Our Favorite Summer Reads

By: Blue Mesa Review on Friday, August 29th, 2014

Here in New Mexico summer vacation has come to a crashing close. School started last week and we’re just settling into a new semester. In a moment of nostalgia, we put together a list of our favorite books from the summer. Enjoy!

Jill Dehnert | Editor-in-Chief

I know I’m a bit late to this party, and I actually didn’t want Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain to be my favorite summer read. I found it a bit too masculine at first and thought it was going to be full of war porn. Instead, it turned out to be the most interesting book that I think I’ve ever read in terms of style and point of view, and it’s really funny.

Emily Rapp | Faculty Advisor 

Anyone who wants to write a novel as sweeping as one from the 19th century, but as current and hip as the present day, should read Tartt. Most amazing is her use of time, and the way she works narrative tension to keep you reading until long after you should be asleep.

Diana Filar | Graduate Reader

I’ve been really into very long novels this year (I fell in love with 2666 in January), and the trend continued over the summer, with Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch as the highlight. I devoured this book in 2 days, and it reminded me that plot can be just as deeply intriguing as form, character development, sentence structure, etc. (all of which, of course, this book also has).

Brenna Gomez | Fiction Editor

An Untamed State is not an easy read, but it’s worth it. Gay doesn’t shy away from showing extreme violence and the cruelty of humanity, but the human spirit’s will to survive shines all the more brightly because of this. The book illustrates the devastating and lasting impact of trauma and how we begin to move on, though we may never fully heal.

Michael Noltemeyer | Nonfiction Editor

I admit that this was a reread, but I love this collection more every time I come back to it. If you grew up with E.B. White’s children’s books (e.g., Charlotte’s WebStuart LittleThe Trumpet of the Swan), then you owe it to yourself to read this “quintessential American essayist” at the height of his considerable powers: “his voice,” one reviewer proclaimed, without the slightest hint of exaggeration, “rumbles with authority through sentences of surpassing grace.”

Lucy Burns | Associate Editor

What’s not to love about Roger Reeve’s King MeHis debut collection takes on sorrow and loss, illuminating issues of race, gender, and identity through vivid language and imagery. The collection is filled with unforgettable lines like, “Gather enough starlings / in a box and you have a factory / of genocide, or merely sound / unraveling like a wing.” But what struck me most was the compassion with which the poems are written.

Charlie Wormhoudt | Graduate Reader 

This summer I reconnected with my father’s estranged brother and he gave me a copy of All Day Permanent Red by Christopher Logue. Logue, a veteran of the Second World War, translates the first battle scenes of Homer’s Illiad into shockingly clear scenes, mixing ancient and modern and thereby revealing his subject’s timelessness—reminding us that war never changes: “And here it comes: / That unpremeditated joy as you / — The Uzi shuddering warm against your hip / Happy in danger in a dangerous place / Yourself another self you found at Troy — / Squeeze nickel through that rush of Greekoid scum!”

Lucas Shepherd | Graduate Reader 

Phil Klay’s Redeployment was by far the best book I read this summer.  Klay, a former Marine, writes about the brutality of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with eloquence and feeling but somehow avoids over-sentimentality.  This collection of short stories covers everything from Marines fending off corpse-eating dogs to a chaplain’s untimely spiritual crisis to an acronym- and slang-laced tale that illustrates the divide between over here and over there.  Although the stories aren’t linked (a la Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a collection that Redployment has been favorably compared to), it’s a fair assessment to call this book “unputdownable.”

Catherine Hubka | Graduate Reader 

My favorite read this summer was Ana Castillo’s So Far From God. No, it’s not “new,” but it’s a beautiful story. This complex, rich story of Chicanas in New Mexico examines the lives of Sophia and her four (fated) daughters: Fe, Esperanza, Caridad, and Loca. Although Chicana, it could be any feminine experience where life and society conspire to forge strength. Yeah, there’s some magical realism here, but it’s beautifully rendered, and who says that’s a fault?