Summer Reading

Rooftop reading
I absolutely love getting immersed in a good book.  This is especially crucial in the long daylight hours of summer.  I went quite a while without having something good to read- relying on books I'd read before, or magazines I subscribe to.  Because I read a lot before bed, and my dreams are usually rather vivid, I have to be careful about the books I get into, and of course, the book shouldn't feel like a chore I have to complete.  So without English assignments giving me books to read, and roommates to add to my book collection for me, how do I find my next book?
"This Is Where I Leave You" - in progress
Well, like I said, I went quite a while struggling with exactly that.  But the internets saved me!  There are websites out there that will suggest a new book for you to read based on your favorites.  Even somewhere like Amazon will give you the "others purchased" links when you're looking up favorite books you've read.  But I've actually found some good lists of books to read using Buzzfeed.  I know, I know, not the smartest website around, but they're pretty good at lists, you have to admit...

I discovered a few "Books to read before they become movies" lists, and just started requesting them from my library.  I've had a few busts, wishing I hadn't bothered reading the whole book, but most were entertaining, thought-provoking, and definitely recommendable!  To be fair, I also eliminated some from the lists that I didn't think I'd have much interest in reading- I might have made a good call, or perhaps I'm missing out on a really awesome book (ie: The Fault in Our Stars- I hear nothing but good things, but I know I'm gonna do I really want to go there?).

So here are some of my suggestions for some books to read this summer, as well as some books I have on my list that I hope to read soon.  Do you have any book suggestions for me?!

PS- I stole plot summaries from Wikipedia, Amazon, etc.  It's not that I'm lazy, but I don't want to accidentally summarize a crucial plot twist, so I want to make sure I don't give away anything that isn't already an "approved" summary.  Ok, it's also that I'm lazy ;-)

Shantaram: A Novel by Gregory David Roberts - An epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.

Let's get this one out of the way.  This is not entirely an easy beach read, but I was hooked from the onset.  I wish I could read you the first page of the novel, because it's perfection, it gets you excited for the 900+ pages to follow.  It's not easy, and it will take some time to get through, but you won't want it to end.  This is a wonderful book to fill your time with, so allow your summer to get taken over by Lin and his amazing views of India.

Divergent by Veronica Roth - In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

A quick and addicting read.  I got immediately pulled into Tris's world; if you liked The Hunger Games and are looking for another fast-paced trilogy, pick this one up.  I will say that, similar to The Hunger Games, I liked the books in the order they were written (the first in the series being the best, etc), but I still enjoyed tearing through these books.  And once you get through Divergent, there's still Insurgent and Allegiant to follow!  

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman - "I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened."  Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

I kind of didn't expect to love this one as much as I did.  I expected it to be weepy, sappy, annoying.  But I was so glad I gave it a shot!  I was surprised to find many elements of my previously failed relationships described in this teenage romance account- and in an endearing "that must be a universal theme of failed relationships" kind of way, not a depressing way.  I loved that it felt relate-able, even though I'm certainly not in high school anymore.  Give it a try!  You can finish it in a weekend lying by the pool!

Swim: Why We Love the Water by Lynn Sherr - Swim is a celebration of swimming and the effect it has on our lives. It’s an inquiry into why we swim—the lure, the hold, the timeless magic of being in the water. It’s a look at how swimming has changed over the millennia, how this ancient activity is becoming more social than solitary today. It’s about our relationship with the water, with our fishy forebearers, and with the costumes that we wear. You’ll even find a few songs to sing when you push out those next laps.

Ok, not exactly a RomCom beach read.  But my blog is called SWIM, eat, repeat!  My dad got me this book for my birthday a bit ago, and I loved picking it up and reading a chapter and falling in love with swimming all over again.  This book made me so happy that I've kept up swimming for so long, and made me wish I was closer to the beach while reading it (but I probably wouldn't have kept reading for long if I could have jumped in the water right then and there).  If you have a soft spot in your heart for the smell of chlorine or the salty sea air, I recommend this book!

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

Gillian Flynn might be known better for her novel Gone Girl, but I actually really preferred this one.  I was really angry at the ending of Gone Girl and I think it ruined the excitement of the beginning (PS- I've heard a rumor that the movie team petitioned Gillian Flynn to change the ending for the movie, so I might be really happy if they change what I think they will...).  But anyways, Dark Places kept me on the edge of my seat; I trusted no one, I suspected everyone, and I kind of loved that.  The twists and turns of the story keep you guessing and I suggest reading this on a sunny beach to counteract the dark novel (no pun intended).

