“please enjoy the burnt crust of my epic summer reads...”
June 29, 2016 8:30 AM   Subscribe

A Summer Reading List for Wretched Assholes Who Prefer to Wallow in Someone Else’s Misery by Claire Cameron [The Millions] “By some secret law of lists, “summer reads” often settle on books that are light and fluffy and happy. Like a marshmallow, they are usually too sticky and sweet for my taste. What about a list for us wretched assholes who prefer to spend the summer wallowing in a someone’s else’s misery? On holiday, I cut myself off from my regular writing regime to focus on the people I’m with — I understand this is called “relaxing.” As my real life is relatively drama free, this means I have dangerous spare capacity to obsess over…what? While a happy book might distract me temporarily, it’s far easier to become completely consumed by an epic novel full of anguish.”

- The Best Books of 2016 (So Far) [Vulture]
- Here Are the Best Books of 2016 So Far [TIME.com]
- The Best Books of 2016 [The Telegraph]
- The Quintessential Summer Reading Guide. [The Boston Globe]
- CBC Books Summer 2016 Reading List [CBC.ca]
- This Summer’s 14 Must-Read Books [Wired]
- Locus Award 2016 Winners: Your Summer Reading! [Boing Boing]
- 37 Books We've Loved So Far in 2016 [The Washington Post]
- What We're Reading with Our Kids This Summer [The New Yorker]
- 5 Books to Read This Summer [Gates Notes]
- 30 Books You Should Read This Summer [Chicago Tribune]
- 10 Books to Read This Summer [Entertainment Weekly]
- The 21 Best Nonfiction Books Of Summer 2016 [Bustle]
- 12 New Books We’re Reading This Summer (and 6 Not So New) [The New York Times]
posted by Fizz (24 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Just when I was starting to make progress on my backlog...
posted by msbutah at 8:46 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Crap. I added like 25 books to my amazon wish list over the weekend because I saw that Ben H. Winters has a new book out this week and then saw that there are new things coming from Ian McEwan and Michael Chabon and then things just spiraled out of control and my reading list was already huge and I have terrifying math classes for the rest of this calendar year that will likely prevent me from doing much recreational reading because I'll be too busy crying and throwing things because algebra is hard... and now that reading list is just going to get RIDICULOUS. Because I cannot resist a "best books of [blank]" list to save my damn life, y'all. Pray for me. Or get me cloned, so I can send the clone to work for me (and to math class for me, because no) and just loll around in bed reading all day every day. Thanks in advance.
posted by palomar at 8:50 AM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Perfect. I just read A Fine Balance a month ago while on a week-long beach vacation and it leapt immediately to the front of my mind when I saw the premise of this post.

I also just picked up The Goldfinch after some hearty Donna Tartt recommendations at a MeFi meetup led to my reading and enjoying The Secret History, so I'm looking forward to diving into that too.
posted by valrus at 8:50 AM on June 29, 2016

I saw that Ben H. Winters has a new book out this week

Oh goddammit.
posted by Etrigan at 8:52 AM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Thank you for this post! But also oh dear, because my library holds list is already at capacity. At least I have the new Charles Stross book to tide me over until things start coming in...
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:53 AM on June 29, 2016

posted by palomar at 8:53 AM on June 29, 2016


"Hm, how can I come up with something more depressing than ending the world..."
posted by Etrigan at 8:55 AM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I personally call this FPP "Shit I Will Absolutely Not Get Around to Reading The Year Published But Maybe Before I Die."
posted by Kitteh at 9:10 AM on June 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

The crosscut consensus from these lists seems to point to Emma Cline's THE GIRLS and Annie Proulx' BARKSKINS. At least as far as they hype goes.
posted by chavenet at 9:14 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Haha, I read the description of the list and was like "well if it's a list of books about wallowing in fictional characters' misery and A Little Life isn't on it I am going to be very surprised" and sure enough there it was
posted by town of cats at 9:18 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

