It seems strange in Texas to do a summer reading recap when it’s still hot as an over outside but this weekend is Labor Day, college football has started and everyone is back in school so it’s time to take a look back. Summer and winter are when I consume the most books and I generally like to read from a variety of genres. I have my favorite go-to genres but I try to break up my reading to keep it interesting. Too much of one thing leave me unenthused. I didn’t read nearly as much fiction as I usually do in the summer because my manuscript research reading took precedent for my early morning and daytime reading which will continue in the fall.
Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar
I devoured this book quickly and with focus after I purchased it at a small independent bookseller in Jackson, Wyoming on vacation. Finding this book is a testament to why browsing a local bookshop is so much better than Amazon. This title would have never found its way to me if I hadn’t been cruising through browsing the stacks. I grabbed Heart: A History as part of my research for my current manuscript, but it was a fascinating and tender read. Jauhar does an excellent job balancing the history and technical information with his own personal narrative and a gentleness born of someone who has a passion for excellent patient care.
Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah
I have a very dear friend I met through my daughter’s dance studio and we often pass books back and forth. Where the Forest Meets the Stars was tucked into a stack she gave me this spring and when I checked the reviews on Goodreads I thought I would give it a go. I was instantly drawn into Ursa’s world just as the rest of the characters in the book were. This book is a lovely read about the power of relationships to heal and save us without the theme being too obvious or preachy.
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
This is another book that came to me via a local bookstore recommendation. I was in the Notting Hill Bookstore store and asked the clerk what she had read that she had enjoyed. She recommended this dark comedy that I would say is in the same vein of Marie Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette? Filled with quirky characters and entertaining interactions, French Exit made me laugh at a book in ways I haven’t in a long time.
Conflict Resolution for Holy Being by Joy Haro
About a year ago I realized I had a real gap in reading the stories, poetry, research, voices and theology of native peoples. So I have been practicing mindfulness in selecting my books to prioritize native authors. This year I haven’t purchased many volumes of poetry, but decided to snag a copy of Joy Haro’s Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings to add to my collection. This volume is a delight and a fresh voice for me, I have loved reading a poem each morning this summer.
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
I really dig a well done historical fiction but they are hard to find since so many are so bad. And by bad I mean they are sappy love stories, they follow common tropes, oversimplify the time they are set in and make characters flat and lacking ethical nuance. The Huntress is not one of those books, this book keeps a solid pace of action, the characters are complex and interesting. I was not familiar with Kate Quinn’s work at all and now I am a huge fan thanks to The Huntress.
Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving by Julia Samuel
This is another book that I would not have discovered had I not been browsing in a local bookshop in London. It caught my eye and I knew as a pastor and writer I had to read this best seller in the UK on grief. I appreciated how this book was written with a combination of personal narrative, commentary that provides meaning making and explanation and concrete information and suggestions for navigating grief. I wish I had Grief Works sooner in my pastoral ministry as a resource for families.
The Secret Place by Tana French
I have written before about how I enjoy Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series due to her ability to write strong female characters, a series that piggy backs but doesn’t require you read every book. The Secret Place was enjoyable but probably falls in the middle of the pack in terms of Tana French books, I listened to it via my library app while tackling house projects, it was entertaining and held my attention while I cleaned, sweated, painted and built things. Would it have held my attention if I were just sitting to read it? Probably.
Naturally Tan by Tan France
I mostly listened to Naturally Tan via audiobook from my library and found it a nice, light palette cleanser as Tan candidly talks about his childhood and life. The hidden gems in this book are when Tan is talking about building his businesses and when he speaks of his marriage. His business advice is solid and rooted in successes I had no idea about from watching Queer Eye. And Tan’s candid discussion of he and Rob’s marriage was equal parts honest and tender.
The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali
I was drawn to this book for two reasons–the cover is gorgeous and it was set in a time and place in the world that I know very little about through my education and reading. Set in Tehran in the 1950’s The Stationary Shop follows Roya as she falls in love and then is pulled apart by social and political forces. I always find the missed connection romance a less interesting plot but the setting and the story about her love after moving on kept me engaged.
Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah
The first Kristin Hannah book I read was The Nightingale (am I shamefully in love with WWII fiction with strong female leads? Why, yes, yes I am) and I loved The Great Alone for its profound sense of place and the way she captured the lonely bleakness of the Alaskan wilderness as if it was it’s very own character. But I had several bookish friends that didn’t like The Great Alone and when I asked them why they said “have you read her other books? They are so much better!” So naturally I had to check out her older titles and see what my bookish friends were talking about. Magic Hour takes place in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest proving that Hannah has a way of research and creating a sense of place that’s consistent throughout her books. The setting itself creates a sense of magic to the mysterious girl that appears out of the woods one day, with no trace of where she came from or who she belongs to. This book is about healing and family in a way that is thoughtful and not over simplified.
Words Are My Matter by Ursula K LeGuin
I found this gem when I was in Iowa for a professional conference. I have a strange pattern of reading an author’s books or essays on the art of writing before actually reading their work. While it may seem rather odd, I like approaching their work with an understanding of what they are trying to do and how they are trying to do it. All of that is to say, I was virtually unfamiliar with Ursula K LeGuin’s science fiction work before picking up Words are My Matter. The essays in this book are not about how to write but what writing means, why it matters. What I particularly loved were her critiques on capitalism and its influence on the creative arts.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
Miracle Creek was offered as one of the Book of the Month selections and it grabbed my attention as both a mystery and a courtroom drama. I have meant to read this book all summer long and finally snagged it on audiobook through the library. I love a book that is written tightly enough that it grabs you from the first chapter and invests you in characters and the story but the pleasure of this book is that it presents complex and nuanced points of view that leave you thinking long after the book is over.
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
If you follow me on Goodreads you already know how I feel about this book! Whisper Network was billed as THE preeminent book of this #metoo era and the first thing I have to say is that if you still have a #metoo book in you–write it and publish it. I found this newest attempt at tackling the topic of toxic masculinity and its effects on women in the workplace to be a little stilted in stereotypes about women and lacking nuance. I struggled to care about the characters and hence didn’t really engage the plot either. I guess every summer has to have a dud and for me this was a total dud.
There are several books I had on my list for the summer that I didn’t get to so I am really looking forward to my fall reading list as well.
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