2014 Summer Reads

Every summer I compile book lists based on the every other day post from my friends begging for a new book suggestion.  With that, my top 5 will all be made into movies soon (or already may have been so look out for them on Netflix soon), while the rest are a combination of new and old reads!

The Giver by Lois Lowry: My first experience with this book was in middle school.  We didn’t read it as a class, but Ms. Pellilo, one of my favorite English teachers, recommended it to me.  I tore into the novel, mystified at the science fiction type world Lowry created all gray-scale and dull aside from Jonas; Jonas, the one who would add color to his world, or perhaps die trying. Years later re-reading this book as a young adult, I recognized the controversial issues that Lowry so poignantly discussed in such a brief novel.  Issues such as abortion, suicide, and coming of age revelations are all contained in Jonah’s world, but what may even be more intriguing is the issue of trust that Jonas must figure out all himself.  I look forward to what this film will bring, especially with a cast composed of Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, and Katie Holmes, but by the looks of its colorful landscape, I must remind myself that it is an adaptation of Jonas’ tale, and not the book.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed: I found this non-fiction book in an antique shop and couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it yet! Immediately I laughed aloud at the pun on the cover with the author’s name, and then read on to see that she had it legally changed. Later that evening I started reading after all the kids were tucked in, and started bawling in the first chapter.  My husband is used to this by now, but he still asked if I was ok.  Nodding, I smiled as I turned the next page, and read on. All night. To say that everyone can connect with Cheryl is an overgeneralization, but I think many women and even some men will see themselves in Cheryl’s hiking memoir.  It’s about her journey hiking alone on the Pacific Crest Trail through California and into Oregon, but it’s really about the journey of self-discovery.  It looks as if Reese Witherspoon will be portraying Cheryl in the film version due out this fall; I pray it’s not the “you’ve got a baby in a bar” Reese that I love, but will not be appropriate for how I envisioned Cheryl. Regardless, a must read this summer.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand This comes from an earlier post, last spring: Having the hubs around this whole pregnancy has been nothing short of amazing. He recently received this non-fiction recommendation from a professor, and purchased this book for me when I finished my last read. He told me it was about running, and similar to Born to Run, and that is all he had to say. I was smitten. And then, then I realized, this was a war story. An Olympic runner turned soldier turned slave. As I sobbed my way through this story, I kept telling the hubs about each new aspect of World War II that I was learning. Little did I realize, World War II was not necessarily compartmentalized into two categories that I held in my head- the attack on Pearl Harbor and Nazi Germany. An entire war happened in POW camps that I am quite embarrassed to admit that I had very little knowledge about. It is a compelling non-fiction read that captivated and even compelled this non-history buff to research further. This fall it will arrive on the big screen. I am looking forward to it!

Re-read all the Gillian Flynn novels: Here is a piece of my post from last summer about Gone Girl:

I heard this author on NPR speaking about her story and immediately read the first three chapters on NPR’s first read website.


All I can give you are a few words because you have to read this one for yourself: unreliable narrator, unbelievable suspense, and irony that can be found within every marriage or partnership. It reminds me of something a friend of mine once said, “We all have our gray areas, but we must draw the line somewhere.”

I have read both additional novels by Flynn, pre-Gone Girl, and Sharp Objects, is also very, very good so far. A little like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I’ve heard all 3 books will become movies later this year!

Viral Bound by Dan Waltz: Another previous post, but a MUST READ If you are a fan of the Walking Dead (graphic novel and/or AMC television series), chances are high that you will thoroughly enjoy Waltz’s, Viral Bound. Unlike Dead, Waltz provides a reason for the zombie outbreak, but it’s unclear at first to the average reader. The quickness of the outbreak is realistically tragic. It reminded me of films such as 1995?s Outbreak, and the more recently, Contagion, which both illustrate the severity of pathogens and air borne viruses. Likewise Waltz respectfully crosses the Dead line by placing his readers in situations where the television series has only shown us with the character Sophia. Many of Waltz’s situations involve children who have turned; including a scene where Steve, our adult protagonist, stumbles upon an entire school that has been afflicted. What happens to the still-human children on the bus is almost as tragic that what has happened to all the children who were not able to escape the lockdown of their safe, secure school. These images resonate with this reader who tends to read nightly. Overall this novel is a captivating read for any fan that enjoys the flesh-eaters known only as ‘zoms’ in Waltz’s tale.

Portrait of the Artist as an Addict by Bill Clegg: I read this earlier in the year during SR time with my students. Beautifully written, this memoir follows the downfall of a promising literary agent. Meshed into the world of crack and heroin are flashbacks to the author’s self as an anxious child, troubled by many things including using the bathroom.  A poignant tale that had me gasping aloud and crying while my students were reading their choice books in class.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: Another fiction recommendation from my husband who heard a piece on the radio discussing how this author uses dialogue so effectively.  He bought it for me, and I read the following weekend. I think at some point we’ve all experienced a summer camp of sorts, and forged immediate friendships there that still may be existent today.  This group of kids creates a bond that ultimately lasts the trials and tribulations of adolescence through adulthood. It allowed me to forward think about decisions we make now for our children, and how they may affect them later in life.

1984 by George Orwell: 2+2=5 and since Edward Snowden’s leaks last summer, this book has been a hot item flying off the shelves yet again!  This resurgence prompted my teaching it to seniors this year.  We tend to forget that Orwell wrote it in the forties since much of the issue seems more current now than ever.  If you still are unfamiliar with the book, it follows Winston, our protagonist into a world where everyone is watched and even the Thought Police regulate one’s own thinking…or perhaps it is all a lie. Winston is not sure of the difference between reality and truth until he is locked up in room 101 where he is tortured with his greatest fear. A must read if you are into current events or politics.

And finally, if you liked my young adult novella, All About Jane, chances are you NEED to read Jane’s Melody by Ryan Winfield, author of the Park Service Trilogy!  Jane’s Melody shares a tale similar to mine, told from the mother’s point of view.  It begs the question to all mothers, or all those who have lost someone to suicide, how far would you go to get answers?  Winfield’s others books also serve as good summer reads if you are looking for a light, enjoyable writing style!

My friends in the library also recommend:

Destiny Disrupted by Mir Tamim Ansary

Life after Life by Kate Akinson

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Teacher Man (audio version) by Frank McCourt

Let me know what you suggest in the comments, and feel free to check out my latest work for kids, The Magician’s Daughter, online and in bookstores today!

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply