Book reviewer Jennifer McPheeters shares what titles you don’t want to miss this summer.
For fans of fantasy ...
“The Book of Speculation” by Erika Swyler
In her debut novel, Erika Swyler tells the story of Simon Watson, a young librarian whose mother and younger sister have followed a family tradition of becoming circus mermaids. Generations of these “mermaids,” including Simon’s mother, have drowned — always on July 24. In June, Simon receives a fragile, damaged book that contains a message suggesting a connection to his family. As the fateful July date approaches, Simon increasingly fears for his sister as he attempts to unravel the mystery of the book and its relation to his family. Magical and compelling, this is a great read for anyone looking for a fantastical escape.
For Francophiles and bibliophiles ...
“The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George
Monsieur Perdu, proprietor of a floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, has a knack for prescribing the perfect book to address any hardship and heartbreak in life — except for his own. All that remains from the great love of his life is an unopened letter, and when he is finally persuaded to read it, he sets out to the south of France with a small but colorful band of travel companions on a journey of healing. “The Little Paris Bookshop” is a tribute to the power of books, perfect for anyone who loves them.
For laughter mixed with tears ...
“My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman
Elsa’s grandmother is eccentric and a bit ... off, but she is devoted to Elsa, 7, and loves her fiercely. And Elsa, who is an outsider and knows it, finds solace in her grandmother’s love and the stories she tells. When Elsa’s grandmother dies, she leaves behind a collection of apology letters to people she has wronged, which Elsa sets about delivering. This is a deeply satisfying read, not only because of Fredrik Backman’s unusual cast of characters, but also because of his ability to relay Elsa’s adventure of grief and discovery with great humor and compassion.
For a compelling beach read ...
“The Rocks” by Peter Nichols
Set against Mallorca’s beautiful Mediterranean coast, “The Rocks” opens with a tremendous and bitter argument between Lulu and Gerald, whose marriage ended tragically more than 50 years ago. As Peter Nichols moves backward in time, slowly unraveling the circumstances that led to this fracture, he simultaneously reveals a new Romeo and Juliet romance emerging between Lulu and Gerald’s unrelated children. This book of family, tragedy and mystery is a perfect summer page-turner.
For history buffs...
“Dead Wake” by Erik Larson
In “Dead Wake,” Erik Larson turns his gift for narrative nonfiction to the tragic sinking of the Lusitania, a luxury transatlantic ocean liner that sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, England, in the first year of World War I. Although the Lusitania’s captain, William Thomas Turner, believed in and relied upon traditional rules of warfare that exempted civilian ships from attack, Walther Schwieger, the German captain of Unterseeboot-20, did not. Larson tells the history of the Lusitania as it has never been told before, deftly placing the events in political and social context. This is a must-read for lovers of history.
For fans of memoirs and poetry ...
“Ordinary Light” by Tracy K. Smith
Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith is best known for her poetry, but in “Ordinary Light,” she applies her lyricism, insight and wit to telling her own life story. She is the Harvard-educated daughter of a devout stay-at-home mother and an engineer father whose familial and personal histories inform her poetry and are described with grace in this volume. A coming-of-age tale that grapples with faith, race and the bonds of family, “Ordinary Light” is a touching and beautifully written memoir about a brilliant young woman growing up in a loving, happy family.
For more than just a good laugh ...
“Sick in the Head” by Judd Apatow
Over more than 30 years, beginning with a job at his high school radio station and continuing to the present, Judd Apatow has interviewed an impressive array of comedians, including Mel Brooks, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, and Lena Dunham. In “Sick in the Head,” Apatow has collected the most impactful and revealing of these conversations in a collection that explores what motivates individuals who spend their lives trying to make other people laugh. This is more than a humorous book — although it is certainly that. It is an insightful examination of the comedic psyche.
For fans of historical biography ...
“The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough
David McCullough, a master historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, examines the lives of Wilbur and Orville Wright in “The Wright Brothers.” Drawing from a treasure trove of personal diaries, notebooks and private family correspondence, McCullough depicts the tale of these two brothers and their world-altering endeavors. This is not simply a depiction of what happened on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 1903; it is an examination of the Wright brothers’ family and upbringing. A wonderful summer read for history buffs.
And a few favorites that are well worth a re-read this summer:
“Ava’s Man” by Rick Bragg
“Ava’s Man” is the beautifully written biography of a southern family and its patriarch, the author’s grandfather. Authentic and moving, “Ava’s Man” is a biography that fiction and non-fiction readers alike will love.
“Anne of Green Gables” by L. M. Montgomery
Many of us read “Anne of Green Gables” as children and fell in love with Anne Shirley, the Cuthberts and their lives on Prince Edward Island. Although the story has come to be known as a children’s book, readers of any age will enjoy a trip back to a simpler time in Avonlea.
“Freakonomics” by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt
“Freakonomics” is readable and thought-provoking — and not just for those who enjoy books about economics. Now 10 years-old, it has redefined the genre. If you haven’t read it, you should, and if you have read it, consider a re-read this summer.
“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The definitive American classic, “The Great Gatsby” has captivated legions — and decades — of fans. Filled with decadence, obsession and danger, “Gatsby” is a quick read ... and well worth a second.
“Plainsong” by Kent Haruf
It’s the opposite of showy, but this novel of the Great Plains is as moving and evocative as they come. One of my all-time favorites, this one will stick with you long after “The End.”
All of these titles are available at Bookstore1Sarasota, 1359 Main St., Sarasota. Call 365-7900 for more information.
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