Pillbox

Catch up with fun summer reads

Although the weather seems to be holding steady at “too hot,” my version of summer draws to a close today as the fall semester begins. So with that, here’s a recap of some of the bound-paper artifacts that I have stumbled upon throughout the sunny season.

The House of Tomorrow — Peter Bognanni
Growing up in the tourist spectacle that is a geodesic dome, under the tutelage of one’s grandmother, an original devotee of R. Buckminster Fuller, leads to a life that would never be mistaken for normal. Through his grandmother’s stroke, the protagonist is opened to a new world of punk music, cigarettes, girls, and a friend with a transplanted heart. A light summer read, built on the foundation of one of America’s quirkier intellects.

Reality Hunger — David Shields
I can’t heap enough praise on the palimpsest of lies that is David Shield’s Reality Hunger. His “manifesto,” which is just a list of stolen fragments rearranged to describe how both fiction and non-fiction are simply no longer sufficient for our digitally enhanced future, is a mind-warping trip that you will want to take more than once. Keep an eye on Shields.

Deathbird Stories — Harlan Ellison
Summer is always a time to return to a classic, and with Ellison as one of the original imaginative writers, his Deathbird Stories are a clever, modern (cough: 1975) rethinking of gods, mythology, and the human condition. Stories such as “Basilisk” and the namesake “The Deathbird” remain as interesting as I believe they must have been 35 years ago.

Designing Obama — Scott Thomas
This Kickstarter project is a worthy attempt from the design director of the Obama campaign, Scott Thomas, to catalog and bind the design evolution and artistic response to the brand that became America’s 44th president. This coffee table-style book shows, once again, that Kickstarter works, print isn’t dead, and Obama galvanized the artistic community possibly more than any other group in the breadth of support he received.

The Invisible Bridge — Julie Orringer
Orringer’s sprawling epic about a young Jewish Hungarian architecture student living in Paris in the 1930s (guess what happens), is a beautifully detailed, romantic study of the era and an achievement completely disparate from her more surreal short story collection How To Breathe Underwater. While not receiving as much praise or media hype as David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet or Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (see page A9), Orringer’s first novel is just as deserving.

The Imperfectionists — Tom Rachman
My favorite novel told in short stories of the summer, The Imperfectionists recounts events in the intertwined lives of several staff members of an international newspaper on the decline. A study on the modern “decline” of journalism, the real lives behind the printed word, and how an empire is constructed, the tales are told with both humor and levity. Rachman’s debut novel is one of a string of successes that has helped elevate the book’s editor, Susan Kamil, to become publisher of the Random House and Dial Press imprints.

And if you have an insatiable hunger for literature, here are a few more:
China Mieville’s The City & The City
Paul Harding’s Tinkers
Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage
Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy
Victor LaValle’s Big Machine