Summer Reads

July 22nd

sunny

I’ve been reading more lately; Matt’s been out of town visiting his family in Africa. I’m long since out of the habit of watching television. Also, I’ve needed an entertaining distraction from the realities of too much NPR. (The polar bears are drowning. The gulf is slick. Obama won’t be re-elected. Iran hates us. We hate Iran. North Korea hates us. North Korea is starving to death. We hate North Korea. Mexico is now officially being run by the cartels. ) You get the very sad point.

So, to the library/bookshelf/bookstore I go! Regularly. I need a break from Michele Norris* or I’m afraid I may start suggesting feeding the polar bears to starving North Koreans and shipping our cocaine habits feeding the Mexican cartels to Iran.  (See? Books are a much better idea.)

boutque

The Lonely Polygamist: This is my favorite book of the summer so far. Four out of five bananas. For those who read The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, you’ll see some similar themes. Both books include strong young male characters who are a fair mix of hilarious, precious and pathetic. Both books are set in the desert Southwest and both include LDS families. Brady Udall is fast becoming my favorite author. I love the voice of his characters, the way he is so carefully entwines important issues into otherwise bizarre and funny stories — so you feel like you learned something — and his wit. He is a very clever writer.

The Long Goodbye: This book is my first adventure with author Raymond Chandler. His word choice and settings are delightfully antiquated today. This story details a private investigator’s search for a killer, of sorts. It is twisted and well thought. It was a bit long in places and didn’t keep me so interested I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Three out of five bananas.

The Double Bind: This is the third Chris Bohjalian book I’ve read — after Midwives and The Law of Similars. I loved both of those stories. They were well written, kept me dying for quiet time to read more and again, taught me about subjects I knew nothing about without feeling like I’d received a lecture. The Double Bind is also a good read, but the ending was a sucker punch. It hurt.

Honestly, it made me a little angry too.

I wanted to start over from the beginning;  I was so confused and torn.  I do recommend the novel because I’ve never before read something and had such a strong reaction to the conclusion. Plus, for Great Gatsby lovers, this book is a treat. Three out of five bananas.

bouquet

Blood of Flowers: I may have blogged about this read already — it was a quick in-between-book-club-assignments-read. I appreciated the setting — Iran, centuries ago. The main character becomes an apprentice and learns to weave rugs. The story is interesting and it certainly has great villains. I enjoyed this as light, fun reading. Three of five bananas.

The Elegant Hedgehog: Did I already write about this? I fear I did. It is still considered a summer read because the tattered copy is on my nightstand. This book is far too smart for my tastes. It is a quirky story, but the characters don’t bloom until page 200 of a 300 page novel. It was a book club selection and I am not interested in reading more from this author. 1.5 bananas.

People of the Book: This is the latest selection for my book club and I have to say — one of the most intellectually stimulating books I’ve ever read. It is fascinating. The story discusses the adventures of a woman chasing down clues to an ancient haggadah that has reappeared after the war in Sarajevo. The story flows between centuries, faiths, languages, cultures and politics. I can only imagine how much time it took the author to research. It was in ways like reading an exceptionally smart version of The DiVinci Code. I truly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, March.

I’ve just started In the Woods and it looks like it has potential. Plus, it’s set in Ireland, one of my most favorite places.

What are you reading and enjoying this summer?

-K

* Tell me you NPR listeners don’t crave the day that someone will finally say to that smug Michele Norris — “JUST SAY MICHELLE ALREADY. KNOCK OF THE MEEEEESHELL.” Or is it just me?

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19 Responses

  1. Angela July 22, 2010

    I laughed out loud at the “Meeeeeshell!” Completely agree 🙂

  2. I’ve always discounted it, assuming her name was spelled “Mechelle” or similar. Guess not, huh?

  3. I’m in the middle of reading La Lacuna right now. Soooooo good. Bizarrely, I have probably read more since Josiah has been born than any time in my adult life since college. Lots of baby holding/nursing time = couch time = reading to stave off brain rot from too much daytime TV during maternity leave. Now I’m at work most days but I am re-addicted to reading.

