From Zak M. Salih Email him at zak[AT]borderstan.com.
End-of-summer reading suggestions for the indoor and outdoor crowd.
August is finally here, which means there is only one true month left in the summer. It’s a depressing time for those of us who live for beaches, barbecues and rooftop pools. And for those of us with hyperactive sweat glands, summer’s impending end arrives with all the pomp and circumstance of last week’s Olympic opening ceremony.
But whether you’re of the indoor or outdoor variety, summer is also that time of year where it seems more socially acceptable to be caught in public with a book; where it seems like reading new books, or catching up on books you haven’t finished, is much higher on everyone’s to-do list.
So if you’re looking to fit one last book into your summer reading schedule, or you’re curious about trying something different during the month of August, here are some brief suggestions for books to keep you occupied. The best part: they can be enjoyed just as well while cuddling next to an air-conditioning unit as they can be while lounging outside in DC’s post-apocalyptic summer heat.
Arguably one of the best books of the year thus far, Hilary Mantel’s sequel to her wildly acclaimed Wolf Hall takes us further into the story of Henry VIII’s right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell. The focus here is on the most infamous chapter in Tudor history: the downfall of Henry VIII’s second wife (of six): Anne Boleyn.
You don’t need to have read the first novel to enjoy Mantel’s stunning prose, which lifts this story up from the muck of dull and dusty historical fiction and transforms it into a fascinating — and fascinatingly poetic — study of court intrigue and political gamesmanship. (Cover Courtesy Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.)
At fewer than 200 pages, calling Toni Morrison’s newest work a novel is quite a stretch. Nevertheless, what Home lacks in page numbers it more than makes up for in emotional heft. In brief, it’s the story of a battle-scarred Korean War veteran traveling (you guessed it) home to Georgia to rescue his sister from the clutches of an abusive, Mengele-like doctor. What makes Morrison’s novel resonate isn’t so much this simple plot as it is the constant flashbacks to the hero’s childhood; flashbacks which, even while beautiful, are tinged with anger and violence. (Cover Courtesy Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
Published in the United States last year, Murakami’s epic novel was just released in a more reader friendly, three-book paperback set. It’s a mysterious, tangled story about a young man and woman trapped in a parallel world similar to the year 1984 (when the novel takes place).
Though at times the plot starts and stops because of underdeveloped writing (that’s also heavy on the similes — an average of one per page), it’s best to think of this beguiling work as the literary equivalent of a David Lynch film, one packed with everything from two moons and private investigators with misshapen heads to mysterious cults and little people that crawl out from the mouths of dead animals and young children. A long and clunky novel, to be sure — but one that’s undeniably addictive in its strangeness. (Cover Courtesy Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)