Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Guess what time it is?!

Summer is upon us, as evidenced by the unrelenting frizz that the humidity is wreaking on my hair. With summer come large stretches of spare time in the evenings and on weekends, sitting on the beach or the porch (theoretically…if I had a porch) or in my soon-to-be-stifling apartment. With the exception of The Closer and So You Think You Can Dance, the evening TV schedule is void of anything worthwhile. What to do?

Well, I’ll tell you!


I don’t know what it is about summer that makes me INSANE about reading, but I find myself making endless lists of books, assisted by the ubiquitous “Suggested Summer Reading” lists provided by everyone from The Washington Post to Entertainment Weekly. Nothing makes me happier than a Sunday afternoon spent wandering through the stacks at the tiny library branch across from my house, and in the past two weeks I’ve accumulated a giant stack of library books, just waiting to be devoured (or discarded, if they turn out to be boring. Which does happen, occasionally).

While reading a truly awesome book is, you know, truly awesome, I also get great joy from sharing those books with others. And so! I present to you today...

Books You Should Read This Summer Because I Said So,
Categorized for Easy Reference

The One On All The Best-Seller Lists:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Schaffer/Annie Barrows)
I have to give my mother credit, as she discovered this book last summer, long before it hit the New York Times best-seller list. She picked it up--if I'm not mistaken--simply because of the quirky name. The epistolary novel, primarily set on the small English island of Guernsey during WWII, tells the story of a book club born as an impromptu alibi when its members were caught breaking curfew by the Germans occupying the island. And boy, is this a delightful book.

The Literary Book:
The Tender Bar (J.R. Moehringer)
This book was recommended to me by three people who could not be more different—my old roommate Al, my friend J, and my former boss. These three could probably not agree on a pizza topping, let alone a book, which only illustrates the quality of this memoir. The author tells of his fatherless childhood on Long Island and the community that helped raise him—most notably, the men who frequent a bar called Dickens. Frankly, I think this is a book that college lit classes will be discussing in years to come, full of richly-drawn characters and vivid prose. My copy has been continuously on loan for over a year.

The Girly Book: I Was Told There’d Be Cake (Sloane Crosley)
This isn’t really chick-lit, but it’s not really a guy kind of book. Crosley’s essays (“The Pony Problem,” “Bring-Your-Machete-To-Work Day,” and, uh, “F*** You, Columbus” are my favorites) are full of irony and self-deprecating wit. For any female who came of age during the 1990s, this book is sure to prompt the kind of hysterical laughter that comes from completely and utterly identifying with a character.

The Book About a Book: People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks)
My literary tastes are wide-ranging, but I love books about history and books about books. This is both. It follows Hanna Heath, a rare book conservator, and the Sarajevo Haggadah that disappeared during the city’s siege in 1992. The story traces the history of the book from its creation in the 15th century Seville through WWII Bosnia as it passes through the hands of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. My book club read it a few months ago and it was unanimously enjoyed. It’s a quick read, and a good one. Highly recommended!

The Page-Turner: The Romanov Prophecy (Steve Berry)
This book is probably not going to win the Pulitzer or anything, but I just finished it, and darned if it’s not a great read… even if you’re not a Russian history nut like me. Sort of in the vein of The Da Vinci Code—a fast-paced, globe-trotting thriller—The Romanov Prophecy brings the intrigue of Nicholas and Alexandra’s Russia to the 21st century.

The One I Haven’t Read, But Am Most Excited About:
The Angel’s Game (Carlos Ruiz Zafón)
About three years ago, I stumbled across a book called The Shadow of the Wind. I don’t remember how I found it, nor do I remember much about the plot, but I LOVED IT. It was spooky and romantic and utterly gripping —and about a book! yay—and I could not get enough of it. Every so often I see someone reading it on the Metro or wherever—often in the original Spanish (La Sombra del Viento sounds so much more exotic, doesn’t it?)—and it makes me want to read it all over again. Which I may do this summer. But anyway! Two days ago, I discovered that the author has a new book coming out this week! It’s like CHRISTMAS! I’m so excited.

Coming soon! Summer TV on DVD recommendations. Because periodically you just need a break from all that reading.


  1. Thanks for providing my reading list for the beach! But may I propose a new category?

    The Book About a Pig (since every list should have one)—The Good, Good Pig (Sy Montgomery)

    This book is several years old, but for those who haven’t read it (and, for that matter, for those who have) . . . it’s pure joy. Christopher Hogwood, namesake of the renowned musicologist, was a 750 lb. bundle of personality and heart. The book tells the (true) story of his life and its effect on his owner (the author) and their entire New Hampshire community. This is an animal book about very human values. (Christopher joins Wilbur and Babe in the pantheon of pigs worth knowing.)

  2. Pannie, if you own it, can you please bring the "Cake" book in July? It sounds like a good one for me. If you're willing to lend, I'd like to borrow! Also, the pig book sounds really good!

  3. Wait, where the heck are you going in are making me look like the worst bridesmaid EVER!

    Also...may I recommend; Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.

    You will not be disappointed and you just may laugh 'till it hurts!

  4. Jules--Yes, I'll bring the Cake book. I don't have the Pig one...would have to borrow from Mom.

    Ash--I'm going to Jules' wedding shower, for which you should have received an invitation from her mother. (YOU SHOULD COME TOO! Although I know it's a bit easier for me, since I can drive out there.)

  5. I do not have bad bridesmaids!! I do think working in a kitchen every weekend puts a wrench in the works... so we might have to see you in September ohkeh