Category Archives: summer reading

Summer Reading List & Notes

Each June I marvel at the fact that I have a job that affords me the opportunity to end a cycle, refresh my mind, and freshly begin again in September.  One of the ways that my mind refreshes itself the most is through getting lost in reading and being outside, so each June I revel in the creation of my summer reading list.  My last day of school is June 20th, as I’m taking a day off to travel for a wedding shower in the great state of Ohio, and I’m participating in 2 of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Projects summer institutes, which will end on July 5.  Technically my days of freedom start July 6th, but it does take over an hour to commute up to Teachers College, so I plan on getting lots of reading done that way, too.  After that, you’ll find me in the park.  
Reading conclusions of summers past can be found here, if you’re looking for books I’ve already written about.  Or, feel free to join me in reading some of the books below.  Outside of my book club, these are unintentionally overwhelmingly female and modern.  Also, as a note, I decided that for summer reading, I could take a break from my New Years Reading Resolution, and could purchase new books.  
Southwest Ohio Ex-pat Former English Majors Summer Book Club
Two of my great friends from home and I decided to read together this summer.  We each picked a different book for a different month of summer

June: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
July: Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
August: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon
These come from the on-going list I keep on my phone from whenever I am wandering through a bookstore, a habit I highly recommend for those times when you have no idea what to read next or in an attempt to curb an out-of-control book buying habit 🙂

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler (I’ve been on “Lost Generation” reading kick lately)
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (from an imprint that brought me Elegance of a Hedgehog and A Novel Bookstore)
Mystery Books for my August Travels (& an e-book trial run): 
There is something wonderful about having a mystery read while stuck in airports or when flying across the Atlantic (!).  I am also trying something new with these titles and borrowing my fiancee’s e-reader in my first-ever attempt to not add 15 pounds of books to my suitcase weight.  I will probably add my August book club choice on it as well.  It’s best to travel prepared, you know? I’ll write more about my e-book experience upon return, as it’s bound to be a bit hard for this lover of turning paper pages.  I’m also trying to encourage public library e-book check out with my students in the fall, so I need to be able to speak knowledgeably by then!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Stone Cutter by Camilla Lackburg
Though I’m generally heavy on the fiction, I like to mix it up and I’m pretty excited about all of these

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan (Lately I can’t get enough of history)
When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson (the description of this book of essays sounds perfect)
The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (because I adore her)
Young Adult (this could be a bit ambitious, but that’s a good way to plan for reading, right?)
I try to stay somewhat informed about what my students are reading, be full of recommendations, and be knowledgeable about the young adult literature world.  This summer’s stack has the widest variety ever, from 50 Cent’s novel to a transgender protagonist, to nonfiction picture books and collections about people who helped change and shape the world.  The only one missing is Wonder by R.J. Palacio, because I may have already pulled it from the stack and started it! 

Happy Summer Reading!!

Summer Reading Recap…in late September.

It seems like every year I have a month where my blog gets away from me.  This year it lasted for two.
August was spent working on another writing project, spending time with some favorites in North Carolina and East Hampton. My family drove in to celebrate my grandpa’s 85th birthday and we got to go to the beach and wander the city.  I got to catch up with some favorite former students who just left for college, five years after I knew them as 7th and 8th graders. September was school starting celebrating the shower and nuptials of a kindred spirit for a few weekends and attempting to get some normal rhythms back in my life.  Now it’s almost October.  Happy fall reading, y’all. May you have many afternoons spent with a hot beverage and a good book.

A few of these books I wrote about in July and I’m hoping I’ll write about all of them someday.  I feel like I’m not giving these books their due, but for now, here is this year’s list (and here are the ones from summers past):

A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears: a fascinating historical fiction mystery with the backdrop of the beginning of world financial markets

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson: a coming of age in the straight edge culture of the Lower East Side of New York City in the 1980s

Broken Colors by Michele Zackheim: the fictional account of an artist dealing with her brokenness across the two world wars into near-present in England, Italy, Paris and the American southwest

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (as always)
Love and Death by Max Wallace and Ian Halperin: two journalists look into the death of Kurt Cobain. A great read for anyone who misses the 90s or is looking for a reason to revisit Nirvana and Hole.

Broken Harbor by Tana French: her 4th book based on the Dublin Murder Squad. I loved her other books, but this one was a bit disappointing

Off-the-list summer reading

Best book to stretch out over each morning’s coffee while on vacation: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

I’ve read this book every summer at my parent’s house since I discovered it in 2008, and I’ve written about it almost every year and it has landed on my Top Ten books of the year a few times.  I’ve always found it to be a book about safety: not the bike helmet or seatbelt kind of safety, but the kind where everything in life feels like it is in the perfect place: that all things good are protected for a few moments.  This time around, I started the book on our porch in Louisville while my mom was making breakfast, my dad was reading the paper and my brother was on his way down.  We kept door open to let the air in, everything was in the right place and I wanted to freeze it.

