Summer Reading

It’s the first of June, and that marks the start of the major vacation season in the United States.  In the months of June and July, Americans are more likely to travel for pleasure than at any other time of the year.  Cars keep the roads hot and planes fill up the sky.  Everyone is excited about going somewhere.  It’s the “getting there” that can be rough.  You’ll need something to pass the time, and I always suggest a good book.  Here’s an eclectic list of amazing reads to keep you stimulated this summer.

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Selected Stories of James. M. Cain by James Cain- You may not recognize the name, but you know his work, and you are probably very familiar with the “noir” genre of literature and film that he created.  The men are always hard boiled, and the women will always do the man wrong.  Usually there’s a murder thrown in for good measure.  The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce are included here.  Each is a fun bit of escapism to the tough as nails 1930s.

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My Life in France by Julia Child- This might be my favorite autobiography.  It captures Child’s love of life, and you can really sense her discovery of  her love of food from the way she describes it and her arrival to France after World War II.  She goes on to explain that she only found herself when she found cooking.  As she and her husband, move around France, and eventually into Germany and then into the Scandinavian countries before returning Stateside, she becomes more confident, and more determined than ever to revitalize American cuisine.

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Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky – This might be the greatest literary “What if?” of the last century.  Nemirovsky was a French writer, Jewish, and was arrested by the Nazis.  She was ultimately sent to Auschwitz, where she died.  Before her arrest, she had begun work on a novel about life in Paris during the occupation.  Structured like a piece of music, it was to have five “movements.” Each would differ in tone, but similar notes, or characters, would appear; sometimes as the focus, and  others as a supporting element.  Unfortunately, only the first two stories were completed, and an outline for the third was laid out, but never written in full.  We are left, though, with two stunning stories of humanity at its finest and its worst, often uneasily coexisting.

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Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher – “Cry all you want to, you’ll pee less.”  Writer and actress Carrie Fisher walks you through her life and that of her parents’, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.  It’s a story that could be really sad, full of mental illness, drug addiction, and scandal, but in the masterful hands of Fisher, it becomes a hilarious tale of her family’s struggles with all of these things, while still managing to stay together as a very modern incarnation of themselves.

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Exit to Eden by Anne Rice- There are no vampires or witches in Exit to Eden.  Instead you get sex.  Lots of sex.  Lots and lots and lots of sex.  Originally published under a pseudonym, Rice’s book tells the story of an island that operates as a sex resort for those interested in S&M relationships.  It’s a fantasy, in every sense, where every character  is bisexual, and pairings of every sort take place, but quickly the drama mounts when the “Mistress” who oversees the island begins a relationship with one of the guests.  Anything goes, it seems, except for love.  It’s  a steamy read that, frankly, makes Mr. Grey seem down right dull.

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Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro- Ishiguro is famous for the subtly of his writing and this book is no exception.  Here, he provides five short stories, each in a different exotic location, and each revolving around music in some way.  To tell you more about them would ruin the beauty of discovering each one for yourself, but each story is refined and elegant, and profoundly moving and thought provoking.

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The Watchmen by Alan Moore and David Gibbons- If high brow literature isn’t your thing, how about a high brow graphic novel? A few years ago, the source material was turned into a movie, but so much of this world was lost in the translation to film.  The graphic novel tells the story of group of masked crime fighters, starting in the 1950s, and the impacts of their efforts on society.  The action culminates in the 1980s and the end of the book is very, very different than the movie.  It’s a masterwork of literature.  Do not dismiss this genre bending experiment because you think you don’t like “comic books.”

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Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – It’s become a bit trendy today to be dismissive of Gilbert’s book.  It is a massively  selling book, that spawned a movie, and small industry of tie in products.  The cynics like to complain, but there is a reason that the book was so successful.  In a simple style, she relays her adventures through Italy, India, and Bali as she attempts to redefine who she is and overcome the guilt she feels about walking away from her marriage and then allowing herself to fall quickly into another relationship that was ill fitting.  It’s moving, and thought provoking, and will give you a serious case of meditative wanderlust.

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The Reader by Bernhard Schlink- Sometimes you need a book that is a little bit of everything.  This is that book.  It has moments of eroticism, humor, history, horror, and then there is a gut punch twist ending that will upset you like nothing else.  It begins in the 1930s, with a sweet affair between a teenage boy and a slightly older woman and quickly spirals into something very different. It’s a short, quick read, but will sit with you for a long, long time.

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At Work by Annie Liebovitz- You’re going to be on vacation, and you’re going to be taking pictures.  You might as well learn how to take quality photos, or at least learn how a true master does it.  Liebovitz began taking pictures for Rolling Stone Magazine in the 1970s and was largely responsible for giving the magazine its early “look.”  By the 1980s she was doing portrait and commercial work as one of the most in demand photographers in the world.  By the 1990s, she was photographing war zones.  In this book, she explains her inspirations, approaches to photographing subjects, and gives very helpful tips for you to improve your own photography.

Happy Reading!  Do you have a suggestion for me?  I’d love to discover something new!  Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook!

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