This Friday marks the arrival of the “summer people” – so deemed are those folks with the out-of-state license plates loaded down with bikes and kayaks and possibly (definitely in my area) pulling a (sadly) motor boat. They come here to chase that idyllic summer experience. That being broadly defined. My home is situated near some of the well-to-do lakefront homes with the stereotypical snobbish residents, but also near some of the slightly smaller homes enjoyed my multiple generations of hard-working folks who are less condescending, and then there are the rentals with the renters ranging from rednecks seeking a form of deliverance delivered only by massive amounts of alcohol and firecrackers and frat boys seeking same said deliverance. I am grateful for the summer people, because it means the town goes into high gear cleaning the streets and beautifying public areas, and because they help keep the lights on in some of my favorite Portland eateries. I am not so excited about the traffic experience.
As we head into the weekend – the summer, here are twelve books I’ve recently loved and the names of a few I can’t wait to read soon…
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Bardo is as excellent as everyone is saying it is. Saunders uses his tremendous talent to tell a gorgeous, haunting, darkly comedic story. Saunders got the idea for the book years ago when his sister-in-law told him the (true) story of how when President Abraham Lincoln’s beloved 11-year-old son Willie died of typhoid in the White House the grief-stricken president visited his grave. “Bardo” is the Tibetan word for the limbo between life and afterlife. Most of the story is told over the course of one night, through the alternating voices of the dead who inhabit the graveyard, and reads like a play filled with profound dialogue.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I want to read every single thing Ms. Adichie writes. This is a novel about a boy from a poor village who goes to work as a houseboy for a charismatic university professor, privileged twin sisters verging onto different paths and a shy English writer – who are pulled apart and thrown together in ways they had never imagined when engulfed by the horrific Biafran War.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s masterpiece, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, is a novel about Africa in a wider sense: about the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race and about the ways in which love can complicate all of these things.
The story behind the book and Q&A with author here.
The Lost City by David Grann (tells the story of England’s last great gentleman explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett) and War & Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (is a novel, but reads like a memoir and biography at times – Hertmans is a great Flemish poet who years after his grandfather’s death recounts his life and stories inc. his service during WWI).
Blood in the Water: the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and it’s Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson
Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History.
A powerful book about the most violent prison rebellion in America, that happened because of severe overcrowding, poor medical care, minimally trained guards, racism, a dysfunctional justice system, and politics.
Saints for all Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
Elegantly written. Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. A beautiful book about sacrifice, love, and loyalty.
Not photographed, but loved all the same:
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Each chapter spotlights a different resident of Amgash, Illinois, a small town where everyone is connected to each other (and to Lucy Barton, the central character of Strout’s last novel (Which I also loved) My Name is Lucy Barton.
A Really Big Lunch by Jim Harrison
A collection of essays (some published before) on food and wine by the recently deceased beloved author who wrote Legends of the Fall. He LIVED a fascinating life, which he graciously shares here (his memoir is also outstanding).
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
National Book Award Winner, Pulitzer Prize Finalist
Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” (The New York Observer)
Written in the form of a letter to his thirteen-year-old son.
White Tears by Hari Kunzru
“An incisive meditation on race, privilege and music. Spanning decades, this novel brings alive the history of old-time blues and America’s racial conscience.”—Rabeea Saleem, Chicago Review of Books.
A ghost story, a terrifying murder mystery, a timely meditation on race, and a love letter to all the forgotten geniuses of American music and Delta Mississippi Blues.
Have you read any of these yet? Any other recommendations?
p.s. so excited about how the Portland, Maine chapter of Silent Book Club is coming along!! ox