Our Favorites from the Presentation to the Unruly Book Group
In case you couldn’t make it down to the store this last Wednesday night, here’s a recap of Jude and Rosie’s favorite books for the summer. Thanks to the sponsorship of the Unruly Book Group, we make a book-a-minute presentations of what to keep in mind for all your reading needs. We’ve got a full list of the titles in the store but here’s our top choices.
We did things a little differently this year, dividing up our titles into books that would make great vacation or beach reading and books that are more thought provoking, whether you read it on your own or with a book group.
For summer reading fiction, Jude especially loves Aminatta Forna’s book Happiness and Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer win Less. Happiness, which is in hardcover, is the story of an encounter between a scientist studying London’s urban fox population and a leading expert on trauma and PTSD, particularly genocides in Africa. It’s a wonderfully written book and will be a great book to dip in and out of throughout your summer. Less is a laugh out loud funny read--if you can get your hands on it, buy it right away, since everyone and their mother has been gobbling it up. In order to avoid an ex-lover’s wedding, a novelist decides to accept every speaking engagement he possibly can, sending himself on a trip around the world.
Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje is our top pick for discussion fiction. Set in London in 1945, two siblings are left in the care of a family friend: a man named Moth that they are convinced is a criminal. As Jude said, just read this one already! Lincoln in the Bardo is now in paperback and is a great book club pick. This Man Booker prize winning book combines historical detail with a unique and thought provoking play structure.
For thought provoking young adult reads, Rosie recommends The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert. The Hazel Wood is very like reading Angela Carter: just as brutal, but without the sex. Alice’s grandmother, a reclusive author of a collection of reimagined fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, which draws Alice and her mother back into the dark world of the Hazel Wood. For a lighter summer read, there’s Nothing Happened, a modern take on Much Ado About Nothing set at a summer camp. There’s many nods to the play, of course, but the modern take (including an epic battle of capture the flag) is easy to read without having read the Shakespeare.
Nonfiction reads for the summer include Feather Thief, by Kirk Wallace Johnson and I Am I Am I Am, by Maggie O’Farrell. Feather Thief is a great example of narrative nonfiction that reads like a novel. It starts with a thief stuffing rare bird skins into his bag and covers ground from the first birds of paradise to be brought to Europe to the controversy over feather decorations. I Am I Am I Am is a memoir, written specially for O’Farrell’s daughter, depicting all the close brushes with death in her life.
For discussion books Last Hope Island by Lynne Olson and A Grace Paley Reader are both in paperback. Olson’s narrative nonfiction gives you stories of Britain in WWII that you may never have heard, such as the foundations of resistance bases from occupied countries. And if you’ve never heard of the unsung working class writer Grace Paley, here’s the place to start: this is a collection of stories, essays, and poetry spanning through her career.
Father’s Day is just around the corner and June is wedding season so we’ve got plenty of great cookbooks and gifts. Rosie loves Just Cook It. In fact, since she bought it at the beginning of May, it’s been the only cookbook in use at her house. Featuring a down-to-earth attitude towards cooking and an encouraging tone throughout, this will be a great book for cooks that know the basics, but want to learn more without breaking the bank or taking up too much time. Rosie particularly recommends the ravioli lasagna and farro black bean chili. And for a gift that’s fun, sweet, and just a little out of the box, Jude recommends Panda Love. Panda babies that are being raised to be released into the wild are cute to begin with...but when you see the panda suits their caretakers must wear, the cuteness factor goes way up. A great gift for an animal lover in need of a laugh.
As for picture books, we can’t help but to suggest you come on down and read them! We love Sebastian Meschenmoser’s It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel, a lovely read-aloud about Mr. Squirrel’s attempt to help his hedgehog friend find true love. We also love El Chupacabras, Adam Rubin and Crash McCreery’s bilingual laugh out loud story about a town dealing with the titular goat-sucking monster.
For middle readers, Rosie recommends Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes. This isn’t an easy read, but something that families would benefit from reading and discussing together. A twelve year old black boy in Chicago who was playing with a toy gun is shot by a white police officer. Jerome becomes a ghost and meets the ghost of Emmett Till and the daughter of the policeman who shot him. This is a book like Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars: a difficult topic told in story form that teaches kids about the harder parts of our lives. On a lighter note, Rosie also recommends Rick Riordan Presents, a new imprint that features middle grade books about non-western mythology written by non-western authors. The first book, which is out now, is Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi. This one features a Indian-American middle schooler who is called upon to save the world. Keep an eye out for the Mayan mythological retelling coming this fall and the Korean one this winter.
Don’t forget that everyone at Readers’ loves to give recommendations of all kinds! We’re here all summer for all your bookish needs.