10 Great Books to Read this Summer

Cat

Summertime is that wonderful season when everything slows down just a tad. It’s when all the bookworms come out of the woodwork –– to grab that enticing novel, inspiring non-fiction or juicy biography that they finally have the time to read. Work attire is hurriedly replaced by t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops.  And with tall, ice-cold glasses of their favorite libation, they curl up comfortably and begin their summer reads.

These are my (heatherfromthegrove) top picks – all sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be read. I just poured myself a glass of white wine and grabbed a book I’ve been dying to read: And the Weak Suffer What They Must? – by Yanis Varoufakis. Now, off to my comfy chair on the patio…

Enjoy!

– Heather

(PS – Hover your mouse over the book titles and authors’ names to get the link to the Amazon and Author’s Bio URLs)

FICTION

1birdssky300

 1. All the Birds in the Sky – by Charlie Jane Anders

“Patricia is a witch who can communicate with animals. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird, but their lives take different paths…When they meet again as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world-and live up to his reputation-in near-future San Francisco. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, working hard to prove herself to her fellow magicians and secretly repair the earth’s ever growing ailments.As they attempt to save our future, Laurence and Patricia’s shared past pulls them back together. And though they come from different worlds, when they collide, the witch and the scientist will discover that maybe they understand each other better than anyone.”

ManNoShadowJCO_Proper-thumb-300x453-418703

 2. The Man Without a Shadow – by Joyce Carol Oates

“In 1965, neuroscientist Margot Sharpe meets the attractive, charismatic Elihu Hoopes—the “man without a shadow”—whose devastated memory, unable to store new experiences or to retrieve the old, will make him the most famous and most studied amnesiac in history. Over the course of the next thirty years, Margot herself becomes famous for her experiments with E. H.—and inadvertently falls in love with him, despite the ethical ambiguity of their affair, and though he remains forever elusive and mysterious to her, haunted by mysteries of the past….”

TheyMayNot

 3. They May Not Mean To, But They Do – by Cathleen Schine

A “hilarious new novel about aging, family, loneliness, and love.”

“The Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don’t just grow, they grow old, and the clan’s matriarch, Joy, is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would have wished. When Joy’s beloved husband dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother’s loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy’s college days. And they didn’t count on Joy herself, a mother suddenly as willful and rebellious as their own kids…”

UnspeakableThingsProper-thumb-300x481-421492

 4. Unspeakable Things – by Kathleen Spivack

“A wild, erotic novel—a daring debut—from the much-admired, award-winning poet, author of Flying Inland, A History of Yearning, and With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, and Others. A strange, haunting novel about survival and love in all its forms; about sexual awakenings and dark secrets; about European refugee intellectuals who have fled Hitler’s armies with their dreams intact and who have come to an elusive new (American) “can do, will do” world they cannot seem to find. A novel steeped in surreal storytelling and beautiful music that transports its half-broken souls—and us—to another realm of the senses.”

Shelter

 5. Shelter – by Jung Yum

“You can never know what goes on behind closed doors.

Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family s future….

… As “Shelter” veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. “Shelter” is a masterfully crafted debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one’s family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.”

NON-FICTION

414Q4ZNUNvL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

6. Evicted (Poverty and Profit in the American City) – by Matthew Desmond

“From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America.”
 
“In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind…”

TheBook 7. The Book – by Keith Houston

“We may love books, but do we know what lies behind them? In The Book, Keith Houston reveals that the paper, ink, thread, glue, and board from which a book is made tell as rich a story as the words on its pages―of civilizations, empires, human ingenuity, and madness. In an invitingly tactile history of this 2,000-year-old medium, Houston follows the development of writing, printing, the art of illustrations, and binding to show how we have moved from cuneiform tablets and papyrus scrolls to the hardcovers and paperbacks of today. Sure to delight book lovers of all stripes with its lush, full-color illustrations, The Book gives us the momentous and surprising history behind humanity’s most important―and universal―information technology.”

WhenBreath8. When Breath Becomes Air – by Paul Kalanithi

“At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. 

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.”

“I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option. . . . Part of this book’s tremendous impact comes from the obvious fact that its author was such a brilliant polymath. And part comes from the way he conveys what happened to him—passionately working and striving, deferring gratification, waiting to live, learning to die—so well. None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated. As he wrote to a friend: ‘It’s just tragic enough and just imaginable enough.’ And just important enough to be unmissable.”— Janet MaslinThe New York Times

cityofthorns9. City of Thorns (Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp) – by Ben Rawlence

“To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a ‘nursery for terrorists’; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort.”

