Service of Summer Reading

June 22nd, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized


When you were a kid, did you leave school for summer vacation with a reading list? I did. Some of the books ended up in my camp trunk nevertheless there usually was a scramble to finish what was due just before school started.

I thought of those days when I saw Ellen Gamerman’s Wall Street Journal article, “If You Could Read Only One.” In it she asked influential “literary professionals” to identify their choice of fiction published this spring or due out this summer. The pundits chose a psychological thriller; two science fiction/fantasy novels, one set in South Africa, the other in the world after civilization has collapsed; a police detective story set in Israel; an essay collection written by a blogger; a fictional 1950s Hollywood starlet’s biography and a literary fantasy taking place in NYC.


Of the seven in the article, the one that struck my fancy was “A Separation” by Katie Kitamura [Riverhead Books, February 2017]. Gamerman wrote that Lynn Lobash, who reads a book a week, thought this would be one of the year’s 10 best. The manager of reader services at the New York Public Library called the book a “character-driven psychological thriller.” Much of it takes place in southern Greece. Lobash, who is also on the American Library Association’s notable books committee, told Gamerman, “It’s relatable in that way that everybody loves to read a good psychological book—because it’s really about them.” [Check out the other titles and mini reviews by clicking on the link.]

Photo: pinterest

Some of my friends rarely read fiction so for this post, I’m expanding the reach to nonfiction and also, so that I can suggest a book. It’s “Prince Charles: the passions and paradoxes of an improbable life,” by Sally Bedell Smith, [Penguin Random House, April 2017]. I’d previously read “Reflected Glory: the life of Pamela Churchill Harriman,” so I knew I’d be in for a treat.

Bedell Smith writes well–you resent putting down her books–and they are filled with chunks of information that paint vivid pictures. Turns out that Princess Di wasn’t the angel the media made her out to be; Prince Charles was a warm and playful father that media chose to ignore and that pop—Prince Phillip—insisted on school choices that were inappropriate for Charles’ temperament. I also learned that Charles can’t tolerate anyone who disagrees with him. Once that happens, the person is cut out of his life.

Can you share a title or two that we should consider reading? It doesn’t matter if the book—fiction or nonfiction–is new. Do you read different kinds of books in summer or while on vacation than at other times of year?


12 Responses to “Service of Summer Reading”

  1. HB Said:

    There’s no argument. It’s got to be Donna Leon’s, “Earthly Remains!”

    I first bumped into Commissario Guido Brunetti more than 25 years ago in Europe — I don’t think he was even published in the U.S. then –, and fell in love with the Venetian detective. .. I still am, and his latest is particularly juicy.

    I find reading about the detective’s adventures tilting with the ever discouraging windmills of my favorite city in the world, Venice, is best enjoyed when rationed out and savored over a week or more. If I don’t ration, there is a danger that I will just read the story through in one sitting and the Commissario will be gone until Ms. Leon produces another one next year.

    PS: I seldom read fiction.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Seems like location is a crucial component to a favorite book. Katie Kitamura’s, that I mention in the post, takes place largely in southern Greece where I’ve never been but would like to visit. If I do read the book I wonder if my unfamiliarity will spoil it for me somewhat.

  3. Deborah Brown Said:

    My “country” book club has read two I highly recommend:
    Killers of the Flower Moon; the Osage Murders by David Grann (educational/non-fiction mystery) and A Man Called Ova by Fredrick Backman. (entertaining and charming!)

    Decades ago, my New York book club read “Out of Africa” which is still emblazoned in my brain.

    Loved the Millennium Trilogy that includes “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” the only book I recall as an adult, staying up until 4:00 AM to see how it ended.

    Finally, anything by the late James Herriot, the Yorkshire veterinarian, which I still pick up any one of his books in my library. (I have them all!)

