Summer Reading List

I generally embark upon the summer with an ambitious reading list, and this year is no exception. Once I submit final grades and work through the end-of-semester obstacles, I start looking for a good book to clear my head and renew my love of reading. I read a lot, but during the academic year, most of my reading revolves around things I do at work, things I teach, and things I am researching. Though I enjoy my work, work reading isn't usually the same as pleasure reading.

The books listed below represent what I hope to read in the next several weeks, along with a bit of explanation about why they are on my list. This list is as much about keeping myself accountable and helping me remember as it is about recommending books. As I finish the books, I will revisit this list and offer some thoughts about them. If you are reading them, or have read them, I'd love to hear your thoughts, too.

1. Wendell Berry's The Art of Loading Brush. I have been looking forward to reading this one for months. Given my own agrarian interests, I have long been a fan of Berry's work. Berry is one of my heroes not just because he is a talented writer but because he holds an agrarian ethic that resonates deeply with me.

2. Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. This book offers a compelling idea: what if Japan and Germany had emerged victorious from WWII and taken over portions of the US? I watched the first season of the Netflix show based on this novel, and while I was incredibly interested in the concept, I was not particularly wow'ed by the presentation. I figured I should give the novel a try instead. It might sound like heresy coming from an historian, but I enjoy alternative history of this sort. I am also a big fan of dystopian literature, so this book should be a good fit for me.

3. Rob Ferguson's Remaking the Rural South. You might have noticed this one on my American South reading list a few months ago. Like many academic books, I initially read the introduction of this one, then zipped through the chapters at a fast clip. However, this summer, I'm planning to sit down with it and read it for enjoyment this summer.

4. Charles Freeman's The Closing of the Western Mind. This is more of a work read than a pleasure read. I teach the first half of the European survey course most every fall (it spans roughly from Ancient Greece to the Protestant Reformation), and the early parts of this portion of history are still a weak point for me. I try to read a book every summer that will help me teach the course a bit better. I spotted this book on the shelf a couple of weeks ago, and I am looking forward to learning more about the anti-intellectualism of the early Christian Church, particularly given the parallels to today.

5. David Joy's The Line That Held Us. I have been looking forward to this book for ages, and I'll finally get to read it just as the summer comes to a close. It is set for release on August 14. If you haven't read any of David's work yet, go buy Where All Light Tends to Go and The Weight of this World immediately.

6. Michael Farris Smith's Desperation Road. I just finished Smith's book Rivers, which I loved, so I plan to work my way through his backlist over the next several months.

7. Taylor Brown's Gods of Howl Mountain. This is another book that I have been anxious to read. It came out just as the spring semester was coming to a boil, so I'll finally have time to sit down with it over the summer. I got hooked on Brown's work when I read his novel Fallen Land.

8. Virginia Eubanks's Automating Inequality. A few months ago, I published a poverty reading list, and a rep from the publisher of this book was kind enough to send me a review copy because she thought it might make a good addition to my poverty list. I read the introduction and the first chapter, and I had to hide the book from myself because I wanted to read it more than I wanted to grade papers.

9. Leesa Cross-Smith's Whiskey & Ribbons. This book is on the list simply because David Joy told me he thinks I would like it, and he has never once been wrong about a book he thinks I will like.

As always, shopping via the Amazon links here is a way to support "This Appalachia Life." The small proceeds I make from the Amazon Affiliate program pay for web hosting and other expenses for the website. However, I also strongly encourage you to support your local bookstores.

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