Summer Reading Survival Kit

The dog days of summer didn’t always mean Spot lying in front of the fan. Dog days were the period in late July when the star Sirius—the brightest in the Canis Major constellation—appeared to rise just before the sun. There are stories everywhere you look, but, lucky you, look no further. Here are some of our favorite reads for the long days and warm nights.

In the canine spirit, here’s “The Leash” by Tom Grimes, a dog-tale classic. Follow Charlie the beagle on his “zigzagging, semi-Homeric” journeys through the wilds of Queens, New York, where, it turns out, he’s everyone’s favorite pup.

“The Garden of Eden was not pastoral but a seething wilderness of possibility,” writes Rick Bass in “Lease Hound,” a tale of love, deceit, and oil in Alabama’s Black Warrior Basin. Across the globe, it’s the black mines of England that haunt the famous writer in Kay Boyle’s “Rest Cure,” her fictional account of D. H. Lawrence at the end of his life.

Some poems hit you quick as a summer storm: Dean Young’s “Delphiniums in a Window Box” does the trick. Or, there’s “The Catch” by Tina Nettesheim, a provocative coming-of-age story set in a laissez-faire California beach town: “In water, sex is always possible, palpable, merely a matter of mechanics.”

The recent passing of beloved author Denis Johnson made us wish to revisit some of our favorites from his pen. For newcomers, we suggest starting with “Emergency,” a drugged-out masterpiece from Johnson’s sublime collection Jesus’s Son, or the first chapter of his novella Train Dreams, which traces the life of Robert Grainer, a day laborer in the Pacific Northwest in 1917. We leave you with Johnson’s simply titled “Poem”: “Loving you is every bit as fine / as coming over a hill into the sun / at ninety miles an hour darling.”

It’s summer. Jump in and enjoy.

                                                                                   —The Editors