... And when God created the Earth, beaches came into being. Man, following suit, created patios, fans, icy drinks, cool tubs and swimming pools. All beckon readers—not for us the surf-side volleyball nets, max-sweaty hot yoga, lawn mowing. Sure—some things are inevitable, but in the back of our minds as we pursue the "musts" and "shoulds" is the impulse to read.
Authors are the same. In fact, while they may be writing, editing or teaching, they too plan summer reading. And today some of them share their book choices for the hot months. I asked, they responded.
Hallie Ephron, whose "Night Night, Sleep Tight" made the New York Times best-seller list, has a couple of recommendations.
"On the light side, looking forward to reading Lucy Burdette's new one (July) 'Fatal Reservation.' Key West, food, always fun. At the other end of the spectrum, I've set aside Greg Iles' nearly 800-page behemoth 'The Bone Tree.' Might take me all summer to read." Iles' book is the second in a trilogy that began with "Natchez Burning."
Concidentally, regional mystery writer Barbara Ross ("Clammed Up," "Musseled Out," "Boiled Over," "Death of an Ambitious Woman" and more) is an Ephron fan. She plans a busman's holiday in her reading—a generous helping of mysteries.
"Right now I'm on a book deadline, but as soon as I press SEND (June 1) I've promised myself the treat of reading Hallie Ephron's 'Night Night, Sleep Tight,' a suspense novel about an infamous Beverly Hills murder that took place when Hallie was growing up there in the '60s," she says. "Later in the summer, one of my favorite mystery authors has a new book out. I'll be first in line to purchase Louise Penny's 'The Nature of the Beast.' On the lighter side of mystery, on the beach I'll be reading Edith Maxwell's 'Farmed and Dangerous,' Sherry Harris's 'Longest Yard Sale,' Lucy Burdette's 'Fatal Reservations' and Lea Wait's 'Threads of Evidence.' "
James Lee Burke (his Dave Robicheaux character has been portrayed by Alec Baldwin in "Heaven's Prisoners" and Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Electric Mist") says he's most likely to pick up his summer reading on a whim, passing through bookstores. But he has one recommendation: "I just finished 'Dead Wake' and thought it a smasher of a book."
Ann Packer, author of "The Dive From Clausen's Pier," "Swim Back to Me" and "The Children's Crusade," (among others), suggests two books.
"I can't wait to read 'Saint Mazie,' Jami Attenberg's follow-up to her extraordinary novel, 'The Middlesteins.' And Kate Walbert's 'The Sunken Cathedral' is a sublime book, which will surprise none of her fans." (Walbert, noted author of "A Short History of Women," "Our Kind" and "The Gardens of Kyoto," will be at the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge on June 17.)
From mystery writer Kate Flora (author of 14 mysteries and true-crime books including "And Grant You Peace," and "Finding Amy") splits her reading list into fiction and non-fiction choices:
She suggests Anthony Doerr's amazing novel of a blind French girl and a young WWII German soldier during the bombing of Saint-Malo, "All the Light We Cannot See." She'll also read "H is for Hawk" by falconer Helen Macdonald, an award-winning memoir about finding her way through grief with hawks. Also, Roxanna Robinson's "Sparta," a novel about the complex layers of PTSD, and conservation activist Terry Tempest Williams' "Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place," which describes her Utah family's struggles with cancer, living downwind of a nuclear test site, along with recounting how the Great Salt Lake flooded wetlands that were a refuge for migratory birds in northern Utah.
Jenna Blum ("Those Who Save Us," "The Stormchasers") has returned to the Boston area. She recommends a book she's just completed, Celeste Ng's "Everything I Never Told You," and two others.
"'Everything I Never Told You' is newly out in paperback—as is Laura McBride's stunning debut about culture and class clash in Las Vegas, 'We Are Called to Rise' and Courtney Maum's delightful 'I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You,' about a philandering British man who wants nothing more than to woo back his French wife," she says. "There you go, readers: paperbacks for your book clubs and the beach!"
