Summer Reads 2020

June 9, 2020

Art by Charlie Mackesy

The Summer Reads list is a bit of a tradition here at Bedside Table Books and started as a way to help you make choices to fill your seasonal book bag. You won’t find Dostoevsky on this list (sorry, Fyodor!) but you will hopefully, without too much effort, travel the world a little bit with some interesting folks, learn a little here and there, have a good laugh and maybe even get a chill down your spine.  I’ve researched and narrowed down a mountain of choices to these few. I’ll be digging in soon and hope you’ll join me. If you have found an ideal Summer Read yourself, feel free to share it with us.

The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell – A memoir of a young man and his penguin. How’s that for a unique start?! A young Englishman heads for South America to teach at a boarding school and on a weekend adventure finds himself rescuing a penguin who insists on sticking around.

When All Is Said by Anne Griffin – An elderly Irishman spends an evening at a hotel bar, making five toasts to five influential people in his life. This one might be your rainy day read as it seems reflective and bittersweet but by all accounts features a well written character who will remain with you. “If you had to pick five people to sum up your life, who would they be? If you were to raise a glass to each of them, what would you say? And what would you learn about yourself, when all is said?”

Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan – There are many tales of people leaving Iran but few telling the story of returning. In this novel, a woman leaves San Francisco to return to Tehran and her family and the restaurant that has been their business for three generations. She brings her teen daughter and together they explore themes of change and family.  Refinery 29 says, “… a love letter to family, food and culture.”  I thought it interesting that the author is an award-winning Chef and former restaurateur – so many reviews mention how beautifully the Persian food features.

The Summer Country by Lauren Willig – This one travels in time and location, to Victorian era Barbados. A family saga, epic in scale, set in the Caribbean of the 1800s. Comparisons to the Thorn Birds had me convinced if the gorgeous cover art hadn’t already. A young woman surprisingly inherits, from her grandfather, a sugar plantation that no one even knew existed. The plantation, or what remains of it, has stories (romance, ghosts!) that must be explored. So many good reviews and apparently one to really sink into and savour.

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok – I absolutely loved the author’s first book, Lost in Translation, and so am really looking forward to this one. A Chinese immigrant family’s hidden story is revealed as a younger sister goes looking for her elder sister who’s mysteriously disappeared in the Netherlands. Suspense and secrets and sisters … sounds simple but it’s complicated! 

Wild Horses of the Summer Sun by Tory Bilski –  A group of women, initially unknown to one another, meet annually to escape from their regular lives to ride horses in Iceland. The author recounts stories of her annual trip, her companions (four footed and two) and the extraordinary setting while exploring themes of identity, aging, friendship, freedom … “Filled with adventure and fresh humor, as well as an incredible portrait of Iceland and its remarkable equines, Wild Horses of the Summer Sun will enthrall and delight not just horse lovers, but those of us who yearn for a little more wild in everyday life.”  Paperback will be released in August. I’ll be in line!

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes –  Beloved Irish writer, Marian Keyes, takes on life and all its foibles with equal doses of humour and poignancy in her fiction and non-fiction. This one is a big juicy novel featuring a fancy family who becomes a bit unraveled when one member’s concussion causes her to become a little too unfiltered. The revelations cause the extended family to have to “grow up”. Along with the hilarity is some complexity in the lives of well-crafted characters.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – Already an accomplished author of The Mothers, Brit Bennett’s newest book was released on June 2nd into a world that could not be more ready to receive it. By all accounts this is an impressively written and important book. Identical twins escape their small town together but choose different paths in life, one as a black woman and the other, passing as white. The story moves forward through the 1950s to the 1990s, on to the next generation, and boldly examines the historical and social influences on their lives. Book clubs are going to be leaping for this one.

We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall – You may recall Susie’s last book, The Subway Girls, appeared on a previous Summer list. Susie takes inspiration from a moment in history, does extensive research for true authenticity, and weaves stories featuring intrepid heroines. The historical inspiration for this latest book was The 1939 New York World’s Fair. Two feisty young women are working at the Fair, both in positions beneath their aspirations and limited by the biased environment around them. They form a friendship which provides support and gives them courage to face their challenges. Susie describes the Fair meticulously and more than one reviewer described the book as “cinematic” with the Fair itself acting as a prominent character. 

Beach Read by Emily Henry – This seems poised to be the runaway beach bag hit for the summer. Very generous reviews and apparently more depth to it than the cover might suggest. An acclaimed writer of Literary Fiction is spending the summer at a beach house. Next door is a bestselling Romance writer. Each is suffering from severe writer’s block and so begins the tale of them challenging each other to bust out of the creative doldrums. The witty banter, Lake Michigan in the summer, and a little romantic frisson evidently adds up to excellent summer entertainment.

Saturdays at Noon by Rachel Marks – “Endearing, emotional and uplifting” The reviews for this book are outstanding. Circumstances bring a father and son to an Anger Management class where they engage with a young woman, also enrolled. Neither adult is especially fond of the other but a bond develops between the young woman and the boy who happens to be on the Autism spectrum and the story evolves from there. This is Rachel Marks’ first book and her inspiration came from her struggles in understanding her own son’s autistic behaviours. She writes exceptionally well and also from a place of true empathy for the characters’ experiences. 

The New Girl by Harriet Walker – This is the goosebumps contribution.  A psychological thriller in which a freelance journalist is brought in to cover the maternity leave of an accomplished fashion magazine editor. The temp plays at assuming the so-called perfect lifestyle of the editor in her absence while the new mother, responding to a few triggers, becomes highly suspicious and paranoid. Is it an innocent game or is something sinister at work? 