“In City of Thorns, Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in the camp and to sketch the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there. Rawlence combines intimate storytelling with broad socio-political investigative journalism, doing for Dadaab what Katherinee Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers did for the Mumbai slums. Lucid, vivid and illuminating, City of Thorns is an urgent human story with deep international repercussions, brought to life through the people who call Dadaab home.”

Varou10. And the Weak Suffer What They Must? (Europe’s Crisis and America’s Economic Future) – by Yanis Varoufakis

“A titanic battle is being waged for Europe’s integrity and soul, with the forces of reason and humanism losing out to growing irrationality, authoritarianism, and malice, promoting inequality and austerity. The whole world has a stake in a victory for rationality, liberty, democracy, and humanism.”

“Varoufakis delivers a fresh look at the history of Europe’s crisis and America’s central role in it. He presents the ultimate case against austerity, proposing concrete policies for Europe that are necessary to address its crisis and avert contagion to America, China, and the rest of the world. With passionate, informative, and at times humorous prose, he warns that the implosion of an admittedly crisis–ridden and deeply irrational European monetary union should, and can, be avoided at all cost.”

Happy reading! 

book-759873_960_720

Cat and Book photos via pixabay.com.

The Quirks and Eccentricities of Writers

nanowrimo_crazyy_event_better_writer

“I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I’ve got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis. No, I don’t use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand. Essentially I think of myself as a stylist, and stylists can become notoriously obsessed with the placing of a comma, the weight of a semicolon. Obsessions of this sort, and the time I take over them, irritate me beyond endurance.”    

Truman Capote

Writers are a curious species.  From writing rituals, superstitions, and funny quirks to over-the-top, Mad Hatter-type eccentricities… we immerse ourselves in an environment, and a process from which all creative juices can flow freely.

If my old marketing colleagues could see me now, they would be shocked.  I used to sport a coiffed, stylish shoulder-length bob  (think Cindy Williams, in her role as Shirley on the TV sitcom “Laverne & Shirley) and always wore chic, professional business attire.  I now look like a cross between Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt, but with round, black glasses. My “writing wear” consists of red Stewart plaid pajama bottoms and my favorite black t-shirt, inscribed (in white) with the words: “Drink Ouzo. [Help save Greece].”  I sit, always barefoot, at my desk oblivious to anyone or anything.  Sometimes, I mutter out loud.

Unlike Truman Capote, I am a vertical author. When I’m deep in thought, I pace back and forth.  Like Capote, however, I am ridiculously obsessed with punctuation and this obsession is annoying even to me.

At the commencement of each day, my desk must be clear and pristine, before I’m able to start writing. I can’t function if it’s messy.

My daily ritual of libation-while-writing evolves from early morning to late night: from water (with a lemon slice) in the early AM, to black coffee (Gevalia, French Roast) until 1 pm, to tea (Earl Grey, no milk or sugar) in the afternoon, to single malt scotch (Glenlivet) at 6pm-ish, then on to wine (preferably a nice Burgundy) in the evening, and, late at night, back to water (with a lemon slice).

And, I hate phones.

I know that I am not alone in my “madness” … so, ‘fess up writers.  What are your writing quirks and eccentricities?  I would love to hear about them!

Don’t worry, we’re in good company.  Some of the greatest literary minds of yore (and also a few familiar modern authors) have been clouded (or sharpened…. it’s all a matter of perspective) by their writing fetishes. 

Victor Hugo, a procrastinator by nature, would remove all of his clothes and give them to his servant, with instructions not to return them until he had completed his writing day.

Charles Dickens had a ritual whereby he would drink a sip of hot water after every 50 lines of writing.

Joyce Carol Oates commences her writing day very early and will not eat breakfast until her day’s work is done.  Sometimes her “breakfast” is at dinnertime!

Orhan Pamuk had a quirky ritual. By his own admission, he would leave his house each morning (after saying goodbye to his wife), as if he were going off to work. He would then walk around a few blocks and return home, as if arriving at the office. This put him in the “work zone” frame of mind.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe would retreat like a hermit into a completely sealed room, devoid of fresh air, and stay there until he completed his work.

So, there you have it.  We are a loopy bunch.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?

Photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography