ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
We're hoping that our summer reading series inspires you to put your feet up and get some books out. We've been getting suggestions from booksellers across the country, so get ready to pack these pages.
Today we go to Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, Ill. And the very subject of summer reading sent owner Nina Barrett thinking back on the summer when she was 12.
NINA BARRETT: My school assignment for that summer was to read "The Iliad," "The Odyssey" and a volume of Greek mythology. And I was horrified because who wants to spend this beautiful summer reading stodgy, dusty, old classics?
SIEGEL: But those Greek gods had her hooked.
BARRETT: They're bigger than we are. They're better than we are. They're more beautiful than we are, but they're so much badder, too. And, you know, they act out in such sort of monumental and entertaining ways, in ways that no one ever acted out in my household or the household of anyone else I knew. And I kind of felt like it was the first genuine peek that I got into what really is going on beneath the surface of people.
SIEGEL: Those ancient stories remind Barrett of the demigods on Earth like the English royals.
BARRETT: So I picked a book called "The Royal We" which is a very kind of loosely veiled novel about a Kate-like girl and a William-like Prince who meet at Oxford and fall in love. The author is - oh, it's a team. It's Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. And I feel like they really have a lot of fun with what we know about the courtship story. For one thing, they take the Kate-like figure, and she's American. And she comes from Iowa, of course, it's a sort of a Cinderella story around that kind of romantic question of can any mortal girl be turned into what in - you know, is in fact a goddess?
Then we're going to go to another sort of a princess story. This involves one of the great goddesses of English literature who is, of course, Jane Austen. Curtis Sittenfeld, who was the author of "Prep" and "American Wife" and other novels, came out with her rewrite of the "Pride And Prejudice" story which is called "Eligible." Today, nobody's in need of a wife, you know, and nobody's in need of a husband either. So why do we keep doing it? Well, you know, I think that the Greeks would say we do it because the gods stab us with arrows and make us sick in the head, and we become irrational with sexual tension.
Now, this is my twilight of the Gods book. It's called "The Violet Hour," and it's Katie Roiphe. And it's her look at towering intellectual gods and goddesses of our time and how they faced their own deaths. Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, John Updike, Dylan Thomas - it's a sort of depressing way to end a conversation on summer reading, but I'm just going to say that this - for a book on death, this is a pretty dishy book on death.
SIEGEL: That's Nina Barrett, the owner of Bookends & Beginnings with her summer reading for Pack These Pages.
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