Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Books for the Summer

One of the best parts of a new guest house or hostel is the book swap shelf.  I get excited every time I find one.  What books will there be?  What am I going to read next?  Some are better than others; a recent hostel had a lot of German guests, which limited my options to the few novels in English.  Others are crammed with the new blockbuster book of the summer and too many copies of Twilight.

Traveling gives me numerous opportunities to read.  On buses, on trains, in my bunk at the dorm, I can get lost in a good story.  Since the summer is quickly approaching back home, I wanted to offer a few recommendations of good books for an afternoon on the porch or the beach.  

Naxos, Greece in 2011 - I do love to read with wine and a view.
A few disclaimers:  I tend to read fiction, especially mysteries.  If a book is set in New England, the United Kingdom, or France I will most likely pick it up. 

Tinkers by Paul Harding is one of the most beautiful novels I've read.  It's a poetic fall backwards through the lives of one man and his father.  It begins as George Washington Crosby lies on his deathbed, then proceeds through his memories to his father's life as a traveling salesman in Maine.  It left me with a sense of awe and a desire to read it again more slowly.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - Two magicians are locked in a years-long battle, each demonstrating their talents by creating tents in Le Cirque des Rêves.  Neither is sure how the battle is supposed to end.  The descriptions are captivating, especially of the circus and Celia's dresses. 

In The Woods, The Likeness and Faithful Place by Tana French - French's three mysteries, all set in or around Dublin, are absorbing.  Each is told in first person perspective and follows a character introduced in her previous novel.  Her writing has gotten stronger and her endings are more satisfying in the later books.  If anyone reads these, please email me - I've been wanting to talk about them with someone!

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach - A story about baseball and more.  Henry is an all-star shortstop on his college team, but after an overthrow to first base he loses his grip on the game.  The book follows him, his teammates, their college president and the president's daughter as they learn to live with who they are.

The Blue Pumpkin in Siem Reap, Cambodia was one of my favorite places to hang out with a book.
These were our treats for Easter this year - not the same as chocolate eggs, but still good!
The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht - This is a web of stories that shift in time and focus.  To understand her grandfather's decisions before his recent death, Natalia delves into the stories he told her of his life.  The book balances between reality and folklore.

The Paperchase by Marcel Theroux - When Damien's uncle dies, he leaves him his house on a small island off Cape Cod.  Damien spends the summer there sorting through his uncle's papers, trying to understand the man who he hadn't seen in years.  I grabbed this from a hostel book exchange because it's set in Massachusetts and I'm happy I did.

P.D. James is currently my favorite mystery author.  Most of her books feature Detective Inspector Adam Dalgliesh and are set in London and English country towns.  Unlike some mystery writers, she describes all her characters in depth, including the victims, and her mysteries explore the darkest parts of human nature.  Try Cover Her Face, Original Sin, or An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.  She's also the author of The Children of Men

The Unexpected Guests by Sadie Jones - The plans for Emerald's twentieth birthday party in 1921 are thrown into disarray when the family is forced to take in third-class survivors of a nearby train accident.  One of the survivors has his own reasons for crashing the party.  My favorite character is the youngest sister Smudge, whose whimsy and imagination is a great counterpoint to the creeping darkness of the main storyline.

Reading with coffee is also great.
I'm just now realizing how much I associate books and drinks.
For people who like non-fiction, here are some of my favorites from history classes:

Suburban Nation - a history of suburban development in the United States and how it has affected American lives.  After reading this, I almost minored in urban planning.

Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle - About the trial of Ossian Sweet, who fired on a mob that attacked his house when he moved into an all-white suburb of Detroit

Murdering McKinley by Eric Rauchway - This book explores the history of Leon Czolgosz, the McKinley assassin, and how Theodore Roosevelt used his ascent to the presidency to usher the US into the Progressive Era

Avengers of a New World by Laurent Dubois - I read this for a French history class.  Dubois explains how the Haitian Revolution forced the French Revolution to live up to its own ideals and push past where it might have ended.

I hope you like these as much as I have!  Have fun reading this summer!

What books are on your summer reading list?
What are some of your favorite books?  

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