With summer approaching, it is the perfect time to select some books to read on the beach this summer. Our friends at Wellesley Books offer recommendations addressing a range of topical issues in a range of genres:
If you are SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS, read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson who writes about his experiences as a death row lawyer in Alabama. Stevenson traces one particular case as a way to shed light on the inequalities and extreme racism in the criminal justice system today. Some cases are so unbelievable you will think you are reading a novel, but sadly, everything in this book is true. It is sobering and a real call to action.
If you like to ROOT FOR THE UNDERDOG, read Flood Girls by Richard Fifield. Take one recovering alcoholic, add a gender-confused, well-dressed 8th grader, a volunteer fire department, a born-again Christian and a tough-as-nails softball coach—all set in a small town in Montana—and you have the makings of an utterly charming, funny, tragic and wonderful story. This unique cast of characters will have you in stitches one minute and break your heart the next. One of my favorite books in a long time.
If you like ACTION, read The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti, a truly original story of a man with a very hard criminal past and his attempts to turn over a new leaf. The novel travels between Hawley’s past and his present life with his teenage daughter, Loo. Having lived on the run for many years, Hawley and Loo set up roots at long last. Bad choices, however, build on each other until no matter how hard he tries, the past and trouble always seem to find Hawley. With lively characters and wonderful local color, this fast-paced, well-written tale will keep you engaged and curious until its surprising end.
If you like SATIRE, The One Eyed Man by Ron Currie gives us “K,” a man who takes everything to its most literal edge. Unique in his ability to observe situations and political issues objectively without passing judgement or rendering personal opinions, K is the perfect satirical spokesman for what is ailing our country today. From Immigration, racial profiling, abortion, climate change and, most poignantly, gun control (or lack thereof), K has something inflammatory to say, often with unforeseen consequences! Fun read that will make you stop and think.
If you like QUIRKY CHARACTERS, read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, a great story of a young woman who has managed to live a life very much a part from anyone. Although a seemingly sad premise, this is an uplifting story of how Eleanor makes some dramatic changes to her life with help from the most unlikely of sources. Endearing, funny and charming, you will grow to love Eleanor as she learns to live with herself and others. If you enjoyed The Rosie Project and A Man Called Ove, you will love Eleanor Oliphant.
Or read The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig, the heart-wrenching story of a completely misunderstood autistic teen who has shuffled from one foster home to another after suffering trauma and abuse in her birth home. Ludwig gives Ginny an authentic voice and highlights the tensions and frustrations of the adults in Ginny’s life as they misinterpret her behavior again and again. Similar to The Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Original Ginny Moon helps us gain insight and empathize with individuals who cannot always be heard and the people who do so much to help them.
If you are interested in IMMIGRATION: Exit West by Moshin Hamid is an incredibly poignant look at immigration as imagined in a dystopian world in which refugees can flee from one country to another through a series of doors. Hamid examines the psychology of being a refugee as well as an array of widely disparate responses by host countries. Incredibly topical and mind expanding!
Or read, The Leavers by Lisa Ko, which gives names and faces to the victims of inhuman immigration and deportation policies. Ko explores the significant ramifications of displacement on the life of Deming Guo a.k.a. Daniel Wilkinson and his mother. The Leavers tackles the complex issues of identity, abandonment and adoption with multiple perspectives and real humanity. Worthy of note, the novel is the winner of the esteemed Bellwether Prize in social justice!
If you like WESTERNS, read The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peele, a classic tale of the downtrodden striving to achieve the American dream with some important, unique, new twists. Peele’s characters are so real and appealing, as are their struggles to bridge class divides and come to grips with some of the more negative aspects of power. Set in Tennessee at the onset of World War I, The Midnight Cool gives unique insights in to wartime rhetoric and bigotry, mule trading and prohibition among other cultural issues of the times. Well written, fast paced and interesting!
If you like NEW YORK CITY and CHARACTER SKETCHES, read Fishbowl. The novel by Bradley Sommer is an absolute classic tribute to New York City and apartment living. As Ian, the fish, plunges from the 27th floor to the sidewalk, we get intimate glimpses of the residents in the apartments in the floors between. Sommer’s characters are deeply flawed and so emotionally raw and vulnerable that you cannot help but love them (or at least most of them!). Over the period of an afternoon, we are witness to first love, break up, birth, death and most importantly the bonds of human decency. Funny, fresh and wonderful!