I wish, like my recent biographical subject Peter Mark Roget, I had kept lists of my favorite books from summers past. Alas, I did not! However, here are several titles I remember reading—and loving—in the months of June, July and August. They represent a wide range of subjects and genres and were chosen with compete disregard for “intended age groups.” If you’ve also read any of these, or want to share your own recommendation for a great summer read, leave a comment below . . .
One Summer: America in 1927, by Bill Bryson (non-fiction). You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this book. The author’s factual accounts of Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone and others make this read like fine fiction. Despite the notable lack of women profiled here, this is an interesting read.
Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork (novel). A beautifully written coming-of-age story about the summer that Marcelo, who has an autism-like impairment, works in a law office and learns about life, love, and change.
47, by Walter Mosley (novel, historical fantasy). 47 is a 14-year-old slave with a horrible master. His journey to freedom is tinged with magic, but Mosley’s realism is what shines here. You won’t easily forget the characters in this book—or the setting.
Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson (novelized non-fiction). Larson is a brilliant writer whose copious research buoys the narrative in this historical thriller set in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair.
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver (novel). In 1959, a southern Baptist preacher, his wife and daughters move to the Belgian Congo where the preacher attempts to evangelize the native families. Narrated alternatively by the women, it’s wise, intelligent, funny, tragic. . . . and masterfully written.
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (novel). A group of international guests are taken hostage by a group of South American rebels. That’s a simple plot-summary, but the book is oh-so MUCH more than that! On both sides of the situation, each person is revealed, through Patchett’s brilliant writing, to be strikingly complex: hopeful, courageous, flawed, and afraid.
Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, by Kathleen Norris (non-fiction/ memoir). Norris’s sense of place and how it shapes its inhabitants is insightful and wise. Like her poetry, her prose style is elegant and straightforward, and her candid observations of human nature reveal equal parts vulnerability and strength.
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott (non-fiction/memoir). She’s wise, she’s funny, and she’s oh-so-human. You can’t read anything Lamott writes without laughing and crying—often at the same time.