My ambitions are high this summer. On my list: “Matterhorn,” by Karl Marlantes (a novel of the Vietnam War), and “Great North Road,” by P.F. Hamilton (sci-fi and mystery all rolled into one). Looking forward to the summer reading guide.
Maria Fracchia, Richfield
I’ll re-read “Gone With the Wind.” The first time around was in high school, and after long days of raking hay, I would read until the wee morning hours upstairs in our farmhouse, which was steamy with summer heat and scenes of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. Now, there’ll be no creaking windmill in the background, but I’ll discuss this classic story with my 88-year-old dad, who adamantly declares that “Gone With the Wind” was the last good movie ever made.
Mary Lou Wilkes Jackson, Onamia, Minn.
I adore well-written short stories, and this year there were many gems: “Vladimir’s Moustache,” by Stephen Clark, draws you into every apartment and stricken heart in Russia when a knock comes at the door. “It Takes You Over,” by Nick Healy, a deserved finalist for a Minnesota Book Award with his heartfelt, hilarious tales. “Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain,” by Lucia Perillo, every one a raucous joy ride, and “Dear Life,” by Alice Munro, has you wishing none of them would end. And last, “The News From Spain” by Joan Wickersham, all delicious twists on love stories.
Then two magnificent novels to round out the list: “ The Round House” by Louise Erdrich — the National Book Award winner that jumps into your heart and stays — and “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter, a gorgeous, Dagwood sandwich of a book that has it all: great characters, humor and heartbreak.
Pam Kearney, Edina
I am planning to revisit the Snopes trilogy by William Faulkner. I bought the Modern Library’s edition of “Snopes: A Trilogy,” almost a year ago but haven’t had a chance to read them all together, though I have read the three novels previously at different points in time. The book contains all three novels in a single edition: “The Hamlet,” “The Mansion,” and “The Town.” Faulkner always wished to publish those three books together. I want to re-read them because they are an excellent example of Faulkner’s penetrating perception into history and human character and also his mercurial imagination that knew no bounds.
Aruni Kashyap, Mankato
I don’t know if it counts as a “big book,” but I’m rereading Norman Rush’s National Book Award-winning “Mating” while revving myself up for the release of “Subtle Bodies,” his first novel in 10 years. “Bodies” isn’t due till September, but I managed to snag an advance copy, and I can assure you that it is on par with his very strongest work, merging the relatively restrained language of “Whites” with the novelistic scope and intellectual heft of his other novels, showing that he is just as much at home in the Hudson Valley as in Botswana, and stirring up unseasonal chills in the revelation of its closing pages.
That and Rachel Kushner’s “The Flamethrowers,” a book obsessed with speed that makes one want to linger and drop one’s metabolic rate to draw out the experience.
Tim Horvath, Stratham, N.H.
I am going to recommend a book which I have read but which, if I had time, I would read all over again this summer and which I think Minnesotans especially would enjoy: “The Long Ships,” by Frans G. Bengtsson, first published in two parts in 1941 and 1945. Set from 980 to 1010 A.D., it’s an exciting, historically rich, very witty novel about the adventures of a Danish Viking.
Katherine A. Powers, Cambridge, Mass.
I shall do one of two things this summer, or probably both, come to think of it!
Re-read A.S. Byatt’s spellbinding novel, “The Children’s Book,” for the third time. The 675-page story spans the Victorian era through World War I, and centers around a famous children’s book author, Olive Wellwood, and the passions, betrayals and secrets that tear apart the people she loves. Gloriously satisfying.
It was reviewed in the Star Tribune on Oct. 11, 2009.
Sitting on my desk is newly arrived “Charles Dickens: A Life,” by Claire Tomalin (approx. 500 pages). I shall read this as soon as I can get out onto my deck, and I will pair it with a re-reading of “Girl in a Blue Dress” by Gaynor Arnold. This is a delightful debut novel inspired by the life of Catherine Dickens, who was publicly declared an unfit wife and mother by Charles Dickens after she bore him 10 children. Also reviewed in the Star Tribune.
The book includes helpful maps, cast list and wonderful photographs to have a nice wallow over.
Janet Graber, Burnsville
I’ll be reading “Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson. Her Jackson Brody series is so entertaining and so far above the average for detective novels a new category should be created — something like Literary Crime. Before she was labeled a genre writer, Atkinson wrote the gem, “Behind the Scenes at the Museum.” I’m deliberately not looking at any reviews of “Life After Life” in advance of reading it — I’ll decide how I like it all on my own, thank you.
Ava Finch, Minneapolis
I’m going to read — or rather listen to the audio book of — David Sedaris’ “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.” I might make it a David Sedaris summer and do the whole lot. This morning I laughed so hard at a passage from “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” that I spit my morning coffee onto my own windshield. I have a long — almost tortuous — commute, and audio books make all the difference. David Sedaris reads his own stuff, which seems to make it doubly funny.
Rachel Coyne, Lindstrom, Minn.
“The Magic Mountain,” by Thomas Mann. Characters in other books were reading it, and the frequency of allusions intrigued me.
Charles Ellenbogen, Hopkins
I want to read “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” by Edward Kelsey Moore. I met the author a few months ago, and my friend at Random House — whom I trust on these matters — said this book is fabulous. She compared it to “The Help,” with different women telling their stories. I love books like that.
Claire Kirch, Duluth
Richard Ford’s “Canada.” I’ve been lugging around the hardcover since it came out, waiting to finish edits on my novel, which an editor told me was in Richard Ford territory. Didn’t want to be influenced by his style or to think maybe I had to be harder on my characters. Plus, you shouldn’t read bleak novels in the winter.
Charlie Quimby, Golden Valley
I am primarily a reader of books on lists; Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Award winners, Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels, etc. This summer I plan on reading the novel “From Here to Eternity” by James Jones. It’s on two lists so I receive double credit (needless to say I live a simple life). My second choice is to tackle “Europe Central,” by William T. Vollmann. That should about do it.
Joyce Byers, Eden Prairie
My summer big read selection is Dow Mossman’s “The Stones of Summer.” Originally published in 1972, Mossman’s writing was compared to the likes of Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain and others. He then fell off the literary radar until 2002, when Mark Moskowitz did a documentary on Mossman called “Stone Reader,” searching for the “lost” Mossman and trying to revive interest in the book. That succeeded; Barnes & Noble republished it in 2003. My copy has been sitting among my piles of big books to read since last year, when I took on Eliot’s “Daniel Deronda” and Dickens’ “David Copperfield” instead.
Apologies if that’s way more information than you wanted. But I would like to nominate “The Stones of Summer” for your book pages. The novel is 581 pages long.
Morgan Grayce Willow, Minneapolis