This summer has been a season of reading. Despite an entire month (May) when I did not read one book and instead sewed all the things (see exhibits A and B) and a weekend during which I sewed multiple versions of my new favorite pattern (exhibit C), I still managed to read a lot of books, most of them really excellent. I have especially enjoyed reading on my front porch. And I was so lucky to have a vacation in a cabin in Maine in early June. Really is there anything better than hiking during the day and reading in front of a fire in a cabin in Maine?Here are the books.
The Nix was my book club’s choice for July. It was published in 2016 and I had seen it in the library forever but didn’t have a clue as to what it was about. It is over 600 pages so a bit of a commitment but I was so drawn into the story that I couldn’t put it down. So good! If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. I borrowed it as a e-book from my library but there were so many passages that I wanted to underline and couldn’t. I will be buying this to have my own copy. That is very rare for me. The only other time I have gone out and bought the book after reading it during the last year was this book which if you haven’t read it, why haven’t you?
After finishing The Nix, I didn’t think I could read another book as wonderful but then I read A Place For Us. This is a debut novel and the author is 26. The writing is beautiful. The characters are beautifully written and I cried my way though many sections. I read it in a weekend. Once I got caught up in this family’s story, I couldn’t put it down. I knew it would be good because both Anne and Annie recommended it but I still couldn’t believe that someone in her twenties could so accurately capture what it feels like to be a parent, a child, a sibling, but she really gets it. Do yourself a favor and get on your library’s wait list because this is going to be a top 10 book of the year. Of this I am sure. One of the themes in this book is substance abuse so if this would be hard for you to read about, would skip this one although it is not the central theme which is family.
I also really loved the next book which I heard about on the What Should I Read Next podcast. It is quite short and almost fable-like. Translated from the Japanese, it tells the story of one woman but made me think about so many aspects of what it means to be an individual in a culture that is not always accepting of differences-not the Japanese culture per se but the culture of being any individual in any society. I think it would make a great book group book. So many things to discuss.
I read this next book about being a woman, being a parent, being a mother, being an adoptive mother, written, amazingly by a man. I loved how it depicted the central character who is very human and who makes decisions that you might or might not agree with. Similar in some ways to A Place For Us, it speaks to the ways that all of us make decisions from the place of our own limited understanding of a situation, usually with the best of intentions but sometimes with ramifications that we don’t anticipate. This would also make a great book club read.
I discovered Kelly Corrigan this year and the Middle Place is the third book of hers that I have read and I loved it best. The way that she writes about her father is just beautiful. More tears. Just read it. She does talk about her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment so if those topics would be challenging for you to read about, would wait on this one.
I discovered The Throwback Special because it was recommended on From the Front Porch which along with What Should I Read Next, is a must-listen every week. These two podcasts are my major sources of great reads. I recently discovered a third reading podcast which I am also loving, the New York Public Library’s podcast, The Librarian is In. What I love is that each of these three podcasts (I discovered the second two when their hosts were guests on WSIRN) is that I get different reading recommendations from each of the three. I feel as though each of the three channels different types of books and aspects of my reading personality. I highly recommend all three. Fun to listen to and great sources of great books.
Anyway, back to The Throwback Special, I really loved the writing and the way the author captured the way men relate to each other and to sports. The rituals, the trivia. And I remember actually watching the football game that inspires this group’s annual outing in real time so it felt like reliving a part of my own history. I read a lot of books about families and couples and women but not so many about men and how they relate to each other and their roles. This does an excellent job. I highly recommend it.
Tangerine is a very atmospheric read that has a noir feel. I enjoyed the description of Morocco where the story takes place and the suspenseful feel of the book. I didn’t love the characters so much. I have a hard time with books where the characters are people whose lives I can’t really relate to. I have seen mixed reviews by people I follow. Some have really liked it, others not so much. If you like suspense and mystery and don’t need to love your protagonists, give it a try.
I was late to the party on this next book but I found it to be a very enjoyable light read. Perfect for my summer cabin reading. And the books on the cover glow in the dark! So definitely worth reading the paperback rather than the e-book.
I was also the last person on the planet to read this next book which if you are the other person who hasn’t read it, I highly recommend it. Another perfect summer read. A couple of tears, mine (this month’s theme, maybe.)
The Heart’s Invisible Furies was recommended me by Catherine whose blog is a must-read for me. I have loved all of the books that she has written and all of the books she recommends. She also posts amazing recipes.
Anyway, this book. Beautifully written, wonderful characters, heartbreaking at times and a really interesting look into what it was like to live in Ireland the last 75 or so years. Since one branch of my family was originally from County Cork, I was really shocked by much of what I learned about the religious and political institutions and their impact on peoples’ lives. It is one thing to have a general idea of the beliefs and the institutions and another to read in such specific detail of the lengths that fellow human beings had to go to and probably still have to go to to just to live quiet lives loving who they love. Highly recommended.
I loved the new Anne Tyler book. She writes characters who I fall in love with and I really enjoyed the relationship between her 61 year old protagonist Willa and a young girl she befriends. Now I want to go back and read the rest of her books that I have missed. I have read about 15 of them but I think that leaves at least 5 that I haven’t yet read. She is so prolific. Lucky for us! This was my July Shelf Subscription pick, a gift I give to myself each month and the way I make sure not to miss great books. Many of the books on this list were sent to me from the Bookshelf as Shelf picks.
On a lighter note, I read this delightful middle grade book that reminded me of one of my favorite childhood series, The Melendy Family books by Elizabeth Enright. I loved it and it made me miss living in a brownstone in Brooklyn when my kids were little.
And for a total guilty pleasure I read the first two books of the Crazy Rich Asians series. I definitely enjoyed the first more that the second but they were both fun and I have the 3rd saved for an upcoming plane trip.
So many good books! What have you been reading and loving this summer?
I have written so many posts about books that I have loved, all of which you can link to here.