Weekly Check In: Some Chill Summer Reads

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My brother and I went up to Lake Placid over the elongated holiday weekend.  On Monday we did a fourteen mile loop hike to Mount Colden.  That night, while fireworks went off in the distance, and the campsites around us blared music and drank beer, we were both firmly ensconced in our beds by approximately 7:30. Shawn fell asleep, amazingly fast actually, while I was awake, but could not move my body. It was a great excuse to start, and make some decent headway, into a new book.

Although “voracious reader” is one of those coined terms I sort of hate, I am in fact, a voracious reader. I was in a reading stalemate this spring though. I would start a book, become uninterested, and put it down, only to start another book, become uninterested, and put it down. I have tons of unread books just sitting around my room, but wasn’t in the mood for any. That snapped sometime around Memorial Day though, and I’ve been buzzing through about a book a week this summer, which I love. I always enjoy book recommendations, so figured I’d throw out a couple of summer read recommendations, most of which I’ve done in the past 6 months or so.  I’d love to get any recommendations as well. There’s still plenty of summertime reading left.

  1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah– This is top on my list of recent favorite reads. Trevor Noah is the host of the Daily Show, for those of you who don’t know him (I was only peripherally aware of him before I picked this up), although this memoir doesn’t get into it at all. What it is about is his experiences growing up with a black mother and white father in Apartheid and post Apartheid South Africa. His birth was a literal crime, hence the title of the novel. It’s a super easy read, and poignant, and eye opening.  It’s also hilarious, and a sequence about him shitting on the floor in front of his blind grandmother had my laughing like a jackass during lunch in a restaurant one day.  I’ve since been doing a deep dive into South African history, which is fascinating, as well as Trevor’s stand-up specials on Netflix, which are laugh out loud funny, and very social-conscious if that’s your thing.
  2. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley- I picked this up because season 2 of Fargo, on FX was one of my favorite seasons of television ever, and Noah Hawley is the creator.  If you’ve watched the show, the themes in it are very present here. At a very base level, it’s about a private jet that crashes on the way back from Martha’s Vineyard, and the various people who died/survived, as you try and figure out what made the plane go down. I started this on a Saturday and had it finished by Sunday night. This was excellent.
  3. Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman- So this is the book I actually started in Lake Placid, and I’m really digging it for the moment. Who knows, I may end up hating it and retracting this statement, but at present, it’s something I think I’ll recommend. I’m not sure where it’s going at the moment, but it’s more or less about the bizarre inhabitants of the town of Owl, North Dakota, told through the eyes of three residents.  As someone from a bizarre small town, I can relate to more than I wish. The dialogue and eccentricity of the residents alone is makes the read worth it.
  4. Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance- If you even remotely follow books, you’ve undoubtedly heard of this one, which publications keep touting as the book to read if you want to understand people in Trump country, which I think is really a great disservice to both the book and author, as it’s so much more nuanced than that.  JD Vance grew up in rural Kentucky and Ohio, and talks about his experience growing up in this very specific kind of rust-belt poverty. He escaped, as it were, enrolled in the army, and made it to Yale law school, but this “hillbilly” area and mentality are what shaped him. It’s unfortunate that it’s kind of been politicized, because it’s essentially a book about people, but I get it, and it is an incredibly empathetic and raw view of a sect of people many are probably too dismissive of. I listened to a couple podcast interviews with Mr. Vance afterwards, and he’s a very well-spoken and level headed. It made me appreciate his work more.
  5. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler– Controversial opinion: I feel like Tina Fey unfairly gets more credit than Amy Poehler, who I think is hands down the funnier of the duo.  Maybe I’m just biased, as I would unhesitatingly vote for Leslie Knope in 2020.  I’m not a comedy person, or really a celebrity person, per say, but Amy Poehler is funny, and this is a quick, light read.
  6. City of Thieves by David Benioff– I love this book so much. This is not a new read, but I did read it just the other week. It’s one of those books I re-read almost every summer, since discovering it 5 or so years ago.  Set during the siege of Leningrad, it’s about a teen arrested for looting, and Russian deserter, who are essentially sent on a suicide mission to find eggs in the Nazi occupied countryside for a Soviet colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. It reads like a movie. After reading it, I remember wondering why this David Benioff character wasn’t churning out more amazing books, when he was obviously a very gifted writer. Turns out he was (still is) busy writing a little show called Game of Thrones.
  7. The Secret Place by Tana French- Tana French has officially unseated Dennis Lehane (sorry, dude) as my favorite writer working today.  She writes mysteries, set in Dublin, and focusing on the detectives working these cases, which is such a bad sell on my part of what she actually does. These are not cookie cutter detective novels. The writing is incredible, and the characters are not at all loner detective stereotypes. I also like that she often incorporates an almost supernatural/unexplainable element, without going full fantasy or sci-fi, and never does explain why said element appears. It’s realistic I think; weird shit happens all the time with no explanation. This story, my favorite, is about the two detectives who investigate the murder of a teenage boy, on the grounds of an all-girl’s boarding school.
  8. The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan– I read this book, because Tana French recommended it in an interview of hers I read.  Donal Ryan is another Irish writer, and this very quick read (you could easily kill this in 2 hours at the pool) centers around the residents of a small village, and how they react both positively, but mostly negatively. to an economic recession.  Every chapter is narrated by a different character, so you’re not getting one person’s story, but the town’s. Remind me to never be in a small Irish village after an economic recession.

What about you? Read anything good lately? Any book you re-read every summer?

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