I'm home today a bit early, a bit of a stomach bug has me curled up on the couch with the dog and a good book... recouping. This stormy day has me thinking books. Reading is a bit of an occupational hazard around here... but luckily one I absolutely love. Reading books I have loved again and with a different group of students is what I love most about what I do. When I'm not reading for work, my tastes are eclectic and varied... I try to move away from the classics (sometimes!). And on this soggy, stormy day here, my thoughts are drifting toward the surely impending sun... and summer. I'm thinking summer reading and some books I've read recently (some over again for the umpteenth time)... here are my favorites...
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
I adore this book... Kingsolver's writing was first something I picked up in high school, and it was some of the first really current literature that I read. In this novel, Taylor Greer finds herself in the most unlikely way... through motherhood, when she happens upon a child who is as alone as she is. Beautifully written and sometimes achingly funny, I love the often times bittersweet novels that Kingsolver has followed this beautiful story with.
Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
I found this book by mistake... after starting Bohjalian's The Double Bind and finding that it wasn't catching my attention (I'm pretty picky about the books I read for pleasure and if I'm not captured by the first twenty pages, I usually put it down) I read some reviews on Amazon and saw that many readers recommended and loved the novel. I gave this historical fiction a go and read the book in two days... this one took! The book takes place in the final days of World War Two when the German (and Nazi loyalist) Emmerich family must escape the advancing Russian army. Secrets abound in this family. They travel with a Scottish POW who is in love with their daughter and eventually a Jewish escapee from Auschwitz. The book is heart wrenching and captivating in its portrayal of the nature of love, sacrifice and common humanity that bins us all.
Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
Every now and then a book takes me completely by surprise, this was one of those reads. I fell in love with Stephanie Kallos's brand of storytelling very early on with this read... Hope Jones, a mother of three, is whisked away from her home in Nebraska by a tornado. The novel chronicles the lives of her three eccentric children who form one beautifully dysfunctional (and hysterical) family. Oldest child Larken soothes frayed nerves with candy, son Gaelan seeks fame while avoiding his home, and youngest Bonnie sings, dances, and bikes to the beat of her own drummer. This book is rich in lessons, stories, and beautiful in it's depiction of one family which really speaks to all families. A lovely surprise this little book.
The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
My most recent read was Ann Packer's novel, I had just found myself in a bit of a reading slump, everything I was picking up I was quickly abandoning in the hopes of finding something more engrossing. The Dive From Clausen's Pier was just that. Chronicling the life of Carrie Bell who finds herself trapped in a relationship that she has grown out of, until her fiance is paralyzed by a dive into shallow water. Carrie deals with his injury, the guilt she feels and the decisions that all relate to that one very critical moment in her life. Another exquisitely written novel, captivating and breathtaking in it's depiction of the twists and turns in life. Also, for my sewing friends... Carrie finds herself steadied by fabric, seems and alterations in this book... a little bonus I found!
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
One of my very favorite reads... and one I find myself continually heading back to. Strangely enough, it was one of those books that I promptly put down finding myself perplexed by a time traveling protagonist who meets up with himself in the future while crossing paths with himself in the now...in the very beginning of the book. Luckily, it was one of those reads I gave a second chance... lucky indeed. Librarian Henry De Tamble has a genetic disorder that causes him to disappear and time travel to some of the most important moments in his own (and later his wife Clare's) life. As his life progresses, his desire for normalcy is tempered by his desire to understand the nature of his life and eventual death. Throughout it all is Clare... stable, loving and patient. A beautiful, beautiful love story... unforgettable in every way.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Against the backdrop of the civil rights movement played out in Jackson Mississippi, Kathryn Stockett presents the reader with courageous characters, maids in charge of caring for, and often times raising young white children in the south. The dynamics of those relationships, the eventual outcomes when "their children" have grown and strict social mores of this era are depicted beautifully in this novel. Another heart-wrenching, beautiful and superbly written novel, Stockett has imagined women of strength, courage and relentless spirit. A must read.
The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard
Exceptionally original voice in this novel, and I can't wait to see what else comes from Hannah Pittard. In the novel, sixteen-year-old Nora Lindell disappears on Halloween, leaving her small community forever changed. Pittard presents many different possibilities for her disappearance and life after the night of her disappearance. The members of her community have a difficult time of letting Nora go, they speculate, investigate and wonder about one of their own, never quite sure of what it all really means. The book is captivating, raw in the emotions it portrays while allowing the reader to grasp the beauty of the journey of the tale and the infinite possibilities in life.
Evening by Susan Minot
I love Susan Minot's way of telling a story... and this one is an exceptional one at that. Moments of heartbreak, love lost and found again, this novel is breathtakingly beautiful in its writing, its voice and its eventual message. On her deathbed, Ann Grant begins to reveal aspects of her life stunning her children. The morphine that keeps her comfortable ironically allows her to express aspects of her life that have remained hidden, deeply hidden for most of her adult life. Minot's understanding and poignant depictions of the human heart make this a lovely and beautiful read.
I know there are so many other treasured reads floating around out there, if you have a favorite that belong with these beautiful stories, be sure to leave a comment and let us know! Happy (very near, I think!) summer reading to you!