July Lit List


 

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I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from the writing life this summer. But the reading life is alive and well. Here’s what’s been on the shelf in July.

  • East of Eden, by John Steinbeck — I wanted to read a classic this summer, so when my son-in-law said he was going to read “East of Eden”, I decided to join him. The story is loosely based on the Cain and Abel account in Genesis, following several generations of a family in the Salinas Valley in California. I loved sinking into the 600 page saga and am still thinking about the characters a month later.
  • Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, by John Steinbeck — The reading of Steinbeck’s classic was wonderfully enhanced by pairing it up with this book. Every day before starting to write, Steinbeck would warm up by writing a letter to his editor. On the left-hand pages of the notebook, he would jot his thoughts about the storyline and about his life; on the right side of the notebook, he wrote his novel. It was a fascinating look at the process of writing and how a great novel works itself onto the page. Steinbeck also regularly expressed concern for his two young boys, which was endearing.
  • Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke — I picked up this little volume because I’ve seen Rilke quoted so many times in other books.  I found most of those memorable sayings in the first six pages, but finished the rest of it in an afternoon.
  • Ex Libris, Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman — This is a series of essays about Fadiman’s love of books and reading. I especially related to the story about the author’s mother who proof-read her local newspaper, marked all the errors in red and sent a boxful of clippings to the newspaper office. I, too, am a compulsive proof-reader who thinks I’m helping when pointing out grammatical mistakes on billboards and menus.
  • A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997, by Wendell Berry — I don’t read much poetry, but because it’s Wendell Berry, I had to give it a try. I’ve been reading a few poems every Sunday morning since January and just finished this book in July. It’s nice to let a book linger once in a while. Poetry seems especially made for long, slow contemplating.

What are you hoping to read before summer has flown?

2 thoughts on “July Lit List

  1. Have you read Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter? Not poetry but absolutely stunning writing. I recently bought East of Eden in mint condition for $1 at a local used bookstore and have been wanting to read it but a little nervous about the size of it. I think it would be fun to read his journal alongside. I LOVED his memoir about traveling the USA with his dog (Travels with Charley) so it would be fun to read personal letters/ journal entries again, especially linked with the actual book he’s referring to.

  2. Hi Elena! “Hannah Coulter” was the first Wendell Berry book I read and I have been in love with his books ever since. I agree — stunning writing. None of his other books have disappointed. You should give “East of Eden” a try. Reading his journal along with it really made the book an experience. Thanks for your comment!

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