  4. Madelyn July 22, 2010

    Re “Meeeshell”: it’s not just you! drives me nuts too!?

  5. I am reading a very old copy of “The Portuguese Escape” by Ann Bridge. It’s fun to hear about parts of Portugal that I know a little about. It has been fabulously entertaining spending time in my “reading corner” in teh pool – and the book smells good too. 😀

  6. Firstly, yes – while I love NPR and listen every single day, when Meeeeeeeeeeeshell Norris comes on with her weird pronunciation or Ofeibea Quist-Arcton finishes her segment by saying, “Dakar” in that weird super dramatic way I roll my eyes.

    I read (and finished, thanks to the mandate of The Book Club) Elegant Hedgehog and I will say that the ending would likely piss you off like it did me, so leave it unfinished.

    Meanwhile, our follow up to that was “Cutting for Stone” and that was a fantastic read. Pregnant nuns, Africa, civil unrest, India, women’s rights – it went on and on. Good 🙂

    Now we’re reading Anthony Bourdain’s latest thing and it’s fulfilling my Easy Summer Read need pretty well. Plus, he swears a lot which you know I like.

  7. Right after I read YOUR book. (Ack! I said YOUR book.) I’ll be putting all these on my list. I lost my list, so I needed some suggestions. Thank you!

  8. I’ve been reading several knitting patterns, Anna Karenina (which might also be on my list if you ask this question again 6 mos. from now), and looking forward to reading Under the Same Moon!

    Do you talk to the radio? I have had to tell Jamie Dupree that I’ve heard him talk before and he DOES NOT SOUND LIKE THAT WHEN HE TALKS. Yes, sometimes I even shout! 🙂

  9. I read People of the Book after reading your blog a couple months back where you were considering reading it. I agree, it was excellent, beautiful, and it is based on fact (I always like when there’s a little truth involved).

    I recently read Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick, historical fiction about the last 2 years of Vincent Van Gogh’s life, set in Arles and the institutions where he lived. It made me sad all over again that he died so young and unrecognized but it had a lot of factual things in it taken from his letters to his brother and mentioned quite a bit about his art. It made me wish that it was totally true.

    I’m now almost done with Tuscan Holiday by Holly Chamberlin, which was actually a free Kindle book for a few days. It’s a decent read, especially in the vein of summer reading.

    I’m anxious to read your book, too! And I just read on another blog about a book titled Astrid and Veronica that sounded good (but not available on Kindle). I may try the Brady Udall (is he from our famous AZ Udalls?) books since you like them so much. Thanks for the suggestions.

  10. My God, Kelli. We are on the same page (hee. I punned); although much of my reading of late has consisted of bridal magazines and etiquette. Yes, indeed. I have officially gone off the deep end–I don’t normally buy into that sorta thing, but it’s so dang FUN. And my typical over-NPR’d substitute for the drive to the work is lately, of course, wedding music. I’m drowning in tulle and lace, but I assure you, I am still visiting every day, and giggling at your funnies and applauding your victories! You are wonderful—can’t wait to read your book, and no AmazinGirl, not just you…never really understood the crazy emphasis on the long “E” either. Just like I secretly hope Shay Stevens gives up the cigarettes that color her voice a little COPD. Okay. I’m back off my nursey soapbox now. Hee. XOXO

  11. Thanks for sharing. I will be requesting some of these from the library. I am reading Anthropology of an American Girl. I am in love with it. I am savoring every single metaphor in there (too many of them maybe) but I’m loving them. It does drag on at times and the author is descriptive to a fault (imo), so I am also doing a lot of skimming. But the parts that are good are soooo good. I kinds don’t want it to end.

