Sweetzels are back on grocery store shelves. Scott Hanson is sharpening pencils and picking out ties. Staples is selling one ¢ packs of filler paper again. These are clear signs that summer is waning fast, but that doesn’t mean that we should relinquish summer vacation without a fight. Three weeks is more than enough time to squeeze in one or two summer reading books before the Fall semester starts. Here are three recommendations for books to read in the hammock during the lazy hazy crazy days of August.
Piccadilly Jim. By P.G. Wodehouse. Available for free from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2005 This story is pure Wodehouse magic. It has multiple cases of mistaken identities, a ne’er-do-well hero who falls in love at first sight with a red-headed heroine whose temper matches her hair, a passel of geniuses to plague the long-suffering man of the house, a yappy purse dog who bites at the right time, and lots & lots of snappy British slang. Pour yourself a b&s. Have a plate of cucumber sandwiches within reach. Make sure there are no aunts lurking nearby. Then escape into the kind of loopiness that only Wodehouse can provide.
Sparkling Cyanide, by Agatha Christie. London: Published for the Crime Club by Collins, 1964. Location: L-3-STACKS Call Number: 828.5 C555sp One of the biggest (and happiest) surprises for me when I first came to Lehigh was discovering our vast Agatha Christie collection. Someone must have taught a class on Agatha Christie at one time because we have nearly every novel in our collection that she published. Sparkling Cyanide is one of the best ones, with plot twists and plenty of red herrings. I guarantee you will be surprised by the identity of the murderer. Agatha Christie wrote good solid murder mysteries with no gimmicks to distract the reader from the plot. Her books are not of the cosy mystery genre. No crime solving cats here! Instead you will get a finely crafted puzzle that will challenge you to deduce the solution before the final denouement.
Baltasar and Blimunda, by José Saramago. 1st U.S. ed. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987. Location: L-3-STACKS Call Number: 869 S243meE This last selection is a bit more challenging than the first two, but well worth the effort. First published in Portuguese as Memorial do Convento, this superb translation by Giovanni Pontiero of Nobel prize-winner José Saramago’s novel is at its core a love story between two peasants in 18th century Portugal. Baltasar is an ex-soldier and a drover who has a hook for a left hand. Blimunda is a clairvoyant who can see the insides of people and things. Although a love story winds through the whole book, Baltasar and Blimunda is not even remotely of the romance genre. Rather, the love story resembles a real life relationship in which two people meet, know that they love each other, and so they are together. No vampires. No zombies. Just plain true love. Saramago inserts historic figures and events such as musician/composer Domenico Scarlatti, Father Bartolomeu de Gusmão, and the construction of the Convent of Mafra. He writes about class, the Inquisition, religion, war, aviation, to name a few of his themes, but he always comes back to Baltasar and Blimunda. This book took me so long to get through because I would keep re-reading passages aloud, enchanted by the beauty of the language or stunned by a particularly insightful passage.
Enjoy the rest of your summer. When you get back to campus, please stop by the Libraries to see what we’ve been up to over the break. Pop your head into the Humanities Librarian office to tell me how you liked these books. Check out our latest exhibit, At the Podium: The Speeches of Lee Iacocca, 1978-2011. We’ll have the coffee on in Lucy’s Café.