Summer Reads on the Shore

I’m back in Atlanta after a wonderful week on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with my parents.  Sure, it was no Rhinebeck, New York, but I’ll take Finney Creek any day over the wedding of the century.  The Shore is one of my favorite places, as it’s one of the spots where I feel most relaxed.  No sight seeing, very little social activity, just hanging out.  Fortunately, we had a spell of cooler weather so reading on the dock didn’t involve heat stroke.

shore 9 Most of our time on the shore consisted of boat rides, naps, reading, eating and watching Pardon the Interruption.  During the fall, winter and spring we also watch a lot of football and basketball, but we have trouble getting excited about baseball, so there wasn’t nearly as much ESPN.  While I missed having sports to watch, I found that I had much more time to read without the NCAA tournament or bowl season to distract me.

I read three great books while on the Shore and I would highly recommend all three.  Each was very different but I devoured them.  Nothing could stand in my way of finishing them.


Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee: Charles J. Shields

Having reread To Kill a Mockingbird this year with my 8th graders, I loved learning more about the life of Harper Lee, especially her friendship with Truman Capote.  Lee was his research assistant for In Cold Blood, another story that fascinates me.  A large chunk of the book is about their time in Kansas researching the murder and getting to know the people involved in the case.  As a wanna-be writer myself, it was also refreshing to learn that words didn’t always flow easily for Ms. Lee.  She struggled with her first book (TKAM was initially a group of short stories that her publisher made her tie together) and she never even published a second book, despite tirelessly working on one.  Affirming to know that I don’t suffer from writer’s block alone.


Little Bee: Chris Cleave

‘Absolutely riveting’ is the only way I can describe this book.  On the back cover of Little Bee it actually says, “We don’t want to tell you what happens in this book.  It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it.”  That’s how I feel about it.  A powerful, creative story, with great characters, I can’t do it justice by summarizing.  It’s beautifully written but I found myself reading it too fast to even appreciate the writing style because I was so eager to find out what happens and how everyone is connected.


The Piano Teacher: Janice Y.K. Lee

This story takes place in Hong Kong, during and after World War II.  A history teacher, I love books about a small moment in history in an unusual place.  I had never really thought much about what Hong Kong was like during World War II, but the story is captivating.  The combination of a large European population from colonialism, the Japanese takeover, and the Chinese made for an interesting social tension at the time.


Now I’m reading Hellhound on His Trail, (Hampton Sides) a book David recommended, about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the search for his assassin.  The history nerd in me loves this stuff.  Written with a journalistic style, the author tells a great story about the man that killed King, our nation’s political state at the time, and the workings of the FBI.  I’m really enjoying it, but it will take me ten times longer to finish it than if I were still reading on the dock.

Do you have any reading recommendations?  We’ll be in Connecticut with David’s family in September so I’ll be looking for some good reads on the trip.

  1. Andy C says:

    Hey Betsy! Carla got me to read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon while we were at the beach and it’s an excellent vacation read. It’s a mystery set in the 50′s in Barcelona centered around a book that a boy finds at the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I really liked it. A few other recent reads I liked were The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Jayber Crow, and Perelandra

  2. Alden says:

    Not so much a book but if you want to take a break from all those words, have you seen the movie Empire of the Sun? It’s about a British boy in Hong Kong after the Japanese takeover (a la the Piano Teacher) and it is one of my favorite movies ever. It makes me bawl.

  3. Chili T. says:

    So, have you read this book called WHITE TEETH?!?!


    I’m getting ready to read “A Walk in the Woods,” and I cannot wait. The teacher in me also loved Lichtman’s “The Falconer”…
    Miss ya, B, and hope to see you soon!

  4. Betsy says:

    Thanks, Andy! I think you and I have similar taste in books. I loved Edgar Sawtelle and Shadow of the Wind. “Shadow” is such a riveting book. Once you get into it, you can’t put it down. I’ll have to check out Jayber Crow. I don’t know that one. I tried reading Perelandra in high school, in a CS Lewis class I took, but struggled with it. Maybe I’ll give it another try. Thanks for the recs!

  5. Betsy says:

    I haven’t seen Empire of the Sun, but I’ve heard of it. I didn’t know it was about Hong Kong. I’m fascinated by that time period now. So interesting. You forget that there were many Europeans there during the war.

  6. Betsy says:

    Umm, some girl in my book club suggested White Teeth…what was she thinking?? I’m heading to DC and going to pick up my copy of Walk in the Woods while I’m there. Can’t wait! We’ll have to debrief once we’ve both read it.

  7. Thanks for the kind words, Betsy!

    Charles J. Shields

  8. Betsy says:

    I really enjoyed Mockingbird!. What a great story. Thanks for writing it.

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