What we’re reading this summer in the Ploughshares office

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Ploughshares Staff Picks: Childhood, Summer, Fishing
What follows is a potpourri of written works that the current Ploughshares staff compiled under the umbrella of summer reading. Whether adult or youth fiction, poetry or essay, each of these works embody pieces of the staff’s personality and interest. Get to know us, discover new and old literature, and then share with us what you’re reading this summer.

Akshay Ahuja (Production Manager)

I’m almost done with The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, which I somehow forgot to read as a twelve-year-old. It’s often ludicrous and about 500 pages too long, but very entertaining, and parts of it — like the prison sequence — are genuinely great. Also, since I stumbled upon a $1 copy of Tuck Everlasting (filled with notes by some bored middle-schooler about how to identify similes and metaphors), I’ve been revisiting books I loved as a kid. Next stop: E. B. White.

Diana Filar (Web/Marketing Intern)

I just finished reading Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout, something that I picked up at a bookstore right after her reading as guest editor here, before I interned at Ploughshares.  I usually tend to go for books that delve deep into the inner workings of the characters, which this book successfully does.  Strout unfolds the plot in such a way that every sentence taught me something new about this very special mother daughter relationship.

Emily Camp (Editorial Intern)

I’ve finished Book for my Brother, by Tomaz Salamun, about twice, but I keep carrying it around with me, like some kind of poetry Bible. So, this summer, I’m somehow still reading it and probably won’t stop carrying it around until I can find a better poem than “Robi” or “To Have a Friend.” Oh, and then a bit ago, I heard Melissa Range give a reading, and though I already have her book, I decided to get another one, for a friend, because her writing is the kind that makes your head stop spinning and your arms get all bumpy. Her poetry is like a sword cutting daisies. I’d buy Horse and Rider by Melissa Range for a friend again, but you should probably just get your own. Also, I think I’d like to memorize a cookbook for the month of August.

Abby Travis (Editorial Assistant)

This is very difficult! I’m reading too many things, so there are simply too many options to choose from. I think I’ll go with this, one of my favorite collections of all time, by an author from close to home who has (indirectly? he never knew) made my writing what it is today. Right now, I’m rereading Bill Holm’s The Music of Failure, a collection of short personal essays that may well also be prose poems. For me, no one writes about the connection people have to the soul of a place and to wherever we call home the way Holm does: with such humor, sensitivity, lyricism, and flooring passion. He writes of other things, too, but it’s always the way he turns subjects like growing up in the tiny town of Minneota in southwestern Minnesota or driving through the country at dusk or things we’re naturally afraid of, like failure, into something so splendidly desirable for the heart and mind that I can’t help but return to his work over and over again.

Rhian Sasseen (Editorial Intern)

Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives by Daisy Hay. I just finished this group biography of the second generation of Romantic poets about an hour ago, and I can’t stop recommending it. Hay successfully argues that this generation of Romantic poets forged a break with Wordsworth’s generation in their emphasis on group creativity, and I can’t help but find this relevant today in an age where the communality of the Internet threatens to destroy the Enlightenment individual once and for all.

John Bennett (Marketing Intern)

The Pulitzer Prize winning poet Stephen Dunn continues his inquisitive tone into the realms of mortality and character with Here and Now. Whether it’s a realist approach to love (“Why, The Imagined”), an investigation of the obscure (“If A Clown, The Melancholy of the Extraterrestrials”) or pastoral lamentations (“The House on the Hill, On the Prairie”), Dunn offers a unique invitation to the reader to join him in debriefing metaphor while maintaining subtlety and grace. Some might wonder how each of his poems could so interchangeably end with an ellipse as an exclamation point.

Andrea Drygas (Managing Editor)

This summer I am re-reading The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. Sometime in high school, my cousin (the same one who introduced me to Alice Hoffman) gave me this book to read, and I am remembering how funny the main character, Jane Rosenal, is. The linked short stories (a style similar to Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge) explore the suburban condition, relationships, and the politics of the New York book publishing world. It’s not fluff, but it’s fun enough for a quick summer read. And do yourself a favor: don’t add the movie adaptation, “Suburban Girl,” to your Netflix queue.