Once I get settled into a book, I hate to leave it for anything including cleaning up spilled milk (isn’t that a nice looking spill?), walking the dog, finding lost items, or answering the phone. If the book is really good (and I’ve included only the best here), I end up with a book hangover—where I mope around for days, wishing I could crawl back inside the world of the last book, unable to delve into another book.
As I put together today’s list, I realized that I owe a debt of gratitude to Boswell Book Company, proprietor Daniel Goldin, and the wonderful booksellers there. Many of the books on this list (and the stacks of books on my to-read shelf) came through their recommendations. If you’re fortunate enough to have an independent bookstore in your neighborhood, buy your books there. Honestly, a computer cannot generate the kind of nuanced recommendations a bookseller can give you.
And a note on the links: I’ve linked all of these books to Goodreads, a helpful site for readers who want to keep track of their reading list, connect with authors, and find the next best book!
Here’s my list of must-read books for the summer:
I Am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley. I want to adopt Flavia de Luce, the 11-year-old protagonist in this mystery series set in the 1950s English countryside. Beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Flavia has solved crimes and cooked up chemistry experiments in Buckshaw, the crumbling English mansion she lives in with her family and two staff members. In I Am Half Sick of Shadows, a film crew shows up at Buckshaw to shoot a film. Before the first evening is over, the house is snowed in and a body has turned up. Can Flavia discover the killer without putting herself in mortal danger?
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. Penny has a knack for creating rich characters and allowing them to develop slowly over the entire series (which begins with Still Life). I’ve been astounded and delighted at how tiny seeds of despair, planted in an early book, bloom into murder in later books. In A Trick of the Light, artist Clara Morrow has finally had her own show and is enjoying a party in her hometown of Three Pines with her family and friends, including Montreal Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and detective Jean-Guy Beauvoir. But then the body of her childhood friend Lillian Dyson is discovered in Clara’s garden. The search for what happened to Dyson uncovers more than the killer—it reveals jealousy and strife among lovers and friends.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The book opens on 1945 Barcelona at the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where ten-year-old Daniel’s bookseller father has taken him to adopt a book. Daniel’s father kneels beside him and explains:
“This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. . . . When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.”
Daniel chooses his book—The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax—and falls in love with it. He soon discovers that someone has been destroying all of Carax’s books. As Daniel seeks to uncover the truth, he enters the dark side of Barcelona and meets people desperate to keep their secrets.
The Indian Bride by Karin Fossum. After reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson’s bestselling mystery, I’ve given myself over to the dark world of Scandinavian crime fiction. Fossum writes with texture and precision. Part mystery, part exploration of human suffering, in this novel even the happy scenes bear the atmosphere of impending danger, as if the world is about to crumble and leave the happy people broken hearted. In this book, nearly everyone gets his or her heart broken in some way—even, perhaps, the reader.
Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill. When crime reporter Jimm Jurree must move with her crazy family to a rural village on the coast of southern Thailand, she feels like her life has ended. Lucky for her, a buried van with two skeletons is discovered in a farmer’s field and an abbot is brutally murdered at a local Buddhist temple. Now Jimm has a case to solve—and danger to skirt. Each chapter begins with a crazy quote from George W. Bush, which would be enough to make this book worth reading. But in addition, we get Jimm’s spunky voice and her reflections on family, Thailand beach living, and murder. (By the way, I also enjoy the other series by Cotterill starring the witty 72-year-old coroner Siri Paiboun set in Laos. The first book in the series is The Coroner’s Lunch.)
What’s next. Besides loving to read fiction, I devour nonfiction. In the mornings I’m reading Heather Lende‘s Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs, a collection of personal essays about her life in Alaska. For work, I am reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, a fascinating book on how habits work and how we can use the power of habit to work smarter. From my desk, I can see the growing stacks of books I’ve set aside to read next including Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff, Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields, and Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. making me salivate, so much so that I can barely concentrate on blogging, coaching, or cleaning up dog poop. Currently, I’m reading Sarah Waters‘s ghost story, The Little Stranger. High on my list of novels to pick up this summer:
*Blue Fish by Pat Schmatz
*Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
*The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (coming in August)
Your turn: What’s on your must-read list for the summer? What books have given you a book hangover? I’d love to hear what you’re reading. Leave your comments below!