Summer Reading Round-Up

I’m bringing back book reviews with a new approach! I stopped doing monthly posts about what I was reading because:

  1. They were getting too long and cumbersome. In a sense, they even held back my reading life because I didn’t want to review more than 5 or 6 books a month.
  2. I struggled with what to write about books I didn’t like. Firstly, because even though a book isn’t right for me, I don’t like to badmouth it because others may love it. Secondly, if I don’t like a book I won’t actually finish it. I’ve become a book abandoner (more on that later in this post).
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So I’m going to approach the reviews seasonally rather than monthly. That way, I can focus just on the highlights, and skip over books that didn’t make an impression.

The Category: Most Impactful

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull: I loved reading about the inner workings of Pixar, and coming to a greater understanding of how creativity works in groups rather than individuals. (Bonus: my son’s Cars, Monsters Inc. and Toy Story obsessions are more interesting to me now that I know the stories behind their creation.)

The Natural Baby Sleep Solution by Polly Moore: I can’t wait to try the “90-minute alert period” on my newborn. I’m something of a sleep zealot, and did a lot of research on baby sleep when my son was in that stage, but this book is based on new research with a premise that rings true for me.

The Category: Most Fun To Read

Here’s To Us by Elin Hilderbrand: I always race through her Nantucket summer reads. I loved her foodie descriptions in this one.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner: This historical novel, based on the filming of Gone With The Wind, is the perfect balance of a quick read with the depth of literary fiction.

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes: Like The Devil Wears Prada, except that the evil-bitch-boss never truly cows our heroine, who stays true to herself throughout the ordeal.

The Category: Most Helpful To My Writing

The DIY MFA book, of course, which I reviewed earlier in the summer. If you’re a writer and you haven’t picked up your copy, DO IT NOW! It’s fantastic. Also, skim the “Acknowledgments” page and you might see a familiar name. (It’s me! It’s me!)

Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell: I picked this up for research on my Blizzard book, hoping that I could get some tips on handling a meteorologic event as a storyline. I was disappointed to find that the heatwave itself wasn’t strongly stressed in the book, but I did learn a lot about crafting character descriptions from O’Farrell.

The Category: Best Series

Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. I read the first three this summer. I’m not as in love with them as I was with Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike mysteries, but I definitely see Penny’s appeal to literary mystery lovers.

The Category: Abandoned

I’m including this category because I think the books I’ve abandoned will surprise you. Both of these books were excellently written; I abandoned them for reasons of personal taste.

A Fall Of Marigolds by Susan Meissner: I loved Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, and decided to try this Meissner next because it’s based on the Triangle Fire, the subject of Waist. (It’s actually a linking of Triangle with 9/11, which is an apt comparison and an angle I seriously considered before starting Waist; I’m glad I didn’t pursue it or it would be too similar to this title!) I had to stop just a few chapters in, though, because the Triangle Fire story hinges on what I know to be a historical inaccuracy. It bothered me too much to continue.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I know, I know, this is the book of the year. It won the Pulitzer. It’s amazing. But World War II stories always hit too close to my emotional bone. I keep trying to read them, and keep having to abandon them. Which is a shame, because it’s such a popular time period for historical fiction right now.

The Category: Almost Abandoned (But made myself finish)

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld: It’s the modern Pride and Prejudice retelling. I think Sittenfeld modernized the Bennetts well. I just didn’t like Elizabeth at all. I thought she grew a really hard edge, and I couldn’t understand why Darcy would love her.

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin: I usually love Giffin’s complex emotional entanglements and moral dilemmas. But I couldn’t find sympathy for either of the main characters.

What were your favorite summer reads? Which books left the most lasting impact on you? 

2 Responses to “Summer Reading Round-Up”

  1. Sara L. says:

    Funny that you had second thoughts about your book-reviewing “methods” blogging-wise. The same thing happened to me recently…

    Anyways, we have one summer read in common: DIY MFA! That doesn’t surprise you, though, I bet. 😉 I loved it as well, and I’m so happy Gabriela was able to publish her teachings in book form.

    Most of my other fiction reads this summer were fantasy, so I won’t go into too much detail about them… but my three season favorites were The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin (might end up being my favorite read of the year, too), The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May, and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.

  2. Kathy says:

    I’ve started abandoning books, too–life is just too short, and there are too many outstanding books that I want to read. Like you, I don’t usually mention them because often I feel like they just didn’t work for me, but might be someone else’s favorite book of all time. I usually don’t feel like the books are poorly written or a waste of time, just that they weren’t my cup of tea.

    Definitely going to look into DIY MFA!

    I am reading an Inspector Gamache mystery right now (Bury Your Dead) and have really enjoyed this series which is pretty new to me. I love mysteries, and I find these to be a cut above the normal in almost every way.

    Favorite reads this summer: Chosen By a Horse/Chosen Forever (Susan Richardson), The Faraway Nearby (Rebecca Solnit), In a Dark, Dark Wood (Ruth Ware).

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