Summer Reading, books 20-34


Report 34: The Borrower, Rebecca Makkai. A lovely love letter (ha!) to children’s books. A children’s librarian is kinda sorta forced to take her favorite 10 year old patron on a road trip. I really enjoyed it. And there’s some fun/interesting stuff about Russia, communism, and the awful, utterly failed presidency of one George W Bush.


Report 33: The Pursuit of Alice Thrift, Elinor Lipman. I’ve written before about my love for Lipman’s books, and this isn’t one I remembered very well (I think I’ve read it once before). It’s not my favorite of hers but it’s full of her gentle humor and so of course I loved it.


Report 32: Anastasia At Your Service, Lois Lowry. Another YA classic. I liked the Anastasia books a lot and I still do.


Report 31: Caddie Woodlawn. I was supervising a youth trip and found some YA

books and dove right into this childhood favorite. The casual racism (the red man, really?) is a bit bothersome, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying it. I really like Caddie and wish she didn’t end up becoming a bit of a girly girl in the end, or at least headed that way.


Report 30: Watching Giants: The Secret Lives of Whales by Elin Kelsey. This is a collection of interrelated essays on the topic of, well, whales. I love whales! Maybe even more than sharks! I think this was a Christmas gift from my dad one year, and it was a home run. I also like that it’s written by a woman who brings ther perspective as a mother to the stories. And the photos are really, really beautiful. Of course the discussion of the destruction of the oceans make me tremendously sad—and did you know shrimp is incredibly bad—and I think at this point we need to just stop fishing for a few decades and let the ocean replenish itself.


Report 29: By a Spider’s Thread, by Laura Lippman. I love her too! This is the only one of the Tess Monagan books that I could not remember whodunit—I think I’d only read it once—and I really enjoyed it. I like hanging out with Tess.


Report 28: The Inn at Lake Devine, Elinor Lipman. I LOVE HER. This is a reread. It’s the literary equivalent of homemade, high quality mac and cheese—comfort food, but not quite as devoid of value as Kraft mac and cheese/really crappy mysteries. Lipman writes these lovely, witty romantic comedy type novels, but the characters are so perfectly realized that their choices and their eventual relationships feel completely earned.


Report 27: As Texas Goes…by Gail Collins. I love Collins (a columnist for NYT), not least because she has made a point of frequently discussing the fact that Mitt Romney tied his dog to the roof of a car (which, alone, should disqualify him from even running for office, or actually from existing in the world). In this, a fascinating book about Texas’ outsize influence on national politics, Collins brings her usual humor and wit while describing the assorted absurdities of Texas politics. It was a really interesting book—and also really, really scary. I think at this point maybe we’d better kick Texas out of the union.


Report 26, The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman. This is a book about a female teacher who has an affair with a male student. Making things more complicated, the kid she sleeps with is a classmate of her son. I liked it. I think a better book about this subject is Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal, but I protest too much, and it was good.I also didn’t feel like I had as much of a sense of why she was risking everything. 


report 25, Mark of the Shark (edited by John Long) This is a collection of essays (previously published in various places) about shark attacks. I LOVE sharks.and some of these essays were decently written. Some were not. But let’s be honest, I enjoyed them anyway, because SHARKS. As usual, my general feeling on sharks remained: they were here first. If you go into the water, you implicitly accept the risk. Which of course doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take precautions). I skipped one chapter that was all about a guy bragging about how many sharks he had killed, and I confess to feeling little sympathy for the spear fisherman–the oceans are depleted from overfishing, and also, if you into water where there are known sharks and you are dragging around a bunch of dead or bleeding fish–well, what do you expect? That said, some of the stories were quite harrowing, and I am not really quite as heartless as I sound. Mostly this was a reminder that sharks are the ultimate predator, and that even in shallow water you are not totally safe. (although the chances of a casual ocean swimmer seeing a shark are basically zero, so I wouldn’t panic, either!)

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report 24, A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, Joshilyn Jackson. Pretty solid, with glimpses of humor and insight.

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report 23: Before I Go To Sleep, SJ Watson. OMG LOVE. its this twisty mystery about a woman who forgets everything when she goes to sleep and has to relearn things when she wakes up. its paced like a thriller but it also scared the crap out of me as I thought about how essential memory is.


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report, um, 22: The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde. reread the first in the series because I am listening to the second in the car. love. i love his books SO MUCH.


report 21: The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides. I confess that I have never been able to get into Middlesex, despite everyone and their mother recommending it for what felt like years. But I LOVED his first book, The Virgin Suicides, and so I gave this one a try. And I loved it, too.



report 20: Beet, Roger Rosenblatt. A delight, all the way through. Both a deliciously biting satire of liberal arts education and a love letter to it. I adored it.




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