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 halcyon days of summer

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby

As a child, I used  to love those quiet summer days when I’d lie down on the grass and gaze up at the sky, marveling at its perfection.  I’d close my eyes and feel the sun’s warmth on my skin, and listen to the gentle rustling of leaves from the large oak tree nearby.  I would lie there for hours, as midday became late afternoon.  Sometimes the weather would shift, surprising me, bringing with it a new set of  sensory delights. Mesmerized by the different cotton ball shapes, I’d track the movement of the clouds as the warm summer breeze caressed my face and I waited in anticipation for what was sure to come next:  the sun shower.  I’d laugh out loud as the raindrops tickled my skin, and stick my tongue out to taste the drops.  Before I could count the minutes, the shower stopped, leaving behind the fresh smell of rain. Then it was time for me to go inside for tea time with my mother. I’d jump up, shake the grass off, and — with the hint of a smile on my lips — I’d leave my peaceful afternoon reverie behind. There would be more summer days like that.  Plenty more.

Although those sweet childhood days have long since gone, I still enjoy summer days like that.  In youth, we take much for granted — not at all concerned about the passage of Time.  As we age, we become acutely aware of how precious each and every moment is.  We are grateful for each and every sense that we are blessed with. It becomes more important for us to look (and really see)  the beauty all around us, to listen to (and truly hear) the sounds that make us smile,  to breathe in and smell that first summer rain, to taste and savour a freshly picked apple, and to touch  the hand of a loved one (like it was the first and may possibly be the last time)

To live life as if Today is all we have, is to savour and love each and every minute.

Don’t put it off until tomorrow. 

 

Jazzing it up

jazz

“I live on an island and listen to jazz all day long. The sun is always shining, but you can still see the stars. The breeze sings astonishingly like Ella and the wind rumbles in a Louis way. My friends and I dance under magic skies.”
―  Author Unknown

Listening to some Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis while sipping a glass of crisp, dry white wine and gazing out at the ocean is – for me – pure summer magic. One of the reasons I love summertime is because I associate it with the sound of jazz.  In most cities and towns, musicians gather together and jam outdoors –  usually at local cafés, bistros and bars. Whether it’s a lone sax player, a jazz quartet, or a singer belting out some husky vocals – I just drink it all in.  It feeds something in my soul. I can’t explain it and probably shouldn’t even try.

Across the globe (in the northern hemisphere), it is the high season for jazz festivals, where you can listen to jazz in the afternoon or under the summer evening stars. Below is a list of some of the poopular festivals. It is by no means an exhaustive list, so please check your local newspapers (or online) for jazz events in your area.

Enjoy the jazz experience.

JAZZ FESTIVALS

CANADA

EUROPE

USA

Image via online-jazz.net.

How to Resist the Lure of Summer Distractions

17XgPyfrdGU

Summer is a temptress. She dazzles us with bright colors and hot sun. Every year, we impatiently await her arrival.  For many, she is a welcome respite after a long, cold winter.  She exudes a sense of lightness and freedom and her flamboyance and playfulness is infectious.  School is out and children suddenly find themselves with loads of time… to play!  And they don’t waste a minute.  With the rigor of school schedules and extracurricular activities set  aside, parents reconnect with their children.  Men and women start to loosen up a bit and their busy lives begin to take a back seat to weekend barbecues, picnics and summertime activities.  That glorious smell of barbecue grilling wafts from house to house.

Yes, summer is a temptress.  But, as a writer who is working on multiple book projects while trying to promote her newly published book, it is difficult to resist the lure of summertime distractions.   Am I up for the challenge?  Can I muster enough will and discipline? 

I’ll let you know at the end of the summer.

In the meantime, I am going to try out some of these tips.  Maybe they can help you, as well.

1. Channel your inner Gumby

gumbyThe key is flexibility.  Summer schedules need to be flexible, not rigid.  Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up to fail.  “Fail” is perhaps too strong a word, but I’m sure you understand my meaning.

2. Move like an inchworm

inchworm

Take it one steady, small step at a time. Break up your day into increments of time – time to research, time to write, time to relax and time for eating and sleeping. Set smaller, more frequent goals and milestones for yourself and this will encourage you to keep moving forward and ultimately fill you with a sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, if you flit like a butterfly – from task to task – nothing will ever get completed.

3. Set your boundaries

writing-contest-scams

Let your family and friends know when you’re in the writing zone, so that they can respect your space and privacy for the time that you’ve allocated. Afterwards, they can have your full attention.

4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

gerbil

It’s summertime. Focus on the most important  and enjoyable projects, then make a plan to tackle the rest in the Autumn months.

5. Bring it outside

woman_writer_outside_laptop

You don’t have write behind closed doors on a beautiful summer’s day.  Take your laptop or notepad, a pot of tea or coffee, and do your writing (and thinking) outside.  If you live in an apartment and don’t have a yard, pack yourself some refreshments and go to your nearest park.  If you live near water, sit on the beach or by the lake. Maybe the sights and sounds all around you will bring you some interesting perspective or inspiration.

Enjoy your summer and happy writing!

Images via anordinarywomn.net, gumbyworld.com, piedmontwildlifecenter.org, writingforward.com,  dorrys.com and cloudsandchecks.com.

Life is a Bowl of Cherries

img_1957

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” 
― Henry James

A South Florida summer can be very, very hot and humid. Stepping out of an air conditioned home, a wave of heat will hit you like a ton of bricks and, if you wear eyeglasses, you’re momentarily blinded as the steam fogs up your lenses. But, if you’re lucky enough to have a yard full of trees, you can actually enjoy a summer afternoon outside, despite the humidity.

What a difference a tree makes!

Sitting under my grove of bamboo trees, I close my eyes to feel the warm, gentle breeze as it makes contact with my skin. Hanging on a nearby tree branch, the Woodstock chimes harmonize with the rustle of leaves ― the only music I need to hear.  I breathe in the smell of freshly cut grass. The lawn feels soft against my bare feet. The wispy, yet majestic, royal ponciana trees form a canopy over the entire house, dropping vibrant red flowers over the garden. I begin to crave something, but what? Cherries. That’s it. Cherries always remind me of summertime. I bought some from the market just the other day. As if reading my mind, my husband  (who has been watching me from the kitchen window, enjoying the sight of my serenity) brings out a bowl of cherries for me to taste. He sits in the chair beside me and together we savor the ripe fruit and silently enjoy the sound of quiet.

And here, in the northern hemisphere, summer has just begun.

“Then followed that beautiful season… Summer….
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

??????????

Our royal ponciana trees (with the red flowers)

Top photo (cherries) via dacha.com.

Bottom photo (royal ponciana tree) by Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 – All Rights Reserved.