Like a number of my fellow Reader bloggers, the first thing I felt compelled to do when sitting down to write my 5 books to read this summer post was to look back to my post from last year. I’m feeling pretty good about myself: I made it through three of my five picks and I loved all three of them. Of the remaining two, one is still on my to read list (Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself) and the other (The Solitude of Prime Numbers) I’ve somehow lost interest in. But that’s the way with To Be Read lists, they are in a constant state of flux.
Speaking of To Be Read lists, my participation this year in the To Be Read Reading Challenge is complicating my “5 books I want to read this summer” picks. I’ve already committed to reading those 12 books, so I don’t want to include them here, but I’m not sure where I’m going to find the time to fit 5 more in. So although I really do, genuinely want to read these 5, I’m making no promises about whether I get through them this summer.
by Karen Russell
A bit of a cheat because I’ve actually already started this one. I’ve been excited about it for awhile, the first novel from one of the New Yorker’s 20 authors under 40 list. I saw Karen Russell read in New York in May, picked up a copy of her book and had it signed. When I told her I was a third of the way through my library copy, she laughed and said “it gets really weird”. So far, it’s already the quirky story of a deteriorating Florida amusement park—whose main attraction is alligators. At the same time, the story of a young girl growing up in the shadow of her mother’s recent death, and trying to keep her family together. So far I’ve found it touching and delightful: I can’t wait for weird.
The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim
by Jonathan Coe.
Chalk this one up to the power of book talking, I recently heard someone give this book such an enthusiastic rave that I immediately put it on my to read list. I don’t read nearly enough funny books, and it seems this one is absolutely rolling in funny. From the link above, here’s the pitch: “The novel opens with [Maxwell Sim] being found by police on the side of the road, naked in his car, suffering from hypothermia, and with four hundred toothbrushes in the boot. That’s the destination; how he got there and what will happen next, is the very entertaining narrative journey.”
The author because so fascinated with the people involved in something called the U.S. Memory Championship, that he decided to take part in the competition itself. The book follows his journey, his training(!) and eventual competition, meeting other participants past and present along the way. For anyone who has ever been frustrated by an inability to remember something, this book seems like a must read.
by Francine Pascal.
A couple of years ago a friend who works at a bookstore gave me a Sweet Valley High tote bag which she’d received as a promotional item. Invariably when I carried it, some excited stranger would excitedly ask me where I had gotten it. I can only imagine that these same strangers—like me—were ridiculously pleased to hear that Francine Pascal had penned a follow up to her megapopular teen series Sweet Valley High. My reading tastes have changed vastly since I was a teenager devouring these books, but I have to admit, I’m still curious to find out adulthood means for California twins Jessica and Elizabeth: and I think summer is the perfect time to find out.
When the Emperor Was Divine
by Julie Otsuka.
This is a book that’s been on my radar for a few years and I’ve always meant to get around to, but last month I saw Otsuka speak on a panel about historical fiction, and she was so warm and delightful it made me want to rush out and read her first novel. Hearing that description of Otsuka, you may be surprised to learn that her book is about something dark and troubling: Japanese internment camps. This one is conceptually weightier than your average summer read, but at only 150 pages, I think I can find time to fit it in. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective, coming together to tell a story that the publisher described this as “spare, intimate, arrestingly understated … a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times.” Otsuka’s second novel The Buddha in the Attic will be released in August.