Summer Reading


I tend to alternate between intensive movie watching and intensive reading. When it’s summer it’s usually the latter – I feel guilty about being inside and they’ve yet to design hats for movie watching. The summer also has the privilege of less work, and by extension, not being attached to the internet. Free of my addiction I have the attention span, by necessity, to read some of the longer, harder books I avoid throughout the year. My goal for the year was to read all the long books (400+ pages) I own (about 30 or so), and so far I’ve gotten to the resounding number of three (one of which was mostly photos of Michael Snow works). So, to publicly shame me in to actually reading them, here is my to-read list for the next few months.

Barbara G. Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

This book is not meant to be read cover to cover, so I’m not really sure why I’ve decided to be the one to do it. Still, in a lot of ways it’s my ideal long book – segmented and without plot so I can pick it up and leave it as I like. I could also read it in a sort of choose your own adventure – jumping around entry to entry as they reference each other. Though as someone who needs to finish things (though you never really finish reading a book) I won’t do that. I’m kind of stressed out by the idea. It also links with a couple of my ongoing reading projects nicely, so killing five(?) birds with one stone is preferred.

Nicole Loraux’s The Divided City and The Invention of Athens

These will probably not be the most exciting Loraux titles for me, I honestly could not come up with texts more relevant to my interests than Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman and Mothers in Mourning: Moral and Legal Issues, but my boyfriend is gone for the summer and he’s left these with me. Thanks to reading Greek tragedies a couple summers ago I’m increasingly interested in the ancient world, and there’s always that pleasure in finding another French female academic to obsess over.

Surrealist Women: An International Anthology and Refusal of the Shadow: Surrealism and the Caribbean

I’m at the point in my life where I’ve realized that fringe Surrealist figures are by far more interesting than its key figures. I read Black, Brown and Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora a year or two ago and I’m still going through the list of authors I pulled from that (forever grateful for Joyce Mansour and Suzanne Cesaire), but figured I would continue with that project with the above two titles. Surrealism is so exciting, but a lot of the French tradition felt stagnant, so seeing its manifestations, both in literature and philosophy, spread out across the world and in to actual revolution is still dazzling. Though if I ever want to get my to-read list on goodreads below 900 titles, this is not the way to go. Also, it will never not be weird to see people saying nice things about Andre Breton.

Arna Mackic’s Mortal Cities Forgotten Monuments

You probably don’t remember the listicles going around a few years ago about monuments in the former Yugoslavia because unlike me they haven’t haunted you to the point where you’ve planned trips, films and career paths around it. Well, the source for these listicles came from this book, and in order to prepare myself for the above mentioned trips, films and career paths I should probably read it. Structures as testament to what they were built for, and in turn testament to what they survived? Don’t need to tell me twice.

The Duchess of Malfi: Seven Masterpieces of Jacobean Drama

I know you’re thinking, well Madeleine, that sounds great if you like cold arch dead things, but it’s summer, where is the drama. Next to the Frances Farmer autobiography, this is definitely the most dramatic book I own, and I’ve had it for over seven years.

Edmund de Waal’s The White Road: Journey into an Obsession

My friends Anjo-mari and Johannes, who have perfect taste, recommended this. I’m generally wary of nonfiction books that are described as “detective stories,” for it’s usually code for “trying too hard to be interesting” but I trust them, and pottery is a field I’m aesthetically interested in but know nothing about. Also I don’t own this book so this shouldn’t be on the list, I’ve already failed.

Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate

I read The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters a few years ago because I wanted to read Pursuit and Climate. I found a copy last year at in Vancouver, and it feels like the right book to read in the evening after a drink or two (the above are all strictly morning reads). Heavily autobiographical fiction is probably my favourite kind.

You’ve read enough. Here are the other titles:

Parents and Children by Ivy Compton-Burnett, Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan, The Honeyman Festival by Marian Engel, Angel by Elizabeth Taylor, Love’s Work by Gillian Rose, Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker, War and the Iliad by Simone Weil and Rachel Bespaloff, Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson, and The Break by Katherena Vermette.


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