So many choices for a summer read

Stone fruit, long days, baseball and endless reading choices are some of my summer favorites. Come summer I have less pressure to read books for upcoming discussions and tend to range farther afield in my choices.

Since we do spend time on the road each summer, e-books and audiobooks have a greater presence than when I stick closer to home. The public library is my go-to source for audiobooks that Dan and listen to long trips.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s not hard to download titles that are available for up to 3 weeks. An inexpensive Bluetooth speaker makes it much easier to hear if your car is not so equipped.

We’re hoping to listen to The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore, a fact-based novel of Westinghouse, Edison, and Tesla in 1888. Joshua Hammer’s telling of the rescue of Mali’s treasured Islamic and secular manuscripts from impending destruction by Al Qaeda is the narrative of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. Mysteries or thrillers can also be a good traveling pick. I’m looking at The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King, the first in a series of Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories. We have also enjoyed John Grisham’s Sycamore Row, David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers, and Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927. Any of their books would be fine picks – good readers with easy on the ear accents, engaging narratives that sustain your attention without distracting from the road ahead. Try out a new genre, if you dare.  We loved Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. A mix of dystopic and classical storytelling, it was a great listen.

Above is a photo of some of the books I hope to read as the summer progresses. A bit of everything, fiction based on fact, memoir, literary fiction and mystery. I’ve listed them all at the end of the post. The plan is to review as many as possible. Some are certain to appear on my book groups lists. If the library waitlist treats me kindly, I’ll also read Daniel Silva’s latest, House of Spies, and  Louise Penny’s Glass Houses.

Right now I’m finishing up Miriam Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows. Toews is an award-winning Canadian novelist. This is a family story of two sisters, Elfrieda, a concert pianist, and her sister, who has a more well-rounded life despite some poor decisions. I’ve been listening to Behold the Dreamers since before it became one of Oprah’s Book Club picks. It is Imbolo Mbue’s story of two families, one in the 1% but with many problems money cannot solve, the other an immigrant family desperate to stay in the U.S. with the father working as the driver for the wealthy family. Set in New York where spectacular wealth and barely-scraping-by live barely a few miles apart.

Before I forget, plan to stop at local bookstores while you are visiting new places. Yesterday I picked up Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood’s modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in narrative form while at Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, WV. There are knowledgeable booksellers in independent bookstores just about everywhere. Invest in the future of the book. Patronize these shops wherever you find them. IndieBound is one good source to scout them out.

Finally, what have I finished already? Anita Shreve’s The Stars Are Fire, Joanna Trollope’s City of Friends, Charles Todd’s A Casualty of War, Bianca Marais’s Hum If You Don’t Know the Words, The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow and Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend. All would be fine choices to pack in your carry-on and those I have reviewed are linked.

Titles Pictured Above

  • Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif
  • Celine by Peter Heller
  • The Leavers by Lisa Ko
  • The Golden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang
  • The World Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews
  • The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling










My to-be-read list is summer ready!

Ahhhh! Even if your student days are far in the rearview mirror, somehow summer has its own unique rhythm. Now’s the time to change your reading horizons in all sorts of ways. Grab a book and head to a park bench at lunchtime – your desk can manage without you. Try out an audiobook for that road trip. Negotiating a title with your fellow passengers may introduce you to an author or genre you’d never have selected on your own.

For me, summer is the time to queue up books that take me to another place and imgres-2time. Last summer, two particular titles really fit the bill. The Truth According to Us, Annie Barrows’ novel of small-town West Virginia in the summer of 1938, just out in paperback, has an enticing combination of family drama, labor unrest and explication of the New Deal program that brought writers to small communities across the country to preserve their histories.

In The Oregon Trail, Rinker Buck brings the reader along as he and his brother follow the trail from imgres-3Missouri to Oregon using equipment and tools of 150 years ago. Buck, a seasoned journalist in the midst of a personal crisis, decides this is just the change he needs. As a child, he and his siblings were taken on unusual journeys by their father, an accomplished, loving but difficult man. Needing another skilled horseman for the trip, Buck invited his brother who was dealing with physical and emotional problems of his own. Not particularly close since childhood, the extraordinary physical challenge of the undertaking tested and strengthened their relationship.

Page after page, the reader joins them on the trail, often within spitting distance of 18-wheelers. Along the way they take meals and spend the night with locals in small towns across the route; on farms, in dying communities set aside after an interstate usurped their role as staging point or provisioners. They meet old-fashioned craftspeople that keep their rig going when repairs are beyond their skill. Weather, rough terrain, exhaustion, and injuries leave them minutes from abandoning the quest. It was a joy to accompany them from the air-conditioned comfort of my home!

So what’s on the list for this summer? First up, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, ChrisUnknown-5 Cleave’s latest about Europe in 1939. Mary North takes on the task of teaching students that were not accepted in homes in the countryside as most children were sent for safety from London. Tom, charged with supervising the school, and Alistair, Tom’s best friend now serving as a military officer, both fall for Mary.

