September is here and Summer has ended (even if it doesn't feel that way outside) and it's time for the 2011 Summer Reading Awards, or as I like to call them: "The Seven Heavens of Summer Reading." The awards were established in honor of Michael Ward's "Planet Narnia," in which he claims that the seven books of The Chronicles of Narnia are ordered around the seven planets of medieval cosmology. In that spirit, each award is given to honor an excellent book whose content is in keeping with the attributes of one of the "seven heavens." With that bit of background, let's cut to this year's awards.
Moon: "Howl's Moving Castle" by Diana Wynne Jones For the sphere of madness, flux, and change, there could be no better match than this story of magical transformations, mistaken identities, and mad Welshmen.
Mercury: "The Four Quartets" by T.S. Eliot In the matter of manipulating language, T.S. Eliot's Nobel prize winning poems stand alone.
Venus: "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh In the matters of Venus Infernal, Waugh is a knowing expert, but he also reminds us that when all's said and done real creative power cannot come from ourselves but only from our Creator.
Sun: "On Fairy Stories" by J.R.R. Tolkien Though perhaps his bent was more Saturnine, J.R.R. Tolkien will always be welcome in the heaven of scholars (though I'm sure he has his eye on Mercury). This essay was a ground-breaker in the field and remains the unchallenged master down to the present day.
Mars: "The Guns of August" by Barbara Tuchman In the matter of recording the ringing strokes that opened the Great War, Mrs. Tuchman reigns supreme.
Jupiter: "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" by J.K. Rowling For restoring a sense of wonder, joy, majesty, and the pleasures of the feast to children's literature, Ms. Rowling has earned the sphere of Jove.
Saturn: "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson There are no things certain upon Middle Earth save death and taxes. In the matter of facing this reality head on, Robinson's story of a minister chronicling his own decline takes the prize.
"World War I" by John Keegan
"The Graveyard Book" by Niel Gaimon
"Traveling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer" by Robin Lane Fox
"Taliessin Through Logres" by Charles Williams
"At the Back of the North Wind" by George MacDonald
That's it for this year. In the meantime, what are your "Seven Heavens of Summer Reading?"