Reading Recommendations For Raxa Collective’s Extended Community, And From Raxa Collective Interns

Many universities in the western and northern regions of the world are concluding their academic years about now as summer break begins, which means it is time for Raxa Collective to begin welcoming interns. Some who join have already completed their undergraduate degrees, and prior to beginning their “real” careers they come to spend time in one of our communities, collaborating with our staff, local communities, etc..

One such case is a contributor who has just completed an undergraduate degree; before heading to New England to pursue Ph.D. studies he will carry out projects at Xandari that will allow him to perfect his Spanish language skills. Since he is going to be in the same community as these people below, starting in August, we post this “suggestions on summer reading” article from Harvard Gazette as a prompt for James to make his own summer reading recommendations in a new post. If he takes us up on this prompt we will see who follows his lead and shares their own reading recommendations…

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer. Yeats and Bishop made Bret Anthony Johnston's summer reading list but, he said, "I’m eager to happen upon unexpected used bookstores, tag sales, and library fundraisers, where I often buy books outside of my typical reading inclinations."

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer. Yeats and Bishop made Bret Anthony Johnston’s summer reading list but, he said, “I’m eager to happen upon unexpected used bookstores, tag sales, and library fundraisers, where I often buy books outside of my typical reading inclinations.”

Bret Anthony Johnston
Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser Director of Creative Writing

This summer I’m going to read W.B. Yeats and Elizabeth Bishop, and “Wynne’s War,” a new novel by Aaron Gwyn about special forces on horseback in Afghanistan.

I’ll also read a collection of essays by Italo Calvino and stories by Mark Chiusano, a former student who graduated so recently that I still expect to see him in the Barker Center halls. I’m also starting to wade into a couple of new projects, which will require ample research on picking locks, chupacabras,cults, and the 1993 tragedy at the Koresh compound in Waco, Texas. I’m looking forward to all of this reading.

And I’m also thrilled about the reading that isn’t yet planned. I’m eager to happen upon unexpected used bookstores, tag sales, and library fundraisers, where I often buy books outside of my typical reading inclinations. In those places, where books are spilling out of moldy and collapsing cardboard boxes, I trust serendipity. A lawn mower repair manual? A cookbook from the 1950s? A self-published account of a man’s quest to earn a place on the PGA Tour despite having only started playing golf the year before? I’ll read these with almost the same delight and concentration that I do serious literature, and they will usually deliver what I long for as a reader — interesting language, complex character and vivid details, and surprise. There is often a good story to be found in such texts. Maybe it’s already on the page, or maybe it’s an idea still waiting to be written.

Maya Jasanoff
Professor of history

File photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

File photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

One of the things I enjoy most about my area of research, the history of the British Empire, is that it gives me a chance to travel around the world. And one of the things I enjoy most about travel is reading about the places I visit. This year I have been on leave and traveling more than usual, so I am looking forward to a quiet summer in which I can catch up on a few titles I didn’t get to while on the road.

I recently visited South Africa for the first time, and want to read Nadine Gordimer’s novel “July’s People.”I’ll be curious to see how her fictional portrayal of a post-apartheid régime — which was banned in South Africa when it was published in 1981 — holds up now, as South Africa marks 20 years of multiracial democracy. Closer to home, I took advantage of a conference in Oxford, Miss., to visit William Faulkner’s house Rowan Oak. I haven’t read any Faulkner since I was blown away by “The Sound and the Fury” in high school, so “Light in August” is high on my summer reading stack.

I’m especially interested to read Faulkner after having spent a lot of time lately with one of the writers who inspired him, Joseph Conrad, the subject of my current research. Before he became a writer, Conrad spent 20 years as a merchant sailor. And in order to get a sense of his life at sea, I spent a month this winter sailing from Hong Kong to Southampton on a container ship. I’m fascinated by accounts of shipboard life, so I can’t wait to read Geoff Dyer’s new book, “Another Great Day at Sea,” about his stint aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush. Geoff is one of the funniest, smartest writers I know, and this is sure to be a perceptive and entertaining treat…

Read the whole article here.

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