“Take a Look, It’s in a Book:” Summer Reading

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m not very wild…I’m not at the clubs late night.  I’d rather split a bottle of wine and have a nice dinner.  I’m not very hip and cool.  I rely on Elaney for all of my fashion pointers and now that she’s not regularly blogging, I’m totally lost.  I don’t wear make up and haven’t dried my hair since I got a $20 haircut a month ago.  (I do like a good pedi though!) I’m helplessly a nerd, and I love it.  That being said, summer, for me, is about relaxing and diving into a pile of books.  I’m always overambitious, as I can’t resist many of the books that Amazon magically suggests for me or that I stumble upon in a bookstore.  My book-buying addiction is a bit of a problem that I definitely inherited from my father.

This has been a summer full of great reads.  Two of my favorite authors recently came out with new books and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them.  Here are a few of my summer reads to wet your palette.  More selections to come in the next couple of weeks!

Caleb’s Crossing, Geraldine Brooks: Author of March and Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks yet again does a superb job of taking bits of history and weaving it into a beautiful fiction story.  Brooks tells a story of the first Native American to attend Harvard, in the 17th century, and a fictional female character, Bethia Mayfield, daughter of a Puritan minister.  This novel takes place in what is today Martha’s Vineyard and Cambridge, connecting two different cultures, people, faiths and sets of beliefs.  Caleb’s Crossing touches on religion, gender, history, emotions, and love, all in one well told and voiced story.  A must read.

In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson: Another all-time favorite author of mine, Erik Larson wrote Devil in the White City and Isaac’s Storm. His newest nonfiction book transports the reader to Berlin in the 1930s, as Hitler rises to power.  The story is told from two perspectives: William E. Dodd, the U.S. ambassador to Germany at the time, and his daughter, Martha, whose wild love life will keep you turning pages.  Larson has a gift of using only primary documents to write a book.  While it reads like fiction, it’s incredibly true.  I was amazed by how the U.S. passively watched Hitler take over, and build up his totalitarian rule.  Even if you don’t consider yourself a historian, this book will hold your interest from start to finish.

New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, Elna Baker: If you’re like me and couldn’t get enough of Rhoda Jansen’s Mennonite in a Black Dress, then you will love Elna Baker’s hysterical memoir.  Her tales of life as a Mormon in NYC are LOL funny, yet poignant.  I think every twenty-something woman can identify with her awkwardness, self-doubt, and questioning.  Some of my personal favorites include her experiences working at Nobu and “The Fortune Cookie Story.”  You can listen to a few of Elna’s stories live here.  I’m particularly drawn to Elna because she loves The New Yorker and has done pieces for This American Life and The Moth, two of my favorite nerdy radio shows.

The Children, David Halberstam: Definitely the biggest reading project of the summer (over 700 pages!!), this nonfiction book chronicles the civil rights movement through the stories of its Nashville leaders.  Starting with the Nashville sit ins and watching the Movement spread through the south, you will be blown away by the strength, passion and faith that these young leaders showed.  John Lewis, Diane Nash, Julian Bond, Marion Barry, and Jim Lawson are some of the central characters in The Children, so it’s a different perspective from the MLK focused Movement we traditionally learn about in school.  Halberstam clearly illustrates the shifts and changes in the Movement during the 50s and 60s, from nonviolent, Christian based and inclusive to all willing participants, to Black Power and somewhat isolationist.  Thanks to my brother-in-law for putting this book in my hands.

What did you read this summer?  I’m always looking for more books!  (Even though I still have Anna Karenina staring me in the face, begging me to read her.)

  1. Tucker says:

    Well, I think I am going to have to buy every book on this list! Thanks for the recommendations! (My Anna Karenina equivalent is Middlemarch. It taunts me each time I don’t pick it up).

  2. Eva says:

    Hey! I just finished reading “Roses” by Leila Meacham. ‘Gone With The Wind’ is one of my favorite books and this has a similar feeling to it; perhaps because it’s just as long! And obviously, The Help is a fabulous read.

  3. Rob says:

    I enjoyed your Reading Rainbow quote! Unfortunately, It has been very hard to find time to read between Bachelorette: Men Tell All, Bachelorette: Final Episode, Bachelorette: After the Final Rose, and now Bachelor Pad…

  4. Betsy says:

    Thanks, Eva! I will have to check out “Roses.” I loved “The Help” (didn’t love the ending so much) and I’m excited to see the movie. Have you seen it yet?

  5. Betsy says:

    Tucker, it makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only one with an “Anna Karenina!”

  6. Michelle says:

    Did I tell you I read the Erik Larson book? Ryan ordered it, and as usual, I stole it and read it! We should discuss soon. xoxo

  7. John says:

    Betsy, have you read “Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn: A Saga of Race and Family” by Gary Pomerantz? It traces over several generations the African-American Dobbs family (John Wesley Dobbs, son of a freed slave, was the grandfather of Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor) and the white Allen family (Ivan Allen, Jr., a local business leader, was mayor of Atlanta during the desegregation era and transcended the traditional attitudes with which he was raised to lead the community through those times without a huge conflagration). The book is particularly interesting to long-time Atlantans like Jane Gilbert and me, since we have known members of the families involved, but I think you would find that it affords insights into your adopted city and it also written very engagingly. As they used to say on “Hee Haw” (which I’m not embarrassed to quote to someone who watches “The Bachelor”), “fact is stranger than truth.”

  8. Betsy says:

    John, thanks for that book selection! It sounds great and definitely my kind of read. I look forward to checking it out. Have you read Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks? It’s another “truth is stranger than fiction” book.

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