My Summer Reading List: Soccer, Politics, & Jews

When my uncle called me this morning, I had to shush him.

“Hold one second,” I whispered. “I can’t talk too loud, I’m at the library.”

“You’re at the library?” he asked incredulously, his voice actually getting louder despite my request. “On the Saturday morning of a three-day weekend??”

Guilty as charged — and with a smile on my face. What can I say? I’m a nerd, and damn proud.

Today was one of my favorite days of the year: the day I stock up on my summer reading list. It’s a yearly ritual for me. A couple weeks after school gets out, and a few weeks before the craziness of Brave New Voices, I head to the library and indulge myself with new writers and old favorites. (Side note: this year’s trip was especially gratifying because the Oakland City Council just this week backed off from its terrible budget proposal that would have closed 14 of the city’s 18 libraries.)

Here are the books I picked up today. We’ll see if they last through July:

Eduardo Galeano – Soccer in Sun and Shadow
The unofficial bible of my radical soccer club/community, the one and only Left Wing Futbol Club, this is the most poetic book every written about the beautiful game. Since it’s Galeano, it’s also very political and very Uruguayan. Que viva Peñarol!

Miguel Asturias – Men of Maize
I’m going to Guatemala in September, and while I’ve already read Rigoberta Menchu and a history of the CIA-led coup of 1954, I had never heard of Asturias, the first Central American author to win the Nobel Prize. This novel is a literary defense of indigenous Mayan traditions and considered to be Asturias’ masterpiece.

Haruki Murakami – After the Quake
I’ve been wanting to read Murakami for a while, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle specifically. This short-story collection was all they had by him at the library, though, and I already the first story on the BART ride back. Set in Japan after the disastrous 1995 earthquake in Kobe, it seemed like an insightful book as the country is still recovering from this year’s tsunami.

Philip Roth – The Prague Orgy
I have a love/hate relationship with Roth. The Human Stain: love. American Pastoral: hate. And that one’s supposed to be his classic. Roth’s themes are always similar: Jewish identity in America, race and assimilation, nostalgia and family contradictions. You see why I can’t let him go? This book’s about an American writer who goes to Soviet-era Czechoslovakia to save a dissident Yiddish author. I know, he really branched out with this one.

Sherman Alexie – Reservation Blues
Now here is an author I definitely do NOT have a love/hate relationship with. Sherman Alexie is one of my top 5 favorite writers of all time. He always writes about the same shit, too: Indians in Spokane, Indians in Seattle, basketball, salmon, race, and love. But he’s so honest, so damn funny, that it hits every time. Here he’s got Robert Johnson, the legendary bluesman, showing up at the Spokane reservation. I’m saving this one for last.

And there’s some books just out that aren’t at the library but I’m looking forward to copping: Michael Cirelli’s new poetry collection Everyone Loves The Situation, the late Manning Marable’s revealing, controversial Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, and of course my man Adam Mansbach’s runaway hit Go the F**k to Sleep.

Oh, and if the rumors turn out to be true, Michelle Bachman’s future memoir. Who knows? Maybe she can get the facts straight about her own past, since she’s usually wrong about America’s history.

But hey, who knows anything about the past anymore? This is the United States of fucking America. If you don’t like it, you can go back to Russia.

Or, better yet, your local library.