Time for Summer Reading
Whether you are on the beach or by the pool, spending hours on an airplane or simply lazing on the couch enjoying the air conditioning, summer is meant for reading. Here are some of the favorite books I have read in the past year. What books do you recommend? Now I’m off to read the just-released Spring Fever, written by my old college buddy Kathy Trocheck, aka Mary Kay Andrews.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Habach. The best novels transport you into another world, where you come to know and care deeply about the inhabitants. That’s the case in The Art of Fielding. The world is Westish College, the main inhabitants are star shortstop Henry Skrimshander, his teammates and college president Guert Affenlight. Henry seems destined for the big league until he muffs a routine throw. The aftermath of that error upends not only Henry’s life, but the lives of those around him. If you love baseball you will love this story, named one of the five top books of 2011 by The New York Times. But even if you’re not a baseball fan, this tale of friendship, love, and redemption will make you want to stay at Westish College for a long time.Show More
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. The title is an apt description of what I felt as I read this wondrous, riveting book. State of Wonder is the story of Marina, a research pharmacist, who is sent to the Amazon to find out what happened to her fellow researcher who reportedly died there. Her other task is to find how much progress is being made on the secret drug being studied there. The tension of the story is enhanced by Patchett’s vivid description of life in the Amazon jungle. A warning – don’t read the anaconda scene before going to sleep.
Still Life by Louise Penny. This mystery series set in the mythical Canadian village of Three Pines is a cut above most I read. Elise McIntyre loaned me Still Life, the first in the series, and I was immediately hooked, reading all seven in a row. Each is better than the last. You should read them in order. Soon you’ll feel like the citizens of Three Pines and homicide inspector Armand Gamache are your friends. If you start now, you’ll be ready for the new volume that comes out in August.
Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani. Big Stone Gap is a small Virginia mountain town with a lot of big personalities. Chief among them is Ave Maria Mulligan, the town pharmacist and 35-year-old “spinster.” One day she suddenly discovers she is not who she always thought she was. The revealing of this secret changes everything and opens her up to a life she could never have imagined. If you become enamored of the town and people of Big Stone Gap you will also enjoy two sequels to this story, Big Cherry Holler and Milk Glass Moon.
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. “Quirky” is the word that first comes to mind as I try to describe this book. Caleb and Camille Fang put their work as performance artists above everything, including their children. Annie and Buster (Child A and Child B) are the unwilling stars of their parents’ work, and they cannot wait to escape. Years later, their lives in disarray, Annie and Buster reluctantly come home – only to be caught up in one last performance. Show More
Speaking Christian by Marcus Borg. This is a book about the importance of language, particularly for those who worship the Word made flesh. Borg argues that modern Christians are steeped in a language so distorted that it has become a stumbling block to faith. Borg sets out to reclaim Christianity’s important words (like mercy, righteousness, sin, and salvation), and set them free from the narrow interpretations given by Biblical literalists.
No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene. Not many books make me laugh out loud; this one did. Greene, who lives in Atlanta, tells the story of her family, four biological kids and five adopted from Bulgaria and Ethiopia, with humor and love. This is a book about what it means to be a family – the ups and downs, the hard times and the love that makes it all worthwhile.
Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott. The first book I ever read by Anne Lamott was the hilarious Operating Instructions, a journal of the first year of her son Sam’s life. Almost two decades later, Sam shocks her by announcing he is going to be a father. Some Assembly Required is a journal about the first year of Sam’s son Jax’ life. Lamott writes humorously and poignantly about what it means to be a grandmother, her changing relationship with Sam, and the love for the baby who has changed all their lives.
The Beloved Community by Charles Marsh. The subtitle of this book is “How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today.” At the end of the Montgomery bus boycott, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. declared that the goal was not simply the end of segregation. “The end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the beloved community.” Marsh examines how faith is central to the quest for social justice from the bus boycott to the establishment of Christian community in Americus to working for justice today.
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen. A new book by Anna Quindlen is a much-anticipated event for me. For years I got my Quindlen fix from her op-ed columns in The New York Times and Newsweek, where she always seemed to articulate what was on my mind about the events of the time. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, written as Quindlen approaches her 60th birthday, is a series of essays about the universal topics of our lives – marriage, friendship, parenting, faith, death, and all the stuff in our closets. I loved this book, and loved spending time with this friend I have never met.