Difficult Summer Reading

woman on beach

Photo illustration by Mark Riechers

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Original Air Date: 
July 13, 2019

Summer reading lists are full of so-called “beach books” – lightweight page-turners, chick lit, true crime. But if you’ve got enough time to lounge by a pool or swing in a hammock, why not tackle something more substantial?

Articles

David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece — Infinite Jest — is famously difficult to read. Colleen Leahy and Makini Allwood are climbing the literary mountain of a book, and sharing their experience on a podcast called "And But So."

Length: 
10:18
Borges
Audio

When Steve was handed the assignment of interviewing Jorge Luis Borges — but with less than 24 hours to prepare — the opportunity felt like more of a curse than a blessing.

Length: 
11:37
Anna Karenina
Bookmarks

The Turkish writer and Nobel laureate says his favorite novel — the 800-plus-page Russian novel bursting with characters living the life of imperial Russian society — is a complex miracle of a book.

Length: 
3:19
ipad reading
Audio

Are we losing the ability to read difficult books? Cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf says we need to develop a "bi-literate reading brain" so that we can switch back and forth between the deep reading of print and the skimming of electronic texts.

Length: 
9:17
From the Codex Seraphinianus
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The "Codex Seraphinianus" has a magical air to it, full of bizarre illustrations and beautiful calligraphy in a made-up language. Publisher Charles Miers told Charles why he published the book, and why trying to understand it isn't really the point.

Length: 
8:28
"Conversation in the Cathedral."
Bookmarks

Diplomat and writer Emily Parker say by Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa uses fiction to uniquely depict what it actually looks like living day-to-day under a authoritarian regime.

Length: 
3:19
Bookmarks

Junot Diaz recommends Samuel R. Delany's reverse-chronology novel that captures the tragic story of a closeted poet who struggles to reckon with his desires.

Length: 
3:09
Moby Dick
Audio

Ricardo Pitts-Wiley is the director and writer of the theatrical production of “Moby Dick: Then and Now,” which re-imagines Melville's tale in a context relevant to its cast — inmates at Rhode Island’s state juvenile correctional facility.

Length: 
7:47
woman on beach
Articles

It's summertime and the living is easy — but the reading shouldn't be. "To The Best Of Our Knowledge" producers compile a reading list for those seeking a challenge as their beach read. 

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Last modified: 
July 12, 2019