2014 Summer Reading List
Above the East China Sea by Sarah Bird
*Starred Review* Obon, the Buddhist festival of the dead, provides the frame for Bird’s novel about two girls who live in the same place, the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan, but at different times. Tamiko, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, leaves home with her sister, Hatsuko, to take part in Japan’s desperate, last-ditch defense against the Americans in 1945. More than 60 years later, Luz James, a part-Okinawan military brat living at Kadena Air Base, is grieving for her own sister, who was killed while serving with the air force in Afghanistan. Bird uses distinct voices to weave her narrative. Luz’s voice convincingly captures a smart but troubled contemporary teen, while Tamiko’s voice reflects her place in a very different culture. Readers won’t soon forget Tamiko’s searing depiction of her experiences during the Battle of Okinawa, when more than one-third of the local population was killed or committed suicide. Links between the two girls, hinted at early on, crystallize as Luz’s quest to learn more about her ancestors takes her deeper into the past and into the traditions that still exert a hold on daily Okinawan life. Bird, whose other novels include the well-received Yokota Officers Club (2001), has delivered a multilayered and utterly involving work with plenty of grist for book discussions. –Mary Ellen Quinn/ Booklist review/ Amazon
Book of You by Claire Kendall
A mesmerizing tale of psychological suspense about a woman who must fight to escape an expert manipulator, a stalker, determined to possess her, Claire Kendal’s debut novel is a sophisticated and disturbing portrait of compulsion, control, and terror that will appeal to fans of Before I Go to Sleep, The Silent Wife, and Into the Darkest Corner.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
This the long-awaited new novel—a book that sold more than a million copies the first week it went on sale in Japan—from the award-winning, internationally best-selling author Haruki Murakami. Here he gives us the remarkable story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages. Amazon
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
“In this darkly riveting debut novel—a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also an heartbreaking and honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging—an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.” Amazon
Euphoria by Lily King
From New England Book Award winner Lily King comes a breathtaking novel about three young anthropologists of the ‘30’s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives. Set between two World Wars and inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is an enthralling story of passion, possession, exploration, and sacrifice from accomplished author Lily King.
Booklist “Just after a failed suicide attempt, Andrew Bankson, English anthropologist studying the Kiona tribe in the territory of New Guinea, meets a pair of fellow anthropologists fleeing from a cannibalistic tribe down river. Nell Stone is controversial and well-respected. Her rough Australian husband, Fen, is envious of her fame and determined to outshine her. Bankson helps them find a new tribe to study, the artistic, female-dominated Tam. Nell’s quiet assurance and love of the work, and Fen’s easy familiarity, pull Bankson back from the brink. But it is the growing fire between him and Nell that they cannot do anything about. This is a powerful story, at once gritty, sensuous, and captivating.” –Elizabeth Dickie/ Book List/ Amazon
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party. When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened. Amazon. Book Browse
The Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth
Mary Byrd Thornton could understand how a reporter couldn’t resist the story: a nine-year-old boy sexually molested and killed on Mother’s Day, 1966. A suspect to whom nothing would stick. A neighborhood riddled with secrets. No one, especially the bungling or complicit authorities, had been able to solve the crime. Now, thirty years later, the reporter’s call will reel a reluctant Mary Byrd from Mississippi back to Virginia where she must confront her family – and, once again, the murder’s irremovable stain of tragedy. Lisa Howorth’s remarkable Flying Shoes is a work of fiction, but the murder is based on the still-unsolved case of her stepbrother, a front page story in the Washington Post. And yet this is not a crime novel; it is an honest and luminous story of a particular time and place in the South, where even calamitous weather can be a character, everyone has a story, and all are inextricably entwined. With a flamboyant cast, splendid dark humor, a potent sense of history, and a shocking true story at its heart, Flying Shoes is a rich and candid novel from a fresh new voice about family and memory and one woman’s flight from a wounded past. Book Browse
The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R.Carey
The Girl With All the Giftsis a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie is a very special girl….but not going to spoil it, read it – Amazon
The Good Suicides by Antonio Hill
After a company retreat in a remote country house, senior employees of Alemany Cosmetics return with a dark secret. They’ve each received an anonymous, menacing email of only two words: “Never forget”. What’s worse, the message is accompanied by a nightmarish photo attachment showing the bodies of dogs – hung to death from a tree – near the very same farm estate they just visited. When they begin killing themselves, one by one, the connection between the shocking photos and the suicides baffles Barcelona law enforcement and corporate think tanks alike, threatening a terrifying end for everyone involved. Breaking through the insular power structures of these enigmatic executives isn’t easy, but Inspector Salgado has his own ways of making those still alive speak up. As the clock is ticking before another suicide, Salgado is doing all he can to bring the terror to an end. Meanwhile, his partner Leire, bored on her maternity leave, remains fixated on Salgado’s missing wife, Ruth. She refuses to give up on a case many – including Salgado – fear is hopeless.
