Book Reviews · 07/25/2011

Summer recommendations from our reviewers

For many, summer is a time of loosened schedules, and, for the first time in maybe a year, the luxury of spare hours. The extra minutes of sunlight call us to step outside into a garden, onto a balcony or porch, even a bench in a park…wherever, but we find these secret or not-so-secret spots and we take up a book and we settle down to enjoy the words.

The end of June marked six months of reviewing at Necessary Fiction, and so I thought it might be nice to celebrate the occasion with a list of summer reading recommendations from our team of book-loving reviewers. These books are not necessarily new releases but constitute a list of what we’re reading and thinking about. Some of these books have already been reviewed here, some will be featured later this fall. In any case, enjoy!

Starting with a very appropriate title, Rebecca Hussey recommends The Summer Book by Tove Jansson from New York Review Books

C.J. Opperthauser has two short and powerful recommendations with chapbook The Moon is a Fish by Peter Markus from Cinématheque Press and a collection of poetry for summer evenings: Illinois, My Apologies by Justin Hamm from Rocksaw Press

Two suggestions from Valerie Nieman:

Accidental Birds of the Carolinas by Marjorie Hudson, published in April by Press 53. Nieman calls this, “an insightful, funny, eloquent look at the lives of newcomers in the South through stories and a novella.”

The Sound of Poets Cooking, an anthology from Jacar Press, includes poems about food and recipes from poets. Nieman has a poem in this collection, but reminds us it’s a nonprofit venture – proceeds go to support various writing programs in the community.

Nancy Freund recommends three journals she’s had the pleasure of enjoying this summer while traveling: Cimarron Review, Poetry, and Denver Quarterly.

Chelsea Biondolillo recommends a book we will be reviewing in just a few weeks, Brian Oliu’s So You Know It’s Me by Tiny Hardcore Press. Biondolillo writes, “This strange and lovely collection of essays was originally posted on the Missed Connections board of Tuscaloosa’s Craigslist: literature as performance piece. While the book was written well before the catastrophic tornado hit town, it now serves as a moving elegy to many places lost in the storm.”

John Oliver Perry recommends Valerie Trueblood’s Marry or Burn from Counterpoint Press, which he reviewed for us in April. Perry tells us that this collection was just shortlisted for this year’s Frank O’Connor Prize, the world’s most prestigious, most remunerative prize. While other contestants, none of whom use the conventions of New Yorker stories, were praised for their “humanity,” “compassion” and “warmth of feeling for their characters,” Trueblood’s stories were prized, one of the judges said, for the “complexity of their double plots” and the “distinctiveness of her voice.”

Finally, my turn. Summer is a time when I get to catch up on literary journals. I’ve had the pleasure to read several over the last few weeks and in turn, am thrilled to highlight two of them here.

The first is Cerise Press: A Journal of Literature, Arts and Culture. The Summer 2011 issue is a beautiful and thorough collection of essays, artwork, poetry, translations and fiction. Their translation selection is a favorite of mine and in this issue, Carlota Caulfield’s “After Reverdy” (trans. by Mary G. Berg and Carlota Caulfield) is truly exquisite.

Granta Issue 115, “The F Word” is a collection I will return to again and again. Rachel Cusk’s essay, “Aftermath” and Julie Otsuka’s story “The Children” are haunting, elegant narratives of motherhood while Jeanette Winterson’s “All I Know About Gertrude Stein” simply took my breath away as its complicated narrative tested and danced around a simple and profound truth.

And how about you, Readers, what are you reading this summer?