The C-Dub Guide to Summer Reading

21 June 2010

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

I know. Summer started a little while ago, but I’ve been sick, and it ain’t like school just let out yesterday or nothin.’

A caveat before you read the list: this is a summer reading list, and as such it’s not the usual fare of philosophy, theology or any number of heavy, uber – (and pseudo-) -intellectual stuff you might expect.

Instead, it’s nearly all fiction, and almost entirely “light” reading. You’ll note that I have leanings toward sci-fi, which you may or may not share. Which means even my “light” reading is still pretty nerdy.

Some of these I plan to read/re-read, though it’s mainly a compilation of books I’ve enjoyed without necessarily demanding a lot of thought.

I mean, it’s summer. So…enjoy yisself.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams): Both funny and nerdy. This is the first in a whole series.

I, Robot (Isaac Asimov): Ignore the movie. Read the book. K? K.

I’ll Mature When I’m Dead (Dave Barry): …or anything by this guy, including the collections of his newspaper columns.

Beast (Peter Benchley): Author of Jaws – story about a killer giant squid. I know. Deep stuff.

The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury): Collection of short stories. Bradbury is a bit more of a literary sci-fi writer, which makes his stories a bit more engaging.

Marvels (Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross): The story of Marvel superheroes (Spiderman, Iron Man, X-Men, etc.) told from the perspective of a news reporter rather than the heroes themselves. Fully (and beautifully) painted by Alex Ross.

The Man Who Was Thursday (G.K. Chesterton): Dystopian fiction. Probably the weirdest thing Chesterton wrote. Short, with an interesting allegory.

Childhood’s End (Arthur C. Clarke): Author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but this book I found way more engaging. Alien invaders. That sort of thing.

Life After God (Douglas Coupland): Series of short stories. At the very least, good insight into today’s culture.

Sphere (Michael Crichton): In my opinion, one of his more imaginative works. Just stay away from the movie, and it’ll be fine.

James and the Giant Peach (Ronald Dahl): Yep; this is the author of the “Chocolate Factory” fame. Children’s fantasy; fun to read. Weirdly, banned from schools. Huh.

A Scanner Darkly (Philip K. Dick): Same author who wrote the novel which became the film Blade Runner. The story’s a bit dark, but the book is good, relatable sci-fi.

Neuromancer (William Gibson): A classic of the “cyberpunk” sub-genre. Good to read even if you’re not a sci-fi fan.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (Seth Grahame-Smith): Seriously. Alternative history. The title is exactly what the book is about. A movie is coming out eventually from Tim Burton, which should tell you something about the overall nature and tone of the book.

Sam Kind of Different as Me (Ron Hall and Denver Moore): A great true story about friendship, faith, and poverty. Incidentally, the story is set in Fort Worth, a town not far from where I used to live.

Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert Heinlein): Kind of a sci-fi classic. It even got the word “grok” into the dictionary, supposedly. Update (7/05/10): A wise friend seemed to remember some “free love” themes in the book that I did not. The book is still being read in some public school districts, and it’s actually been since high school since I read it, so how much is there, I don’t recall. Either way, if such content is there, sorry about that, and its inclusion reflects a lapse in memory rather than morality. Feel free to comment below.

Catch-22 (Joseph Heller): Extremely funny. A bit crass.

The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway): His first. It’s similar to The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, and well worth the read.

Dune (Frank Herbert): Any work of fiction with its own glossary is going to be nerdy, but Dune’s a classic.

Demian (Hermann Hesse): Not well-known, but worth reading.

The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini): A vivid story, showing a more personal look into the political and religious climate of the middle east.

On the Road (Jack Kerouac): You may already know it was written (by hand) in about a week on one long scroll. Kinda nutty, but one of those “classics” for indie college types.

The Green Mile (Stephen King): As usual, the book is better than the film. Also shows Stephen King’s considerable talent as a writer, and his ability to write something that’s not horror fiction. Originally published as a serial novel, but is now widely available as a collected set.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee): I’ve heard that some schools are banning this book. For shame. Also, one of few cases where the film doesn’t ruin the book, though this is largely due to Gregory Peck’s performance.

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L’Engel): Great children’s fantasy/sci-fi. The first in a series.

Space Trilogy (C.S. Lewis): Relatively unknown series consisting of Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. Heavier on philosophical and fantasy themes than actual science, but really good books.

I Am Legend (Richard Matheson): None of the movies quite nailed it. The book has been hugely influential for many writers and filmmakers.

Through Painted Deserts (Donald Miller): True story, kind of memoir-ish. My personal favorite from this author.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller): Yep; a comic book. One of the sources Nolan drew from in creating the recent Batman films.

The Goon (Eric Powell): Another comic book. Targets young adults. Funny, good art, and just a lot of fun to read.

V (Thomas Pynchon): A little weird, hard to describe, but worth the read. Also contains the origin of the word “Vheissu” for all you Thrice fans out there.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (Shel Silverstein): …or his other stuff. Funny, inventive poetry written for children, but certainly enjoyable for the rest of us.

Painkiller (Stephen Spruill): Medical thriller.Strong page-turner.

The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck): One of my all-time favorite books. Plus, Bruce Springsteen (and later, Rage Against the Machine) wrote a song about one of the characters.

The Little Prince (Antoine de St. Exupry): I’m surprised more people haven’t read this. It’s one of those children’s books that has volumes to say to grown-ups. It’s also proof that not all French are cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

The Hobbitt (J.R.R. Tolkien): Always worth reading again. Especially before the movie comes out.

Exodus (Leon Uris): Credit for this recommendation is actually due to my friend Leah. Good historical fiction; highly readable.

Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut): Dark humor and time travel.

Son of Hamas (Mosab Hassan Yousef and Ron Brackin): True story of terrorist-turned Christian.

21 June 2010

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Chris is a writer and speaker from the Charlottesville area. He regularly serves as a research writer for Docent Research Group in addition to doing some guest speaking.

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