Vacation Reading (Or, a Book-Plugging Post)

grammer.jpgOne of the great joys of summer is the chance to catch up on reading. To that end, I thought I’d open up this post for comments on new and noteworthy novels that folks have been enjoying, from the serious to the beach-puff. I’ll start off with two different books that I recommend. The first is Getting Grammar: 150 New Ways to Teach an Old Subject, a book that is technically (a) not a novel; and (b) not law-related. But it is co-written by my brilliant and accomplished mom, Dr. Sandra Josephs Hoffman (Millersville University, along with colleague Donna Topping), and apparently contains some writing of mine from first grade, which may (or may not) have dealt with legal issues.

Second, I can recommend The Interpretation of Murder, by Yale law professor Jed Rubenfeld. I received a galley copy of the book from its publisher a week or so back, and finished it over the weekend. I’m a sucker for historical detective novels (Name of the Rose; Instance of the Fingerpost), and Rubenfeld’s book is a great example of the genre. The basic story concerns the murder of young women in turn-of-the-century New York, investigated by a group of psychotherapists, including Sigmund Freud. The book is chock full of tidbits about life in the City, including some well-researched observations about the development of the professional police force, psychology, and life as a member of the social elite. I wonder which lucky Yale law student RA got to research this instead of, say, another article about the First Amendment? It is an easy read (albiet a little more salacious that I would have expected) and I recommend it.

Other suggestions?

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4 Responses

  1. Belle Lettre says:

    If you like historical mysteries, might I suggest a few literary mysteries?

    Possession by A.S. Byatt, about a fictional poet named “Randolph Ash”

    The Archivist by Martha Cooley, a fictional account of T.S. Eliot’s life.

    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafon (probably the most thrilling of the bunch)

    For completely fun reading, Found Magazine, edited by Davy Rothbart–it’s a collection of “found stuff” (letters, pictures, etc.) around the world. Trash is more interesting than you think, and sometimes better than “trashy” literature.

    And every summer I read a lot of Agatha Christie, but mostly the Hercule Poirot mysteries: best bet: The ABC Murders.

  2. I’m almost finished the Gormenghast series (Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone). So far, it is excellent. Every single line is poetry and wit. Every description is cinematic, in the sense that, if you’ve correctly understood what the autor (Mervyn Peake) has written, then you’ll immediately have a picture in your head of the event.

    The central society, the kingdom of Gormenghast, is a satirical portrayal of a law-abiding, rule-following society which has been alienated from the meaning(s) and goals behind its laws and traditions. And that’s just the background for the story, which chugs forward by the intense personalities of the main characters.

    What’s especially appealing about the series is that it’s set in a fantasy universe, but fails to be fantastic — there are no dragons, no elves, no magic, one moon, one Earth, the usual months, and so on. The most glaring eccentricity is that almost everyone has a ridiculous compound name, like “Prunesquallor”, “Muzzlehatch”, “Flannelcat”, or “Steerpike”.

  3. Don Morrisey says:

    If it’s historical mystery you want, try “Two Trains Running” by Andrew Vachss. The subject is how contemporary America created the pattern of its politics as a result of events in the year preceding the 1960 election, when his story takes place. While rival criminal organizations fight over the future of a midwestern city, larger and more corrupt forces clash over the future of the country itself. Just as Vachss portrays far more than the city in which the tale is set, so too is his subject far more than crime. He delves deeply into the still unresolved problem of race animus. He examines the genesis of gang violence and the motivations that draw the young and rootless into joining. He examines how government surveillance can extend into all aspects of society, and how the investigation of corruption can lead to the corruption of the investigator. Vachss’s style here is jounalistic: the novel is constructed through a series of scenes presented chronologically with the date and time at the start of each. He reports the dialogue and actions, without adverting to an omniscient narrator that reveals the characters’ thoughts. With such a tightly disciplined manner of relating events, the warmth and compassion infusing the story amazes and entrances the careful reader.

  4. Tim Zinnecker says:

    The Alienist, and The Angel of Darkness, both by Caleb Carr, and both historical fiction / mysteries.