There are so many books that we could list as perfect books for these last fleeting weeks of summer. However, we recognize reading time is limited, and we severely limited our picks to help you choose the right book(s) for you.
We hope you enjoy our selections. And we truly hope, that whatever you choose to read during these last weeks of summer, you have a great time reading; we know we will.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub (2014) – Put on your sun block and travel to the Mediterranean island of Mallorca with Manhattan’s Post family for their two-week summer vacation. Things are not as they immediately appear however, for parents Franny and Jim who are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary or for their 28 year-old son and college-bound 18 year-old daughter. Author Straub slowly reveals the issues, skeletons, and neuroses of the Posts as well as those of the house guests who are accompanying them for this adventure. As a reader, I appreciated the way the characters’ concerns were slowly shared – as well as were the the sights, sounds, beaches, nightclubs and even grocery stores of the island. There’s a little something for everyone in this book (i.e., love, remorse, redemption, parenting, cooking, a beautiful Spanish villa) which makes it the perfect summer read. ~ Lisa Cadow
Euphoria by Lily King (2014) – Truly terrific. A well-crafted tale of three anthropologists and their time observing and living with the various peoples in the Territory of New Guinea. Set between the two World Wars, Ms. King explores a complex love triangle among three gifted and often confused young scientists. This novel is loosely based upon real life events from the life of Margaret Mead — all from a trip to the Sepik River in New Guinea, during which Mead and her husband, Reo Fortune, briefly collaborated with the man who would become her third husband, the English anthropologist Gregory Bateson — and it has me searching for nonfiction treatments of her life. The New York Times agrees that this book is a must read this summer. ~ Lisa Christie
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014) – This is a fabulous World War II novel (yes, dear readers, there is room for another title in this genre) that tells the stories of Marie-Laure, a young blind girl from Paris, and Werner, a brilliant German boy with a gift for math, radios and engineering. Their seemingly disparate lives converge in the seaside fortress town on St. Malo, France in 1944. The author does and excellent job of slowly building the suspense and pace throughout the novel turning it into a real page-turner by the time the bombs start dropping in Brittany. Many people are describing this as “the book of the summer”, and I just might have to agree. ~ Lisa Cadow
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (2013 in Australia/2014 is US) – This haunting tale of Iceland (we at the Book Jam love Icelandic tales), takes the true stories of Agnes – a woman convicted of murdering two men, of the family of four forced to house her while she awaits her execution, and of Toti – the Reverend charged with saving her soul, and then combines them into a fabulous first novel. As winter unfolds, each night after the day’s work is completed, Agnes narrates her version of the events leading up to the murders for anyone willing to listen. The tale she weaves is haunting for all those hearing her; you will remember this novel long after you finish.~ Lisa Christie
Please note that this will be our last post until mid-September — we have “gone reading” for the month of August. We look forward to sharing our “gone reading” finds with you in our Autumn posts.
Posted in Armchair Travelers, Fiction Fanatics | Tagged All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr, books for summer, Burial Rites, Emma Straub, Euphoria, Hannah Kent, Lily King, Margaret Mead, Summer Books, summer reading, summer vacation, The Vacationers, vacation reading | 5 Comments »
An email from one of our great friends in need of perfect books for her soon-to-be-High-School-Senior to read this summer led to this post. Since this student is an avid and discriminating reader, she wanted well-written books. However, since this student’s summer plans include attending a challenging academic camp, she wanted our picks to be “fun” to read.
What follows is based upon the list we created for her. Since we think it is pretty good list for anyone (adult and young adult alike) looking for good books to read this summer, we share it now with you.
Before we begin our reviews, we would like to note two things about this list. 1) Most of the titles were published years ago. We list them now because people currently in high school were too young for these novels when they initially appeared on bookstore shelves, and we don’t want them or anyone to miss a chance to read these titles. 2) Most of these picks, while selected for readers who are YA’s target audience, are not books that most publishers would label as YA. Two 2014 YA titles finish out our list for anyone looking for a purely YA read.
