My very favorite part of summer is the time I have to read. I read steadily throughout the year, but I binge-read in the summer. I just spent six solid days sitting on the beach under an umbrella reading and listening to the sounds of summer.
Because so many of y’all send me e-mails and messages about books to read, I thought I’d just start listing them here. Then you can pin the pictures and get to the lists any time you want.
So here are my favorite reads so far in June.
1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It won the Pulitzer Prize this year. No big deal.
I started it back in March on a trip to New York. My schedule took a turn for the crazy and I set it aside for the summer so I could pay attention.
It is the first book in a very long time, maybe since I was a teen, that I gasped and exclaimed audibly. I just about gave Coach a stroke at the beach with a resounding, “Oh NO! No No No No!”
I used to think I didn’t like historical fiction. It was a silly notion, because the best history teachers are the best story tellers, and I understand more about the Hitler Youth and The Occupation of France than I ever learned in school.
It’s a book that traces the parallel lives of two teenagers. A blind girl living in France who is forced out of Paris with her father as a mystery about an artifact surrounds them and an orphan with a talent for radios who is chosen to train and become one of Hitler’s men.
It’s inevitable that the two will cross paths and they do, but the story is so rich with descriptions and research and characters, that you feel like you’re there.
I can’t say enough about it. It’s definitely a five-star book for me and I’m in good company because it was nominated and won more awards than most authors win in a lifetime.
2. Eight Hundred Grapes
Although very different, I loved this book as well. I accidentally ran across a Laura Dave book in an airport a few years ago when I was desperate for something to read on the way back from Napa. (So far, this post sounds like I travel to the most fun places all of the time which is hilarious because most of my life is spent between here and the grocery store.)
So it turns out that it takes about 800 grapes to make a bottle of wine which is why one should never be wasted. It’s also the title of the book.
It’s a great story about a woman on the precipice of marriage when she is met with some very odd circumstances that drive her back to her family home, a biodynamic vineyard in Sebastopol, California.
And now I want a biodynamic vineyard. And a donkey. There is no donkey in the novel though; that’s a story for another day.
What I love about Laura Dave is that her characters aren’t trite. Georgia is edgy and witty, and from what I remember from my weekend in Wine Country with ten women, very much the epitome of Californian women in all the best ways.
The story is one of love gone awry, but not in a trite or cliche way. Dave weaves so much fascinating exposition about the area and family relations and biodynamic vinters into the story that I became engrossed and plowed through this novel in a day sitting on the beach.
3. Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews
It isn’t a beach trip without Mary Kay Andrews. Beach Town didn’t disappoint. My very favorite novel of hers is Hissy Fit and I’ve been loyal ever since. An obvious beach read, contains all the things that make beach reads so indulgent. She’s a great story teller, so the plot isn’t necessarily a new one. Woman, mid-thirties, without a love to speak of, working to make a career for herself, works for a difficult boss, has to travel to a less-than-desirable locale, and then drama ensues. Again, it’s the humor and the care that Andrews takes when she crafts her characters and does her research that makes the story great. She’s never let me down for good beach entertainment.
4. But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria by Julia Reed
Do y’all remember Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women? She used to be one of my favorites. No one could make a point like her.
Julia Reed is that way. A columnist by trade, she has a few collections of essays about southern culture that are wry and witty. They’re also smart. I discovered her in an independent bookstore in my hometown where the owner gets genuinely excited to see you because he’s been thinking about books you’d like. Way less weird than those ads that are directed at me on Facebook. He was right about this one. I love good non-fiction. I’m also doing research because I’m working on a project with another local artisan in town. More on that later.