Fall Reading List
Posted on September 28, 2012
One of my friends asked me what it was like now that I was out of graduate school and could read anything I wanted. I said it was great, but I was still reading plenty of French history. “The difference is, you have a choice now,” she told me. The truth may be that I have no choice at all. It may be that I can’t help myself anymore.
At any rate, here is a list of some of the books I’ll be reading this fall, broken down by genre. I’ll try to review some of these reads here from time to time. If you have any recommendations for me, please don’t hesitate to leave them in comments.
Rock and roll memoirs on my Kindle
Life by Keith Richards — My fondest Keith Richards memory dates back to when I was an undergraduate in college andhad a photo pass for a Rolling Stones concert at the Superdome. So I got to see him up close. Real close. Although I’m sure Mr. Richards is a lovely man, zooming in on his face that night changed me and gave me a great appreciation for the aftereffects of a rock-n-roll lifestyle (Drink lots of water and moisturize, people!). So far, I’ve skimmed the first few pages of this book and can tell I’ll be in for a great ride.
Le Freak by Nile Rodgers — Rodgers was guitarist in the seventies funk band Chic, which influenced one of my favorite bands ever, Duran Duran. Chic’s success with tunes such as “Le Freak” and “Good Times” convinced Atlantic Records that Rodgers and bandmate Bernard Edwards could produce other acts in the company, and the duo had success with performers such as Sister Sledge (“We Are Family”) and Diana Ross (“I’m Coming Out”). Inevitably, Rodgers would produce Duran Duran’s hit “The Reflex” and later their “Notorious” album. How could I not read about him?
In The Pleasure Groove by John Taylor — This will arrive in my Kindle on October 16, and when it does, you will hear my inner teenager scream. John Taylor is the bassist for Duran Duran, and although it is well-documented that my heart belongs to Simon Le Bon (and his menagerie of pets that I follow on Twitter), John is still pretty swoon-worthy. One of the band’s founding members, Taylor promises some good stories about the Duran craze of the 1980s, intermingled with tales of how he came to terms with some of his demons. Eighteen more days…
NW by Zadie Smith — I am a huge fan of Zadie Smith’s work, a. because she is an elegant writer and b. because she manages to capture modern, multicultural London, for better or for worse. So I’ll be buying this soon…
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz — …I’ll also be buying this. Diaz took my breath away with his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I recommend to anyone who will listen, a. for its superb writing and b. for its originality. In his latest book, Diaz brings back the studly character Yunior, and critics seem to be gushing over the result. One even said that Diaz writes almost too well for his own good.
I was on a trip to Disney World last spring for my daughter’s sixth birthday. Because it was near the end of the semester, I brought along some reading that was not exactly light. One of the books I read was Emile Zola’s The Kill, a wonderful fictional account of the rebuilding of Paris during Napoleon III’s reign. I bought the book because it related to my thesis topic (and as a writer, period fiction has a way of aiding your ability to travel through time as you wrestle with dusty primary documents), but I immediately panicked when I learned that Zola wrote twenty-some-odd novels about life in the Second Empire, which was my period of study. How would I ever read them all in my final year of graduate school? I wouldn’t. But I have resolved to work my way through them, beginning this fall. On the list: The Fortune of the Rougons (the first novel in the series), Nana (about a prostitute who becomes a star) and The Ladies Paradise (about the rise of the department store).
Biography of a General
I’m not one for military histories, even though I’ve spent the past month and a half poring through five of them about World War I. A friend of mine follows Tweets from World War II on Twitter and he occasionally forwards me the ones involving Charles De Gaulle, along with a well-struck comment that expresses his disdain for the leader of the Free French. After a series of these exchanges, I eventually asked this pal why he was emailing me all these bloody Charles De Gaulle tweets. He replied “You have a master’s degree in French history.” I replied in the way that any subject matter specialist might: “Yeah, well De Gaulle is not my period, dude.” Still, the General is very much a part of Modern France’s story, so I decided to pick up In The Shadow of the General by Sudhir Hazareesingh. Shadow is one of two recent books written about De Gaulle and it’s less of a biography than it is an exploration of his myth. It’s interesting stuff for France geeks like me, but probably not for the general reader. Johnathan Fenby’s The General: Charles De Gaulle and the France He Saved promises to be more in that vein. Of course, there is also the two-volume classic (The Rebel; The Ruler) by Jean Lacouture.
And while we’re on the subject of the De Gaulle…
Little by little, I’ve been reading Alistair Horne’s A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962. The work has been required reading for anyone involved or interested in North African and Middle Eastern politics right now, and although I haven’t finished it yet, it’s pretty easy to look at a newspaper and see why it’s a must-read.
Anything else I should check out? Let me know in comments.