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June means diving into the first stacks of summer reading, amid work and life craziness. Here’s the latest roundup:

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country in the World, Sarah Smarsh
The American class divide is in the news a lot these days. But Smarsh, a fifth-generation Kansas farm girl who comes from a long line of teenage moms, has lived it. A searing portrait of one family in the rural heartland, a timely meditation on economic and social chasms, and a fiercely loving story of one girl’s struggle to embrace and escape her roots. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 18).

A Storied Life, Leigh Kramer
Olivia Frasier has fought hard to build a life apart from her banking family, opening her own art gallery. But when Liv’s grandmother announces she’s terminally ill and appoints Liv her chief decision-maker, Olivia is forced to confront both her family dynamics and her own issues. An engaging, thoughtful novel about grief, love and living life on your own terms. I’m so proud of Leigh, a longtime Internet pal of mine. She sent me an advance copy.

The Dinner List, Rebecca Serle
It’s a common question: who are the five people, living or dead, you’d love to have dinner with? When Sabrina shows up to her birthday dinner, she finds not only her best friend, but a beloved professor, her estranged father, her fiancé, and Audrey Hepburn. Serle’s novel unfolds over the course of the evening, spinning out a narrative of romance, regrets and the complicated ways we love. Funny, sweet and unexpectedly moving. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 11).

The Masterpiece, Fiona Davis
Today, Grand Central Terminal is a New York City landmark. (The ceiling alone is stunning.) But in the 1970s, it stood in danger of being torn down. Davis’ novel tells the intertwined stories of Virginia Clay, a recent divorcée who takes a job at the station, and Clara Darden, an illustrator who taught at the terminal’s art school in the 1920s. Richly detailed and compelling. I especially liked watching Virginia take charge of her life. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 7).

Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution, Julia Alekseyeva
I picked up this graphic memoir off a table at the library, and read it in one sitting. Alekseyeva narrates her great-grandmother Lola’s life story: growing up Jewish in Kiev, surviving several wars and the Holocaust, working for the government and the Red Army. Interwoven are scenes from Alekseyeva’s own childhood in the U.S. (which are frankly far less compelling). Lola was a fascinating protagonist.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, Kathleen Rooney
Lillian Boxfish, longtime New Yorker, former darling of the advertising world, decides to take a long, rambling walk through Manhattan on New Year’s Eve 1984. Since I love walking, NYC, and whip-smart female narrators, I expected to love this book, and I did. It dragged a bit in the middle, but I adored Lillian. I’d walk with her any time.

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

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January reading roundup #2

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For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey, Richard Blanco
I love Blanco’s inaugural poem, “One Today,” and I was surprised and moved to hear him read his poem “Boston Strong” at Fenway Park this summer. This slim memoir traces both Blanco’s career as a poet and the process of writing the inaugural poem. Lyrical and lovely.

Dancing Through It: My Life in the Ballet, Jenifer Ringer
Ringer, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, chronicles her years in the highly competitive world of professional dance. She is honest about both her eating disorders and the Christian faith that helped her conquer them. The writing sometimes lacks polish, but her voice is warm and engaging. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 20).

One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better, Erin McHugh
On her birthday, McHugh resolves to do one good deed every day for a whole year. The deeds take many forms – giving money to the needy, promoting a friend’s work, being kind to grumpy customers or simply keeping her mouth shut. She writes about them with humor, wit and an earthy grace.

Dear Mr. Knightley, Katherine Reay
Orphan Samantha Moore has always taken refuge in her favorite books, but struggles to form relationships with people. When a mysterious benefactor (“Mr. Knightley”) offers her a full scholarship to journalism school, Sam pours out her heart in a series of letters to him. A heartbreaking, charming, modern twist on Daddy-Long-Legs, and a wonderful story of redemption.

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman, brilliant but socially inept genetics researcher, develops an exacting questionnaire to help him find the perfect wife. Rosie, a whip-smart, fiery redhead who fails nearly all Don’s criteria, bursts into his life and upsets it utterly. A fast, funny, smart love story. Recommended by Anne.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing, Anya von Bremzen
Anya von Bremzen, food writer and Soviet émigré, explores her country’s chaotic history as she and her mother cook their way through essential Soviet dishes of the 20th century. The history lessons dragged at times, but this was a fascinating and very different take on the food memoir trend.

I’ve been reading up a storm lately, so look for another reading roundup on Friday.

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

What are you reading?

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