Book Picks: Summer reads

summer reading collage2We’ve just about made it through the mad dash of May with all of its celebrations, graduations, and other endings. My first baby graduated preschool (hold me) and I passed the torch of MOPS leadership on to a new group of fantastic women. I’m so ready for the slower, less structured days of summer, and I think they are finally here! Summer reading seems like a given, with long days made for lounging by the pool or stretched out on a lawn chair while the kiddos get filthy explore nature in the backyard.

It seems like every blogger I follow has posted a list of recommended summer reading (apparently I follow mostly bookish writers) but most are awfully full of thrillers/dark suspense novels, and that’s just not my cup of tea. My book taste leans more toward sympathetic characters and happy endings, and I want my summer reading to be especially lighthearted and frothy. No hopeless tragedies, war-torn narratives, or deep-dives into human depravity thank you very much. Let’s keep it light people. If you have similar summer reading requirements, let me point you to the following lovely stories:

How the Light Gets In by Louise Pennysummerreads1This is not the first book from Penny’s Inspector Gamache series that I’ve mentioned on the blog, but it is by far my favorite. It starts out pretty bleak, with our hero alienated from most of those closest to him, and takes you on a page-turning, twisty ride with huge stakes, both personal and global, riding on Gamache solving the mystery and triumphing over his adversaries. It finally brings to a head the corruption that has been hinted at throughout the rest of the series, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more satisfying ending. I absolutely loved it. This is the tenth book in the series, and I do recommend you read them in order to fully understand the complexity of the mystery and the characters, so if you are looking for a whole series to binge this summer this one is perfect.

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculiasummerreads2This book is part closed-room mystery, part creepy ghost tale, and part coming of age story. It’s set in an aging resort in the Catskills mountains during the annual statewide high school music competition. It reads like a YA novel, but I think the themes are much more adult. The author does a masterful job of weaving the backstories of her multiple characters together with a decades-old murder/suicide and a present day disappearance. It reminded me a bit of The Westing Game (probably my all-time favorite book that I taught to my seventh graders) but is much darker and twistier. This book requires a few disclaimers. One of the main characters is struggling with his sexuality (he’s trying to find the right time to come out to his twin sister that he is gay) and the other characters make some questionable moral choices. But those issues aside I could not put this down, and the ending was tied up nicely in a neat and satisfying bow. Bonus, it’s set during a blizzard, which would make a great escape during the dog days of summer.

At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenridersummerreads3This book is perfect for those of us who would love to travel the world, but without the cost and inconvenience. I recently discovered how much I love a good memoir, and this may be one of my favorites. I bought it on a kindle sale but I’m seriously thinking about buying the hardback edition so I can loan it out (plus the cover is just so pretty). The premise is unlike any other travel memoir I’ve ever heard of. Tsh and her husband Kyle take a trip around the world for nine months, bringing their three young kids with them. It’s roughly broken up into sections by continent, and each chapter reads kind of like a vignette, which makes it a great book to read in bits and pieces (which is how I do most of my reading these days). Tsh does an incredible job painting a full picture of what it is like to visit a different culture. She gives all the details, sharing the beauty, the ugly, the boring, and the just plain strange. You feel like you are right there with her. I loved this book so much, and while it didn’t make me want to immediately jump on a plane with my girls and head for parts unknown, it did help scratch my own travel itch and prompt me to start making some long-term travel dreams of my own.

The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family by Patrick Lencionisummerreads4My husband read this book months ago and asked me to read it too so we could talk about it. I’m ashamed to say I just now picked it up, but I think the timing was perfect. I didn’t think it would apply to us since we work pretty hard to keep the pace of our family life slow, but with kindergarten just one short summer away (hold me again) I can see how easily life might turn into a runaway train without us even realizing it. This book is non-fiction but written as an allegory about a fictional family learning how to manage their hectic and stressful home life. It uses a bunch of business principles that meant nothing to me, just like the wife in the book, but that made perfect sense once I saw the strategy fleshed out. I could write a whole blog post about these principles (and probably will once Chris and I have had a chance to talk through applying them to our family) but I think every family could benefit from this advice. It takes a family mission statement, core values, and priorities from theoretical to absolutely practical and shows you how to implement this strategy today. If you have ever felt overwhelmed and helpless at the thought of scaling back on your family’s level of busyness, pick up this book. You won’t regret it.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgansummerreads5I’d read another book by Colgan, Little Beach Street Bakery, and been underwhelmed, so I hesitated to pick this one up. But I found it on the “new books” shelf at the library and decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did. The premise is right up my alley. Nina, a quiet, dreamy English librarian has her world turned upside down when the library branch where she works closes and she is forced to find a new job. With great trepidation she decides to try to fulfill her dream of owning a bookshop, mostly because she has so many books in her personal collection her roommate is threatening eviction. I don’t want to give too much away, but through a delightfully unexpected set of circumstances she ends up with a bookmobile in Scotland. This is a perfect story of what it means to reinvent yourself, to try something new, to take a risk and see it change your whole life for the better. Colgan writes wonderfully quirky characters and stays light while keeping the narrative interesting and moving forward. Those are all components of a perfect summer read if you ask me. I haven’t quite finished it yet so I can’t vouch for a satisfying ending, but I have high hopes. As an added plus this one fulfills my MMD reading challenge category for “a book about books and reading.” Winning.

Your turn! What perfect beach read do you have in your bag this summer? I’d love to add it to my TBR list.


5 thoughts on “Book Picks: Summer reads

  1. A Gentle Rain, Deborah Smith
    The Gilded Hour, Sara Donati (plus her entire Wilderness series)
    The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
    It Started with Dracula, The Count, My Mother and Me, Jane Congdon (travelogue and memoir skillfully interwoven, written by my college friend)

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