Summer Reading is a series that asks Haverford’s librarians and library staff for book recommendations that will enlighten, entertain, and educate you during this vacation season. Take these titles to the beach, on a plane, or just enjoy them indoors with the fan on.
This week: Research and Instruction Librarian Semyon Khokhlov suggests three relatively new books—two from 2016 and one 2015 reissue of a book from the ’80s that had been long out of print—that grapple with desire, politics, and the modern condition.
Submission by Michel Houellebecq:
In this provocative satirical novel, set in 2022, the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power in the French national elections and institutes Sharia law. Houellebecq dramatizes his perennial interest in the discontents of western liberal society through the tribulations of his protagonist Francois, a lecturer at the Sorbonne who must decide whether or not to give in to the new order. Submission is a compelling and highly-readable novel of ideas propelled by Houellebecq’s masterful command of narrative.
Suite Vénitienne by Sophie Calle:
Sophie Calle is a conceptual artist whose work entails performing activities to investigate the intricacies of human interaction. In Suite Vénitienne she offers a haunting account, in photos and words, of her experience pursuing a stranger through the streets of Venice. By turns banal and feverish, this book gives a striking illustration of the unaccountable nature of desire.
The Babysitter at Rest by Jen George:
The funny and original stories in this debut collection use novel means to express the trials of navigating the contemporary world. Earnest protagonists, full of longing and insecurity, find themselves in settings and scenarios dominated by abstruse rules and irrational actors. George combines deadpan wit with the resources of surrealism to fashion stories that speak to what it’s like to be young, confused, and put upon.
Photo by Patrick Montero