Now that Summer Reading has officially begun at the Levittown Public Library, I think it’s time we check in with our reading lists and plan for the sun soaked months ahead. Back in March, I shared with you the smattering of books I had recently read, including two graphic novels, a few Young Adult reads, and a couple of more adult books. Since then, I’ve added another seven books to my 2016 tally. I have to say: The books keep getting better! I am so looking forward to a summer filled with epic tomes and breezy beach reads. Before I get to my list, I would like to encourage all the readers out there to please feel free to comment below and tell us about your “recent reads:” the good, the bad, and even the very bad. Together, let’s help to make this the best Summer of Books yet.
The Sound of Gravel: Ruth Wariner
Ruth Wariner’s memoir is one of my favorite types to read because it details a world, and a worldview, that is unlike my own. Wariner grew up in a polygamous Mormon colony in Mexico. She persevered in spite of burdens that no child should have to bear: poverty, abuse, and most horrifying, a mother who more or less turned the other cheek, desperate to be loved by a monster of a man. Wariner’s writing is never dour or depressing. Clearly, her resilience, empathy, and talent outweigh everything.
Big Little Lies: Liane Moriarty
I arrived at the Liane Moriarty party a little late. This Australian writer is already a best-selling author, with six published novels and over six million copies sold. I was spurred on to read Big Little Lies by two coworkers who give her writing high praise, as well as the desire to read the source before seeing the forthcoming HBO adaptation, starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, and an assortment of other well-known actors. I think that because Moriarty’s books are so popular, I was expecting something silly, frothy, and light. Don’t get me wrong: There is some great humor, primarily thanks to the zany and wonderful Madeline, who is really the linchpin that keeps the characters together. However, don’t let the brisk, short chapters fool you: This is a book that is not only juicy, hysterical, and compulsively readable, but it also packs a powerful punch of meaning and social commentary. You can’t go wrong reading this. I think what I appreciated the most is that the characters feel like real people–no one is completely perfect or completely bad. There is so much dimension, just like in real life.
Where The Light Gets In: Kimberly Williams-Paisley
There’s a certain gamble one takes when reading a book written by a celebrity. Typically, gossip is a given and actual quality writing and storytelling is a surprising (and often absent) perk. Where The Light Gets In does not suffer this fate. Kimberly Williams-Paisley, best known for starring in Father of the Bride and Nashville, is a talented writer. She details the struggles faced by her and her family as they manage her mother’s dementia with brutal honesty. Her writing is delicate and insightful. She’s one of the few celebrities who can crossover into publishing based on talent alone.
Counting by 7s: Holly Goldberg Sloan
If you know a middle schooler in the Levittown School District, or perhaps you are a middle schooler (Hello There, Young Person!), then you will probably become very acquainted with this heartwarming and quirky book, as it is required summer reading for all students in grades 6, 7, and 8. As I explained in the previous post, “Levittown in Bloom,” the library will be hosting a series of voluntary events for students and parents in support of this year’s A Tale for Two Schools. Anyone interested should consult our newsletter or contact the Young Adult Department directly (516-731-5728, ext. 241).
At one point in Counting By 7s, a character comments that Willow Chance, the brilliant and precocious 12-year-old heroine, may just be magical. This is exactly how this story feels: Magical. When Willow is orphaned and taken in by a Vietnamese-American family, she unintentionally sets off a chain reaction that inspires everyone around her to better themselves and see the potential good that exists in every molecule of life.
Curtis Sittenfeld’s modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice accomplishes its goal of mixing the old with the new in a breezy, biting, and funny homage to the original. The characters are thoroughly modern, preoccupied with CrossFit, Yoga, and a Bachelor-esque reality show, yet they remind us that some things, namely vanity, social climbing, familial obligations, and the mysteries of romance, have been around since Austen’s time and will never go away. Sittenfeld even mirrors Austen’s formality of language in a way that is not at all intimidating, but dare I say, fun. Bonus points for the super short chapters (some are even less than a single page), which helped me to breeze through the more than 500 pages in no time.
This YA road trip novel takes us from Mississippi to Cleveland, as our intrepid heroine, Mary Iris Malone (AKA “Mim”) runs away to visit her hospitalized mother. I love a road trip book, especially one that unites a ragtag team of lovable and off-beat characters. Though it took some time for me to warm up to Mim’s level of snarky, the book found its sweet spot in the Three Musketeers-like triumvirate of Mim-Walt-Beck.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I had a hard time with this one. Before I go further, let me just state for the record that although I did not personally care for this novel, a lot of other very smart people did, including reviewers for The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. This was the whole reason why I sought it out: the good buzz of a first-time author. Despite the trendy setting–one of NYC’s swankiest restaurants–and fast-paced lines overflowing with quick adjectives, this is really a common story we have seen repeated many times over: Small-town girls moves to New York and dreams of a bigger, more interesting life. For me, the characters are more like caricatures, and I was left with an absolutely blank emotional response.
Ugh, I hate to end on a down note, but that’s just the chance we take when we read a book; they’re not all winners. The good news? Every book holds the promise to be extraordinary.
Happy Reading (And please share your reading recommendations!),