This summer, in between training for a half marathon and eating delicious things, I read a lot of books. A close approximation of one of my personal heavens includes a pile of books to read, a couch large enough for napping between chapters, and a cup of tea that never gets cold or empty. So, this summer, which also included my other personal heaven of going to the beach with Chris, also included a lot of books. May I present the latest (irregular) edition of ‘On My Shelf’ – The Summer Reading List.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Although I have not read any of Hemingway’s works, this fictional look into his character by way of his first wife and their courtship, marriage, and downfall, was illuminating of the man behind the myth. Hadley Hemingway is a believable character and I was instantly sympathetic to her voice. Be prepared to be swept into the Hemingways’ jazz age social circles, world travels, and their tragedy. Highly recommended.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Open the pages of The Night Circus and be swept into the fantastical and phantasmal black and white world of circus life. This story of a deadly competition between two old rivals, and the young lives that it will affect until their end, is full of imagery that will leap of the page and linger long after you close the covers. I was enchanted by Erin Morgernstern’s ability to conjure a circus inside my mind and have me invested in the outcomes of the characters at the same time. This novel is both plot and character driven and oh how I would love to see a film version one day!
Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
This was the first book I downloaded and read on the iPad Chris bought me for Christmas. It deals with a topic pertinent to today’s society and the current obesity crisis, and views it all from a very personal angle. I don’t know whether I really enjoyed the storyline and I found some of the characters (in fact nearly all of them) quite detestable, but I enjoyed the writing itself. There is a twist in the plot line that annoyed me, and I finished the book feeling empty and starved for a reasonable solution to the characters’ problems rather than the seemingly quick wrap up offered by Ms Shriver.
The Dinner by Herman Koch
I had a similar problem with the characters in this book as I did with those in Big Brother: I found myself unable to relate to them, or even to be sympathetic to their circumstances. The characters in this book seemed spoiled and self indulged and the problems they faced rose out of their own inability to face up to reality. The concept of ‘The Dinner’ is that all the characters know each other intimately but still bear secrets that could destroy the other’s lives and one night, the night of the dinner in question, this becomes reality. I just couldn’t completely buy into the situation the characters faced and their reactions.
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
This book is sad, sad but worthwhile reading. This is Ms McCreight’s first novel and I can’t wait to see what she writes next. The story of Kate and her daughter Amelia starts with Amelia’s apparent suicide. As Kate is trying to resolve the ending of her daughter’s life she receives an anonymous text that leads her to believe that something even darker took place that day. Kate is unrelenting in her search for the truth, and this well written first novel takes you along for the ride willingly. Recommended read.
The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck
After the last three serious books I needed something lighter and ‘The Wedding Dress’ fit the bill perfectly. A little bit preachy in parts, if you ignore these it makes a delightfully light romantic fiction with a bit of a ghost story thrown in. A good bedside table book for when the world is a little too complicated and your fiction needs to be simple and sweet.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
I devoured this book in a record eight hours. I started while I was eating breakfast and finished as I was going for a ride on the stationary bike to make up for my lack of movement. I was lost in the world of the uber rich Nicholas Young and his complicated crazy family and the middle class Rachel Chu. There is a love story here, several in fact, and also tales of family, loyalty, and what people who have piles of money actually do with it all. Keeping track of all the characters can be a little difficult but Kwan provides family trees to help. The dialogue is what sparkles here, the story feels as if you are overhearing pieces of gossip and family stories from people you would be fascinated to know, but relieved that you weren’t related to. Recommended read.
The Theory of Opposites by Allison Winn Scotch
This book is part love story, part coming of age, and part self help. Willa Chandler has spent her whole life being told who and what she is and following a path of least resistance and most reliability. When her husband proposes that they spend two months apart Willa is confronted with other opportunities that will have her considering what could be possible if she directs her own path and takes her life into her own hands. Good inspirational stuff wrapped in an easy to read package. Perfect beach reading.
A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger
Another woman in her thirties facing a coming-of-age test. Lucy is lonely and love lost when her best friend Harlan dies. She never professed her love to him and now regrets what they could have had. Harlan speaks to her from beyond the grave with emails he set up before he died. Over the year following his death Lucy learns how to bring love into her life and how to hold onto second chances and new beginnings. Another good beach read.
After all this fiction, I am now on a non-fiction bent. My bedside table currently holds copies of ‘Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital‘ by Sheri Fink, ‘The Body Book‘ by Cameron Diaz, and ‘Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites‘ by Kate Christensen. Reviews of those to come. Hopefully in a more regular fashion.
Tell me dear reader, what are you reading? Any recommendations? Have you read any of these books?