The books blogs went into a rumpus yesterday when the White House Press office released details of President Obama’s reading list for his summer holiday at Martha’s Vineyard. The President is concentrating on fiction this year, and not shying away from the mainstream: it includes Cutting For Stone, the bestselling fiction debut of Abraham Verghese, The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone, adapted into a successful film last year, and To the End of the Land by Israeli novelist David Grossman, a family saga that doubles as vigorous criticism of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. As a little light relief, the White House confirms he also brought along Rodin’s Debutante, set in Chicago, by cult author Ward Just, and Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson’s history of the migration of black southerners to the north and Midwest, The Warmth Of Other Suns.
The list includes a notable lack of politics books – but after all, the President is on holiday from all that. The NS has some of its own suggestions for illuminating things to read in what’s left of summer. Chris Mullin’s A Walk-On Part: Diaries 1994-1999 provides an account of the veteran Labour backbencher’s mid-Nineties stint, up to his appointment as a junior minister, with his trademark self-deprecation and wit. Vintage’s “Summer of Unrest” series has published at least two worthwhile e-books – The Debt Delusion by the NS‘s Mehdi Hasan and Kettled Youth, an analysis of last year’s student protests by NS contributor Dan Hancox. Dan Hind’s The Return of the Public has been much-hyped, and sheds interesting light on the phone hacking scandal. Also out now from Verso is the paperback of Owen Hatherley’s The New Ruins of Great Britain. And, of course, there’s the book of the blog of the NS‘s own Laurie Penny, out from Pluto Press in October, but ready to pre-order.