Summer book lovin’

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One way to watch your stats flatline is by not posting for a month.

I spent the month of May celebrating and reading: two birthdays, a wedding, four novels and one non-fiction. Nothing to complain about but I am glad to be back at the keyboard.

It is June, the weather is heating up and people are planning their holidays, all of which points to summer reading. (Summer is just over two weeks away here in Canada!)

Some readers use the summer to mentally relax and pick up so-called beach books, which are largely genre fiction like thrillers or romance, but others like to take all that free time to really dig in to a more difficult read since they have the time to focus.

I like to mix it up a bit, more of a location-based reader, so I thought I would suggest a few summer reads and share some books on my summer reading short list.

Beach Reads

The Bride by Julie Garwood (1989)

One of my all-time favourite romance novels. Set in 12th century Scotland, the story has familiar romance tropes: a feisty heroine is married against her will to a strong, gruff hero but through their banter they fall in love and, ultimately, overcome their challenges. Garwood keeps the plot moving so well and with touches of humour that you can’t help but enjoy what would otherwise be another typical romance novel.

The Red Fox by Anthony Hyde (1985)

Hyde’s debut novel (maybe I will cover it for re: read pages one day), it is the one spy thriller that I keep reading over and over. Set during the Cold War, it follows the search of protagonist Robert Thorne for his former fiancée’s missing father. In true Cold War fashion, what initially seems to be a simple story expands to a larger, more dangerous conspiracy. Spanning the globe from Canada to France to Russia, this story holds up despite some dated references and technological limitations.

Time to Think

The Sybil by Pär Lagerkvist (1956)

In this beautifully written story, a man cursed by Jesus to live until his second coming (known as the Wandering Jew according to medieval legend) meets with a disgraced priestess from Delphi and the two discuss the fallout of their experiences with the divine. This book always gives me shivers.

East of the Mountains by David Guterson (1999)

A man with terminal cancer takes a trip into the American West with the intention of killing himself at the end of his journey. The pace of this novel stayed with me a long time; it feels unrushed despite the limited time accorded to its main character, whatever way he may end up dying. A truly lovely read.

In Real Life

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

I finished reading this one recently; it is a well-written, well-researched exploration of the processed food industry. I am still talking about it weeks later and it changed the way I viewed the grocery store and nutrition labels.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan (2013)

This book aims to put the life of Jesus in historical context, to see what we can know by looking at the facts surrounding his life and the writing of the biblical books that describe his life and teachings. Though not without its faults, Aslan presents an interesting and respectful account of the life of Jesus.

As for me, I have a pile of books to get through, but I’m looking forward to spending sometime with these titles:

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

I recently discovered that I love Dunant’s writing (I enjoyed three of her novels years apart before I realized that they were all by the same author – check back later this month when I post my thoughts on The Birth of Venus) and am prepared to binge read the rest of her catalogue over the summer starting with this one.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Part of my new Why Haven’t I Read This Yet series (the inaugural post, discussing One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, is coming this Monday!), I am reading this book because it has sat on my shelf for too long and the cute board book for my one year old has sparked my interest.

Jennifer, Gwyneth, and Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time by Rachel Bertsche.

In a continued attempt to not take non-fiction so seriously that I can’t enjoy it I decided to put this book on hold at the library. Despite the lighthearted topic, I think Bertsche will have some interesting observations about the influence of celebrity lifestyle on expectations for our own lives. As someone who just hosted two children’s birthday parties, I can tell you GOOP would have been disappointed in my execution.

What are your reading plans for the summer?

BJL

welcome to re: read pages

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I am one of those people that enjoys rereading the same book. I even have multiple copies of some books, one for reading till the pages fall out and one for display (to admire its cover as much as its contents). The way authors can put together regular, everyday words and make them be more is astounding to me, and I reread those books to enjoy the feelings they evoke and to admire the work involved in being able to draw those feeling out.  

Good writing doesn’t just happen. It takes time, revision, and care. Great writing – the kind that blows your hair back, stays with you and makes you reread the same pages over and over ­­– well, that kind of writing is illusive. It requires the work of good writing and a mystery ingredient unique to each writer; 10,000 hours may make you capable but it doesn’t make you memorable.

Reading great books can be a challenge, too. Not just processing the sometimes difficult subject matter but seeing the choices an author makes to build scenes and characters. Taking apart a book to expose the thought behind the words can reveal the talent of the writer and bring the reader closer to what makes great writing great.

I hope to use re: read pages to discuss the craft of writing by looking at books or phrases that showcase that craft and to prompt me to work on my own writing (despite the crippling fear of mediocrity). The focus will be on novels, with particular interest in debut novels and the novels of one of my favourite authors, David Adams Richards.

Don’t worry if you haven’t read the book being discussed. You should still be able to form an opinion about the author’s choices that I present or react to my ideas about the book or writing in general. Also, as seems be required nowadays, there may be spoilers about the plot of the books, but, in my opinion, if the writing is great, it doesn’t matter if you know the story because it is how the novel brings you there that is the real enjoyment.

I’m sure the blog will evolve as I work out the tone and focus of the posts and add new features as I learn what is available, but I hope you will enjoy my thoughts on writing and that you will contribute your own observations, comments and critiques as part of the discussion. And, of course, I am always on the lookout for another great read, so please feel free to offer recommendations.

BJL