What We Read This Summer

With the fall semester in full swing, Northwestern University Press staff members reflect on some of their favorite reads of the summer. 

Greta Bennion, Marketing Manager

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie

With a toddler and an infant, I don’t have a lot of time to read these days, but I did just finish We Should All Be Feminists by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie. She is one of my favorite authors, for a number of reasons, and this book was a captivating quick read in her beautiful, engaging style. As a mother to a daughter, I also found it very inspiring and relevant to what is going on in our world today. I just started diving into A Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. I’ve heard mixed reviews about it, but so far it’s pulling me in, and I usually love Margaret Atwood’s writing. So we shall see!

Jane Bunker, Director

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning by Claire Dederer

I loved this book because of its uncanny ability to summon the author’s fifteen-year-old self. I have an odd relationship to time (as we all probably do), and often feel as if I still am my fifteen-year-old self. That was a year of reckoning, as is fifty now. The author insightfully explores the choices we make and how we live with them. She’s great on marriage and intimacy. And she’s laugh out loud funny (because how could you not be if you’re that smart about those things?).

 

Anne Gendler, Managing Editor

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

It’s a novel that is written in the form of a memoir (or maybe the reverse?), loosely based on stories told by the author’s grandfather on his deathbed. The grandfather, who has always been the strong, silent type, talks candidly about his wife, a Holocaust survivor with a secret past; he married her after the war and became a father to the author’s mother. He also talks about his experiences in World War II, an obsession with the space program, and a late-in-life love affair that involves weekend snake hunting.

I also read The Essential Fictions, Val Vinokur’s new translation of stories by Isaac Babel and Kim O’Neil’s Fever Dogs, both forthcoming from NU Press.

 

Gianna F. Mosser, Editor in Chief

Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader

While I am not someone who follows music criticism outside of the weekly piece in the New Yorker, Tate’s writing taken together is a powerful analysis of black cultural figures and their resounding inspirations for all different kinds of artists, especially writers.

Finally Got the News: The Printed Legacy of the US Radical Left, 1970–1979, ed. Brad Duncan

This photographic history doesn’t attempt to get at all revolutionary groups or legacies, but the survey provided gives a tactile and testimonial record for how social movements grew, organized, and intersected during this period. Not your average coffee table book!

Printer’s Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History by Rebecca Romney

I don’t know that anyone who isn’t an avid book lover and/or works in publishing would get the zany humor and air of archival mystery that this book’s anecdotes of infamous book mishaps conjures in me, but some of these stories felt like old wives’ tales of the book business. Fun and funny to see that many of them were really true!

 

Maggie Grossman, Acquisitions Coordinator

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

One of the best books I read this summer. It was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and for good reason. Every time I dipped into it I was totally entranced by the gorgeous writing and the uncanny worldbuilding. It was an incredible way to think about contemporary issues of globalization, migration, and the refugee crisis. 10/10 would recommend.

 

Marianne Jankowski, Creative Director

The Book of Books: 500 years of Graphic Innovation, ed. Mathieu Lommen

This is one of my special books–made more special because it was a gift from a colleague—it’s beautifully designed and masterfully produced! It’s heartening to read that even in today’s digital age, readers and designers are still attracted to the printed book as an object of beauty and fascination. This book covers five hundred years of graphic design work—it’s concise, inspiring, and provides a look into the featured designers’ thought processes.

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

As a teenager, I was enthralled with Rebecca, an earlier book by du Maurier—filled with romance and mystery—I must have read it three or four times. The release of the movie My Cousin Rachel promped me to revisit du Maurier’s writing and eventually I will examine its faithfulness to the book. Du Maurier’s writing is bewitching—the suspicions and betrayals keep you guessing, and the ending is a shocker!

 

JD Wilson, Director of Marketing and Sales

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Said by many to be the best of all English-language novels, Middlemarch went to Cape Cod with me in the late ‘90s and a guest took it home before I read past the first few chapters. After a few hectic months of political reading during the winter (Shattered, Hillbilly Elegy, etc.), I indulged in a retreat to the nineteenth century to pick up what happened to ardent Dorothea Brooke and pedantic Mr. Casaubon.

It’s a long book, so long I would not scorn anyone who chose not to take this 800-page journey with George Eliot (Marianne Evans). She makes frequent stops to offer Solomonic aphorisms about life, like “the sore palate findeth grit.” But in the end, I grieved finishing it. Ask someone if they’ve read Middlemarch, and those who have smile like they’re welcoming you into a secret confraternity.

Next, I cleansed my palate with Cather’s My Antonia. I imagine that while writing Middlemarch Marianne Evans asked herself what else she might add, while Cather asked herself what else she might take away. What’s left in My Antonia is austerely beautiful, somewhat romanticized but not sugar-coated story of a Bohemian immigrant girl’s life on the Nebraska frontier.

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