    The New Yorker’s “1960’s” is on my bedside, with excerpts of the best of the best writing in the decade that changed everything; from A Silent Spring to In Cold Blood and so much more!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Riches of suggestions! I too adore all the James Herriot books and fell in love with them when they first came out. I read “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” which mesmerized me and made an impression but while I didn’t fall in love with it, also think it’s worth reading for the impact it creates. The movie “Out of Africa” is one that I can see over and over but I didn’t read the book. I will add the Fredrick Backman to my list as I’m in the mood for being both entertained and charmed!

  5. Lisa C. Hickman Said:

    What a great idea for your post! I also read that WSJ article and “A Separation” caught my eye as well.

    I recently finished William Gay’s posthumous novel, “Little Sister Death.” He creates his own story around Tennessee’s curse of the Bell Witch. As the book jacket says, ” . . . as if Faulkner had written “The Shining.” This volume also has a wonderful introduction by Tom Franklin. William Gay is a literary gem, or some might say, diamond in the rough. I’ve read all of this work but this has some really exceptional phrasing. I loved one of his descriptions of the countryside “a red road winding through a field promiscuous with wildflowers and goldenrod.” What a great way to use “promiscuous!”

    At times Gay sort of “loses” the couples’ little girl, I’m figuring that could be part of the male author syndrome. A glitch I noticed. But overall, the novel is amazing and classic Gay.

    Next up is Richard Ford’s first work of nonfiction, “Between Them.” Looking forward to that!

  6. Judith B Schuster Said:

    I have several books to recommend. I read two or three books a week and I rarely remember them. I only remember the really good ones like “A Man Called Ove,” “All the Light We Cannot See” and “The Nightingale.” The last two books both take place in World War II, but they are very different and both were selections of the Michigan Book Club of which I am a member. An old book that I read years ago and it has stuck with me is “The Handmaids Tale.” It is pretty scary. All are fiction. I rarely read nonfiction, but I can recommend “When Breath Becomes Air,” but be prepared to cry.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Only another author would pick up on the loss of the little girl in the Gay “Little Sister Death” narrative is my bet! I have not read any of Gay’s books. The sentence you quoted painted a tempting vivid visual and creative choice of a word used in an unexpected context. It would have been fun to hear him speak.

    As for many of the other books in the Wall Street Journal article, I don’t relish science fiction or fantasy which is a failing. Being pragmatic is a deterrent. I don’t get science fiction so it doesn’t catch my interest.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    WOW! Two people listed “A Man Called Ova!”–you and Debby Brown. The rest of us should look into it. In addition, the period interests me.

    And you read two to three books a week–I am impressed! I don’t and am grateful for the option to renew the books that aren’t new at the library. New ones can’t be renewed for obvious reasons.

    I’m not up to reading Paul Kalanithi’s book “When Breath Becomes Air.” I’m sure it’s magnificent but the subject matter is so sad–you warned us–that it won’t go on my list.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    My tastes are neither seasonal nor orthodox, and my reading recommendation is that happiness is best achieved by developing ones own taste with no regard to what’s “in” or “out.” Think of topics which suit and haunt a public library for appropriate texts. Enjoyment guaranteed!

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Thank goodness for public libraries! Because of several moves we’ve had to toss out so many books its a sin. On the one hand, there’s hardly a better gift than a book. On the other hand, buying a bunch for yourself when you might have to downsize and when there’s a treasure trove at the library in most neighborhoods, it only makes sense to take advantage.

  11. Judith B. Schuster Said:

    Just so you know, Jeanne, I get all my books from the library. I should have included that. I can’t read all I get every week (at our library, books can be taken out for three weeks), so I just re-reserve them, then they come around again.

    I “inherited” the reading gene; my Mom read a lot, too. I managed to read as many books while I was working, as I do now.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I bet you don’t–and never did–watch much TV!

    My mother read a lot of books too–she especially liked mysteries. My sister is more like Mom in the reading department. I read a lot but magazines and newspapers and I watch TV and don’t take enough time to sit and read. That’s another [boring] story!

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