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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The End of Summer Reading Review

The end of summer

Or at least officially, since it’s defined as June, July, and August in the Northern Hemisphere. But here in San Diego, we still get a couple of warm months. Some of our hottest weather is often in September and October.  The good news is that the tourists head home after Labor Day and the beaches and campgrounds are ours again! (Not that we mind sharing, it’s just a lot harder to park.)

During these extra days of summer, I suggest heading to your favorite, beautiful spot with a book.  Preferably a nice, big, juicy book.  How about a saga?

I recently enjoyed reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.  Truly a multi-generational saga with a genetic twist.  The hero/heroine is born a female and becomes both a man and a woman physically during puberty, needing to learn how to identify him/herself and what kind of life to live.  It’s fascinating culturally and emotionally. Not only is it thought provoking, but also the history of Greece in the beginning of the book is fascinating, watching his unlikely grandparents escape the Greco-Turkish war.

One message of the book is simple, though the plot is complex: keep your heart open; you can never know from the outside what someone is going through.

It was a very entertaining read about a serious subject.

I also enjoyed the first book of the Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart: The Crystal Cave.
All about magic (described as mainly observation mixed with Merlin’s knowledge of math and science) and a made-up-for-the-book history of Merlin finding his father as a preteen, it had all the mist, horses hooves through the forest, Druid rites on secret islands, and standing stones you could want in a book.  It managed to skip the very metaphysical, romantic descriptions that books about magicians, kings, and queens usually have. It was also not a very violent or graphic book, so might be good for those with weak stomachs or for preteens and teens.
It was a beautiful, engrossing read and I’m looking forward to loosing myself in book two, The Hollow Hills, about King Arthur.

Finally, I’ll tell you about a book that’s worth looking at, though it doesn’t qualify as a saga. Breakfast with Buddha is a novel about a middle-aged man who works in publishing who gets conned (by his past-life-reading sister) into driving a Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche (a title for a teacher) across the Midwest.  Except he wasn’t really Tibetan, but from another, less well-known Himalayan region. It started strong, but reading every single thought in the very intellectual main character’s head got tedious after awhile.  Less talk, more action please!

The main character’s description of learning meditation and trying yoga, what they do and how they works, the message about looking for more than just a good life, these were worth reading. I recommend it just for that. It really was thought-provoking.

So I guess I like books with magic, but not too much magic, about thought and spirituality, but not too much thinking, and about cultural change and character drama!

How about you? Do you have any book recommendations for me or to share with others? Leave a comment.  A book is a fast, cheap, and exciting way to change your mind and “escape reality”. And being addicted to reading never hurt anyone.  So enjoy your late summer reads!



elsie said...

I LOVED Middlesex - read it way back when it first came out. And am intrigued by the Buddha book. That one is definately going on my list!

Anonymous said...

Among the books I read this summer was Hilary Mantel's "Bring Up the Bodies," her terrific sequel to her earlier masterful novel about Thomas Cromwell, "Wolf Hall." It bears repeating that part of the amazement factor comes from the feat of finding a new angle on a story told too many times - as pretty much every reviewer has said, but it's true. Both books offer accomplished writing that go down like a couple of beach paperbacks.

In light of the ridiculous behavior of the Vatican towards American nuns this summer, I read most of "Sisters in Crisis," by Ann Carey. An account of the changes Vatican II wrought on women's religious orders, it's interesting in a ghastly sort of way. Turns out Carey is something of an apologist for Rome.

I also read Lee Miller's "Roanoke," which suggests yet another theory about the vanished colonists. Miller is a TV host with a history degree, and it shows. Her theory is interesting and plausible, though.

Now (it's still summer in Miami, and will be until Thanksgiving or so), I've almost finished "Moby Duck," an engaging account of a high school English teacher turned environmentalist/not yet ancient mariner as he travels the high seas in search of 28,000 lost rubber ducks. Enjoyable reading, but he's no John McPhee.

Arriving from Amazon, hopefully later today, is "An Italian War Diary," which I am really looking forward to. I journal myself (if any of you run out of Ambien let me know, I'll send you a volume) so I really like reading first-hand accounts of people's experiences.

Whew, how long-winded of me. I bet this is the last time you invite reader submissions!

Love your blog, Laura, keep it up!

Jenna Ward
Miami Beach

Anonymous said...

"...and go down like..."

Should have previewed :-)


Laura said...

I love your contributions, Jenna. Wolf Hall was great.
Thanks for the recommendations!

More please!

Mare said...

I am currently reading A Game of Thrones and i cannot put it down! I absolutely love it! Thanks for the reading recommendations! love, mare