Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Summer Reads Curation

I've been dying to try that word out. Curation, the one I used in the title. I suppose I'll get just as tired of curating things as I did of un-packing things, but for now that's my new jargon.

Wait, that's not why I'm bringing the ole Blog out of the closet. (not that closet). Just the closet where things need dusted off and tried on again. Today's discussion at the lunch table was about books we've read, and certainly dominated by my opinion and comments. I can't help myself, I've read so many wonderful things, I can't wait to tell people about them, but I don't often get the opportunity.. But then, if I feel just a little bit of interest, I'm off to the races, my brain starts firing and recommendations just jump out of my mouth. 

So, probably in a effort to get me to shut-up, one sweet teacher suggested I make a Summer Reading List. So I spent the rest of my day with a part of my brain subconsciously engaged in "curating" the perfect summer list. I tried to take into consideration the tastes of my colleagues and friends and come up with a crowd pleasing list that also had literary and social value. Wait, don't stop reading here, the list is of AWESOME books mostly well-reviewed in the mainstream. No weird, creepy, intellectual obscure sub-genres only known to librarians. These are crowd-pleasers. So, without further ado, this is my Top 10 recommended Summer Reads for 2014, curated from popular adult and young adult fiction. (see, i used my word again)

The Book Thief 
by Marcus Zusak. A remarkable book set in wartime Germany during Hitler's reign, this books shows the power of reading and books, but is much more. 

Oh, by the way, I hate writing book reviews, so I won't be going into much detail. You're just going to have to trust me that these books are worth the time. 

Life of Pi
by Yann Martel If I were ranking these books by favorites, this may come in at number one or two. This is a good read if you like adventure but also a new and incredible look at one human's struggle with spirituality. I love this book. And the movie is good, but don't cheat yourself by not reading the book. 

Fault in Our Stars by John Green
 WIthout becoming too sentimental like Nicholas Sparks lifetime movie drivel, Green deals with the reality of kids fighting terminal illness. You will not forget these characters anytime soon. This is a young adult novel, but is a great read for people of all ages. This will also be in theatres, I think in August, so put this one close to the top of your list. And if you love it, John Green has some other awesome young adult novels such as Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. He's also the coolest history teacher around. Check him out on Youtube or follow this link to his website: If you have teenagers or pre-teens in your household, turn them on to this guy and you will be a hero. 

The Circle by Dave Eggers
 This is what I am currently reading. It is a dystopian novel that asks the question, what if our lives were transparent? Unlike other dystopian novels, this one has really made me think about the influence of social media on our living habits. It's not the best written novel either, it's not lyrical or beautiful like Life of Pi, but it's a good little mind bender. 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
 Now if you want an escape murder mystery page turning experience, this book is for you.I read this in something like two days. Take this one to the beach. It is so much fun.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout 
I included this on the list even though I don't think everybody will love it, I think everyone will be able to recognize the characters in this book as someone you know. It is devastatingly honest. 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This book is getting a lot of attention right now, in fact it just won the Pulitzer Prize. This is a long epic story of a boy and a girl that experience the same catastrophe in an art museum and what happens after. The first book I thought about to compare this to was Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky and the way his conscience destroyed him. Dare you to read both this summer. Extra gold star for you if you do. 

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Now this is a beautiful love story as well as a coming of age novel. Both main characters are faced with some harsh situations and decisions to make while still high school students. It was also good to read as a teacher as a reminder to have compassion and empathy for all students, but also as a reminder to be a good human. I really liked this, it left me with that little buzz I get from hearing a good story. 

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
I ran across this little gem two or three years ago and was carried away by the story of a boy following his destiny and the adventures he has along the way. This, to me, was like a folk tale or fairy tale for adults. It's a short read and very well worth the time. It doesn't really fit into the tome of most of the other books on the list, but give it a try.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
I did not want this novel to end. Set against a backdrop of an extremely violent situation, the reader gets to see how relationships can be formed in the most unusual circumstances. 

Bonus Material:
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Yeah, I know you've seen the movie, but it does not compare with this gem of a novel. All Alabamians should read this, and all Birminghamians should be required to read it. 

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
This is for those of us who love epic novels and exploring family relationships.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
When you look up the reviews for this novel yourself, don't turn away. This is another great family centered epic and you will care for these characters, particularly the main character more than expected. 

Secret Life of Bees by Gina Prince-Blythewood
This is  a coming of age story set in the 1950's south and the relationship that develops between a white girl who has lost her mother and a black family of very strong women.This is just a beautiful story. A real cry out loud book.  Actually, this is a pretty good movie, too. 

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
This is not light reading. It is a very intense novel about twins born to a nun and a surgeon in Ethiopia and their search for belonging and success. This is great if you want to do some deep, serious reading. I learned a lot about Africa, missions and even surgery and the price of coming to America.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich
This is another pretty heavy read. It is set on an American Indian reservation and is about how a son deals with his mother's molestation. This is strong and gritty, but opens up questions about the Native American experience. 

As i've written this, of course I've thought of many others to add. Let me know what you are reading, and by all means, lets talk about these together!