How to Tell the Night Sky from Toledo by Lydia Netzer
This is a story about two children arranged from conception by their mothers to be soul mates, add quirky characters, astrology, astronomy and magic and you have a unique book. It reads like a love story but “dreamy cosmologist George Dermont mines the stars to prove the existence of God and Irene Sparks, an unsentimental scientist, creates black holes in captivity” don’t know about their destiny or each other.(http://us.macmillan.com/howtotelltoledofromthenightsky)
I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
The astonishing story of one man’s breakneck race against time… and an implacable enemy. An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid. A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square. A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard. Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan. A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity. One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey… Pilgrim./ Amazon
The Silent History by Horowitz, Derby & Moffett
A generation of children forced to live without words. It begins as a statistical oddity: a spike in children born with acute speech delays. Physically normal in every way, these children never speak and do not respond to speech; they don’t learn to read, don’t learn to write. As the number of cases grows to an epidemic level, theories spread. Maybe it’s related to a popular antidepressant; maybe it’s environmental. Or maybe these children have special skills all their own.
The Silent History unfolds in a series of brief testimonials from parents, teachers, friends, doctors, cult leaders, profiteers, and impostors (everyone except, of course, the children themselves), documenting the growth of the so-called silent community into an elusive, enigmatic force in itself—alluring to some, threatening to others. Both a bold storytelling experiment and a propulsive reading experience, The Silent History is at once thrilling, timely, and timeless. Book Browse, Amazon.
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
When a medical procedure goes horribly wrong and famous actor Ralph Meier winds up dead, Dr. Marc Schlosser needs to come up with some answers. After all, reputation is everything in this business. Personally, he’s not exactly upset that Ralph is gone, but as a high profile doctor to the stars, Marc can’t hide from the truth forever. It all started the previous summer. Marc, his wife, and their two beautiful teenage daughters agreed to spend a week at the Meier’s extravagant summer home on the Mediterranean. Joined by Ralph and his striking wife Judith, her mother, and film director Stanley Forbes and his much younger girlfriend, the large group settles in for days of sunshine, wine tasting, and trips to the beach. But when a violent incident disrupts the idyll, darker motivations are revealed, and suddenly no one can be trusted. As the ultimate holiday soon turns into a nightmare, the circumstances surrounding Ralph’s later death begin to reveal the disturbing reality behind that summer’s tragedy. Featuring the razor-sharp humor and acute psychological insight that made The Dinner an international phenomenon, Summer House with Swimming Pool is a controversial, thought-provoking novel that showcases Herman Koch at his finest. Amazon
The Vacationers: A Novel by Emma Straub An irresistible, deftly observed novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca.
That Night by Chevy Stevens
As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night. Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison. Now thirty-four, Toni, is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. But the past won’t leave her alone. Book Browse
What is Visible by Elkins
A vividly original literary novel based on the astounding true-life story of Laura Bridgman, the first deaf and blind person who learned language and blazed a trail for Helen Keller.
