Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tons of Summer Reading Recommendations

As many of us head out for some much needed vacation time, we're packing our suitcases full of books and not surprisingly, we're using this time to read many of our fellow Dewey picks. If you are looking for some inspiring reading, here's what some of the Deweys are reading this summer (for more recommendations, click on their name which will link you to their picks for the best books of this spring).

I am a mystery book fanatic, and often have to force myself to read other genres. So, on my holidays I get to indulge in as many mysteries as I like! I’m going to start off with two Irish crime novels. Both books are by debut authors, and both have been getting fabulous reviews on U.K. websites. The first, Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands, has just been shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Fiction Dagger 2007 . The second is Tana French’s In the Woods which was recommended by another Diva and sounds deliciously creepy…

I have a rather large stack of books that I would love to curl up with this summer. Here are just a few. The Linnet Bird by Linda Holeman is a book that I brought to my book group and we are reading it for our next meeting in September. The story takes place in India in 1839 as a respectable young wife and mother begins writing her life story. It is a tale of a young child prostitute turned social climber turned colonial wife and adventuress. I have heard the book described as a box of chocolates. Once you start it, you will not be able to put it down. Borkmann’s Point: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery by Hakan Nesser will fill the gap while I am waiting for Peter Robinson to continue the life of DCI Banks. Nesser was awarded the best novel award in 1994 for this novel plus he has won several other awards in Sweden for previous books. It will be interesting to have the Swedish perspective and a different locale. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is the journey of a young thirty something woman, who after a divorce and debilitating depression, travels to Italy, India and Indonesia to examine three different aspects of her nature. I have started this book and felt like I was gaining poundage as Elizabeth described the luscious food and wines of Italy. I suspect I will lose some as I travel along to India. This is a wonderful, soothing type of read. Our situations may differ, but at the heart of things, our need for comfort, love and spiritual fulfillment are pretty much universal. I must admit that I'm a sucker for books that give some insight into the women behind and beside the men. Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers by Barbara Hambly covers the lives of Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and Sally Hemings – four exceptional women who prevailed against many hardships at a time when America was in its infancy. Although it is a novel, Hambly does thorough research and if this is like her previous books, I shall be treated to fascinating characters, and many glimpses of life behind the scenes in American politics. Hambly was nominated for the Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction for The Emancipator’s Wife, the story of MaryTodd Lincoln. Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg is a novel about a girl who loves books, reading, and anything to do with the written word. This just begs a glass of good Shiraz, a soft breeze and a comfy chair. Angel works in a bookstore that is squeezed out of business. She is forced to find a new job and ends up working for a world-renowned literary agent with a huge ego. Angel is about to discover the lengths some authors will go to to get published and when she reads a chapter from a mysterious manuscript that centers on the ambitious assistant to a successful literary agent, the lines between reality and fiction soon blur. And finally in The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys, it is spring 1941 and London is being destroyed by the Blitz. Gwen Davis, a young horticulturist, leaves her beloved city for the Devon countryside, where she will instruct a group of girls in growing crops for the home front. On a beautiful but neglected country estate, she meets two people who will change her life: Raley, a Canadian officer awaiting posting to the front and Jane, a frail but free spirit whose fiancé is missing in action. This book was recommended to me as “possibly my favourite book.” I just may have to start with this one first.

Family Secrets by Judith Henry Wall is an absolutely terrific read that you cannot put down!! About changing dynamics within a family once the father passes away and the secrets that are revealed - while trying to find the key to a family secret a mystery is to be solved . Are their lives in danger??? Can’t say more as I don’t want to give anything away. A great read!! The Lady in Blue by Javier Sierra is another incredible page turner with lots of action- enough to keep everyone happy with a touch of everything, including time travel, prehistoric Indians, controntation and betrayals. Great short chapters ideal for beach reading!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. OK, I dare you to tell me you’re not going to read it too if you’ve read the other six. It would be like getting to the last stage before summiting Everest and saying “no, I don’t think so.” You just have to. The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny won't be published until October but I’ve got a galley. I really enjoy mysteries and really like this series set in rural Quebec. Cruellest… is # 3 and I’m dying to find out what Penny does with Inspector Gamache and the residents of the Town of Three Pines (i.e. which one will she kill off next, and why?). I really enjoyed The Know-It-All by A. J. Jacobs – found it smart, funny and informative – and so can’t wait to see what he does with his year-long attempt to live by the exact tenets of the Bible in The Year of Living Biblically. Next is Michael Connelly's The Overlook. For any mystery fan, a new Michael Connelly is reason to rejoice; a new Harry Bosch, doubly so. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is Michael Chabon's latest. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was, well…amazing. Any novel referred to as “a murder-mystery, speculative-history, Jewish-identity, noir chess thriller”, let alone one from as gifted a novelist as Chabon, is just too good to miss. I’ve been hooked on Jasper Fforde since I bought a very expensive imported British hardcover of The Eyre Affair in 2001, and have devoured every subsequent installment in the adventures of ‘literary detective’ Thursday Next (Lost in a Good Book, Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten). He took a three-year break, creating another series – Nursery Crimes – so the return of Thursday Next in First Among Sequels is an event for me. And finally, I first experienced the extraordinary To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee as an eleven-year-old, sitting on my grandmother’s porch one summer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Maybe it was my age, maybe it was the place, certainly, it was the novel; for me, it’s become a book that, if I don’t re-read it every few years, I start to miss. It’s been a few years. Of course, this won’t be it for the entire summer, heaven forefend, this is just what I know about so far.

Two of my friends are vacationing in London right now and I'm jealous. So I'll be reading Michele Roberts' new memoir, Paper Houses. She details how she became a writer through chapters that are named after the various places she lived in London during the 1970s and 80s. It's also very much a story of her participation in the feminist movement during those decades (and she started out as a librarian!) In mysteries, I'll be catching up on the latest Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear - Messenger of Truth. These are set in the interwar years and Maisie is a former suffragette and WWI nurse who now solves crimes that always have their root in the trauma of the First World War. For fluff, I'm turning to Austenland by Shannon Hale about a woman who is so obsessed with the Colin Firth BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (well, really aren't we all?) that her aunt sends her on holiday to a Georgian mansion filled with actors playing the roles of people from Austen's period. For something more literary, I'm intrigued by Vie Francaise by Jean-Paul Dubois. It's the life of a Frenchman (Dubois is being compared to Philip Roth, John Updike and Richard Ford) where each of the chapters are named after the French presidents at the time from de Gaulle to Chirac. I'll also be reading Patrick Hamilton's Slaves of Solitude on the recommendation of one of my colleagues at the NYRB who was raving about it. Holidays for me are also a chance to catch up on some school reading, so I've also popped into the suitcase South Riding by Winifred Holtby, Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War by Tammy M. Proctor and the scintillating Poetry as Discourse by Antony Easthope.

And if you STILL need more recommendations, last week's Guardian had a super round-up of suggested titles by some of the world's great contemporary authors (yep David Mitchell and Jonathan Coe are in the bunch), along with an anecodote about a memorable vacation. It's in two parts which you can start reading here. This should keep you busy while we take a few days off.

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