Were you one of those kids who chose reading over playing outside? Yeah, me too. And although being active outdoors has since become a passion, my first love for reading has never faded. In fact, as an editor I basically have to read for a living. What I miss in those weeks when I’m inundated by compulsory reading/manuscripts is reading purely for pleasure. So what books does a compulsive/professional reader choose for leisure? Books that are bound to spark some debate, maybe even controversy (Eggers, The Circle); a few by recent winners and nominees of literary prizes (Munro, Lahiri); a magisterial biography of a royal, for educational yet slightly soporific bedtime reading…and more. Without further ado, here are my picks for fall’s most interesting, relaxing, or just pleasurable reads.
The Circle by Dave Eggers (Knopf / MacSweeneys) – a bright young woman starts working at a hyper-efficient high-tech company called The Circle. But underneath the glimmering, Utopian veneer, there is an unsettling sense that something is not quite as it should be…And yes, it is a thinly-veiled attack on certain ubiquitous and impossibly sleek tech companies of late. I’m looking forward to seeing whether Eggers succeeds in social critique via masterful prose, or sounds like a petulant green monster.
Selected Stories by Alice Munro (Vintage) — Munro was recently awarded the Nobel prize, so now is as good a time as ever to brush up on some vintage works by this mistress of short stories. 28 stories about flickering candlelight moments of love, betrayal, desire, and redemption.
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf) — a finalist for the National Book Award 2013, by the Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Namesake. A story of two brothers who are bound by blood and torn by different political ideas, in Lahiri’s earthy and mature prose that complements the nearly-biblical scope and theme.
Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by Anne Sommerset (Knopf) — the daughter of James II, and the last Stuart monarch on the English throne, and the first Queen of Great Britain: Queen Anne lived as dramatic a life as any royal. I don’t know much about her beyond the wildflower (Queen Anne’s lace) and the architectural style, so I’m going to be making this my bedtime reading.
Longbourn by Jo Baker (Knopf) — Yet another retelling of Pride and Prejudice, this time from the servants’ point of view. I don’t think anyone can properly imitate Austen’s deliciously impeccable prose, but I look forward to getting lost in Regency era again.
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya von Bremzen (Crown) — Food today is charged with meaning but boy, it was something else in the Soviet era. Von Bremzen’s memoir on growing up in the USSR where “every edible morsel was packed with emotional and political meaning.”
Also on the Book list: Reading for Your Soul
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling