The Prairie Progressive Summer Reading List

prairie-dog-logo Summer Lies:  Prairie Dog’s Summer Reading for 2013

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
by Ben Fountain

Against backdrops of the war in Iraq and a Dallas Cowboys football game, the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara brutally but uproariously pinpoints the pseudo-patriotism, hypocritical machismo, capitalist corruption, and genuine confusion in America after “nina leven.” Catch-22 for the 21st century.

Gifts of the Crow
by John Marzluff and Tony Angell

Crows are smarter than you.  They are smarter than Stephen Hawking. Never play chess with a crow.

The Waitress Was New
by Dominique Fabre

Work, friendship, unrequited love, neighbors in the apartment upstairs, aging, more work…. never has the day-to-day been more profoundly fascinating.

Dear Life
by Alice Munro

You may have enjoyed them in The New Yorker, but somehow these stories reveal even more truths when they gather together between hard covers.

In Zanesville
by Jo Ann Beard

An unnamed teen-ager and her best friend Flea feel helpless and hopeless in a small Midwest town in the 70s, but they are too tough, too smart, and too funny to feel sorry for.

The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

Another novel that transcends the category of “Young Adult Fiction.” A remarkably unsentimental love story of two teen-agers (yes, in the Midwest) living with cancer. More laughter than tears, especially when the couple takes a “Make-a-Wish” trip to Amsterdam. Authentic characters, sharp dialogue, and some pretty good answers to that old question, What is the Meaning of Life?

Sutton
by J.R. Moehringer

Willie Sutton comes off as a charming, non-violent, consummate professional in this “fictional biography” of the famed bank robber, but best to think twice before inviting him over for dinner.

Kill You Twice
by Chelsea Cain

Born in Iowa City, Cain inexplicably became obsessed as a child with the Green River Killer of the 1980s. Fortunately for fans of grisly mysteries, she is brilliantly filling a rare niche: taut thrillers about a beautiful and creatively sadistic female serial killer.

The Gift of Stones
by Jim Crace

The bar has been set for another rare literary niche:  novels about everyday life in Neolithic times.

Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness
by Alexandra Fuller

The honeymoon couldn’t last forever for a happy young couple, their perfect marriage, and the British Empire in eastern Africa.

Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History
by Matthew White

This scholarly compendium is more entertaining than it sounds. Categories of horrific events include Genocide, Religious Killings, and Crazed Tyrants, with a handy appendix of The 100 Deadliest Multicides.

Help Me Find My People: The African American Search of Family Lost in Slavery
by Heather Andrea Williams

Can you imagine a man with a gun and a whip walking away with your mother…forever? No, you can’t, but Williams provides a searing taste of families permanently ripped apart, the terror of human trafficking, and the constant threat of loss.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
by Ayana Mathis

A fictionalized, more contemporary version of Help Me Find My People.  Not a novel for relaxing on the beach, but a worthwhile tour-de-force by a recent Writers Workshop grad.

Summer Lies
by Bernhard Schlink

The author of  The Reader depicts decent people facing difficult decisions, then deluding themselves to justify the disastrous results of their poor choices. Cautionary stories for all seasons!

Talulla Rising
by Glen Duncan

A female werewolf struggles with selfdoubt, loneliness, and parenting issues.

Zone One
by Colson Whitehead

In the not-too-distant future, the world is still mopping up the remaining zombies who nearly destroyed the human race. The scariest monsters, we are reminded, are those most like us: catatonic consumers, the seemingly-friendly folks next door, the flesh-eaters lurking just beneath the veneer of “civilization.” Whitehead’s world — including pre-apocalyptic Vegas casinos, urban workplaces, and the New York club scene — makes TV’s The Walking Dead look like a mundane soap opera.

On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths
by Lucia Perillo

Poetry as stand-up comedy, paying bittersweet tribute to the good things in life (“dogs and pie and swimming”) and the not so good (damaged bodies, bad French movies, “the sadness of the bound-to-happen”).

The Price of Inequality
by Joseph Stiglitz

The Columbia economics professor plays a tune similar to Paul Krugman’s, but hits a lot more notes.  “America has become a country not ‘with justice for all,’ but rather with… justice for those who can afford it.”

— Prairie Dog

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2013 issue of The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter, available only in hard copy for $12/yr.!!  Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244.

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