Posts Tagged ‘Harper Lee’

july books 2 sunflowers

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, Bee Wilson
We tend to think of “kitchen technology” as limited to fancy gadgets. But all kitchen utensils, even the humble fork and wooden spoon, represent years of kitchen history. Wilson’s tour of the evolution of cooking – from open hearths to gas stoves to shiny modern kitchens – is witty, entertaining and well researched. Recommended for foodies.

A Pattern of Lies, Charles Todd
Stranded in Canterbury over a short leave, WWI nurse Bess Crawford finds herself drawn into the mystery of an explosion at a nearby gunpowder mill. As she searches for the key players in the drama, they prove elusive. A solid mystery based on historical events. Full review coming in September as part of a TLC Book Tour (the book comes out Aug. 18).

Malice at the Palace, Rhys Bowen
Lady Georgiana Rannoch (Her Royal Spyness) is asked by the queen to help welcome a Greek princess to London. But when a young woman is found murdered at Kensington Palace, Georgie gets mixed up in yet another mystery. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 4).

A Little Something Different, Sandy Hall
Gabe and Lea are perfect for each other. Everyone sees it: their creative writing professor, the baristas at Starbucks, even the squirrel on the college green. But will they get together? Hall’s debut weaves together 14 (!) different viewpoints (including the squirrel) to tell this sweet love story. Not a lot of character development, but the ride is so much fun.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Amid the pre-Go Set a Watchman buzz, I picked up this classic again. It’s the fourth time I’ve read it and I still get chills when Atticus walks out of the courtroom, and the ending makes me cry. So beautiful and powerful.

We Never Asked for Wings, Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs for years, relying on her mother to raise her two children. But when her aging parents move back to Mexico, Letty is left to care for her children alone – with no clue about how to be a parent. A heartbreaking yet hopeful story of a struggling family. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 18).

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
I have so many thoughts about this book – which Lee wrote before To Kill a Mockingbird but which was never published until now. Both the book’s origin story and its content have sparked lots of debate. I would say: if you’re curious, read it and judge for yourself. (Lee’s narrative voice is still strong here, but I think Mockingbird is the better book.)

Book Scavenger, Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
When Emily, age 12, moves to San Francisco with her family, she finds a mysterious book with a hidden cipher inside that leads to a treasure hunt. But someone else is after the prize, too. A fun middle-grade bookish puzzle for literary geeks.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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I did a LOT of reading this month, even for me. In the midst of transition, change, chaos and HOT days, it’s nice to curl up with a book – or a dozen of them. Read on for my opinions on several new reads and a few beloved rereads:

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Rhoda Janzen
Confession: I picked up this book for the cover (so clever and cute) and didn’t regret it. I actually read this in one night – it was both entertaining and compelling. Janzen goes back home to her Mennonite parents after a divorce and a car wreck, and compares her (much more secular) life with the peculiarities of her upbringing. She has a great sense of humor and does poke a lot of fun at her heritage, but she still loves her parents and respects their faith, and admits she doesn’t have all the answers for life, either. A fun read.

Small Wonder: Essays, Barbara Kingsolver
I loved Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which is, as you may know, responsible for my current local-food kick and our CSA membership), so I was interested in this book of essays, written right after 9/11. Kingsolver touches on travel, politics, family life, food (of course) and even faith, in interesting ways. She occasionally veers toward the preachy, but mostly offers a new perspective on a world that, for her generation and mine, changed forever when those planes hit the towers.

The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart
This was a brilliant read – so quick, clever and fun. A few gifted kids take on a madman and his plan to overthrow the world, with the help of a quirky old man and his cohorts. It does have echoes of Harry Potter, but there’s no “magic” here, just ingenuity and learning to work together (and Kate Wetherall’s bucket of useful tools). I read this in one day, too. Good fun for kids and adults alike.

