We are itching to get our summer on, but this spring keeps punking us. Flip-flops on Friday and now back to Polartec. Whatever.
We are thinking ahead of the warm, languorous days to come. The relaxed pace, the warm breeze, the easy outfits, and the time to really dig into some good books. We love to read, so the thought of days to just curl up by the pool with a cocktail and a great book is our idea of time well spent.
If you are like us, you love suggestions for what to read. Here are a few books that delighted us this past year. Read on, friends!
1. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
This book was a perfect piece of lite lit. A lighthouse keeper and his wife find a baby in a boat and, rather than call the authorities, raise her as their own. Despite such a dramatic set-up, the book never crosses over into schmaltzy cheese. In fact, the author deftly balances their sense of isolation and longing with their understanding that they have done the wrong thing. Nobody in this book can help themselves and the author makes each character sympathetic and understandable. This is not a look at crazy, but a reflection of just how far we will all go for what we love. Not bad for a page-turner.
2. The Vow by Wendy Plump
Wendy Plump is a cheater. She is also a completely open, honest, almost uncomfortably real writer who talks candidly about her broken marriage and all of the ways she and her husband failed each other. Plump is exceptionally good at rendering images and drawing you into a world you hope you never have to enter. Her heartbreak becomes a mesmerizing read with each clever turn of phrase. In the end, you are left with hope for the age-old institution of marriage even in light of all of the ways it didn’t work for her. Unputdownable.
3. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
This is a book for those who want to get lost between the pages. Towles evokes a time and place in his portrayal of 1930s Manhattan that would be fun to visit in and of itself, but he adds the wonderful character Katey Content to this tale and we are transported. Katey is the plucky, lucky every-girl who is trying to make something of herself. When random events change the course and temper of her future, we recognize Katey and root for her. We all have been that girl on the cusp of possibility. A wonderful, buoyant novel about coming of age.
4. The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Yep. We are recommending a non-fiction book about cancer. Don’t hate us or ignore us. This book is a behemoth, but so infinitely readable, you’ll forget you are reading the history of cancer and get wrapped up in the stories between the pages. If you love a little non-fiction with your beachside cabana, this might be the one for you.
5. The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler
We devoured The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books one summer. If you thought those books were literary crack too, this is definitely a book for you. If not, we’ll try not to judge you for that, but you should move on to #6. Kepler opens this book with the grisly murder of a family. There’s only one surviving witness, a little boy. Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist, is called in to help find out what happened. His intervention unleashes a terrible chain of events that makes for an intense but satisfying read.
6. When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
Oh, man, this book is chock full of crappy, crappy things that happened to people. There is murder, a terrible train crash, a drowning, and some domestic violence thrown in here too. But don’t let that stop you. Atkinson has created some unforgettable characters here in this pseudo crime drama/pseudo thriller. She controls the pace of the novel so well that you have time to really get to know all the characters and marvel at the ways each story touches each other.
7. I Just Want to Pee Alone by Kick-Ass Bloggers
A compilation of essays on motherhood from some of our most favorite bloggers on the web, this book made us wish this had been around when we were new moms. How great it would have been to have these stories not only for commiseration, but to lighten us up so that we could find the funny in the sheer ridiculousness that is parenting small children. Hilarious, tender, and true, this book is a reassurance that imperfection is normal. And it goes great with cocktails. Or so we have heard.
8. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Absorbing, interwoven stories and beautifully drawn characters help you travel back and forth over 50 years in this tale. You won’t mind the trip a bit. In fact, you will be drawn into this world. From the lovely actress to the soulless movie producer, from the novelist to the innkeeper, each character dreams deeply improbable dreams and you can’t help but be carried away with them. Summer is the perfect time for day dreaming and this book fits the bill.
9. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
Poor Winn. His daughter is getting married at the Kennedy-esque family compound, and his world of privilege is unravelling. He’s a man with everything but true happiness, and the three day extravaganza is primed to turn into a spectacle rather than the refined affair he desires. A lesser author might have made this story into a tragedy, but this book is laugh out loud funny. Even as Shipstead takes on the world of the well-bred with a sharp, biting wit, you will be swayed by her sidesteps into the heart of desire, the obligations of love, and what we must never surrender for fame, fortune, or a seat at the country club. This is funny with a super sized helping of smart, and it goes down smooth.
10. Moms Who Drink and Swear: True Tales of Loving My Kids While Losing My Mind by Nicole Knepper
When we stumbled upon the blog, Moms Who Drink and Swear, we kind of pictured a gang of moms tossing back beers and yo-ho-hoing like merry wenches à la Pirates of the Caribbean. When we delved deeper, we found a sharp-witted, hilarious writer who refuses to worship at the altar of perfection. Nicole Knepper, a smart, educated woman who is a girlfriend’s girlfriend, serves up a heaping dose of “this is the real motherhood” in her new book. Chapters such as “Making New McFriends” and “Dinner is Like Herpes” will have you nodding along while laughing to the point that people will feel obliged to ask, “Are you okay?”
Here’s to a summer full of good books, cold drinks, and happy memories!
-Erin and Ellen
After we published this, we found out that two of our favorite bloggers Michele at Old Dog, New Tits and Mel at According to Mags were grooving on the same wavelength. They have a super-fun link-up called Ketchup with Us and this week their prompt is “What book is on your bedside table?”. If you need even more great suggestions or have a few of your own, check them out! You won’t be sorry!
By Ellen Williams Erin Dymowski