  12. My reading has slowed down incredibly with a toddler in the house but the best book I read in the last year was The Help. I’m also 2/3rd of the way through a fabulous little novel called Little Bee about a Nigerian refugee in London. Since I haven’t finished it yet, I can’t truly recommend it, but so far it is superbly well-written. I’m too lazy to get off the couch and find the name of the authors.

    I had similar feelings about Double Bind. I felt a bit like a cruel trick had been played on the reader. I’m not quite sure why I felt that way since usually a surprise ending is quite alright with me.

    I’m going to check out People of the Book on your recommendation. Thanks for sharing your reading list. Do you do GoodReads?

  13. First, a belated congratulations on getting your book published! I am looking forward to reading it and hoping it is coming out on kindle so I can get it sooner rather than later……

    I read “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” and wasn’t sure about it, but in the end liked it. It’s different, definitely and not everyone’s taste. I had to accept that it is “very French….very.” Once I accepted that, I got through it.

    I am reading some classics so far, “The Scarlett Letter” and finishing up “The Portrait of Dorian Grey.”

    I want to read “The Last Polygamist”! Now that I have an iPad, I can buy English books in Ukraine! YEAH!

  14. Thank goodness I’m not the only one. They’re very uppity in their pronunciations on NPR… Just like Alex Trebek.

  15. Charly July 23, 2010

    I cringe every time I hear MEEEEESHELL!

  16. Debbie July 23, 2010

    I just finished “The Double Comfort Safari Club”, and as usual, enjoyed this Alexander McCall Smith book. I recently finished “An Incomplete Revenge”, the fifth in the Maise Dobbs series and I enjoyed that too. I’m currently reading “Acedia & Me” and next on my shelf is “A Gift From Brittany”. Last month I read a classic, “How Green Was My Valley” and thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t wait to read your book! Happy summer reading!

  17. You know if it’s about books I have to chime in.
    1. Since you liked People of the Book, try Year of Wonders (same author). Very good read.
    2. Double Bind was a tough one. I read two such books in a row and it sent me into a depression that required much humor.
    3. Just finished Treasure Island (yes, the classic RLS).
    4. Just finished Dead Until Dark, first in the Sookie Stackhouse books (now showing as True Blood on HBO).
    5. Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and loving it. Have talked my book club into reading it with me. Heehee.
    6. Been reading lots of mystery/thriller summer stuff – Iris Johansen, Michael Gruber. Nothing earth-changing.
    7. Can’t wait to read Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas, especially after coming back from Denver. Dallas lives in CO and this particular story is based in the mountains. Love that connection to places I’ve been.
    8. Read the first in a new series for tweens called The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood. Fun and sweet and easy mysteroo.

    Happy reading!!

  18. I too enjoyed People of the Book. I love it when I can learn some real facts. I have been also listening to books on CD. So, I read one and listen to another when driving. My library has great selection of audio books. Highly recommend The Help on CD. The character voices should win an award.

  19. Really enjoyed Lonely Polygamist. Laughed out loud in some places. Have Elegance, haven’t read it, don’t think I will after reading your review–I trust your judgement. Shared your sentiment about Double Bind; he can and has done better.

    I have read and LOVED this summer my new most favorite book ever: Let The Great World Spin by Colum Mccann. It’s beautifully written, evocative, lyrical…very memorable characters and events. I didn’t want it to end!

    Also enjoyed (but not as much as Great World): Born to Run by Chris Mcdougall (non-fiction about running barefoot, very interesting and well-written), The Spare Room by Helen Garner (short book with cutting words and a GREAT ending), and The Blind Side and The Big Short both by Michael Lewis (non-fiction)–first one is the book the movie is based on, second one about who saw the financial crisis coming and what they did about it. He is an interesting writer who makes two subjects I don’t know or care much about–football and the world of hedge funds–understandable and intriguing.

    Meeeshell Norris–snort. I think the same thing. Also Mandeleka DelBarco–too much eee-nunnn-cia—ationnnn. I get it, your name is different. Move on.

    Happy reading!

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