On a more serious note, Tribe, Sebastian Junger’s Unknown-4assessment of the damage we have brought on ourselves by loosening the communal bonds of society. He contends that combat veterans overcome their fears and insist on returning to their units after injuries because of the tribal ties they create.  Junger suggests it is the breaking of these bonds that fuels PTSD.

Louise Erdrich’s The Round House, 2012 National Book Unknown-2Award winner, is one of the finest novels I have ever read. Her latest, La Rose, is another family-centered novel of contemporary Native American life with a storyline drawn from tragedy.  Erdrich brings a unique perspective to the complexity of the tribal and state justice systems. Snagging a copy of La Rose at the library was a real coup!

Another Louise is near the top of my TBR pile. Louise Penny has created the  magical hamlet of Three Pines in Quebec. Unknown-3With an assortment of quirky locals, poor internet and cell coverage, a cafe, bookstore, and a B and B, it is the perfect retreat except for the occasional murder. Chief Inspector Gamache is the warm, intuitive yet analytical detective who uncovers the culprits and the underlying stories. Through the course of the Three Pines series, his wife and his second (now his son-in-law as well) add a comfortable and familial tenor to the stories.

Now that I’ve shared the top of my pile, I hope you’ll do the same. Please go to the bottom of this post (on the website) and click on COMMENTS so that I (and others) can see what you are reading.  I’ll keep sharing if you will!


IMG_3210Just one view of New England from the passenger seat.  After eight days, 1400 miles, 9 states, visits with friends and family, our summer vacation is over.

Laundry’s done, mail sorted and life is returning to normal.  Mid-August is when I start reaching out to my book groups to start prepping for fall and September promises to be a very busy month.

Before I’m totally back in the swing of things there are reviews to write and some bookish reflections on the people and places we saw along the way.  So hang in there, it’ll be worth the wait!

Road trip – I brake for bookstores!

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 3.43.28 PMCome summer it is time to get moving and time to chill out. Whether on vacation or just eking out one more experience with the extra hours of daylight, the pace definitely changes.

My reading changes as well. Summer is a catch up time when I have fewer book group titles to read and prepare. IMG_2926After going to Book Expo, it is also the opportunity to search for the yet-to-be-released jewel I can share with my book loving friends.  Right now I am reading Alice Hoffman’s The Marriage of Opposites. Its historical fiction set in the Caribbean and France in the 19th century and tells of the family origins of Camille Pissarro, the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painter.

We’re off on a road trip and have already picked out  (thanks to the independent bookstores we’ll be stopping at en route through North Carolina. I’ll let you know where I go and what local gems I find.

Speaking of sharing, I’d like to ask for your feedback. I’m so pleased when someone tells me s/he has been reading this blog. It may come as a surprise but information on who and how many people are looking at the blog is very difficult to come by.  Since you are reading this could you please let me know you are out there? And to make it more appealing to everyone, let me know what you are reading now and I’ll put a list in an upcoming post.

If you are seeing this via email, either reply or comment.

If you read this on Facebook, comment with a title or PM if you’d prefer to remain anonymous. If you like what you are seeing here I’d be thrilled if you’d share it so others can see it as well.

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Thanks for joining on my journey!

Turning in my snow boots for sunscreen

IMG_0005It’s been some kind of winter when Alaska has had less snow than many of the northeastern states and only Florida and Hawaii haven’t really experienced the brutality of the winter. In our house, the first sign of spring is a trip to Viera, FL to see the Washington Nationals in spring training. There is something about ratcheting back the daily grind a few notches, sitting in the stands looking at a wide expanse of green, watching first-timers and veterans alike getting ready for a season full of promise. It’s the big leagues in very neighborly parks where the players are just inches from the fans and the wise cracks shouted from the stands can be heard on the pitcher’s mound.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 8.57.32 AM

The laid-back attitude carries over to the entire trip. When I travel to new places there is always somewhere else I want to go – another museum, a walking tour, a historic district to explore. Not during spring training. I’ll take the short walk to the local Starbucks or, if I am energetic, walk the 3 miles to Space Coast Stadium.  Maybe I’ll spend some time with my face pressed up against the fence watching a pitching prospect or see batting practice and warm ups from the stands. There’s a camaraderie at the park with most people either playing hooky from their regular routine or enjoying their retirement. Traffic jams in and out of the park last about 5 minutes and many rain showers are not much longer.

By the end of the day, I’ll have had my fill of sunshine.  All that time relaxing at the park is tiring. An early dinner, some reading or TV and I’m usually ready to call it a night. We are very fortunate to have friends to spend time with during spring training. And each year more fans from the DC area head down, drawn by good weather and good baseball – certainly a winning combination.  So if you are at the park next weekend, please look for me.  I’ll be in the stands and I may be wearing my gnome hat.  Go Nats!