Friday, August 26, 2011
Favorite Summer Read
Friend and co-worker (and author!) Cherie Reich is holding a Favorite Summer Reads Blogfest over at her blog Surrounded by Books Reviews. I've certainly read enough this summer -- more than I ever have. Despite not taking any vacations. NONE. It failed to be a summer of beach-going, sandal-wearing, or skinny dipping (everyone rejoices), instead turning into a summer of me sitting in my air conditioned apartment killing zombies in video games. (note: the sheer amount of violence I have vicariously inflicted upon the grim CGI bodies of the undead should be enough to put me on some kind of FBI watchlist by now. Chainsaws, guys. CHAINSAWS.)
So none of what I have read in the past 3 months really strikes me as something I'll remember years from now having read in the summer. At least that's my definition of a summer read (or any season read for that matter): a book that for whatever reason ties itself to the period of time you're reading it. Example: Anne Rice books are late winter books. I read the vampire chronicle books during the most depressing part of the year, kickstarting a spiral of depression that culminated in me dreaming I was trying to bury myself alive. JOY!
There are other books I specifically remember reading in the summers of past: there's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that I read last year, Alex Garland's The Beach, which I read at the...beach, Harry Potter rereads before the July films, and rereads of Jane Eyre and The Hobbit in high school.
But the one that sticks out the most in my mind is reading Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness one summer at the beach. It's a fairly odd choice, being a science fiction novel set on a planet called WINTER. Let's just say the descriptions of chilly landscapes and Antarctic weather were as good as AC in that horrible beachy heat.
This was the book that got me back into reading science fiction. Telling the story of an envoy to the planet Winter, we follow his interactions with its race of androgynes, their government, religion, and civilization. The entire novel is a study of gender, society, power, and human relationships; even when those relationships aren't between humans. Everything that happens on the fictional planet of Winter is a finger pointing directly back at Earth. The goal of all good speculative fiction.
I'll have to do a reread of this fantastic novel so I can list some passages. But don't wait for that. Go read it now. I think it's the only book I could recommend to positively everyone. No "well if you fancy aliens you might like this," or "stay away if you hate Star Trek." If you like printed words on pages, then you should probably read this book.
And now I'm going to bury you under an AVALANCHE (pun) of awesome book covers!
I have to admit I don't remember there being a guy on fire waving a lightning bolt. Guess I really should reread it.