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Summer reading…

June 6, 2011
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Fragonard’s The Reader, via Wikipedia

This is a slightly off-topic post, but I thought I’d see if anyone can help. Can anyone recommend any amazing books for light summer reading? In general, I’m looking for…

  • something well written (because my day job involves editing other people’s writing I get irrationally annoyed by badly written books)
  • an interesting setting/world that takes me somewhere different.
  • a little glamour (I am partial to fashion interest in a book, but the book can’t just be a peg to hang descriptions of clothes on…)
  • a satisfying plot.
  • strong female characters who are not victims or whose sole aim is the search for Mr. Right.
  • something inspiring
  • something that isn’t every other book I’ve read before.
  • fun- not necessarily a literary masterwork

Not that I’m picky or anything :)

Recently I’ve had a spell of being disappointed by books- even ones by respected authors which have had great press and rave reviews. Some of these are books I’ve bought and know I’ll never read again, and have redistributed. (Which is rare for me- I like to keep and treasure books, in general.)

So I guess what I’d love is your suggestions for something surprising, entertaining and ABSOLUTELY NOT REDISTRIBUTABLE.

What makes a book a keeper? I’m not sure. But I would love your thoughts on what keeps a book on your bookshelf, and I’d very very grateful for any suggestions for books in the comments. Also, how’s about a quick poll (you can choose more than one option, or add your own):

A Woman Reading, by Monet, via Wikipaintings

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Sioux Cassini permalink
    June 6, 2011 12:35 pm

    I concur, there is nothing more essential than a good summer read! Ever since I was 15 and saved my own money to buy ZELDA in hardcover, I have chosen carefully and bought one every summer. I like reading biographies of complex and interesting people. I seldom read fiction anymore, however there are a few I enjoyed for various reasons. One in particular had a style of writing I had never encountered before but it enchanted my intellect so deeply that I will suggest it to you. If you haven’t already, I would suggest, ‘WICKED’ to read. It was out a few years and there’s even a sequal about the wicked witch on OZ. ;~D Alice Sioux

  2. June 6, 2011 12:59 pm

    Lovely images..
    I am recommending
    Half a Yellow Sun, by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie

    not exactly fun but well worth reading (set in Biafra)

  3. Lauren permalink
    June 6, 2011 2:46 pm

    I’m not sure if these hit all your criteria, but they might be worth checking out for summer reading. I’m not an editor by any stretch of the imagination, but I do consider myself a somewhat picky reader.

    I’m in the middle of Steven Tyler’s book right now (65% according to Kindle) and that has been a unique but very pleasurable mind trip. I’m generally not fond of stream of consciousness and he uses a fair number of words and expressions that don’t exist along with some creative punctuation, but he’s really making it work for me. I hadn’t expected him to be as deep, honest or classically trained as he is. Worth a read for sure, but maybe not a forever bookshelf resident. Possibly offensive as far as women go- he is a rock star after all- but he also has a unique sort of regard for women so maybe not. He is convinced that God is a woman and cherishes women as the stronger and more admiral sex. It is hard to explain. He does make me want to listen to music more thoroughly, it is almost like taking a side course in rock appreciation.

    Another author that hits more of your requests for me is Wilbur Smith. I’m fond of his Courtney books which are historical fiction that take place on the high seas in the very beginning and take you through the settlement of South Africa and beyond. His female characters are definitely strong- some worth emulating and some not, but all very strong and in my humble opinion well written. I find that I get nervous if I get close to the end of a book in this series if I don’t have the next already in my hot little hands because I’m always dying for more. Smith’s writing may not necessarily qualify for high literary perfection, but sometimes I find myself thinking I had met someone and realizing it was one of his characters- his creations easily come that alive for me. I am on my second pass through the Courtney series after having read the offshoot Ballantyne series as well. I don’t recommend his standalone novels nearly as highly. You can start with “When the Lion Feeds” which was written first, or “Birds of Prey” which was written significantly later but is part of a trio of prequels. The fashions aren’t necessarily a major point in these books, but they’re definitely not left by the wayside either.

  4. Lauren permalink
    June 6, 2011 3:21 pm

    Admirable sex, not admiral, ha!

  5. Matilda permalink
    June 6, 2011 3:21 pm

    Well, first of all I always tend to reccomend anything by Neil Gaiman, I tihnk he’s a marvellous writer and he can really transport you to that other world.
    Apart from that… I’ve been reading to little recently, but one book that managed to hook me was Falling Angels, by Tracy Chevalier, it’s beautiful and sad and real.