 

Summer Reading

June 3, 2012

A few of you kind souls have shared with me that you visit Bedside Table Books on your phones when you’re standing in front of the bookshelf in a store or library … that you drop in to the site to find a few recommended titles. If this sounds like you, then bookmark this entry. I dedicate the following list to the shelf-stalkers!

It’s that time of year again – the Summer Reading Lists are emerging everywhere in the media, on-line and off. I’ve been collecting titles that have piqued my interest in some way for months now and thought I’d just post the whole darn catalogue here for you to ponder along with me. Now a few of these are sooo fresh off the press that they haven’t quite made it to the shelves yet so be patient – a list this long is going to take us a while to get through, maybe until next summer! Some seem plain old fun (beach worthy) and some seem thought-provoking (for rainy days) – the whole gamut. So dust off ye olde beach bag and start packing!

Please feel welcome to add your own recommendations and discoveries in the Comments! (As always, click on the cover to learn more about the book)

               

                                       

Remember Beachy Book recommendations from last year? Refresh your memory here.

Beachy Books

June 17, 2011

    

     

     

    

    

These new releases or new-to-paperback releases are just itching to be read this summer – they’re clearly suited up to fit in at the beach! Even if a sand and surf locale isn’t in your travel plans you can vicariously be there in these pages. If you want to know more about each title just click and be taken to its description.

Summer is officially on the horizon and you will have noticed the newspapers and magazines launching their annual “Best Summer Reads” issues. I am working on my own personal summer reading plan and my boys have received their school summer reading lists … what books are on your beach bag agenda?  Send along your thoughts and we’ll put together our own recommendation list in a future post.

     

      

   

Thank you to those of you who shared some of your summer suggestions (posted last time). Today I am sharing my stack of  paperback hope-to-reads-by-end-of-the-summer.  As I see them all together I realize the covers don’t look particularly chipper considering this is the season for light and bright! Better send me your bubblegum coloured chick lit suggestions to perk things up around here …

Meanwhile, here’s my list and why each one made the cut:

Silas Marner by George Eliot – A classic. I’m hearing quite a bit about a return to reading the classics missed (or avoided?) through the years. This was a gift from a dear English friend and I’ve harboured great guilt in not yet having given it it’s due attention.

The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser – On the night of March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and roamed the Museum’s galleries, stealing thirteen works of art. The stolen works include some of the most important in art history. I visited the museum around this time (not guilty!) and absolutely loved it. Am intrigued by this unsolved mystery.

Same Kind Of Different As Me: A Modern-day Slave, An International Art Dealer, And The Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall and Denver Moore – A wealthy businessman is encouraged by his wife to volunteer with the Union Gospel Mission. He meets a homeless man there who becomes deeply intertwined in his life. “A story so incredible no novelist would dare dream it.”

The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee – A tale of love and betrayal beginning in war-torn Hong Kong of 1942 and carrying on to a decade later when “impossible choices emerge-between love and safety, courage and survival, the present, and above all, the past.”

At Least in the City Someone Would Hear me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life by Wade Rouse.  Wade Rouse captured my heart at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Conference and I’ve been looking forward to the guaranteed combination of laughs and poignancy in this newly released paperback.

The Various Flavors of Coffee by Anthony Capella – The worlds of business and romance and coffee in end of the 19th Century London and beyond.  I’m thinking an entertaining recipe! 

The Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick – A  “man of means” from Wisconsin seeks a wife through newspaper ads in the late 1800s and selects one who is not all that she says she is.   

The Secret Daughter by Shalpi Somaya Gowda – A Globe and Mail bestseller for many weeks now. The story of a child born in a small village in India and given up for adoption to a woman doctor in America. “The story moves between the two families, one struggling to eke out an existence in Mumbai, the other grappling with the challenge of raising a brownskinned child from another culture.”

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, And Madness At The Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson- I ended a recent visit to Chicago with a desire to read about some of the lively characters that populated its history. “Bringing Chicago circa 1893 to vivid life, this spellbinding bestseller intertwines the true tale of two men–the brilliant architect behind the legendary 1893 World”s Fair, striving to secure America’s place in the world; and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death.

What are you reading this summer?

    Here are the most popular responses to Bedside Table Books’ request for summer reading recommendations – they either appeared on your wish list or you wished to share them with others…

  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, otherwise known as The Millennium series by Stieg Larsson – overwhelmingly the choice of the summer. One devotee among you has located another Swedish writer with a thrilling series on the go: Death Angels and others in the Erik Winter series by Ake Edwardson. She aims to compare the two.

   Another huge hit of this summer is unfolding: Justin Cronin’s The Passage. This is apparently the first in a series yet to be entirely released. Described as a thriller, post apocalyptic, and featuring some of the scariest monsters ever – enthusiastically cheered by those who’ve read it. Stephen King is a fan and writes: “Read this book and the ordinary world disappears”.

      The Help by Kathryn Stockett –  Another candidate for most-talked about book this summer. “A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope.” I have personally been encouraged to read this numerous times and can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. Many of you are reading this and unanimously telling me it’s a great read.  The House at Riverton is another of Kate Morton’s popular reads.

     Open by Andre Agassi. The tennis great reveals all … and more! Eye-opening I’m told.

     Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream  both by Barack Obama. Immensely readable, timely and inspiring. Politics aside, Mr.Obama has a gift for words worth considering.

   New York by Edward Rutherford (also London, Sarum, Russka etc) Reminiscent of James Michener – long sagas of fictionalized history. Great characters spanning generations as history unfolds. Huge dedication to research here.

    The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay is a classic and yet his newer works, Whitethorn for instance, are also coming to be considered classics. A fantastic storyteller who fills thousands of pages with captivating characters and adventures. Trivia note: Courtenay didn’t start writing until he was fifty-five! Love him already.

More summer reading recommendations next time!

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