I love me some summer reading, but y’all. I didn’t have time to read this summer, did you? Temps are settling down and so am I, and who can resist a good curl on the sofa with a quilt and a book? Here’s a few of the best books I read this year-your End of Summer Reading List.
1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Barbara Kingsolver
Known for her stellar fiction, Kingsolver takes us on her year long personal journey of eating food grown or raised on her own farm, or locally. I’m talking about no butter unless she churns it or knows the guy who did. Moving with her husband and citified kids to live off the land for a year (and beyond), she tells the story in her usual smart, witty fashion.
2. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands. Chris Bohjalian
I’m kind of a fan. I got to see him at the launch of his book tour a few months ago!
A local guy, Bohjalian understands Vermont and its culture. This book is told in the voice of a teenage girl living on the streets of Burlington. Bohjalian spent time with the staff at the local shelters and social service organizations to better understand the plight of the homeless here.
3. Half the Sky. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Read this. You will never hear about the plight of women in the third and developing worlds with the same ears again. Find out what could happen if the world’s women were free to contribute the way they were meant to. The title refers to a saying by Mao Zedong, “women hold up half the sky.” This will change the way you care for women’s rights in the world. Stunning and eye opening.
4. The Goldfinch. Donna Tartt
Pulitzer winner for fiction in 2014. A boy is thrust into a sad destiny when he loses his mother in a terrorist attack in NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the chaos, he makes off with her favorite painting which he hides for years, clinging to and obsessing over it as his last connection to his mother. You’ll find your motherly self forgiving him over and over again as he spirals out of control and tries to survive in a world where few people are rooting for him. This story spans his formative years. Simply written, a quick read.
5. Angle of Repose. Wallace Stegner
Winning the Pulitzer in 1972, this book is a jewel. I don’t know how I have missed it all these years. Lyman Ward, a wheelchair bound historian, writes the story of his grandparents a century after they were among the first to settle in the West. You will be drawn into the lives of Susan and Oliver Ward as they leave the refined East for the barren and uncivilized western frontier. Stegner’s sympathy for complex characters comes through in a way that resonates truth and depth in the story. The best fiction I’ve read this year by far.
6. What is the What. Dave Eggers
Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese refugee to the United States and a member of the Lost Boys of Sudan, tells his story about the long journey from his war torn village to Atlanta, GA. This book is important because many of our neighbors in Burlington have very similar stories. Told in parallel with the hardships he faced his first years in America, Deng shares his memories of losing his family, fleeing his village, and traveling both alone and with hundreds of Lost Boys to refugee camps in Ethiopia, Kakuma, Kenya, and finally getting a ticket to the U.S. Hard to read at times, these young boys were the ages of our children, but rich in imagery that gives a glimpse into the lives of our Sudanese neighbors.
7. Emma. Jane Austen
Forgive me, but I must. This is the book that made me fall in love with love and good writing when I was but a ‘tween. I’m sure I’ve read it no less than 10 times since picking it up twenty-something years ago. Snuggle under something flannel and prepare to enter the slow life of lengthy scene set-ups and nuanced dialogue in Victorian England. It’s one of those books where you invest the time and reap great reward-a love story with a great transformative character.
8. Poems by Emily Dickinson, Series One
Free from Kindle, you can download many great classics. Here is one that’s an indulgent go-to for me. Read Dickinson when you are feeling melancholy, skeptical, angsty, or bored and you will surely encounter a sympathetic companion. She also satisfies my shameless enjoyment of rhyme.
I had no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.
9. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. Bill Bryson
Ever wonder why salt and pepper are staples at most family tables? No? Well, Bryson will have you looking around your home with a new curiosity. With chapter titles like, The Hall, The Kitchen, The Nursery, and The Cellar, he covers with brevity the histories of cooking, architecture, electricity, food preservation, and more. It is history light, written with wit and interest for those of us less inclined to reach for lengthy histories. You’ll annoy your partner with nightly exclamations like, “did you know that it took longer to design the Eiffel Tower than it did to build?”
10. The Best of Burlington Writers Workshop
Did you know that there is a thriving writers community here in Burlington? Each year they publish a compilation of short stories, poems, and essays that you can purchase at Phoenix Books. I love reading what my neighbors are writing and supporting these local writers. Check out BWW for more information about connecting with VT writers.