Can’t We talk About something Pleasant? by Roz Chast
A hysterical & poignant memoir of the author’s relationship with her aging parents prior to their death. Honestly, it is very NY and might not appeal to all but I found it so spot on with regards to capturing the older New Yorker and their daily lives and world view. I highly recommend it!
Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed by John F Ross
This is the true story of a “pioneering race- car driver who became the most celebrated American Combat pilot of WWII. Born to poor Swiss immigrants he conquered many obstacles, as a pilot, a businessman for the airlines. He survived an airplane crash in the Pacific and helped others survive three weeks in rafts. Heroes do exist! The Week,6/27/14
The Girl who Came Home : a Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor
“Maggie didn’t discuss Titanic with anyone. At 17, she was leaving the man she loved as one of a group of Irish immigrants setting out for America. But 70 years later, as her great-granddaughter, Grace, is mourning her father’s death, Maggie decides it’s finally time to share her story. Inspired by the true tale of an Irish community that suffered the largest proportional loss in the sinking, the novel hits on the standard elements of the Titanic story—the ship’s magnificence, the stark differences between first and third classes, the many elements that contributed to its downfall. What makes Gaynor’s novel fresh is the way she sets the tragedy in the context of her characters’ lives. Gaynor is a gentle storyteller who doesn’t challenge the reader, writing prettily but at times predictably. At the same time, even the most avid Titanic buff is sure to find something new in this well-researched, finely detailed story. Just as Maggie’s retelling makes the disaster real for her great-granddaughter, Gaynor brings immediacy to the oft-told story by shrinking it to a human scale. –Bridget Thoreson,” Booklist/ Amazon.
The Mocking Bird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the best loved novels of the twentieth century. But for the last fifty years, the novel’s celebrated author, Harper Lee, has said almost nothing on the record. Journalists have trekked to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, where Harper Lee, known to her friends as Nelle, has lived with her sister, Alice, for decades, trying and failing to get an interview with the author. But in 2001, the Lee sisters opened their door to Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills. It was the beginning of a long conversation—and a great friendship. In 2004, with the Lees’ blessing, Mills moved into the house next door to the sisters. She spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees’ inner circle of friends. Nelle shared her love of history, literature, and the Southern way of life with Mills, as well as her keen sense of how journalism should be practiced. As the sisters decided to let Mills tell their story, Nelle helped make sure she was getting the story—and the South—right. Alice, the keeper of the Lee family history, shared the stories of their family.
The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills’s friendship with the Lee sisters. It is a testament to the great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two women, especially that of Nelle. Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle Harper Lee, to be part of the Lees’ life in Alabama, and to hear them reflect on their upbringing, their corner of the Deep South, how To Kill a Mockingbird affected their lives, and why Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel. Amazon, Oprah.com, Book Browse
The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport
Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it.
The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas
“Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a former Bangladeshi air force pilot, was working at a Dallas convenience store when he was shot point-blank by self-described terrorist, Mark Stroman. It is a wrenching story of Bhuiyan’s path to healing, assimilation and campaign to stop the execution of Stroman.”- review by Oprah.com 7/14
Books I did not read that were on my spring list & worth repeating:
Congo: An Epic History of a People by David Van Reybrouck
Hailed as “a monumental history… more exciting than any novel” (NRC Handelsblad),David van Reybrouck’s rich and gripping epic, in the tradition of Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore, tells the extraordinary story of one of the world’s most devastated countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo. Epic in scope yet eminently readable, penetrating and deeply moving, David van Reybrouck’s Congo: The Epic History of a People traces the fate of one of the world’s most critical, failed nation-states, second only to war-torn Somalia: the Democratic Republic of Congo. Van Reybrouck takes us through several hundred years of history, bringing some of the most dramatic episodes in Congolese history. Here are the people and events that have impinged the Congo’s development – from the slave trade to the ivory and rubber booms; from the arrival of Henry Morton Stanley to the tragic regime of King Leopold II; from global indignation to Belgian colonialism; from the struggle for independence to Mobutu’s brutal rule; and from the world-famous Rumble in the Jungle to the civil war over natural resources that began in 1996 and still rages today. Van Reybrouck interweaves his own family’s history with the voices of a diverse range of individuals – charismatic dictators, feuding warlords, child-soldiers, the elderly, female merchant smugglers, and many in the African diaspora of Europe and China – to offer a deeply humane approach to political history, focusing squarely on the Congolese perspective and returning a nation’s history to its people. Book Browse
