Summer Reading Roundup

After four long months, this crazy summer, and its accompanying reading list, have just about reached their ends. I spent many of D.C.’s notoriously sweltering days with a book in-hand, and I ended up getting through twelve books, most of which were fantastic. In the following list, you’ll find an overview, mini-analysis and rating for each book. If you’re just here for the highlights, my favorites of the summer were This is Where I Leave You, Adulting, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and The Opposite of Loneliness. Read on to find out more, and click each image to buy.

summer reading

1. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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Overview: Don is a high strung biologist on a mission to use the scientific method to find the perfect wife. Then comes Rosie — the embodiment of everything he never wanted in a friendship or a relationship — who involves him in a project of her own and changes his perfectly planned life forever.

You should know: the story of Rosie and Don is pretty predictable, but even that does not dampen the fun of cheering them on.

My rating: 3/5

2. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper 

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Overview: Judd Altman’s life is falling apart, and to make it worse, he will spend the next seven days sitting Shiva at his father’s dying request. Tropper brings us a hilarious tale of a dysfunctional family and a whole lot of love.

You should know: find a cosy reading spot and bring snacks, because once you start this book, you won’t be able to stop. The Altman family story is captivating and relatable.

My rating: 5/5

3. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell 

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Overview: Lincoln has fallen in love with Beth the news writer. However, all he knows about her is what he has read in her emails. His job as the overnight IT security guard means reading emails and then facing the consequences of life outside the screen.

You should know: the story of Lincoln and Beth can seem a little childish at times, and reading the email exchanges between Beth and her best friend/coworker Jennifer took some getting used to.

My rating: 3/5

4. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

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Overview: Sedaris delivers yet another collection of hilarious tales, ranging from awkward encounters abroad to childhood mishaps and memories. As usual, his stories are a quick and easy read, although a few essays that offer a new look into Sedaris’ past fall slightly short of comical.

You should know: this is the kind of book to keep on your nightstand and read a chapter of every night just to end the day on a light-hearted note.

My rating: 4/5

5. The Good House by Ann Leary 

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Overview: Alcohol and affairs have rocked small-town Massachusetts. As Hildy, an old townie and one of the most successful business women in the area, recovers from a shielded trip to rehab, she finds a confidante in a town newcomer. But old friendships and new flames make for a complicated year for this quiet town and its wealthy residents.

You should know: it often feels like Leary focuses too much on details, but as the most thrilling events unfold later in the book, every little detail plays a vital role.

My rating: 4/5

6. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

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Overview: Tech meets vintage hipster bookstore plus Harry Potter-esque names in this strange book from Robin Sloan. This is the story of a mysterious bookstore and the technology needed to save it (and all of its coded works) from disappearing forever.

You should know: it gets jargon heavy, and the action starts a bit too late.

My rating: 2.5/5

7. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

breakfast-of-championsOverview: In typical Vonnegut style, Breakfast of Champions is a little scatterbrained, a little weird, and still quite intriguing. Dwayne Hoover is obsessed with the novel of Kilgore Trout which, apparently, tells the former man that he is the only non-machine in the world and should therefore kill the human-like machines surrounding him to fulfill the will of the Creator of the Universe.

You should know: I’m not a huge Vonnegut fan, but I enjoyed this book for its sheer weirdness and array of social commentary that is still relevant today. (And my hometown makes two appearances!)

My rating: 3/5

8. Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown

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Overview: Kelly Williams Brown wrote this lengthy list to teach us how to suck less at being an independent adult. And it works. Read about how to get your life together by cleaning up that mysterious crusty stuff on the carpet, buying real furniture, (literally) testing the water before buying an apartment, being nice to mean people, and all of the other little things that make us (seem like) high-functioning people.

You should know: read this once for a laugh and then keep it within arms reach for the rest of your life to ensure constant access to brilliant advice that will impress your mom.

My rating: 5/5

9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Overview: Mother-daughter pair Bernadette and Bee are two peas in a pod, in a run-down-almost-dream-home in dreary Seattle. Thanks to Bee’s good grades, they plan to set sail on a family voyage to Antartica in just a matter of weeks. But when Bernadette mysteriously vanishes just before they are about to leave, Bee discovers her mother’s life is full of secrets that may just point her in the right direction.

You should know: the book is told in choppy sections that may seem confusing and disconnected in the beginning, but Bee uses these seemingly random correspondences to piece together the story of her mother’s disappearance. I usually hate books that are told in this manner, but I tore through this one in only a few hours.

My rating: 5/5

10. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

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Overview: A collection of short stories and essays written by a gifted young writer who was lost far too soon. Keegan’s powerful, confident writing makes us laugh, cry and wonder (while also making those of us close to her age feel like we have done far too little with our years).

You should know: Keegan’s death haunts this book as she writes often about dying and about what it is like to lose a loved one. Nevertheless, the book is not clouded by sadness, but rather is overpowered by her incredible gift for telling a believable story. Read my full review here.

My rating: 5/5

11. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

 

Overview: Enzo the dog knows a lot about life as a human — in fact, he believes that since he is such a good, loyal, intelligent dog in this life, he will be reincarnated as a human in the next one. Enzo’s musings are invisible to those around him, but this is the story of love, loss and tragedy told through the quiet life of a good dog.

You should know: Enzo gleans most of his knowledge from the television his loving master (a semi-professional racecar driver) leaves on during the day. Much of his wisdom also comes from old racing tales and Denny’s creative metaphors. Read my full review here.

My rating: 5/5

12. The Road to Character by David Brooks

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Overview: Brooks paves the road to character with a plethora of short biographies of historical figures. This book is an attempt to capture in writing a trait that is so difficult to describe, and sometimes even more difficult to maintain.

You should know: Brooks is a brilliant writer, but throughout this book he finds plenty of opportunities to stand on a soapbox and preach. Read this if you’re soul-searching in the crossroads of history and life advice.

My rating: 4/5

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