It’s almost summer and my stack of books and stalled projects has grown to the point of being embarrassing. But each summer brings a bit of hope with, maybe, a bit more time and a bit more clarity of purpose, or at very least some long flights and hazy jet-lagged nights where reading can happen.
To add a bit to the difficulty level this summer, I managed to break my glasses yesterday and leave for the Mediterranean on Wednesday armed with a pair of “store boughten” reading glasses that makes everything a bit more consistently blurry.
It’s an exciting time to consider my annual summer reading list.
You can check out my past reading lists here: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2011. I try to go back and re-read them each year to keep from feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of a long semester. Reinforcing inferiority and failure is a key element to scholarly productivity.
This summer, my top priority is writing and databasing. Reading is secondary, but I do have a paper in the fall that deals with Cyprus and insularity. I need to think more about what it means to work on an island. This has pushed me read Anna Kouremenos recent edited volume: Insularity and Identity in the Roman Mediterranean (2018). I also need to check out Constantakopoulou’s Dance of the Islands: Insularity, Networks, the Athenian Empire, and the Aegean world (2007), Paul Rainbird, The Archaeology of Islands (2007), James Conolly and Matthew Campbell, Comparative Island Archaeologies (2008), Thansis Vionis, A Crusader, Ottoman, and Early Modern Aegean Archaeology (2012), Helen Dawson’s Mediterranean Voyages: The Archaeology of Island Colonization and Abandonment (2013), Jane Francis and Anna Kouremenos’ Roman Crete: New Perspectives (2016). I’m sure there is more.
Dimitri Nakassis has nudged me to think about landscapes in a different way in the run up to our field season on WARP and on his recommendation I’ve grabbed a copy of David Hinton’s Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape (2012). It’s also got me thinking a bit about drones and dronoscopy and seeing the landscape from above (with a hat tip to conversations that I had at the EAA’s with Becky Sefried!). I’ll try to read Caren Kaplan’s Aerial Aftermaths: Wartime from Above (2018) and the book that she co-edited with Lisa Parks, Life in the Age of Drone Warfare (2017).
I also know that I need to keep thinking a bit about what I do as editor of North Dakota Quarterly and at The Digital Press. Last year I started but didn’t finish Peter Ginna’s What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing (2017) and this year, a copy of Benjamin Dreyer’s Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style (2019). I still need to finish Joy Williams’ The Changeling (1978), and since she appears in the next issue of NDQ, it seems like a good time to try to do that. I also got a copies of Kiese Laymon’s Heavy: An American Memoire (2018) and Long Division: A Novel (2013) because I was really struck by him at the 2019 UND Writers Conference.
Along similar lines (with another hat tip to the UND Writers Conference), this spring, I read Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf (2019) while listening to Sun-Ra and some more recent Afrofuturist space jazz (The Comet is Coming’s latest, for example) convinced me to get some Octavia Butler, particularly the Xenogenesis trilogy, collected as Lilith’s Brood, and her Patternist series collected as Seeds to Harvest.
There are some other odds and ends that I’ll work through this summer, I’m sure. Some of it will invariably chasing this or that footnote; some of it will be what passes for fun these days; some of it will be a flailing effort to think more critically about what I do as a teacher and a scholar.
In the end, if I read 25% of these books, I’ll have done something. I probably won’t manage to do even that (as a gaggle of J.G. Ballard and Ursula K. LeGuin novels stare at me from lists of reading past). Maybe making the list public will keep me humble, though, and remind me that for every book I intend to read there are three or four more than I really should read instead.