Summer Reading List

By the end of today, I’ll be winging my way to Cyprus for my summer field season. Unlike almost every year since 2004, I won’t do any new fieldwork this summer and, instead, spend my time preparing material for study, studying past seasons, and scouting for new adventures. As I have posted already, I have a busy summer with a number of projects requiring attention. At the same time, the summer gives me a bit more time to spend reading books both for pleasure and for professional development. I usually prepare an ambitious reading list and only scratch the surface, but part of the fun is preparing this list, right?

I am going to keep working my way through the classics of “cyberpunk” fiction. As I have noted before, cyberpunk should be the preferred genre among punk archaeologists. Not only did the major contributors of the genre influence punk rock – think here about Gibson’s sprawl or John Shirley writing songs for the Blue Öyster Cult, but the cyberpunk genre is explicitly materialist. The experiences of technology and landscapes frame most of the plots for these works. In 2011, I was enamored with George Alec Effinger’s Budayeen trilogy (When Gravity Fails, A Fire in the Sun, The Exile Kiss). These books capture both the gritty materialism of most cyberpunk works and locate it in a exotic Orientalizing setting. Byzantium is never far in these works. My plan is to read A Fire in the Sun and The Exile Kiss this summer. (As an aside, if you have a long flight or plan to retire for a time to an exotic resort, take John Shirley’s A Song Called Youth Trilogy with you. It’s dark, punked out, and bizarrely prescient.)

I will also try some Gary Ballard, particularly his Bridge Chronicles Trilogy, in part because he self published his works, and they have garnered some acclaim. (Also Ballard does not have a Wikipedia page. How bizarre is that?). If Ballard is the most recent contributor to the genre, Alfred Bester is perhaps its founder. So plan to give him another chance and try to read his The Stars My Destination (1956) because I need to give one of the great fathers of the genre another chance. I tried to read The Demolished Man (1953) a few years back and – like many readers – I became completely lost in it (not in a good immersive way). To wrap up my cyberpunk reading, I’m going to revisit William Gibson’s Neuromancer. I have recommended it a good bit over the past couple years, but I have no read it since the mid-1990s. It’s not that long. So I’ll re-read it.

Lest my less frivolous colleagues begin to worry, I am going to read some academic works as well. I’ve started G. Lucas’s Understanding the Archaeological Record (2012) three times but have not had the space to finish it. So that’s on the docket. The same goes for Tim Ingold’s Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge, and Description (2011). I know I should also read Drew Wilbourne’s Materia Magica: The Archaeology of Magic in Roman Egypt, Cyprus, and Spain (2013), but I don’t have a copy yet. 

Finally, I am teaching Byzantine History this fall fro the first time since…. 2008?… and I need to surf through some of the more important survey’s of Byzantine history produced since then. My first stop will be Haldon, Jeffreys and Cormack’s (eds.) Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies (2008) and then onto J. Shepherd’s Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire (2008) and Haldon’s A Social History of Byzantium (2009) as well as Av. Cameron’s slim volume, The Byzantines (2006). Filial loyalty will require me to assign Timothy Gregory’s A History of Byzantium (2005) for the class.

I want to read Richard Hell’s autobiography, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp (2013), but musicians autobiographies so often leave me cold. My wife bought me a copy of David Katz’s excellent Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae, but I’m going to save that for July when I can sit in my most comfortable chair. Finally, if any editor is reading this post, I do know that I should be reading for a review Butrint 4: The Archaeology and Histories of an Ionian Town (2013). I’m on that. Really.

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