Essay: Summer Reading recommendations.

Someone just asked me for summer reading recommendations and
I’m happy to oblige! Her parameters? 
Kind of light, or really good.  I
read a lot of books like that.  Pick up
any of these books and settle in for a good read.  Note.  If
you take me up on my recommendation and read one (or many) of these books,
please arrange for a date to chat about your feelings about the book.  We can have tea.

My top three:
(Curses!  All by men
and mostly about men. See below if you are looking for books by women about
The Art of Fielding
Chad Harback
It is new.  It is
about college baseball, but you should read it anyway, even if you find baseball
the most boring thing in the world.  The
reason you should read it is that Harback is amazing at creating characters you
instantly care about after only three pages and his syntax is delightful. I
copied 12 separate passages from the book into my “quotes” feature on
Goodreads.  Mike Schwartz will forever
live in my heart.
One Day
David Nichols
A very good premise in the book realm that was (sadly) made
into a so-so movie.  Check in with the
two main characters on the same day in July for twenty years, from their early twenties
to their early forties.  Funny, and
packed with astute observations about life’s passages during those twenty
Freddy & Fredericka
Mark Halprin
This will be a book I recommend to many people and no one
will read it because it is very thick and the author is very wordy and spends
five pages setting up a joke.  Why do I
think you should read it?  Because the
jokes are very funny and so you are happy at the massive set up.  Because it is fun to see the USA through the
eyes of an exiled English Crown Prince and his wife.  Because it is about the honor you find in
labor.  Because I still choke up thinking
about different parts of the novel. It is summer. You have time to read a long
novel. Invest in this one.
You’ve been meaning to check
out this “YA” thing?
YA Series Recommendations
The Hunger Games (Hunger Games/Catching Fire/Mockingjay)
Suzanne Collins
It is a big hit movie, before that it was a big hit book
series.  The hero is a heroine and she’s
flawed and confused and muddling her way through a fabulous plot.  There are tons of parallels to our modern
lives. It is good reading and there are two more movies coming, so you might as
well read the books now.
YA Series that is not the Hunger Games
Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue
Kristen Cashore
This is another series with strong heroines. I
recommend this with the caveat that it took about 150 pages of Graceling for
everything to click, but then I was all-in, in that “avoid chores” way.  Also, just for fun, it is interesting to read
reviews of these books on Goodreads because a lot of people are offended by the
(very mild and uncontroversial, in my opinion) sex.  Should people be that scandalized?  You will have to read the series to give an
Have you not read anything by John Green?
An Abundance of Katherines
The Fault in Our Stars
John Green
John Green, as you might know, is one-half of the Vlogbrothers
who make being smart incredibly cool. 
John Green also happens to be quite talented at writing YA novels.  Abundance
has Math!  And footnotes! And is
funny!  TFIOS is the funniest cancer book I’ve ever read.
Feeling Sorry for Celia
Jaclyn Moriarty
Are you looking for a loosely connected series about girls
who attend a girls’ high school in Australia? Do you like books made up of
letters?  This here is the series for
you. Cecila  is the first book, but if you are going to
just read one of the four, my favorite was the third one:  The
Murder of Bindy Mackenzie
Book that you need not
actually read:
The Disciples
James Mollison
Pictures!  So
fascinating!  The photographer took
pictures of fans at different concerts and then knit 10 representative samples
into one big photo.  It’s incredibly fun
to page through this book.  In the back
he has a short paragraph about each concert which makes the photos even more interesting.  And you can open the book to random pages and
ask someone what concert they think the fans are attending.  It’s a book and  a game!
General Fiction:
Just read this. Don’t question me:
The Elegence of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery
When I talk about this book people become uninterested so
I’m not going to tell you what it’s about. 
I can tell you it’s translated from the French, has two women—really one
girl and one woman—that I loved and that everyone in book group related to this
book, even the men.  It was a big hit at
book group and you should just read it. 
Note that I did not like the last chapter AT ALL, but until then I loved
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Aimee Bender
This was one of my top favorites last year.  I loved the magical realism of this novel and
I still think about the main character now and then.  What if you could taste what people were
feeling when they made you the food you were eating?
Downtown Owl
Chuck Klosterman
There are a lot of Chuck Klosterman haters out there and let
me say that I’m not one of them.  I love
his nonfiction and I found a lot to like in this novel about a small town in
North Dakota.  I was not prepared for the
ending, which left my face twisted a bit into a skeptical look, but until then
I was delighted because Chuck Klosterman is a funny man with a unique way of
looking at the world.
Three Girls and their Brother
Theresa Rebeck
This was such a delight and is a perfect summer read.  Three sisters become “it” girls and this book
follows each one of them—and their brother—in turn.  This book features great commentary about our
tabloid society and wonderful voices and characters.