The Price of Silence by William D. Cohan
Bestselling author William D. Cohan, whose reporting and writing have been hailed as “gripping” (the New York Times), “authoritative” (the Washington Post), and “seductively engrossing” (Chicago Tribune), presents a stunning new account of the Duke lacrosse team scandal that reveals the pressures faced by America’s elite colleges and universities and pulls back the curtain, in a riveting narrative, on the larger issues of sexual misconduct, underage drinking, and bad-boy behavior – all too prevalent on campuses across the country. Despite being front-page news nationwide, the true story of the 2006 Duke lacrosse team rape case has never been told in its entirety and is more complex than all the reportage to date would indicate. The Price of Silence is the definitive, magisterial account of what happens when the most combustible forces in American culture – unbridled ambition, intellectual elitism, athletic prowess, aggressive sexual behavior, racial bias, and absolute prosecutorial authority – collide and then explode on a powerful university campus, in the justice system, and in the media. What transpired at Duke followed upon the university’s unprecedented and determined effort to compete directly with the Ivy League for the best students and with its Division I rivals for supremacy in selected sports – most famously men’s basketball, where Duke has become a perennial powerhouse and the winner of four national championships.
The Remedy by Thomas Goetz
In 1875, tuberculosis was the deadliest disease in the world, accountable for a third of all deaths. A diagnosis of TB, often called consumption, was a death sentence. Then, in a triumph of medical science, a German doctor named Robert Koch deployed an unprecedented scientific rigor to discover the bacteria that caused TB. Koch soon embarked on a remedy – a remedy that would be his undoing. When Koch announced his cure for consumption, Arthur Conan Doyle, then a small-town doctor in England and sometime writer, went to Berlin to cover the event. Touring the ward of reportedly cured patients, he was horrified. Koch’s “remedy” was either sloppy science or outright fraud. But to a world desperate for relief, Koch’s remedy wasn’t so easily dismissed. As Europe’s consumptives descended upon Berlin, Koch urgently tried to prove his case. Conan Doyle, meanwhile, returned to England determined to abandon medicine in favor of writing. In particular, he turned to a character inspired by the very scientific methods that Koch had formulated: Sherlock Holmes. Capturing the moment when mystery and magic began to yield to science, The Remedy chronicles the stunning story of how the germ theory of disease became a true fact, how two men of ambition were emboldened to reach for something more, and how scientific discoveries evolve into social truths. Book Browse
Trapped Under Sea:One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness by Neil Swidey
The harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless, miles-long tunnel, hundreds of feet below the ocean, to do a nearly impossible job—with deadly resultsA quarter-century ago, Boston had the dirtiest harbor in America. The city had been dumping sewage into it for generations, coating the seafloor with a layer of “black mayonnaise.” Fisheries collapsed, wildlife fled, and locals referred to floating tampon applicators as “beach whistles.” In the 1990s, work began on a state-of-the-art treatment plant and a 10-mile-long tunnel—its endpoint stretching farther from civilization than the earth’s deepest ocean trench—to carry waste out of the harbor. With this impressive feat of engineering, Boston was poised to show the country how to rebound from environmental ruin. But when bad decisions and clashing corporations endangered the project, a team of commercial divers was sent on a perilous mission to rescue the stymied cleanup effort. Five divers went in; not all of them came out alive.Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents collected over five years of reporting, award-winning writer Neil Swidey takes us deep into the lives of the divers, engineers, politicians, lawyers, and investigators involved in the tragedy and its aftermath, creating a taut, action-packed narrative.
All book descriptions are from Amazon, Booklist, Kirkus, Book Browse, The Week, Oprah.com, cited or me!