What Could Be Called “Coming of Age” Novels
Zorro by Isabel Allende (2005). While Ms. Allende is known for magic realism, this novel offers a more straightforward narrative than found in most of her books. Ms. Allende’s account of the legend begins with Zorro’s childhood and finishes with the hero. Have fun with this book. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell (2002) – A look at China and USA through the eyes of a young woman whose life is greatly affected her American father’s fascination with China. Not necessarily light, but truly a great, great “coming of age” book. We have been recommending this to men, women and young adults for years and have never had a disgruntled customer. One all male book club declared it their best discussion book ever. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea (2005) – Mr. Urrea creates a history of Mexico as seen through the life of one of their saints (who happens to be one of his distant relatives). This saga, written in gorgeous and lyrical prose, shows a Mexico that many might otherwise miss. ~ Lisa Christie
Some Novels with an Adventurous Bent
Death Comes To Pemberley by PD James (2011) – This mystery revisits at the characters and places from Pride and Prejudice six years after Darcy and Elizabeth are married. Their lives are rambling along quite well until a murderer enters their realm. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
Department Q mysteries by Jussi Adler Olsen (assorted years) – All the Department Q mysteries take place in Denmark. They all involve a lovable and unique cast of police detectives. They all teach you a bit about life in Scandinavia. They are all well-written and fun, with some gory details periodically inserted. ~ Lisa Christie
A More Serious Novel with International Overtones
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2001) – This well-written novel tracks the lives of partygoers when an event honoring a Japanese businessman visiting an embassy in an unnamed South American country goes terribly awry. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
Some Non-Fiction Choices
On Writing by Stephen King (2000) – His attempt to show people how to write well, is really an autobiography about a writing life. Well-written, fascinating look at an American author that happens to have some good tips on getting better at writing. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda (2011) – This short book follows an Afghan refugee through the countries he must cross, and shows what he must do to survive and achieve political asylum. The fact that he was ten when his journey began, and he did it all alone, makes it a truly thought-provoking read. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor at Little Big Horn by Larry Colter (2001) – An amazing tale of a gifted young basketball player named Sharon LaForge. Mr. Colter follows her and her team as they navigate the challenges of their basketball season and their home lives on an Native American reservation. I still remember passages thirteen years after reading it the first time. ~ Lisa Christie
Some Actual YA Titles For Young Adults (and adults – let’s be honest here)
Like No Other by Una LaMarche (July 2014) – West Side Story with an African-American as the male lead and a Hasidic girl as the female lead. Set in modern-day Brooklyn, this tale explores the feelings one’s first true love brings, and what it means to make your own way into the world — even if it requires navigating respecting one’s parents while rebelling from their rules. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (May 2014) – I can not say much about the plot as it will ruin the book. But this story of a privileged family summering on an island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard is a page-turner. The plot revolves around decisions leading up to a tragedy, and then focuses on how the decisions made after the tragedy affect the family, particularly the 18-year-old narrator. ~ Lisa Christie
This list is not meant to be a one size fits all recommendation. If you have trouble matching the young adults in your life to any of these books, please send us a comment and we will try to find a book to meet your needs.
Posted in Fiction Fanatics, Just the "facts", Kids at Heart, Must Read Memoirs, Sports and other Adventures | Tagged Ann Patchett, Bel Canto, Bo Caldwell, Coming of Age Novel, Counting Coup, Death Comes to Pemberley, Department Q Mysteries, Distant Land of My Father, E Lockart, Fabio Geda, In the Sea there are crocodiles, Isabel Allende, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Larry Colter, Like No Other, Lisa Cadow, Lisa Christie, Luis Alberto Urrea, Mexico, On Writing, PD James, Pride and Prejudice, Stephen King, summer reading, The Hummingbird's Daughter, Una LaMarche, We Were Liars, West Side Story, YA, young adult, Young Adult fiction, Young Adult Novels, young adults, Zorro | 5 Comments »
Last week, on a GORGEOUS Spring evening that actually felt like summer (being Vermonters some of us were melting in the 78 degree heat), readers from Norwich, Vermont and surrounding towns gathered in The Norwich Inn Pub to hear about some superb new books to bring to the mountains this summer, and to give to grads and dads later this month.
The evening was the latest outing of the Book Jam’s live event – “Pages in the Pub”. This event is designed to bring together independent booksellers, literary bloggers, educators, librarians, and book lovers for an evening of talking about great titles.
This event sold out, but those people lucky enough to get a ticket sipped drinks, listened to great book reviews and laughed a bit. We focused on GREAT books for summer reading because summer is just around the corner, and great gifts for grads and dads because those celebrations are upon us. Because of everyone’s efforts, a few people completed their father’s day shopping during the event, and most got a good start on stocking up on great summer reading. We also raised over $700 for the library, all while increasing sales for a treasured independent bookstore – The Norwich Bookstore of Norwich, Vermont.
Our SUPERB presenters included (and we truly thank them for their time and talent):
- Beth Reynolds - Beth is the children’s librarian at the Norwich Public Library during the week and dons her bookseller cap on the weekends at the Norwich Bookstore where she has helped many a family find the perfect last-minute birthday present. When not working in town you can find her at home knitting, reading, baking, writing or taking pictures of her new lop-earred bunny.
- Carin Pratt – Carin moved to the Upper Valley three years ago after spending 30 years in DC working as a television producer. She’s never looked back. She reads a lot.
