Sunday, June 30, 2013

Some Summer Reading

Now that summer is officially here, our thoughts naturally turn to...all the reading we can get done on vacation!  (It's lovely to be a teacher.  In the summer, that is).  Below I'll list some good vacation reading options, suitable for the beach, the plane, or your back porch.  If you're traveling, I recommend an e-reader of some sort so you don't overwhelm your luggage.

First:  The Golem and The Jinni, by Helene Wecker.  I did not think I would enjoy this book, but it turned out to be a real page turner.  It was a little unexpected, and I look forward to seeing more books from this author.  Another good read was The Tin Horse, by Janice Steinberg.  The historical context makes this a very engaging book that doesn't overwhelm with detail.  Readers of The Glass Castle will enjoy Jeannette Walls' latest fiction offering, The Silver Star.  It's worth reading until the very end; just when you want to cry she pulls out a completely chuckle-worthy moment.  I also loved Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson.  The premise makes the reader a bit dizzy at first -- the protagonist gets to live her life over and over until she gets it right.  Surprisingly easy to get into, though.

If you're looking for some ultra-light chick lit style reading, The Last Original Wife should do the job.  By Dorothea Benton Frank, it's the story of a woman who is the last original first wife in her social circle.  All her friends have been replaced by young trophy wives, with whom she is now expected to socialize.  It's fluffy reading and so sweet.  I'll Be Seeing You, by Hayes and Nyhan, is an epistolary novel.  For the uninitiated, that means written in the form of letters.  Set during World War II, it's a book about friendship that manages to avoid being completely treacly. I also enjoyed The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton.  It was a little predictable, but gripping enough to keep the pages turning.  Another page-turner is The Ashford Affair, by Lauren Willig.  The switching back and forth between time periods was a little confusing, but it maintains interest until the finish.  Aficionados of Elizabeth Berg will enjoy her latest, Tapestry of Fortunes, which is pretty much like all her other books.

Now for mysteries:  Again, I will grab the opportunity to encourage readers to try Donna Leon's mysteries, set in Venice.  These are books I never tire of rereading.  The latest, The Golden Egg, was excellent.  Another recent discovery is Kerry Greenwood.  She has written two separate series, one featuring Phryne Fisher and the other Corinna Chapman.  I prefer the Phryne Fisher series, which I recommend reading in order, but the Corinna Chapman stories are quite fun as well.  Lisdsey Davis is another well-known mystery writer, but I never really loved her Didius Falco novels.  She has just begun a new series featuring Flavia Alba, in The Ides of April, which is nicely done but a little anachronistic for my taste.

If you'd like to feel virtuous over vacation, and read something semi-educational, here are some nonfiction offerings.  The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, is far more readable than it sounds.  If you want to know why you do what you do all the time, try this book.  (Hat tip:  D. G. S.) For anyone who has been interested, frustrated, or infested by urban wildlife:  Nature Wars, by Jim Sterba, does a very good job of putting it all into context.
Michael Pollan has published a new book, Cooked, about the art of cooking food.  It isn't as gripping as his previous food books, but it still manages to be an easy read with a takeaway lesson.  Last, but definitely not least:  The Myth of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky.  (Thanks again, D). This book is seriously thought provoking but manages to avoid being critical and scolding in its nature. It skirts the border of the self-help genre, but should certainly serve as food for thought for anyone who has looked for happiness in the wrong places.

Enjoy the summer, readers, and please post your summer reading suggestions below!

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