)
              Beautiful art by M. K. Perker.
            According to the LA Times Book Review, Cairo is "a modern fantasy that draws equally on Egyptian folk tales and current cultural tensions."  I agree completely - except that Egypt today has just experienced a military coup that pushed their president out of office; the graphic novel is not that up to date.  The story is fast-paced and draws the reader into a complicated world where politics and magic collide.  I can't really sum it up.  Just read it - it is totally worth it.  I'm hoping for a sequel!
            Graphic novel, speculative fiction.  N.p.  Read in the spring.


    George Orwell 1984 (1949)
              The classic post-apocalyptic dystopia.  I read it again with my students this year.
              Speculative fiction.  265 pages.  Read in May/June.


Last Modified on January 29, 2014