I thought I’d been reading a lot this summer until I sat down to write this post. I suppose it’s a lot like eating vegetables – we all think we’re doing it more than we actually are. In retrospect I realize I’ve been flipping through a lot of magazines, art books, and garden porn, which is reading-ish, but which leaves me with precious little to write about here.
I’d like to attribute this lack of “sink-into-a-good-book” time to the kids being out of school for the summer, but I know that’s not the real cause. It’s the weather.
It’s been blazing hot and dry here for most of the summer. Which means no mosquitos. Which means I’ve spent my evenings outside on my back patio sipping wine and chatting with my husband (Not to worry, that's a few months' and dinner parties' worth of wine corks in the photo above. We've not had that much wine.) Which means I’ve not been inside scratching my bug bites and reading.
But the rain has returned over the last few weeks, and with it, the mosquitos (or the “Illinois state bird” as I like to call them.) In the meantime, here are a few books that I have enjoyed this summer.
For pure escapism, I give high marks to A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness. Witches, daemons, vampires, forbidden love, mystery, suspense, tragedy. This one has it all. I stayed up late reading it and look forward to doing the same with the next book in the series (there are three). Loved it.
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. As the middle of three sisters, I was attracted to Brown’s handling of the family dynamics of three sisters returning home while their mother is undergoing cancer treatments. While I’m happy to report that my sisters bear little resemblance to Brown’s characters, I enjoyed her exploration of the role of birth order in the characters’ personalities and life challenges as an adult. There were a few points where I didn’t like one or more characters very much, but then they would redeem themselves. Much like real people I suppose. My only complaint would be that the ending seemed a little abrupt. The temptation is to want everything resolved and tied with a pretty bow, but that doesn’t happen here. Again, much like real life. Which I suppose is the point.
My most recent read was The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant. This novel is based on Bondurant’s grandfather’s and great-uncles’ experiences as bootleggers in Southern Virginia in the 1930’s. I have to give the author credit – he doesn’t sugar-coat his family history here. Neither does he romanticize the bootlegger’s life or the hard-scrabble existence that gave rise to bootlegging. Life was hard, short, and brutal all the way around. I appreciate that Bondurant examines some of the social forces at play during this time as well. The experiences of returning World War I veterans, industrialization, the loss of skilled craftsmanship, and widely disparate income and education distribution were all introduced to fully develop the novel’s setting. I found that I needed to read this in relatively small bites – there was no powering through this one – mostly because some of the scenes could be violent. However, I also always wanted to pick it back up again.
On the bedside table now are Shadow of Night (second in Harkness’ All Souls trilogy), Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life by Frances Mayes, and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. I’m also working my way through Typepad for Dummies, so expect a few design changes around here once I finally get a handle on html.