2016 Summer Reading
05/04/2016 01:20PM ● Published by Jennifer Gonzalez
Summer Reading. Just the thought of it makes me want to relax and think about all the ways I can squeeze more reading into my life: staying up late to finish a book I can’t put down, sitting in the parking lot of Harris Teeter to finish a chapter (or two...) of my latest audio book, and—best of all—going to the beach and doing nothing but read, read, read. Summertime reading often conjures lighter reading, nothing too intense, just a good read and a good story, but these books don’t have to be fluff reading. Everyone’s opinion of fluff reading may vary, but I’m suggesting books that are well written, tell a good story and sometimes are funny. When I want to escape, mysteries are my go-to books, but you can also be drawn in by a surprise book you may never have thought to read. Here are some “pleasant surprises” that just might tickle your fancy as you plan your summer trips.
WEST OF EDEN by Jean Stein
An epic story of Hollywood and Los Angeles that focuses on five larger-than-life individuals and their families. They came to Hollywood to seek dreams of fame and fortune, but those often come to a tragic end. Jack Warner, Judy Garland and Jennifer Jones are among those whose lives are presented from an insider’s perspective.
THE PEACOCK EMPORIUM by Jojo Moyes
Suzanna Peacock comes from a privileged English family but cannot find comfort anywhere except in the little shop that she opens to get away from her past. The emporium becomes a haven for the town’s misfits and they all help Suzanna confront the secrets of her past and finally find real joy.
THE ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE by Randy Susan Meyers
Maddy is a social worker who works with battered women, but she is in denial about her own marriage to the love of her life. Ben has anger issues and she has vacillated between tip-toeing around him and standing firm. This all comes to a head one rainy night when Ben loses control of himself and his car with Maddy as a passenger. Her life is in great danger and Ben has a second chance to make it up to her, but is it enough or is it too little, too late? I know this sounds like a downer, but it presents so much insight into the thinking of the abuser that it compelled me to read on until the end.
HOW DOLLY PARTON SAVED MY LIFE by Charlotte Conner
OK, now here is one of the funny ones. Dolly Parton once said," If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one." So four Southern gals decide to do just that and open their own catering business. It’s not all iced tea and chicken salad, but they do realize that true friendship and faith can do a whole lot to sustain them. The book has been described as being “sassy” and I think that is just the best way to characterize a true Southern woman.
A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman
Funny and poignant—two of my favorite words to describe a book. You can’t mess with a book that makes you laugh out loud and shed a tear at the same time. This book, by Swedish author Fredrik Backman, does just that. It loses nothing in translation and this story about a man who loses his wife of forty years, and is facing old age alone, is a tale for all of us baby-boomers to appreciate (and children of baby-boomers, too.) Ove is a real curmudgeon—of the worst sort. But his irascible personality is challenged when a new family moves next door. He just wants to be alone so he can go about his business of joining his dearly departed wife, but the neighbors and their kids have other ideas and finally force Ove to join in on the life he has left.
GIRL WAITS WITH GUN by Amy Stewart
As a child, I was an avid reader of Nancy Drew, so I am always on the lookout for fun mysteries with a female protagonist. Stewart’s book featuring Constance Kopp meets this criteria. Constance is at once an independent woman and a strong force. She and her sisters are hiding a family secret that forces them into isolation. A dispute with a nasty business owner who runs down their buggy turns into all out war. He unleashes his gang on Constance and her family farm. This is just the impetus that she needs to pull the family together to take on this adversary and confront her past and defend her family. And she does it in a way that is unusual for women in 1914.
WHEN BOOKS WENT TO WAR by Molly Guptill Manning
Prior to America entering World War II, Germany had banned and burned over 100 million books. American librarians were outraged and launched a campaign to send free books to our troops, gathering donations of over 20 million hardcover books. This was a fabulous effort, but the War Department and the publishing industry saw a need to expand the program. In 1943, they developed a plan to design lightweight paperbacks for the troops to carry in their pockets and rucksacks. Before the end of the war, over 120 million of these books were sent to our troops in all theaters of the war. This book highlights the way this changed the lives of many of our American soldiers.
MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout, author of Olive Kitteridge, writes another moving story about the most special relationship between a mother and daughter. Lucy Barton has been estranged from her mother for many years and now finds herself in the hospital recovering from what should have been a simple operation. Through normal mother-daughter chatting about friends from Lucy’s past, they begin to reconnect. But they still have to struggle with those issues that caused the rift between mother and daughter in the first place.
LAFAYETTE IN THE SOMEWHAT UNITED STATES by Sarah Vowell
We think we have problems in politics now. Imagine what it was like during the Revolutionary War when our founding fathers were trying to pull together 13 independent colonies to break away from Mother England. In comes the Marquis de Lafayette, a 19 year old aristocrat, to save the day. He did it for the glory, the adventure, and to get away from in-laws, but mostly because he did believe wholeheartedly in the American ideals. He embraced the Enlightenment ideas of individual freedom and national self-determination, ideas that were being put forth by George Washington and our other leaders. A little bit of history, told in a pleasing, easy-to-read style is just the thing for a good summer read.