Found: GOTG's 2013 Summer Reading List
We love nerding out on a good book year-round, but there’s something about summer and reading that seem to go hand-in-hand.
Mary Beth Barber
Room by Emma Donoghue – I picked up Room after it was referenced in an article about the awful news from Cleveland, where a man held three women captive for multiple years. The book is from the first-person perspective of a five-year old boy Jack, who was born in an 11×11 foot makeshift prison. Room was written years before the Cleveland kidnappings were revealed, but the parallels are uncanny. What makes this book so remarkable is how the author gets inside Jack’s head, and then shares his thoughts with the reader. As the mother of a two-year old, I found myself both repulsed by the situation and compelled to read on. It’s not a happy light summer read, especially for moms, and some may choose to NOT read Room because of the difficult subject matter. Multiple commenters on GoodReads discussed throwing the book, having to stop reading, not able to get Jack’s voice out of their head … even getting nauseous. All reactions I felt. BUT … if you like masterfully written fiction that touches on a deep level, check out Room.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I occasionally will read recommended Teen Lit for fun, a habit I started after my daughter was born and I couldn’t concentrate on any literature that was too heavy but was dying for distractions. One of my most recent reads was Code Name Verity, set during World War II in England, about two young women who are best friends. I should write “young women” in quotes, because in reality these are teenagers forced into adulthood before their time because of the war. And while the book is classified under Teen Lit, Code Name Verity has a certain sophistication that brings it closer to adult fiction, just as the two main characters are mature beyond their years. It’s a mix of spy novel, historical piece, and slice-of-life rolled into one — if a war zone could be considered an appropriate setting for a slice-of-life story. The book is both well researched and carefully crafted. Recommended read for a summer beach day.
Winter of the World by Ken Follett (historical fiction) – This is the second in a trilogy that follows the intersecting lives of several families (American, British, Russian, English and German) around the world during the 20th Century. I read the first book – Fall of Giants – last summer and couldn’t put it down. This trilogy is a must read for history nerds because Follett weaves real events and people (Normandy invasion, Los Alamos, Hitler, Truman, etc) into a novel that masterfully illustrates the contrasting politics and mindsets during specific time periods. Fall of Giants occurs during the Industrial Revolution and WWI while Winter of the World is focused on WWII, the atomic bomb and the start of the Cold War. Sometimes the character development is a bit trite, but you definitely walk away with a new understanding of the motivations and challenges people faced. The third and last book – Edge of Eternity – will be published in late 2014, and I can’t wait!
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kernan (nonfiction) – Another must read for history nerds! This book follows the mostly forgotten lives of the “ordinary” women who worked on the Manhattan Project – from the African-American janitor from Alabama to the secretary from Tennessee to the chemical engineer from upstate New York. Each chapter profiles a different woman – how they were hired, first impressions of Oak Ridge (a town that literally appeared overnight to house the Manhattan Project), getting adjusted to the job, life (especially dating) on the compound, etc. A few super interesting takeaways… Privacy was so strict that people disappeared on a daily basis (ok fired, this wasn’t Russia) for TMI-ing with locals or letters home. In fact, most women didn’t realize they were working on the atomic bomb until AFTER Truman dropped them. You gotta remember, this is before smart phones and Twitter. All they were told was that it was a “mission critical” project to help end the war and bring their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons home. The men in charge actually preferred to hire rural women because they were considered more trustworthy and hard-working. Extra bonus? My Great-Aunt Sarah was one of these women (secretary). I called my Granddad after the first 10 pages (it pulls you in quick!), and he confirmed that she never talked about her life in Oak Ridge and never discussed her role, not once. The book also goes into the larger history of the region, which I definitely appreciated considering it’s 20 miles from my hometown.
The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins – I’ve been wanting to join a book club for motivation so when my friend joked about having a two-person book club I replied ‘Want to make it three?’ Our first book is The Greatest Show on Earth. He’s written multiple books on evolution and this is his most recent. I’m only through Chapter 1 but so far he’s doing a stellar job at adequately preparing those who believe evolution is fact to argue their case, a perfect fit for me and his goal for the book.
The Wonderbread Summer by Jessica Blau – Excellent for a plane ride or to get ready for an anticipated adventure. It is young, slightly dangerous, naughty and full of adventure. It is what every girl shouldn’t do in college but secretly wishes they did in hindsight.
Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche – This is such a great read for those of us longing for the adventure of a lifetime. A young woman from Australia moves to San Francisco with the plan to return Down Under in no more than one year, only to meet a fascinating, handsome man at a bar, who somehow convinces her that her epic seasickness shouldn’t keep her from sailing around the world with him on his rickety old sailboat. DeRoche’s sharp whit makes this a great summer read that transports you to the islands of the South Pacific, while being brutally honest about the hardships and hilarious mishaps that take place on the way.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – While we all think we have a handle on happiness, sometimes a gentle reminder can be just what the doctor ordered to snap out of a “woe is me” funk. Rubin shares some great tips on how to not sweat the small stuff and look on the brighter side of our lives. I’ve definitely taken a step back in my own life to remember that I have so much to be happy about and the complaints that sometimes brew are not worth complaining about, in the grand scheme of things.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – This beautifully written story weaves back and forth between the main character Victoria Jones’ past and present. Based in the Bay Area, this story of a troubled young adult, recently emancipated from the foster care system, is heartbreaking yet unforgettable. After years in foster care, the only way she can truly communicate with others is through the Victorian language of flowers, something taught to her by a woman that almost adopted her years earlier. Through the language of flowers she has a second shot at happiness, which will have you rooting for the main character at the same time you can’t understand some of the decisions she’s making. This book is more than just a story about Victoria though – it sheds a light on many of the injustices in today’s foster care system – making it a very compelling read.
Drinking and Texting and other Brandi Blunders by Brandi Glanville – Yeah the real housewife of BH!! I guess I’m addicted to reading about people..lol, because the book I just finished and many of books in my past have been about different celebrities. I currently just finished Tweeting and drinking and other Brandi blunders by Brandi Glanville….yes one of the stars of the hit reality show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. at first I wasn’t too sure about buying this book,but something about her catches my attention, maybe it’s her craziness or pure honesty with NO filter. She talks a lot about her past with ex husband Eddie Cibrian who is now married to Leann Rimes. And believe it or not she is born and raised in Sacramento, and was discovered as a model in one of our local malls! This book definitely isn’t for everyone but if your in to celebrity gossip like me and wonder way she acts the way she does in the reality show this is the book for you!
Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg – Given that I am starting business school in the Fall, this book is on my summer reading list to help get me pumped to accept challenges and take big risks as I pursue my MBA. I expect to be a master at marrying professional achievement and personal fulfillment by the time I am done with this book…..ha!
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – I love a great piece of historical fiction, and Wolf Hall, the 2009 winner of the Man Booker Prize, seems to be right up my alley. The reign of Henry VIII is replete with juicy stories (hello, remember The Tudors!), so I am excited to see Hilary Mantel’s take on it. Hopefully I can finish this and then start in on Bring Up the Bodies, which is the next book in the series.
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller – My favorite book of last summer was Fuller’s Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, which told the amazing and heart-wrenching story of her mother’s life as an English settler in Africa. This book recounts Fuller’s childhood in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and I expect it to be just as compelling as Cocktail Hour.
Help, Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott – She has a knack for explaining the spiritual while remaining incredibly real and incredibly hilarious. This book covers why basically every prayer is some form of, “Help, thanks or wow.” As a bonus, read her essay in Salon about spending a year on Match.com. You won’t be sorry. I love her. For the beach reading anything by Jennifer Weiner. She’s funny and smart and the books are light without being overly saccharine.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed – I had been slogging through a couple books that just couldn’t hold my interest, so when I saw the cover of Wild, I was immediately intrigued. The back cover was all I needed to read to know that this story would be speaking directly to me. It’s her firsthand account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail back before it was trendy. In an attempt to straighten out her life and heal from the wounds of death, divorce, and drugs, Strayed takes to the trail as a lone, inexperienced hiker in search of solitude in nature. Her emotional and physical accounts of the trek keep me turning the page and I’m anxious to read what she will encounter next on the trail.
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver – I’ve always taken Barbara Kingsolver with me on travel adventures and she never disappoints. This summer, she’ll be coming with me on my way to Patagonia, Chile. The way she intertwines nature with the human spirit (and just the right amount of racy encounters) makes for a great airplane companion. The Lacuna, so far, is filled with emotional back story, grand descriptions of the world that the characters occupy, and lots of culture. Set in an exciting time for art, history, and the relationship between Mexico and the United States, it’s sure to be a moving and thrilling story!
Book Stores in Sacramento
- Beers Books, 915 S Street
- Time Tested Books, 1114 21st Street
- Book Collector, 1008 24th Street
- The Avid Reader, 1600 Broadway
- Underground Books, 2814 35th Street
- Barry Cassidy Rare Books, 2005 T Street