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper - The death of Judd Foxman's father marks the first time that the entire Foxman clan has congregated in years. There is, however, one conspicuous absence: Judd's wife, Jen, whose affair with his radio- shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the demise of his father and his marriage, Judd joins his dysfunctional family as they reluctantly sit shiva-and spend seven days and nights under the same roof. The week quickly spins out of control as longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed and old passions are reawakened.

This book reminded me of a more crass Wes Anderson movie...does that make sense?  The subject matter should be dark and depressing, instead it's dry humor and entertaining.  This family is beyond dysfunctional, but you still love them and want the best for all of them.  Read this during a family reunion to make you feel better about some of your family's quirks!  And once you finish this one, check out the IMDB site to see the movie cast- so killer!

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby - Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper's House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives.  In four distinct and riveting first-person voices, Nick Hornby tells a story of four individuals confronting the limits of choice, circumstance, and their own mortality. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances.  Intense, hilarious, provocative, and moving, A Long Way Down is a novel about suicide that is, surprisingly, full of life.

Only Nick Hornby could take a novel about suicide and make it full of pop culture, music, and witty comments about the world we live in.  I again wondered if this book was going to be too dark and depressing for me to enjoy, but Nick Hornby (you know him from High Fidelity, About a Boy, and probably several others) has a way of giving voice to these down-trodden characters where you can relate and wish them the best.  I also particularly loved that each chapter switched views between the main characters.  By the end, you felt you knew these characters inside and out, and the different reactions to the same situations were very interesting.

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais - "That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist."  And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life’s journey in Richard Morais’s charming novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a succulent treat about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste.

A book about becoming a chef, couldn't you just die?!  Hassan lives in several prominent food places and the food-writing here is amazing.  But it's also the story of he and his family, and the love between them all to support one another throughout the years.  Also, Helen Mirren will be playing one of his greatest chef mentors when this book jumps to the big screen, love!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed - At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

I love to hike, I love being outdoors; this book simultaneously made me want to drop everything and hike the PCT for several months (which my friends Alice and Steve did!!), as well curl into my soft bed even further and be grateful for indoor plumbing.  It takes a gifted writer to pull us in so completely to such a solitary journey through the wilderness, but I felt her ups and downs, her triumphs and failures, and got so excited each time she succeeded.  Loved it!

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak - B.J. Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut that signals the arrival of a brilliant new voice in American fiction.

It's a bunch of short stories- short funny stories, also quirky.  Picture BJ Novak's character on The Office, and his dry wit, sarcasm, and ability to make you laugh while keeping a straight face.  Now picture what kind of stories that character would write!  I hate to claim that BJ Novak IS his character Ryan Howard, but it's an easier way to describe the novel, haha.  Some of these stories are mere sentences long, others 15 pages, this is a really easy book to pick up and put down on the beach, on the weekend, wherever, whenever! 

Bread and Butter by Michelle Wildgen - Britt and Leo have spent ten years running Winesap, the best restaurant in their small Pennsylvania town. They cater to their loyal customers; they don't sleep with the staff; and business is good, even if their temperamental pastry chef is bored with making the same chocolate cake night after night. But when their younger brother, Harry, opens his own restaurant—a hip little joint serving an aggressive lamb neck dish—Britt and Leo find their own restaurant thrown off-kilter. Britt becomes fascinated by a customer who arrives night after night, each time with a different dinner companion. Their pastry chef, Hector, quits, only to reappear at Harry's restaurant. And Leo finds himself falling for his executive chef-tempted to break the cardinal rule of restaurant ownership. Filled with hilarious insider detail—the one-upmanship of staff meals before the shift begins, the rivalry between bartender and hostess, the seedy bar where waitstaff and chefs go to drink off their workday—Bread and Butter is both an incisive novel of family and a gleeful romp through the inner workings of restaurant kitchens.

That's all I got, I just got this book yesterday at the library and haven't yet started it!  But I'm excited to have another book to read about the food scene! **Update- Don't bother.  I was not into this story at all.  The writing wasn't great, and I really didn't care much for the characters themselves.  Oh well!

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan - In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer.

I bought and started this book awhile ago.  I was really into it!  Then all of my requested books started coming into the library, and this one was cast aside.  I'm hoping to start it up again soon in a lull of library books, so I'm both excited to get through my current requests list, and sad that I don't have a book lined up at the library for me to read soon.  I'll have to find some more lists to pour over and request some more!

Well that's it from me, pick one of these up soon! 

Any book suggestions for me?

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