The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood

Find in catalogI love this book. In one sense, it’s about a book club. In a real sense, it’s about a woman adjusting to big changes in her world and her daughter going through hell in Paris. It’s a journey of self discovery for them both, as well as a tender examination of loss in its many forms.

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Find in catalogAt one point while reading this, I thought, “I wish just once Sophie Kinsella’s characters’ comic misunderstanding was actually a tragic reality, and instead of living happily ever after, they would get a divorce.” But, having read practically every one of her fluffy and formulaic (and sometimes quickly forgettable) books, I knew it was just a pipe dream. This time round, our story centers on Sylvie and Dan, who freak out when a doctor says they might have 68 years of marriage left. How to keep things fresh? They decide on project “surprise me,” not realizing the can of worms they have opened up. Even though in many ways the book follows the Kinsella formula, there are are some interesting mysteries and solutions and twists and turns. I enjoyed the focus on her relationship with her reality-challenged mom and her dead dad, although one aspect of the denouement frustrated me. I really loved all the details of the unconventional work practices at her nonprofit job. (Now that I think about it, work life plays a big part in Kinsella’s books). This was a fun enough read, but unlike some of her earlier books, it won’t be a re-read.

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjahlian

Find in catalogThe Flight Attendant of the title has had many blackouts after drinking, but none so bad as waking up next to a dead guy. Did she kill him? (That is answered in chapter 2, eliminating a great deal of suspense). Why was he killed? (I think I know, but I’m not entirely sure; there are potential real reasons and fake reasons, and I didn’t figure out which was which). There is some suspense, and a few surprises, and one twist that seemed obvious to me. The characters aren’t very likeable, but they are interesting (especially our self-destructive flight attendant, emphasis on flight [from the scene of the crime].) As in my Sleepwalker review, I had some quibbles with language (the author kept saying “love-making” where I would just say “sex,” especially when talking about a one-night stand). I also doubted authenticity from the first sentence: “She was aware first of the scent of the hotel shampoo.” After a while, she’s aware of the scent of sex. (At least it wasn’t the scent of “love-making”). But what she should smell above all else, right away, is blood, because she’s in bed with someone who’s drenched in it! Despite these annoyances, and despite the book not being super well-written, I was still hooked to see where it would end up. Dare I say it would make a good read for a long flight? It would!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Find in catalogThis book is so good! (and deep) (and sad) (and angry-making)

Teenager Starr Carter sees her unarmed (black, of course) friend Khalil shot and killed by a police officer. Everyone (the cops, the media, her community, make that communities: Starr lives in a poor black neighborhood but goes to school with rich white kids) has a different take on what happened, but only she really knows.

I couldn’t put it down; I kept wanting to know what would happen next with the many rich threads of the story. There’s a nice tension between the aftermath of the shooting and all its serious consequences, and the stuff of every day life, like high school romances and dances, and how Starr balances the two. “I should be used to my two wolds colliding, but I never know which Starr I should be. I can use some slang, but not too much slang, some attitude, but not too much attitude, so I’m not a “sassy black girl.” I have to watch what I say and how I say it, but I can’t sound “white.” Shit is exhausting.”

You get to know Starr, her family, her enemies, her friends, her neighbors, and they are all multi-layered and real–more fleshed out than in any other novels I’ve read this summer. (Granted, I’ve been reading a lot of trash. THUG (as the book is also known) is treasure.) Don’t be put off by the YA label. This is an amazing book for adults as well. (Tiniest, petty quibble–Starr witness? C’mon!)

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Find in catalogWilla Cather’s classic work is a richly rewarding and beautifully written piece of literature. This is the first book in her “Great Plains Trilogy,” which details the experiences of a collection of characters on the edge of the frontier of the American West. The land and the people (and in particular the heroine, Alexandra Bergson) are really dual main characters in this tale of bittersweet hope amid tremendous struggle. Be warned, however, that although this is the kind of book that requires some effort to begin, once you commit to it, you will become lost in an experience of viscerally connecting to the landscape and the people who worked it, and you will not want to be found.

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

Find in catalogThere are few things better than reading aloud and sharing a book with a kid. My 7-year-old son requested that I put “The Book with no Pictures” on hold so that we could read it together (he read it in his 2nd grade class last year). Naively I checked out the book at the library and read it on a road trip for my son, 2 daughters, and husband to listen to as well. I won’t spoil the fun, but by the end of the “story” my 3 kids were laughing hysterically and my husband was entertained too. The book lives up to its claim of containing no pictures, but kids will love the creative text that completely holds their attention and plays to their sense of humor. A fun and funny book to read aloud!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Find in catalogThis book was dreamy, stylized, and heartfelt. When I read it I felt that I experienced a magical and humanistic realm that expressed itself gently, despite some truly dramatic moments. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fiction and the veil of magic that intersects with our lives.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Find in catalogThe classic book, Lord of the Flies, tells a story about a group of English school boys stranded on a deserted island. While the boys initially enjoy their freedom, tensions soon break them apart. What seemed like an adventurous tale of boys becoming men quickly turns into a horrifying revelation of how quickly humans can become monsters.

While the book isn’t very long, it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Once I started I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend it!

The Last Summer by John Hough, Jr.

Find in catalogThe Last Summer, by John Hough, Jr. is the perfect book to read on a lazy summer day at the beach.

The love story is brilliantly told; it will remind you of the longing and the desperate chances we’ve all experienced. Told from many perspectives, this story effortlessly transports the reader to those times in life the define us.

Set in the 1960’s, the writer effortlessly transports his readers to that era, and lets them live daily life there, along with the characters in the book. The only way to truly travel in time is to remember. This book is proof.

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

Find in catalogA historical novel set in 1740s New York about a mysterious, adventurous, and naive young Englishman who shows up with a bill for a thousand pounds, causing consternation about how (and whether) to pay it to him, and what he would use such a sum for. The description of the time and place are fascinating, and though the writing is sometimes needlessly challenging in the early chapters, the story was fascinating enough to keep me hooked. The protagonist finds himself amid political factions and unattainable love interests that complicate his pursuit of his overall goal, a goal that he keeps carefully to himself.