This certainly answers my recent question.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:21 AM on June 29, 2016

A Little Life

Good Lord that book is the worst.
posted by gwint at 9:23 AM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've been tearing through Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti mysteries the last couple of weeks, but it might be time to take a break and read some literary fiction instead. I've just added Private Citizens and Hystopia to my list (and had just added Underground Airlines this morning; damn you, Ben H. Winters).
posted by uncleozzy at 9:31 AM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

the goldfinch; glorious
posted by judson at 9:49 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Novels? Just read Cioran if you want anguish.
posted by symbioid at 9:59 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Good Lord that book is the worst.

I seriously cannot wait til it's through its publishing cycle so I don't have to look at that hideous cover in bookstores any longer.
posted by praemunire at 10:48 AM on June 29, 2016

Fizz, thank you so much. Not only are these lists awesome, but you have just livened up the Facebook page for the bookstore where I work. And made my life as hapless social media "oh god I forgot to come up with another daily post" "manager" vastly easier.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:57 AM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

> What about a list for us wretched assholes who prefer to spend the summer wallowing in a someone’s else’s misery?

And there's no Elena Ferrante on the list? I just finished My Brilliant Friend and I guarantee it belongs there. (Not to mention that the sequels get fatter.)
posted by languagehat at 11:26 AM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Good effing hell "My Brilliant Friend" was dismal. I also just finished it and ... eeesh. I expected the town to be blown up Walnut Creek-style by the end.
posted by kimberussell at 11:31 AM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I loved the Neopolitan Novels. Loooooved. I honestly wish I could forget that I read them so that I could enjoy them again, and I've been holding off on Ferrante's standalone novels because I want a treat to look forward to in the dog days of summer. However, I did just pick up a couple of Italian detective novels from the same publisher, Europa Editions, under their new World Noir imprint -- author is Maurizio de Giovanni. My local didn't have the first book in the Commissario Ricciardi series (which take place in 1930's Naples) so I got the first two from another series, the Ispettore Lojacono series set in modern day Naples. So far I'm pretty into it... if you like detective stories and Elena Ferrante spurred a sudden weird interest in Naples, maybe add this author to your reading list. Or check out more of the World Noir catalog.
posted by palomar at 11:52 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

As I took Underground Airlines out of the Amazon box, my spouse helpfully asked whether that was the book about slavery by a brave white guy that people were all het up about. And yeah, it turns out that Winters is... I'll charitably say "a doofus":
“The first impulse is to go, oh man, are you supposed to be writing about that, as a white American?” he said. “We tend to think of racism and slavery as something that’s appropriate only for black artists to engage with, and there’s something troubling and perverse about that.”
So now I have to wonder whether I really want to have abetted that sort of thing.
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 AM on July 6, 2016

So you're saying white people can't write about racism and slavery? Or what? I mean, obviously it's a minefield, but he acknowledges that; obviously it's possible he did it badly, but since you haven't read it yet, that's not what you're saying. So what are you saying?
posted by languagehat at 1:19 PM on July 6, 2016

I mean, on the one hand, I'm always a little wary of anyone trying to act like Big White Savior, the only person who can explain the truth of blackness to the whole world, but... I think maybe that might just be an awkward pull-quote and not worth decrying the entire book over? Of course, I haven't read the book yet, but given all the rave reviews and support from indie booksellers and the fact that it's already been optioned for a TV show, maybe it's actually good and people should give it a shot instead of writing it off based on one quote about who is and who isn't permitted to write about certain subjects and how artists can find that sort of thinking rather troubling.
posted by palomar at 1:56 PM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

To clarify, it doesn't appear to me that Winters is trying to play the role of Big White Savior, which is sort of what I think you were implying, Etrigan. And that comes off as an unfair judgment based on something so tenuous as one sentence in one article.
posted by palomar at 1:58 PM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

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