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Heidi Lewis' "View from San Juan Library” in the San Juan Islander: “This novel is a testament to love, friendship, overcoming abuse and suffering, and the feelings associated with being an outcast.”

Date: Aug 1 2015

With August just beginning, we have plenty of summer ahead of us to settle into a comfortable deck chair and read a good book before heading back indoors this autumn. Grab a chair and join me for a list of my good reads. Perhaps you’ll find a book here that sparks your interest.

I’ve recently read Speak by Louisa Hall. This sophomore effort by Hall was a wonderful surprise and I was consumed for a night and a day until I finished. This novel explores language, memory, and relationships through different technologies, but particularly though artificial intelligence and our responses to it.

In My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Frederik Backen, author of my cherished read A Man Called Ove, has written another charming novel about a young girl and the grandmother she adores. Her grandmother communicates, posthumously, with her granddaughter and her community through a series of letters that the granddaughter finds. Adventure ensues.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George wasn’t the book I was expecting, but I still loved it as it explored the themes of love, loss, and redemption through its main character, Perdu, the owner of the “Book Apothecary”. Perdu dispenses the right book to the right person to help them heal whatever their troubles may be, but is he neglecting his own sorrows?

When I read that Wendy Jones was following The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals with, The World is a Wedding, also featuring Wilfred, I greeted the news with anticipation. Wilfred and his new wife Flora are getting used to married life; it’s not as easy as one might expect especially when there has been loss and misunderstandings, but these two people grow in unexpected ways and prove their love is strong enough to share with others who need their help.

Europa Editions, publisher of the previously mentioned book, also recently published Billie by Anna Gavalda. I mention this publisher by name as they publish some remarkable European titles for the English market that haven’t been picked up by the big publishers. Billie is about Billie and Franck, two young friends trapped in a gorge while on a hiking trip. Their friendship is a powerful one and has helped them navigate through life’s difficult circumstances. This novel is a testament to love, friendship, overcoming abuse and suffering, and the feelings associated with being an outcast. It’s a grittier novel than the others I’ve mentioned.

Speaking of gritty, I was disturbed and engrossed with The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. This book is set in modern day America, but is very much a fantasy with a god-like figure at the center of the action doing horrific things to the children he has made his apprentice scholars. I don’t want to say much about this novel because there are so many surprises along the way and the story is difficult to define, but if you can get past the violence, I think you’ll find yourself sucked into this compelling alternative world that feels like it could be happening in a neighborhood not far enough away. It’s terrifically creepy.

If after all that gore, you need a good laugh, try The Maintenance of Headway. Magnus Mills, once a London bus driver, very nearly writes a treatise, in the form of a novel, on why buses terminate half way through their journey, why it’s better that a bus be behind schedule, and why buses and their schedules aren’t designed for the benefit of the passengers. I laughed the whole way through. This premise could just as easily work for airplanes. Try this book the next time your plane is delayed. And hopefully you’ll finish the book just as you’re about to catch your flight; the book is a very quick read.

And what will I read next? I’ve got a number of books on my hold list at our library. I’m looking forward to these novels: The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows, Gods of Tango by Carolina De Robertis, Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, and Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal.

I also plan on reading these nonfiction titles: Meet me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City by Mark Adams, Travels in Vermeer: a Memoir by Michael White, A Buzz in the Meadow: the Natural History of a French Farm by Dave Goulson, and The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. There’s no limit to the books I want to read. This autumn, I’ll be swapping my deck chair and iced tea for our comfortable couch and hot tea, but I’ll still be reading. Great reads continue to arrive with each season and I’m grateful for that.

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