For those of us who are so inclined, one of the great pleasures of summer is carving out more time to read. I mostly choose my summer books for the enjoyment I hope they will bring, and save the classics, social issues, and anything related to self-improvement for what I still think of as the school year.
So far this summer I haven’t read as much as I would have liked, but I’m hoping our upcoming camping trip to Canada’s Maritime provinces will yield some reading time. At least we can count on listening to audiobooks during our long days of driving: Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris and The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson are first in the queue. On our last three-month camping trip, my husband and I listened to 10 audiobooks! This trip will be half as long, so we’ll see how many we get through.
Here are a few favorites I’ve read this summer:
These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett. If you like essays, I think you will enjoy this collection. I found her first essay, "Three Fathers," and the title essay the most powerful, but it was hard to choose! I savored each one. Previously my favorite work of Patchett’s was her memoir, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship, but this collection bumped that out of first place.
A Sunlit Weapon (Maisie Dobbs #17) by Jacqueline Winspear. If you haven’t met Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator, allow me to introduce you! The series begins post-World War I with Maisie, a battle-scarred nurse, setting up her own agency. I have read and loved each installment of this series. And if you like listening to audiobooks, these are terrific.
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline. This lovely rendering of the friendship between Christina Olson (of “Christina’s World” fame) and the painter Andrew Wyeth had me lingering over every page. And I don’t think it was just because I grew up looking at a print of “Christina’s World” on the dining room wall, or because I’m from Maine, or because I visited the Olson House in Cushing, Maine several years ago. Nope. It was just good storytelling!
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. I was late to this wonderful collection of stories, which was Lahiri’s first book. I find myself drawn to books by Indian authors (Manil Suri’s The Death of Vishnu, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, and Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us are a few favorites that come to mind), and this collection also satisfied. The stories are set in India and the United States, with tensions that arise both within and around the characters as they navigate the lifeways of each country.
I’ve also just finished reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different. Palahniuk is the author of Fight Club, which I have never read but want to after reading this book. His prose is bracing, like a slap or a slug of whiskey. I learned about the book from a podcast I enjoy listening to, Writer’s Routine. One author interviewed on the podcast said she kept this book on her desk for inspiration. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think I will follow her lead.
For our upcoming travels, here are some of the books I'm bringing with me (mostly on Kindle):
Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Bewilderment by Richard Powers
The Marmalade Diaries by Ben Aitken
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin
One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder by Brian Doyle
A proof of Sonya Huber’s upcoming book, Voice First: A Writer's Manifesto (stay tuned for a workshop opportunity with Sonya this fall!)
Will I get to them all? Probably not. But since my greatest fear is to be anywhere without something suitable to read, this cross-section of books should satisfy any mood. If not, I’m sure I will be seeking out an independent bookstore or two along the way!
What’s on your summer reading list? I'd love to hear.
P.S. If you’re interested in an enjoyable monthly e-newsletter about books, I recommend Shayne ’s Bookish News. Shayne Johnson is an occasional writing workshop member and the organizer of the Writer's Dozen Book Club. You can find her newsletter at shayne.substack.com.