Ng's book is a novel, by a writer with links to Boston's Grub Street writers collaborative. "It's about how attitudes in and around a mixed-race family in the 1960s have a trickle-down effect to the children, with heartbreaking results." She describes it as "a great emotional cause-and-effect book ... it reminded me a little of 'The Memory Keeper's Daughter,' with its emphasis on the sadness and destruction of secrets kept, but I thought the writing in 'Everything' was less melodramatic and much better, with beautiful similes.
Hank Phillippi Ryan also ventured forth. "I remember wonderful summers reading 'Winds of War' and 'Bonfire of the Vanities' and oh, my gosh, 'Ragtime,' says award-winning Boston writer Hank Phillippi Ryan ("Truth Be Told," "The Other Woman" and "The Wrong Girl"). "There's always 'the book,' right? And it gets sand in the pages and thumb-printed with sunscreen." Her recommendations follow.
"I'm reading the chilling 'Missoula' by Jon Krakauer (partly for research for my next book), and 'The Wright Brothers' by David McCullough, since I am fascinated by flying, and by people with passionately new ideas. I just finished the amazing Lisa Scottoline's 'Every Fifteen Minutes.' Looking forward to 'Hover' by Anne A. Wilson, a debut thriller author who was a Navy helicopter pilot. And the irresistible Joe Finder's new 'The Fixer'— I am afraid to start it, because I know I won't be able to put it down and I have writing to do!"
I'll include other authors' suggestions for summer reading in next month's column.
Book groups, authors
Why do we do this, anyway? Claudia McNeil of Chapters Book Discussion Group in Spencer, has an answer. "We've been going strong since 1986," she said. "We have read the best books (and of course, some were horrible picks), including many I would never have chosen on my own that were wonderful. And there have been some that I swore I disliked at the beginning of our discussion, only to really appreciate them after discussing them." Thanks, Claudia.
Author James Patterson will be featured at the Hartford, Conn., Mark Twain House and Museum. He'll appear at 7:30 p.m., June 17. Author and former inmate James Tillman ("The Power of Conviction") speaks of his 18-year wrongful conviction before DNA made him the first overturned wrongful conviction. He will appear on June 8 at 7 p.m.
Shrewsbury Public Library kicks off summer reading with a June 26 carnival featuring area authors. Check with the library for more details; its web site also includes summer reading tips.
Women's Issues Book Group has slated "Americanah" a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for its Monday, June 8 meeting, 7 p.m. in Barnes & Noble Booksellers 541 Lincoln St., Worcester. Its story: a young woman leaves Nigeria to attend college in the United States and experiences racism for this first time—in this country.
This coming week, there will be a reading/book signing by a former member of the Women's Issues Book Group, Judith Ferrara. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, she will read from "The little O, the earth: Travel Journals, Art & Poems" at the Gene J. DeFeudis Italian American Cultural Center, 26 Mulberry St., Worcester.
The Douglas Library Book Group invites interested readers to attend a discussion of Garth Stein's "A Sudden Light." Session begins at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 9. Stein, author of "The Art of Racing in the Rain," has written about a 14-year-old who confronts his father in order to protect his grandfather. To reserve a library copy of the book call 508-476-2695.
Northborough Public Library Friday Morning Book Club members are reading John Bunyon's "Pilgrim's Progress" for a 10 a.m., June 12 meeting. They rotate classics with contemporary monthly. July 10's selection is "The Wedding Letters" by Jason F. Wright.
Jodi Picoult's "The Storyteller" is up for discussion at Gardner's Heywood Library Book Group, June 24 at 4:30 p.m.
The Contemporary Book Group at Gale Free Library, Holden, will meet at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, June 2, to discuss JoJo Moyes' "Me Before You." The Classics Book Group has slated a poetry share for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, June 25.
Off-Track Bookies in Lancaster closes out its season with "An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive and an Unlikely Meeting." This nonfiction work by Laura Schrod and Alex Tresniowski unfolds the story of a boy who encounters a woman who will change his life... and vice-versa. Meeting is at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June11.
Robert Haston's "Fatherland" is the subject of Haston Library's book group meeting, 7 p.m., June 30.
Members of the Crawford Memorial Library, Dudley, will discuss "Becoming Finola" by Suzanne Strempek Shea at 6 p.m., June 5.