For many people summer means vacation and more free time. For a bibliophile like me more free time translates to more reading! What does that mean for you, my beloved reader? Instead of focusing on one book review- I have a whole summer reading list for you.
These are my top ten reads for summer, but you won’t find the typical beach bag chic-lit on this list. I have no problem with the occasional foray into that genre. In fact I just finished Big Little Lies and enjoyed it even more than the HBO series that followed. When curating this list I gravitated toward the whimsical and the poignant, from the memoir to the short story. The volumes on this summer reading list will take you far, far away from the sweltering heat on an enchanting journey to encounter giants, science laboratories, graveyards, trains, and other wondrous delights.
What’s Kelly Reading This Summer?
A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin and Stephen Emerson
An essential compilation of the best work of short story writer Lucia Berlin, these stories are raw and painful in both content and description. From the New York Times, “Berlin’s stories are the kind of woman in a Tom Waits song that might tell a man she’s just met during a long humid night spent drinking in a parking lot.” Trust me- you’re going to want to be a fly on that proverbial wall.
The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble
A fairytale of family and sisterhood that is difficult to put down- this novel had me entranced from the beginning. It is a highly sensory fairy tale which engages the reader’s heart and imagination. This would be a wonderful beach read as the plot revolves around a journey to the sea.
A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman
I adore this simple novel about a loveable curmudgeon’s travails through later life. This book will have you laughing while tears are simultaneously streaming down your face. The characters are those that stay with you long after the final page has been turned.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Written by an acclaimed scientist who specializes in the study of trees, flowers, and soil this memoir is much more than one scientist’s ode to her profession. Geobiologist Hope Jahren writes a passionate, funny and lyrical tale of friendship, career, and more broadly the story of plants and what role they play in the viability of our planet. Recommended for science lovers and non-lovers alike!
The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
I read this book in 2014 and the story still haunts me. Since then, I have devoured every page that Alice Hoffman has written and I haven’t found anything that is quite as good. This is master storytelling- chilling, beautiful, and chock-full of history. The novel is about a Coney Island boardwalk freak show. What smacks of “summer reading” more than that?
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
In these pages the reader encounters magic realism at its darkest and its best. Russell’s collection of short stories is absolutely delicious and will make any flight or car ride seem shorter. In the title story, a married vampire couple is in search of a source other than blood to satiate their hunger. Sounds gruesome right? In a world where vampires are as over-exposed as Kim Kardashian and not very likeable as a rule-of-thumb, somehow Russell makes the reader care about the blood-sucking duo and their fate. Over and over in this volume the reader is drawn into a reimagined world of great majesty as well as outright silliness.
The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr
Ms. Karr’s well-renowned piece set the new standard for memoir as a written form when it was published in 1995 and had been on my bedside table for several years. It wasn’t until after I read Lit: A Memior that I finally picked up this masterful piece of writing. This is the unsentimental account of an “apocalyptic childhood” that is as “funny, lively and un-put-downable today as it ever was” according to USA Today. Not all Texas upbringings are alike and this one is sure to make you cringe and laugh, but not necessarily in that order.
Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
Yes, you are reading this correctly. I am actually recommending a book by Salman Rushdie as summer reading. This book is an absolute delight from start to finish and a total departure from anything I have ever read by Rushdie. What a wonderful parade of words- one can easily fold themselves up in the story and roll around in fairy tale for a brief time. You’ll be forced to stop taking life so seriously, even if only briefly. Enjoy the ride!
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This book comes with illustrations and will keep you reading late into the summer nights. All I offer as enticement is a description via Goodreads and a request for your trust. “After a grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts of other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.” Terrifyingly good.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Some books are so good that you remember exactly where you were when you finished reading them. The Buried Giant falls into that category for me. I was on a journey with my husband to see the Grand Canyon. The couple in this novel is on a journey through a savage and rainy land to find their long-lost son. This story takes the reader into a post-Arthurian Britain in which we encounter familiar myths and heroes. Big and sweeping questions are posed about love, war, and the act of remembering.
For more What’s Kelly Reading, check back here every month.