Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Reading Book List

It's that time: the summer is come and now we can read! Wait. I always am reading. But for a lot of us, vacation and the lighter load associated with the summer months is the time when we really get to dig into some pleasure books. Here are five suggestions for you. They are all a part of my summer reading--either just read or soon to read! Enjoy!

1. The Mockery Bird by Gerald Durrell. This is a fiction story set in the early 60's on the island of Zenkali as it is about to become independent from Britain--and they find a thought-to-be-extinct tree that changes everything! It has lovable characters and a windey plot rife with quirkishness and references to the battle between industrialization and the environment that had just begun. Highly recommended for readers of any genre and age; it will make you laugh and appreciate life. His fiction books (my favorite, My Family and Other Animals) range far afield from human interest to biology with always an emphasis on the dignified silliness and vibrancy of life. If you like the pace and style of James Herriott, you'll love Gerald Durrell.

2. No Nudes is Good Nudes by P.G. Wodehouse. Another of my favorite authors, Wodehouse never ceases to amuse. I read his books because they make me laugh and they are arguably one of my greatest sources of inspiration. The book points out, like all of his, the foibles of humanity; it is a comedy of errors (think Oscar Wilde), one of the series of Sir Galahad Threepwood novels. It's not the best written of his, but it's definitely one of the funniest, and had me in stitches for about ten minutes in one chapter. Wodehouse uses stock characters but his plot changes every time, and I found this one particularly unpredictable and exciting.

3. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. Branching out from my usual set of books, this collection of short stories probes the darker sides of human nature through urban fantasy. It has some creepy, haunting elements, but I wasn't freaked out or traumatized by it (and I'm particularly sensitive to that sort of thing). I was honestly surprised I enjoyed it, but Russell so beautifully shows the truth of humanity without applying her own opinions to our problems. And even though she's writing about issues like our constant lust for more, she withholds judgment from her characters and lets them speak for themselves. A good "book club" book, good for both standard fiction readers and fantasy lovers.

4. Soul Music by Terry Pratchett. This is one I have yet to read, but I'm told it's one of his good ones. Pratchett is an extremely prolific humor/fantasy/satire author, and the bulk of his novels are set on the Discworld, a world very like our own (about a hundred years ago) but with magic and wizards. Every one of his books mocks an aspect of our culture, with typical British subtlety combined with a page-turning, gripping style. I recently read his book The Truth, about the press (ironically...of course). He is very insightful into the development of cultural institutions like currency and government, and The Truth was no less insightful, but I found the characters less sympathetic than usual. I usually can't put Pratchett down and I gobble up one of his books in one or two days! I try to restrict myself in how many I check out from the library at a time!

5. Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller. I have read Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and was done away. He writes nonfiction that is earthy, personal, and blunt, and the book chronicled his writer's perspective on his life: how he compared his life to the elements that make a good story--a character who wants something overcoming difficulty to achieve it--realized his life fell short, and turned his life into an adventure that actually means something now. Blue Like Jazz is about his struggles and questions about God throughout his life. He has a vignette style, like a series of 1-3 page memoirs strung together. In a sense it is stream of consciousness, but easy to follow and easy to relate to. I'm eager to tackle this deep-thinker; on chapter 3 already and loving it.

Any book suggestions for the summer?

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Books mentioned in this post:
The Mockery Bird * My Family and Other Animals
No Nudes is Good Nudes
Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Soul Music * The Truth
Blue Like Jazz * A Million Miles in a Thousand Years