By the time you read this I will be several days into my own long summer escape from normal life. Unlike Natalie, I won’t have an adorable baby at the end of my break, but The Formidable Teenager and I have managed to sweet-talk my husband into adopting two more kittens. I call this a win; our current cats are somewhat skeptical.
Like all good staycations, mine will involve long swaths of reading, preferably while curled up on a comfy couch with a cold beverage less than an arm’s length away. This year’s summer reading list is very special to me, because friends and family chose all the books: rather than try to decide which of the many books in my TBR pile I should read next, I crowdsourced the problem by asking all my Facebook connections for titles. The resulting list of 44 main books and 22 backups (some people couldn’t pick just one) is probably more than I can actually tackle in one summer, but I’m having a great time trying.
Here are some of those crowdsourced summer reads.
Brad Thor’s The Lions of Lucerne is a fast-paced political thriller and first in a series. Lions introduces Secret Service agent Scot Harvath, a former Navy SEAL with an incredible devotion to his country, and an equally formidable dislike for rules and procedures that get in the way of what seems obvious to him. When, for example, thirty of his fellow agents are killed and the president is kidnapped, he’s convinced there’s no way it could’ve been Muslim terrorists, as his supervisors seem to think ( for a snow mission in Utah? Please).
Determined to find the President and get the bad guys, Harvath follows the clues all the way to Switzerland, with both his own countrymen and enemy agents hot on his trail. This book is a really good time if you like political thrillers: with Thor, you get a basic American hero doing what’s right, while dodging in and out of seemingly impossible scrapes, and taking down the bad guys in the end. Who doesn’t love that? Recommended summer reading for anyone in search of adventure.
Jumping from lions to lions, we get Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan. Kay’s lions are separated from Thor’s by about 1,000 years of civilization, in a fantasy world set up to resemble medieval Spain. If you know anything about medieval Spain, it won’t be too difficult to draw conclusions about the three cultures (sun worshippers, moon worshippers, and star worshippers) who inhabit the region and fight amongst each other frequently. Can a small band of citizens overcome their interfaith differences and help lead the region to political stability?
Although the subject matter is heavy, it’s not heavy-handed You just have to really enjoy historical fantasy, which is not hard to do when Kay’s prose is so luminous. He’s also the master of the plot twist, throwing you a curveball just when you think you know what’s going on. And at the kernel of the narrative is a poignant, passionate love story. This is the kind of book you take into a hammock for a long, cerebral summer escape.
Jumping forward somewhat in time, but still in the realm of historical fiction, we find James Morrow’s The Last Witchfinder. a romp through the 17th and 18th centuries that’s a great reminder of just how exciting a time it actually was. Our heroine, Jennet Sterne, loses her beloved Aunt Isobel to a roaring fire, for the lady’s been convicted as a witch…by Jennet’s father (awkward!). Heartbroken, Jennet swears to spend the rest of her life proving there’s no such thing as witchcraft, and her resulting adventures take her all over the world as she attempts to write her grand argument.
Along the way Jennet marries into–and then escapes from–a Native American tribe, outwits pirates, and manages to find time to have lots and lots of sex with Ben Franklin (the 18th century, so ribald!). To top it off, the book is narrated by another book, Newton’s Principia Mathematica, a narrative device that turns out to be a hilarious (in a dignified, jolly sort of way). Recommended for history buffs and anyone who loves both outlandish adventures and a good laugh.
I’m having so much fun with this project that I think I’ll let my friends pick my summer reads every year from now on! Reading books I might not have picked up on my own makes me feel more connected to the people who recommended them; does it work that way for you? Where do you get your book recommendations from?
PS: Don’t forget to sign up for the Adult Summer Reading program. Register and complete two book reviews by August 9th, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a shiny new Amazon Kindle Fire!