Books Not Recommended for Summer Reading

Below is a very personal and idiosyncratic list of books that are best left to seasons other than Summer if at all. If you have other recommendations for this list, Ask the Agent invites your participation.

Lord Aberdeen

Lord Aberdeen



Jokes Cracked by Lord Aberdeen. This book  is perhaps the greatest oddity in the history of the printed page. It  was originally published in 1925 and has been long out of print. The author  of the book is either the 4th or 5th Earl of Aberdeen. It is not entirely clear. From the appearance of the dour visage on the cover, one questions whether His Lordship made any significant contribution to the world of tomfoolery of the late Victorian  Period. Indeed, one must ask  whether the concept of “crack a joke” would even enter the same universe of discourse occupied by Lord Aberdeen.



Johan Gottlieb Fichte

Foundations of a Complete Science of Knowledge. (Grundlage der Gesammten Wissenschaftslehre.) Johan Gottlieb Fichte. Once a towering figure in German Idealist philosophy, now happily  forgotten. Unfortunately for me, when I was 25 and a graduate student in German history, I picked Herr Fichte’s thought as the subject  for my master’s thesis. This was an error in judgment on my part.  I was required to read the entire  660 page work in its original German. The number of expressions in German that I knew at the time was  limited. I believe I could give a pretty  good rendition in Hochdeutsch  of: “Wanna go back to my place?” and also “Shut up, you Nazi”.

I will never forget the impact of the first majestic words from the Grundlage on my emotional and intellectual development.  (Roughly translated): “X  is in the Ego, and posited through the Ego, for it is the Ego which asserts the above proposition, and so asserts it by virtue of X as a law, and must therefore, be given to the Ego;…”

At the time I was doing  a considerable amount of experimentation with certain (how shall we say) mind altering drugs and attempting at the same time to win my girlfriend back from a free love commune. Fichte’s immortal words restored my hope and gave a new sense of purpose to my life.


The Collected Works of Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Several years ago, I had a quintessential Berkeley experience. I was having dinner at my local hamburger place and was informing  my companion that I was to introduce Salman Rushdie who was giving a reading  later that evening at Cody’s.  A stranger at the next table turned around and said “Salman Rushdie will be remembered as the Edward Bulwer- Lytton of the twentieth century.”

This audacious and entirely uninvited judgment peaked my interest in this great, but forgotten   Victorian novelist. He is most remembered now for the  first sentence of his novel Paul Clifford, “It was a dark and stormy night.”  There is a general consensus amongst critics that this is the worst first sentence penned in all of English literature. He is also remembered for the hackneyed and ponderous expression: “The Pen is Mightier than the sword.”  I would not begin reading these collected  works this summer or any other season for that matter. For those who will not read Bulwer-Lytton’s works, I also recommend that you not read: The Letters of the Late Edward Bulwer-Lytton to his Wife.

Canterbury Tales.  Geoffrey Chaucer. I recommend not reading this masterpiece.  Unlike the first sentence penned by Bulwer-Lytton above, Chaucer has written one of the most memorable first sentences in all of literature.

“Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote, /The droughte, perced to the roote, /And bathed every vein in swich licour / Of which vertu engendred is the flour,…”

It is doubly remarkable in that it appears to be utterly meaningless and with numerous misspelled words to wit (or should I say to witte?). Not unlike my daughter’s first grade homework assignment: “My Daddy and I at the Zoo”.

The Book of Numbers.  There have been periods of my life when I have felt doubt and despair come over me as the darkness upon the face of the waters. And in these times, I have turned to scripture for consolation and spiritual renewal. In particular, the unforgettable words of Numbers 2:16 have restored my faith:

” And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.”

Gentle Reader, I humbly present for your consideration – The Book of Numbers.



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2 Responses to “Books Not Recommended for Summer Reading”

  1. DebbieN Says:

    Oh, now. Numbers is a great book. Just not in English. In Hebrew, it translates as “In the Desert”. A lot of trouble, all that wandering around lost in the desert–once you get past the roster of the tribes, you get lasciviousness in the tent of meeting, (self-)righteous priestly skewerings of said lascivious couple, racist jealousy punished by leprosy, rebellion and the earth swallowing up the rebellious after a contest of sacrifices, visionary donkeys, bulls of Bashan, the twelve spies, massacres and battle victories, water from a rock, women who get to inherit and own land, all kinds of good stuff. And Bulwer-Lytton’s awful, but not as awful as James Waller. Plus the Bulwer-Lytton contest (winners created the worst first paragraph of an imaginary novel) has left us with a legacy of paperbacks (Dark and Stormy, Son of Dark and Stormy, Bride of Dark and Stormy) worthy of Ogden Nash crossed with P.G. Wodehouse. Perfect summer reading, even in these jaded times.

  2. andyrossagency Says:

    Ok, Debbie. You make a good point. Next time I want to spend the summer reading about itchy scabs on whores, I will break out the old Book of Numbers. I’m sticking to my position on Bulwer-Lytton. And–I notice you had no comment on Johan Gottlieb Fichte.\

    I think my judgment on Jokes Cracked by Lord Aberdeen is unassailable.

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