Summer Reading List

Last Friday, Annie Reed, blogging at Maud Newton’s, requested summer reading suggestions. I haven’t sent mine in yet, mostly because what I’ll be reading this summer is probably not going to be the kind of book you take to the beach or the pool. I’m trying to focus on books that will be of use to me with my current novel, for example by helping me to understand certain aspects of political Islam (and, more broadly, the way that religious/political ideologies gain followers.)

For example, I plan to read Fawaz Gerges’ Journey of the Jihadist, which is based on extensive interviews with militants, and chronicles one man’s descent–and possibly his return from–Jihadist ideology. (I do not recommend taking this book with you on the airplane to whatever faraway destination you’re headed to.)

I am also planning to read Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah. I didn’t like the excerpt from the book that appeared in the Atlantic Monthly a while back, but I am curious how Bowden will address the co-opting by the Ayatollah of the students who took over the American embassy. We’ll see.

Then there is Ismail Kadare’s The Successor. Several discerning readers, including my husband, have recommended this book very highly. I haven’t read Kadare in years–since my teens, I think–and I have never read him in English. So this should be a very special treat.

Another book that came highly recommended–from readers as far away as my hometown of Rabat, Morocco–is Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française. Everyone is praising it to the high heavens. I hope it lives up to the recommendations.

Can you believe I haven’t yet gotten to Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss? I had just started it a couple of months ago when I was assigned something to review and had to set it aside. So I’m hoping to get into it for good this time.

Every summer I try to read older books–classics, really–that I’ve missed out on, and correct my ignorance. This year, I’m hoping to finally read Graham Greene’s The Ministry of Fear, Buchi Emecheta’s Head Above Water and Mongo Beti’s Mission to Kala.

And of course summer is also a good time to check out galleys of fall 2006 releases. The ones I have set aside to read are Leila Aboulela’s The Translator, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun and Ahmed Alaidy’s Being Abbas El-Abd.