Summer reading list

June 30, 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.

The term "summer reading"
conjures up leisurely days immersed in fiction. I have a few items in that
pile. My church's book group will discuss Middlemarch in September, so I'm planning
to reread that long novel by George Eliot--"one of the few British novels
written for grownups," said Virginia Woolf. I remember the character of
Dorothea Brooke, with her painfully misguided idealism, and Eliot's devastating
portrait of the pedant she marries--but that's about all.


I found Rebecca Goldstein's
novel 36 Arguments for the Existence of God sparkling with zany intellectual
humor and an insider's knowledge of philosophy and Hasidic Judaism. This satire
of academic life includes a theologian named Jonas Elijah Klapper, "Extreme
Distinguished Professor of Faith, Literature and Values," whose self-importance
and gnomic brilliance is so impenetrable that none of his graduate students has
ever managed to finish a thesis. The book culminates in a debate over the
existence of God that is not only more entertaining but better informed than
most of what has been written by or about the New Atheists. The novel made me
want to find the other fiction Goldstein has written, as well as her biography
of Spinoza.

I'm looking forward to
getting to know the stories of Edith Pearlman by way of a recent collection of
hers titled Binocular Vision. From the few stories I've read, Pearlman is a
quiet but exact observer of modern life. She is hospitable to her characters,
most of whom are urban professionals displaced in some way but resilient in the
face of loss and disappointment.