Arts

Top 5 Summer Books

Hemmingway gets revived, highly evolved bugs rule a sci-fi thriller, and American cuisine gets investigated.

The TV remote may be tempting, but assiduous U of C students should look to the bookshelf instead. While the days may be longer, attention spans are undoubtedly shorter. Turn to short stories, science fiction, and food writing, then. Here are some upcoming books that will keep the mind in shape during the summer:

Between the Assassinations

by Aravind Adiga – June 9

Set in the seven years between the assassinations of former Indian prime ministers Indira Gandhi and her son, Rajiv, this short story collection by Booker Prize-winning author Aravind Adiga depicts the underbelly of a religiously and economically stratified society in the fictional coastal city of Kittur, India. Each story recounts the struggles of individual men, women, and children against corruption, prejudice, and poverty, creating a moving portrait of a town in a time of transformation. A rose-colored tidbit from a fictional travel guide introduces each account, and the florid paragraphs describing the fictional city contrast nicely with the matter-of-fact scenes that follow. Adiga’s unforgiving narrative touches upon both the aspirations of low-class social climbers and the moral descent of the fairly well-off.

My Father’s Tears

by John Updike – June 2

In this posthumously published collection of short stories that span the better part of the last century, the acclaimed novelist ponders every chapter in life. Some stories take place in the writer’s own Northeast, while others are set in such predictably foreign places as India or Italy, but all are generously written and as delicate as memories. Updike’s reserved prose is calm and tempered with the gravity of age. In the short story that lends its title to the collection, the protagonist encapsulates Updike’s reaction to old age: “My father did foresee, the glitter in his eyes told me, that time consumes us—that the boy I had been was dying if not already dead.”

A Moveable Feast, Restored Version

by Ernest Hemingway – July 14

Hemingway is great for the summer months, if only because his books are a bit too substantial to read during the school year. A Moveable Feast is among his slighter pieces, but it leaves a grand impression with its firsthand descriptions of the Lost Generation socializing in Paris between the wars. This version presents the text as it appeared in Hemingway’s original manuscript and also includes a number of short accounts of the writer’s family, as well as writings on other expatriate artists, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.

Food of a Younger Land: a Portrait of American Food Before the National Highway System, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation’s Food was Seasonal

by Mark Kurlansky – May 14

From the author of the popular books Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World and Salt: A World History comes a book that examines American localities through the lens of food culture. Kurlansky has brought together descriptions of local cuisines compiled as part of the Depression-era Federal Writer’s Project. Beaver tail, possum, squirrel, and all things floured and fried were among the traditional American foods of the time and most Americans consumed dishes that were very specific to their local environment. Kurlansky’s evocative introduction gently admonishes those satisfied with our relatively homogeneous modern food culture.

Fragment

by Warren Fahy – June 16

It remains to be seen whether this first-time author’s science is as sound as Michael Crichton’s, and his writing certainly doesn’t come close to Crichton’s clean prose, but those still mourning the passing of that scientific thriller writer might as well give this summer publication a try. Fragment imagines the discovery of a long-lost island where life has evolved separately from the rest of the world for half-a-billion years. There, marsupials evolved into the dominant class of land mammals and large carnivorous predators somehow managed to breed with bugs. Led by a group of scientists commissioned by a reality TV show, the investigation of the island takes a sinister turn that will satisfy any thriller reader’s craving for gore.

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