Historical Fiction
I read a lot of historical fiction because it feeds my
history major “needs” without making me work through informative nonfiction
tomes.  Ps. I’m a nerd!  I put them in order chronologically for you.
Don Berry
Early Oregon history with former mountain man turned
restless settler setting out from too-crowded Astoria with two Native Americans
in tow to explore the Killamook country. 
This is slow to start, but then whips into an action-packed frenzy.  It’s also beautifully written.
(Note that in one overly complex sentence up there I used
“too” “two” and “to.”  Get me to an
editor, STAT!)
Becky:  The Lives and Loves of
Becky Thatcher
Leonre Hart
Have you wondered what Becky Thatcher has to say about the
whole Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn thing?  She’s
quite a spunky narrator and I greatly enjoyed this book.
Margert Walker
So you’re a slave and then suddenly you are not.  What exactly do you do next? It’s not like
you’re getting any 40 acres and mule. 
This was some very interesting historical fiction about the
Reconstruction era, based on Walker’s research about her own family.  It gets a bit wordy near the end, and some
people in book group had trouble with the dialect (though I was not one of
them) but it is worth the read.
The Given Day:
Dennis Lehane
A sweeping tale set in Boston just after World War I it
includes Babe Ruth as a minor character, a lot of reasons to support your local
union and also the great Molasses Flood. 
And there’s some NAACP stuff in there too. There is a lot going on in
this novel and it is very interesting. 
Also, no author living does star-crossed love better than Dennis
Lahane.  No one.
Suite Franciase
Irene Nemirovsky
Maybe, like me, you are kind of done with World War II
novels.  Maybe, like me, you should make
an exception and read this one about the occupation of France.  The novel itself is amazing.  While you are still reeling from how amazing
it is, you read the author’s own story and everything just takes on a whole
level of wow.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows.
Okay, so maybe also you should read this World War II novel
because 1)You learn all about the occupied island of Guernsey which you
probably didn’t know was interesting or perhaps even where it is.  Also 2)It is in “correspondence” format and
that is always fun.
Science Fiction
Soon I will be Invincible
Austin Grossman
Do you want to read about Super Heroes and Super Villains
and you don’t want to read a graphic novel, but instead a novel? This is your
book!  Do you not want to read about
either of those things? It might be worth checking this book out anyway, as it
is quite fun.
Manhood for Amateurs
Michael Chabon
Unlike his very wordy and lengthy novels (which I also
recommend) these are short essays that are amazing.  I wanted to read them out loud to whoever
happened to be passing by at the moment. Usually that was Matt. I think I
managed to restrain myself and read him only two, although his life would have
been enriched if I had read them all to him. 
Just go read this.  Chabon is a
fabulous writer and funny.
Detective Series I always
Kenzie/Gennaro Series
Dennis Lehane
So, in general, I’m not a fan of the mystery as a
genre.  It tends to have dead people and
isn’t known for carefully crafted prose and I’m also quite lame at solving them
on my own so I always feel a sense of inferiority when I finish.  But if you are looking for a fun way to spend
your summer, spend it with Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro.  The novels are mostly set in the Boston
neighborhood of Dorchester and begin in the late 1980s.  Patrick Kenzie is a smart-mouthed
detective.  Angie Gennaro is his tough-as-nails
partner.  At some point in the series I
realized I wanted to marry both of them, I loved them that much.  Lehane has a good bead on characters and the
books are very engrossing.  Also, this is
the same guy who wrote the The Given Day
and see above about what I said about star-crossed love.  The series is done now, so you can read
straight through.  If you are like me,
you will read straight through and then start again at the very beginning.
A Drink Before the War
Darkness Take my Hand
Gone, Baby, Gone
Prayers for Rain
Moonlight Mile
Good books I just tend to
American Wife
Curtis Sittenfeld
Another book I absolutely adored and can’t get anyone to
read.  Won’t you please read it so we can discuss it?  This is a novel about a woman whose life
follows a path that will be very familiar to anyone who knows the basics of Laura
Bush’s biography.  Why should you read a
novel about the wife of a president of which you perhaps were not a fan?  Because Sittenfeld is a good writer and she
writes a very good story.  I read this
book a few years ago and still think about it.
High Fidelity
Nick Hornby
For anyone who loves music and relationships.  I’ve been recommending this since the
90s.  A lot of people have read this, and
they aren’t sad they have read it.  I can
also recommend the movie adapted from the book, which is a big rarity.
Prodigal Summer
Barbara Kingsolver
This is my favorite “thick” Kingsolver book (Animal
is my favorite “thin” one.) 
I fell in love with the characters and the landscape is lush.  It’s also a nicely woven tale, though it
doesn’t seem so at first.
The Brothers K
David James Duncan
It’s about baseball, but it’s about so much more.  It’s big and dense and sweeping and funny and
sad and tragic and moving and chock-full of amazing words.  Every person who has read this book speaks of
it fondly after they have finished it, even people who don’t like baseball. 
It’s also set in Camas, so has a local flavor for people familiar with

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