  6. Sid permalink
    June 6, 2011 3:35 pm

    The Patron St. of Liars, and Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett; The Forest Lover, by Susan Vreeland; anything by Kate Atkinson; The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, by Louise Erdrich; The Passionate Nomad-The Life of Freya Stark, by Jane Fletcher Geniesse; anything by Alice Monro; Up Above the World, by Paul Bowles; Unless, by Carol Sheilds; Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi; True North and Dalva, by Jim Harrison. Well, those are a few of my favorite things, just the tip of the iceberg, really, and of course, all those Scandinavian mysteries(although the tatoo girl series isn’t my favorite-a lot like Harry Potter-I will just watch the movies!) Being in book group with a very diverse group of readers has helped me branch out and read books I might not have chosen, and I have really enjoyed it. Have a good reading summer!

  7. June 6, 2011 5:45 pm

    I would like to recommend the Sarantine Mosaic duology– “Sailing to Sarantium” and “Lord of Emperors” –by Guy Gavriel Kay set in a kind of alternate-history Byzantium. I devoured both of them in three days and I kind of ache because that’s all he wrote about those characters. He has a way of showing how his characters see the world that really drives home their different understandings of life. The duology captures the visual of a wealthy, thriving city and I could practically see the colors as he describes them. On top of this, his main character is utterly likeable and relatable, and the side characters all feel fully fleshed and developed. Absolutely stunning.

    The other I would recommend is “Mistress of the Art of Death” by Ariana Franklin. It’s essentially a medieval murder mystery but instead of a Brother Cadfael, we have a female doctor solving the case. I have heard that subsequent books aren’t as strong but the first one was excellent, if downright terrifying at times. (Take that with a grain of salt–I’m brave but only compared to a bunny!)

  8. Lee Ann permalink
    June 7, 2011 2:25 am

    Women and Other Animals, Q Road, and American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

  9. glassoffashion permalink
    June 7, 2011 10:20 am

    Oh My Goodness. Wow. What a lot of wide-ranging suggestions! Which should keep me going for the next three years, let alone the summer :) Thanks so much, all of you- I really appreciate your thoughts. And I’m intrigued to see that Plot is winning in the poll….!

  10. Nathalie permalink
    June 7, 2011 5:22 pm

    Difficult to know what you’ve read, so I can only recommend some of my favourites from past years – Carol Shields’ Stone Diaries; What’s Bred in the Bone – Robertson Davies; Lempriere’s Dictionary – Lawrence Norfolk; Louis de Bernieres’ Latin American trilogy; if you like a bit of grisly crime fiction, Philip Kerr’s original Berlin Noir ‘Bernie Gunther’ trilogy (not the more recent ones, in which he’s coasting by comparison); Harlan Coban always spins a good yarn (except for his recently (re)published very first novel, which you might want to skip); haven’t seen the film but loved Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife (her recent London-based one not at all however); thoroughly enjoyed all the early Kate Atkinsons, am still to read her more recent ones (I never have time to read books anymore!)… Anything by Bruce Chatwin… For my own (light) summer reading I’ve got Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day which sounds like it might tick a few of your boxes (and comes in a beautiful edition from Persephone books)…

  11. Rebecca permalink
    June 17, 2011 8:47 pm

    When I focus too much on the details, I get bogged down, so here are my recs for well-written, keepable books:
    Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams (her best, hands down)
    Haven Kimmel’s Something Rising, Light and Swift, and its sequel/her other book whose name escapes me
    Kent Haruf’s Homeland and . .. um. . . his second one that’s a sequel.
    Ngaio Marsh’s mysteries
    and right now I am getting a huge kick out of Portis’s True Grit, but it’s a weird little story.

    Best of luck!

    • glassoffashion permalink
      June 21, 2011 2:36 pm

      Ooh, thanks for jogging my memory about a great author! I love Barbara Kingsolver- esp. The Poisonwood Bible (definitely a keeper!) and High Tide in Tucson. I haven’t read Animal Dreams though- will definitely add that to my ever-growing list!

  12. June 19, 2011 10:37 am

    I really enjoyed The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber – interesting female characters, great writing, cracking plot, but it is about a prostitute in Victorian London, so perhaps not inspiring? Very very readable without being fluffy at all.

    • glassoffashion permalink
      June 21, 2011 2:33 pm

      Ah, interesting you should suggest that… I haven’t read the book, but I was totally enthralled by the TV adaptation that was on fairly recently: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00zxc4d I don’t know if it aired anywhere else but the UK- but it’s definitely worth watching if you can find it…

  13. Sarah permalink
    June 8, 2014 1:50 pm

    Hmm, have you read Fabulous Nobodies by Lee Tulloch? I’m not sure it meets the “inspiring” criterion, but I could check off all the others from when I first read it 15 years ago. And it’s still on my bookshelf.

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