Summer reading list

June 21, 2011

What are you hoping to
read this summer? We posed this question to the
Century staff, a group of people with diverse tastes
and interests. Along with commenting on our choices, feel free to post your own
in the comments. --Ed.

I have two major reading projects that
I'll be continuing in tandem this summer. They may sound like polar opposites,
but I find them to be quite similar.

The first is George R.R. Martin's epic
fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which I'm reading feverishly in the
hopes of being caught up when the latest installment, A Dance With Dragons, comes out in July. Set
amidst the political power struggles of the fictional land of Westeros, the
series develops complicated, unpredictable characters better than most fiction
I've read.

The second is Shelby Foote's three-volume
history of the Civil War. Over the past two years, I've been reading
biographies of the American presidents in chronological order, and I've just
reached Lincoln. It seemed like a good time to tackle this monumental and
universally praised work--and also to take a Civil War road trip in August.

One project is epic fiction; the other is
American history. But both are lengthy testaments to the Tolstoyan view of
history. I eat that stuff up.

On the shorter-than-2,000-pages side of
things, I'm looking forward to The
Magician King,
by Lev Grossman, the second book in his Fillory series. The
book critic for Time magazine,
Grossman set out to write a darker version of Harry Potter or The
Chronicles of Narnia. His characters also find out that they're wizards (of a
sort), but it makes their lives neither magical nor easy.

Surprised by
Oxford,
by Carolyn Weber, is also on my summer pile. It's the memoir of a
feminist agnostic who moves to Oxford to pursue a graduate degree and finds her
intellectual and social pursuits leading her toward converting to Christianity.