A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines
This was my book-club selection for this month, and I have to say, I kept comparing it to To Kill a Mockingbird and finding it wanting. It’s a similar storyline – a black man unjustly accused of a crime in the South, in the 1940s – only this man is sentenced to death before the book opens. The narrator, Grant, is an unhappy teacher, and he tries to impart some dignity and wisdom to the sentenced man. The thing about this book is that it seemed so hopeless – none of the characters seemed happy or hopeful at all. Thought-provoking, but not a favorite.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
This month is the 50th anniversary of Mockingbird‘s publication, and I hadn’t read it since ninth grade, so I bought it to reread it. And oh my. It’s just as powerful, funny, heartbreaking and wonderful as ever. I do wish Harper Lee had written more books, but I’m eternally grateful that we have this story. Atticus, Scout, Jem, Dill and Calpurnia stayed in my mind for days afterward. If you haven’t read it, go read it. Please. Right now.

New and Selected Poems, Mary Oliver
I’ve been working on this one for months. I think I should love Oliver’s poetry more than I generally do – but some of her poems, like “The Summer’s Day” (my favorite), are truly breathtaking. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Ann Brashares
I blazed through this in one sitting – must be the third or fourth time I’ve read it. It’s a perfect summer book, and also perfect for reading in the midst of transition. The characters are wonderful and the writing is delicious. Love, love, love.

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, Ann Brashares
I stayed up past midnight rereading this one – my copy is falling apart, but I don’t even care. (I bought it in Hawaii and have read it on the beach, on car trips and in several different houses.) I think this is my favorite of the series, mostly due to Bridget’s adventures in Alabama with her grandmother. It’s rich and full and big and satisfying, both funny and heartbreaking. Wonderful.

In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I like Pollan’s slogan as a guideline to what and how to eat. Honestly, this book is complicated at first, and I’ve read enough food books and blogs to be a little bored by some of his arguments. I know industrial beef has all kinds of problems; I know to be wary of ingredients I can’t pronounce; I know Americans are chronic overeaters. But Pollan’s genius lies in his insistence that we’re all connected – that our health is inextricably tied to the health of the plants, animals, water, soil and world they come from. I finished the book with a new resolve to watch what I buy and cook. I’ll probably check out some of his other work.

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, Charles J. Shields
After rereading To Kill a Mockingbird, and hearing all the 50th-anniversary buzz, I wanted to know more about Nelle Harper Lee, so I borrowed this book from a friend. It’s a fascinating account of Lee’s childhood, young adulthood and early writing career. I loved finding out about her family, her college days, her relationship with Truman Capote and her time in New York. Lee refused to be interviewed by Shields, so instead he interviewed everyone he could find who knew her. It’s a thoughtful portrait, drawn by a loving hand.

Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli
This is a sweet story – about a girl who literally dances to her own music (made by her ukulele). It ends sadly, but hopefully – I think Stargirl Caraway will find her free-spiritedness again, and I hope Leo, the narrator, begins to love uniqueness rather than fear it.

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, Alan Bradley
This second Flavia de Luce mystery (sequel to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) made me laugh, shiver and shake my head at Flavia (top sleuth, age 11) and her exploits. She’s so clever, and scarily knowledgeable about poisons, but she’s not diabolical – just smart and a little neglected. Highly recommended if you like mysteries with a dash of fun, set in the English countryside.

Love, Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli
I loved this sequel to Stargirl, possibly more than Stargirl itself. Stargirl makes lots of new friends in a small Pennsylvania town, and learns a lot about herself while she’s at it. I love the quirky supporting cast of characters, and I love the way she loves people, even when they hurt her.

The Knitting Circle, Ann Hood
I read Hood’s memoir, about losing her daughter and learning to knit, a while back, and I knew this book had a similar plotline. There are some great characters and lovely descriptions of yarn, and a thoughtful portrait of the grieving process, written by someone who knows. But it felt a little lacking somehow, overall, though I did enjoy it.

I’m turning to comforting rereads during our transition – The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets and the Harry Potter series, among others. And of course we’re boxing up lots of books right now. But never fear, I’ll have some August reads for you soon. What have you been reading this summer?

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