Best book to read when your hour and a half direct flight becomes a 9 hour traveling day:

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

My cousin has been raving about this book every time I’ve seen her the past few months, saying that it was funnier than Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. I was doubtful, but since those two books were so great, I was pretty excited to read it.  Luckily, the last person she lent it to gave it back just in time for her to hop a plane to visit my family in Louisville.  I’ve been reading a book that is much more dense than I anticipated, so I didn’t think I’d be able to get to this one for about a week.

Then, on the way to the airport to head back to New York, we got emails and at least 3 automated phone calls that our flight had been cancelled.  So, because air travel is frustrating and we were now looking at a layover in Atlanta (which we barely made), I decided I needed something to keep me entertained and laughing.  It worked.  I had 40 pages to go the next morning, so I took it to the back garden at Park Slope’s Starbucks.  Interestingly, it wasn’t quite the same vibe as the outdoor space at my parents’ house.

a kindred article on reading from the NYT.

{Julia Kuo for the NYT, 7/30/11}

In my morning internet reading, I ran across a link to an opinion piece from last summer in the New York Times called Reading and its Rewards.  The author, Maile Meloy, writes about the summer she was ten and her dad decided that before she could have a ten speed bicycle she needed to read ten novels more serious than her diet of Trixie Belden and Archie comics and write about each one.  She did it, returned for a while to the stellar books written for kids like Narnia and The Westing Game and Madeleine L’Engle and then moved on, on her own accord, back to more challenging titles.

I completely related to the idea of reading toward a goal.  My childhood summers were spent picking out books at the library, carting home a big bag and then getting my summer reading map stamped by the librarian upon return, working towards the small prizes that the Centerville Public Library had cooked up for us right before school started.  As the type A person that I was, watching my card fill up with stamps was incredibly gratifying. Ha. My hometown library still sponsors this program, which I love.

Meloy’s piece also got me reminiscing about other reading traditions I had growing up: it was household rule for my brother and I to read for at least a half an hour before we went to bed.  This requirement soon became a part of our daily rhythms and we both still read every night to this day.  And, especially in line with my thoughts about the book A Short History of Women, I love that my best book recommendations come from family members: cousins, aunts, my mom, my brother.  Reading is one of the best ways to bring people together.  

And, of course I loved her descriptions of the bicycle that eventually accompanied her adventures.  Her article was not just about reading, but about growing up.  It is worth reading, if you, too grew up as a reader.  All that to say, I would love to hear about other people’s reading habits: do you have a summer reading list each year? What kinds of books did you read when you were younger? Did your library have a similar summer reading program? These are the kinds of rhythms I can only hope my students either keep or eventually rediscover.

summer reading is almost here! or, an abundance of links and recommendations to help you craft your own summer reading list.

Officially summer starts June 20 though people have been in summer mode since Memorial Day, but mine starts June 28th.  Mt first day off school.  I love my job for a lot of reasons, but especially for the glorious time to get lost in a crazy amount of books for 8 weeks every year.  Last year my book club committed to a tiny type 1,000+ page book which was great, but consumed my summer reading life, so this year I’m looking forward to more freedom. The end of the school year is also always so hectic, so I am looking forward to thinking a bit more deeply in the coming months, which was an upside to last summer.  Here’s the list so far, but I’m still soliciting recommendations and leaving some room for spontaneous decisions, obviously.

From my ongoing book list
{summer reading start}

I have been compiling a list on my phone of book titles I come across browsing in my favorite bookstores, in magazines and on blogs that sound compelling.  On Sunday I walked over to my favorite bookstore in Brooklyn, Greenlight, and went through the list and picked out the four that made me the most excited to get started with the reading plan:

1. A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert: this has been on my mental list for years and chronicles the story of five generations of women and studies the relationship of mothers and daughters.

2. Broken Colors by Michele Zackheim: from one of my favorite imprints, Europa (see The Elegance of the Hedgehog and A Novel Bookstore), this story is written up as lyrically beautiful and historically set, two of my favorite kinds of books.  It follows a woman’s life through her artistic passions.

3. Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears: a highly recommended mystery set in London, Paris and Venice, told backward in time from 1909 to 1867.

4. Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy:  three characters’ paths cross one summer in Athens

Young Adult

{young adult non fiction}

Of course, I have a few titles I want to read for the youth.  This summer, I’m trying to focus on some of the new non fiction I have in my classroom that I’m hoping to use in book clubs in the fall.  These titles range from a graphic novel version of the 9/11 report to one about Charles Darwin and his wife.  Sometimes I get a little leery of reading too much young adult fiction in the summertime, but I’m excited for what these titles could do for kids as readers.  Initially I hoped to be done with all of them by the end of June, but I think that’s a bit lofty of a goal. Ha.

Recommendations and Rereads

Geek Love and Ender’s Game from Nikki
reread Danny, the Champion of the World from Jenna
I always reread The Summer Book  
So, I’ll be writing along the way from Brooklyn, Louisville and the Hamptons this year, with an overview in September.  If you want to read along, let me know, because I am always up for book talks:)