Best of My Summer Reading

I love books. I love the feel of them in my hands, even the Kindle version. I love the way a story builds from beginning to end. I love the characters who worm their way into my heart. I even love the books I hate, because they give me something to judge other books by. But there have only been two times in my life when I finished a book and turned right back to the beginning and started all over again. The first book was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. At the time I thought it was because it had taken me by surprise. I did not expect to like the book. Even after I started it, it took me a while to get into it. The format threw me off. Written completely in letters, during World War II, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is ultimately a love story. I am not a big fan of love stories. Surely this most be the only real love story I will ever love.

So imagine my surprise, when I picked up The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, another book that turns out to be a love story, and once again I fell head over heels in love. Unlike The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I loved The Storied Life of AJ Fikry from the very first word. I spent the first 100 pages of the book making a list of everybody I wanted to share this book with. I spent the next 100 wondering why I had not started a list of all of the books mentioned in this book. As I mentioned before, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is a love story. In some ways it is a love story in the conventional, boy meets girl way but, it is more than that. It is a story of father daughter love, of the love between friends, the love a community finds in its bookstore and ultimately the love of reading. By far, this is my favorite book this summer.

But the title to this post is not really misleading. I love books. I read constantly and I love recommendations for new books so I thought I would return the favor and tell you a little bit about some of the books I have read this so far this summer.

Summer Reading List

1. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry – In case you missed it, this is the one book I have read this summer that I want to share with everybody. If you have a love affair with reading, you will love this book, the construction, the characters, the love stories.
2. Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole – I read this one based on a recommendation of a friend. She knew I had loved the Potato Peel Pie Society and suggested this one because it follows the same format. It is also written in letters. I enjoyed the read. It is a great book to carry with you on vacation because it is light reading. Again it is like finding a box of old letters. I found myself forgetting to put the book down because I just had to read one more letter. But in some ways it is cliche. It is not a book that will take your breath away. It is certainly not one that makes you turn back to the beginning and start again, but it was light and fun and best of all a sweet story.
3. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce My children hate this book. They haven’t read it but they are so sick of me talking about it. Harold Fry may be one of my all time favorite fictional characters. The book follows Harold out his front door at the very bottom of England and through every step of his unlikely journey to the very top of England on a quest to save a friend he wronged twenty years before. The book is far less of a story than a journey through Harold’s growth as a human being. As a runner I loved this book because I could relate to the places our minds go when we truly let go on a run. Earlier I talked about wanting to go back and read two books from the very beginning. I will go back and read this one again but not right away. It is emotionally draining. It is difficult to watch Harold walk through the pain of his past in order to find contentment again. But it is definitely worth reading again.
4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr I say that I love books but the truth is I am a hard sell. I read voraciously, which means I have read enough books to be wary of recommendations. This book was recommended to me by my Kindle. I seldom read a book that is recommended this way. I am not convinced that it is not just a sales ploy. But once in a while the recommendations will at least get me as far as the review page. For this book that was all it took. The reviews for this book were almost with without exception positive. This story follows two young people through the very end of WWII. A blind Parisian girl and a young orphaned German soldier. Only blocks apart throughout the book, facing bombings by the Allied Forces, both young people are in fear for their lives. The story is full of tension and excitement but, again, this is a story of characters. Obviously the two main characters but more importantly for me the supporting characters, the people who made these young people the people they are, make this story. It is a longer read than the other books on my summer list but well worth the time.
5. Remember Me Like This: A Novel by Bret Anthony Johnston I hate giving bad reviews but this book is an example of why I don’t usually take recommendations from my Kindle. Once again though this book received great reader reviews so I took the leap. Unfortunately, unless you really love books and can find something positive in almost any book, this is not the book for you. The premise is interesting. It is about what happens after a child who has gone missing comes home. The problem is the story was a good idea but somewhere along the way the author loses the plot and heads in a completely cliche direction. Still, if you love books for the development of characters this is a great book. If you can think of it less as a story and more of a study in people, it is interesting and worth the read. Can you tell I am iffy on this one? Would I call people out of the blue to recommend this book? No. But, if it were sitting on my table and a friend spotted it, would I warn them off? Probably not. The characters deserve to be introduced. They were created out of a great idea. The fact that the idea doesn’t get off the ground doesn’t make them any less intriguing. So, sure, if you have the time, and can get it at the library, give it a read. Let me know what you think.

As I write this I am without a next book. I sit here wondering whether Gabrielle Zevin’s other novels are as lovingly written as The Storied Life as AJ Fikry or should I quit while I am ahead? But I am a reader so I cannot go without a book. What are you reading? What do you recommend? And have you ever finished a book and started all over again right away?