- Penny McConnel – Penny is the co owner of The Norwich Bookstore. She lives in Norwich with husband Jim and enjoys gardening, reading, studying Italian, cooking, knitting, visiting her three sons and a grandson in Phoenix, the Bay Area and Burgundy France, and best of all, doing things with Jim.
- Jim Gold – Our first male presenter in Norwich says — “Reading has given me the quiet eye and understanding heart to see beyond the confines of my dental profession. It fosters good conversation. Other activities that feed my soul: hiking, cycling, canoeing, gardening, woodturning, cooking and time with my favorite and far more experienced book seller, Penny McConnel.”
- Lisa Christie – Lisa is, among other things, the co-founder of the Book Jam and a nonprofit consultant. One of her best jobs was being the founder of Everybody Wins! Vermont, a statewide literacy organization. In her spare time she reads (though never as much as she would like), bikes, swims and has fun with her husband and two sons.
Since most of you could not join us in person, we now share the great titles discussed last week. This post lists all twenty-one books discussed during the evening (Beth somehow snuck in an extra title), each with its special six-word review written by the presenter. Each of their selections is linked to The Norwich Bookstore web site where you can learn more about the picks and order your books. You’ll also notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier. Have fun looking, and enjoy getting a head start on your summer of great reading.
Non-fiction or reference book – For people who like to ponder large tomes during summer vacation
- Summertime by Joanne Dugan (2014). Selected by Beth – Photos you’ll want to jump inside.
- My Venice by Donna Leon (2013). Selected by Jim – Poignant. Insightful. Clever. Observant. Witty. No BS.
Cookbooks – For anyone looking for summer inspiration
Memoirs – For people who enjoy living vicariously through other people’s memories
- My Beloved World by Sonya Sotomayor (2013). Selected by Penny – Inspiring. Hopeful. Insightful. Educational. Fantastic story.
Adult Fiction – For a woman who only has time for the best fiction after hiking all day
- Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (2014). Selected by Carin – Thirty-somethings navigate small town lIfe.
- While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell (2014). Selected by Lisa – “True” story of “Sleeping Beauty”. Fun.
- We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride (2014). Selected by Beth – It’s all about connections. And love.
- The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (2012). Selected by Jim – Excellent character development carries moving tale.
- And The Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass (2014). Selected by Penny – Searching can bring you home again.
Adult fiction – For a man who has enough camping equipment, but not enough good fiction
Books for summer campers/ young readers in Tree-houses (ages 8-12) – books for those beyond tonka trucks and tea parties but not yet ready for teen topics.
- Capture the Flag by Kate Messner (2012). Selected by Lisa – Series. Art. History. Fun. Smart kids.
Books for your favorite High Schooler – “not required” reading for teens to ponder during the long hours of summer vacation
- The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009). Selected by Beth – Imagine Harry Potter going to college.
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014). Selected by Lisa – Charmed Island Life? Tragic Choices. OK?
PERFECT books for the dads and grads in your life – or stated another way, last minute gifts to ensure happy celebrations
A brief note to our valued readers — While we are not Goodreads, we are trying to grow and show that small independent bloggers and bookstores make a difference. So this June, we are campaigning to increase our subscribers.
Please subscribe if you have not already done so. And if you are a subscriber, please encourage your fellow readers to subscribe to the Book Jam. To subscribe, go to the right hand side of our blog – under email subscription – and provide your email. THANK YOU!
Posted in Armchair Travelers, Closet Mystery Lovers, Fiction Fanatics, Food Lovers, Just the "facts", Kids at Heart, Must Read Memoirs, Sports and other Adventures, Tough GIfts | Tagged A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, Amanda Coplin, And The Dark Sacred Night, Anthony Marra, Be IN a Treehouse, Beth Reynolds, Boys in the Boat, Brown, Capture the Flag, Carin Pratt, dads, Daniel James, Darragh McKeon, Donna Leon, e. lockahart, Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World's Most Versatile Ingredient, Elizabeth Blackwell, Father's Day Books, Father's Day gifts, Graduation gifts, How to Cook Everything, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jim Gold, Joanne Dugan, Julia Glass, Kate Messner, Laura McBride, Lev Grossman, Lisa Cadow, Lisa Christie, Mark Bittman, My Beloved World, My Venice, New York Times, Nickolas Butler, Norwich, Norwich Bookstore, Norwich Inn, Norwich Inn Pub, Norwich Public Library, Pages in the Pub, Penny McConnel, Pete Nelson, Phil Klay, Redeployment, River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes, Shotgun Lovesongs, Sleeping Beauty, Sonia Sotomayor, Sonya Sones, Sonya Sotomayor, summer reading, summer vacation, Summertime, The Essential New York Times Grilling Cookbook, The Magicians, The Night Before College, The Orchardist, Vermont, We are Called to Rise, We Were Liars, While Beauty Slept | Leave a Comment »