10 (Good and Not So Good) Books I Read this Summer

“No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.”

 ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.

I love Greene’s writing, so it was no surprise to me that I enjoyed this book.  But I didn’t expect for it to leapfrog onto my top 20 favorite novels of all time.  Read on a rainy Saturday, I couldn’t put it down, and it stayed with me for days.  The human journey from unbelief to belief through the realization that you can’t be angry with a God who doesn’t exist is framed through the lens of a tortured love affair in London.  Read it, savor it, and keep it to read again.

 

American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar

This was a selection for our book club, and is Akhtar’s first novel, a coming-of-age story centered around a Pakistani immigrant family.  I felt the characters were fairly one-dimensional other than the narrator himself, but it was an easy read and an interesting look at an Islamic family assimilating into American culture.

 

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

This book was also a book club selection, several years ago, and I just now got around to reading it!  Bohjalian brings Daisy Buchannan and Jay Gatsby to life through the story of a young woman recovering from a severe trauma.  He weaves a fascinating plot, creates compelling characters, and gives an interesting twist to a classic American novel, all while documenting the life of a woman having a breakdown.  I highly recommend it.

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Not much to say that hasn’t been said.  The Double Bind made me pull this off the shelf and read it again.  Of course, it didn’t disappoint.  If you haven’t read it since high school or college, I recommend you do so at once.

 

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

I have no idea why I picked this book up and brought it home.  It just looked interesting, and I have to say, I really, really liked the stream of consciousness style.  Hilarious, cynical, innocent, sardonic, nauseating, clever, sad, and probably full of more truth than I want to believe.  Yes, it’s a war novel, and yes, there is a LOT of language, but that is what makes it real.  These guys are soldiers in their late teens and early twenties.  If they didn’t cuss, it wouldn’t be believable.  Read it and let me know what you think.

 

King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild

My friend Molly Rapert recommended this book to me, and although it is listed under summer, that is only because I finished it this summer.  It took me 4 months of reading it on and off with other things to finally come to the end.  It is a non-fiction account of the terrors of the Belgian Congo brought on by the deceptions and ambitions of King Leopold II of Belgium.  Well written, with descriptions that haunted me, I now see where Conrad was coming from with Heart of Darkness.  A difficult but necessary read.  Thanks, Molly.

 

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This has been on my shelf for 2 years waiting for me, and I grieved when it was over, forced to resurface into a world where Sister Mary Joseph Praise, Stone, Grosh, Hema, Shiva and Marion didn’t exist.  Beautifully written with characters who were uniquely flawed and individually heroic, it transports the reader from India to Ethiopia to New York City through a powerful story of loss, selfishness, sacrifice, love, betrayal, and redemption.  You have probably read it already, but if you haven’t, stop what you are doing and start.  You won’t regret it.

 

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

I took this older novel on vacation, because Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors, and his new book wasn’t out yet.  I had never been interested in reading this one but am so thankful I did.  It’s set in Vermont with memorable characters, a life changing event, ethical challenges, and is narrated by the teenage daughter who is now an adult.  Overall very good and recommended.

 

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie

This book exhausted me.  Both the reading of it, and the life this woman led.  Everytime I put it down, I was thankful to be an anonymous woman living in the 21st century.  I noticed a few editorial mistakes, and the lack of chronology made it a little frustrating at times, but I learned an enormous amount about Europe, Russia and Catherine that my history classes never touched on.  I found myself wanting more information about her relationship with her children, and the last section became my least favorite.  If you enjoy biographies, or have a special interest in royal courts and european monarchs, you should enjoy this book.

 

Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt

This book showed up in my mailbox last week, ordered by my husband.  I had never heard of it, and since he isn’t really a book lover, I was immediately interested in why he ordered it.  So I sat down and read it.  She gives a very readable account of the consequences of the sexual revolution as they have played out over the last 50 years backed up with empirical scientific evidence.  While I don’t agree with every point, it is very well written, well footnoted, and well reasoned, I hope it is also widely read and discussed.  Thank you, John, for ordering it.

 

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Have you ever read a Jess Walter book?  If not, you need to.  Beautiful Ruins has an entertaining, intricately woven plot with memorable characters, and great insight into human nature without being preachy.  I just finished Beautiful Ruins this afternoon, thoroughly enjoyed it,and highly recommend you read it.

 

As usual, I bought more books than I had time to read, so I have a nice stack waiting to be read!

What have you read this summer?  I would love your suggestions.

3 thoughts on “10 (Good and Not So Good) Books I Read this Summer

  1. Molly Rapert

    Stacy – I loved reading your take on these books, particularly Cutting for Stone. As you know, in the summer I love pouring into Africa books and Cutting for Stone is one of my very favorites. But I have trouble describing it to people. Your words describe it perfectly. Verghese captures the peacefulness of Ethiopians so well in that novel. I’m glad you didn’t give up on King Leopold’s Ghost. It’s an important part of history that is completely absent from what is taught in schools. Last but not least, your quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning should be taken as an omen – do you know that when her parents forbid her to marry Robert Browning, E & R chose to elope? They picked the most beautiful of towns in which to live, tucked away in the foothills of the Dolomites … Asolo, Italy. I think you need to visit in person, say sometime in the months of May or June. You just might have a place to stay.

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Molly, your recommendations always become favorites. How romanitic about Elizabeth and Robert Browning! And it would be a perfect place to spend a week in May, come to think of it. :)

      Reply

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