Reading List: June 2017
It is hard to believe that we are already halfway through 2017 and this is the sixth edition of the reading list.
Back in April, I shared how I buy most of the books I read. My first choice for reading is the traditional book that I can touch and smell – there is nothing like the smell of a new book. However, there are some books, I will and have read using an e-reader. I no longer have a Kindle or any other e-reading device, but what I do have is an iPad, and if the folks at Apple have an App for almost everything, the folks at Amazon are rather generous with the pages that they give in the free sample downloads. So, with the Kindle app on the iPad, I am able to read sample pages of a book before I make the decision to buy it. This process has worked well for me, it might work well for you too, especially since most books being released these days usually have an accompanying Kindle version.
One question that I got asked a few weeks ago, was if I list the books on the reading list, according to their release date. To be honest, until I received that inquiry, I never paid any attention to the actual date of release of the books on the reading list, other than the fact that they were being released (mostly in the United States) during the month they were featured in.
But, this month, I have gone one step further and actually listed the six books on the reading list in chronological order, starting with the ones being released earlier (U.S. release dates only). I have deliberately omitted the actual dates of release in listing the books, for no reason in particular…just to keep my readers guessing. Although, it was interesting to discover that the books featured on the list are being released on one of three dates in June – June 6, June 13 and June 20. Color me naïve and ignorant if it is a known fact in publishing circles for books to only be released on certain dates in the month. It was just an interesting observation to make and may be completely irrelevant and just a minor coincidence. Qui sait?
The six books (five full-length novels and a collection of short stories) on the Reading List for June (some of which I may be sampling in the near future on the Kindle app on the iPad) promise to provide an interesting insight into the complex nature of the human character especially as the theme of family seems to be one that is widely spread in all of them.
The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro. In the summer of 1992, a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon Island – an islet off the coast of Long Island. These invaders drop onto novels left open on picnic blankets, crawl across the T-shirts of children playing games of tag and capture the flag in the island’s leafy woods. The caterpillars become a relentless topic of island conversation and the inescapable soundtrack of the season. Leslie Day Marshall is the only daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family. She returns to the island with her husband – a botanist, and their children, to live in “The Castle,” the island’s grandest estate. Leslie’s husband Jules is of African descent, and their children are bi-racial. Islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals. Set in the midst of gypsy moths that burst from cocoons in flocks that seem to eclipse the sun The Gypsy Moth Summer is about love, gaps in understanding, and the struggle to connect within families; among friends; between neighbors and entire generations.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. This has been referred in many literary circles as ‘the most anticipated book of the last twenty years‘ and is the follow-up to the celebrated and well-respected writer’s 1997 epic novel The God of Small Things.
In a graveyard outside the walls of New Delhi, a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet. On a concrete sidewalk, a baby suddenly appears, just after midnight. In a snowy valley, a bereaved father writes a letter to his five-year-old daughter about the people who came to her funeral. In a second-floor apartment, a lone woman chain-smokes as she reads through her old notebooks. At Jannat Guest House, two people who have known each other all their lives sleep with their arms around each other, as though they have just met. A braided narrative of astonishing force and originality, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is at once a love story and a provocation – a novel as inventive as it is emotionally engaging. It is told with a whisper, in a shout, through joyous tears and sometimes with a bitter laugh. Its heroes, both present and departed, have been broken by the world we live in – and then mended by love. For this reason, they will never surrender.
The People We Hate At the Wedding by Grant Ginder. Paul and Alice’s half-sister Eloise is getting married in London. Donna, the clan’s mother, is a widow living in the Chicago suburbs with a penchant for having one glass of wine with her best friend while watching House Hunters International. Alice is in her thirties, single, smart, beautiful, stuck in a dead-end job where she is mired in a rather predictable, though enjoyable affair with her married boss. Her brother Paul lives in Philadelphia with his older, handsomer, tenured track professor boyfriend who is eyeing the undergrads at his university and has no plans to settle down. And then there’s Eloise. The product of Donna’s first marriage to a dashing Frenchman, Eloise has spent her school years at the best private boarding schools, her winter holidays in St. John and a post-college life cushioned by a fat, endless trust fund. To top it off, she’s infuriatingly kind and decent. The People We Meet at the Wedding is a bitingly funny, slyly witty, and surprisingly tender story that paints a vivid and hilarious portrait of the power of family, and the complicated ways we hate the ones we love the most.
The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton. A remarkable story from the front line of the Egyptian revolution, capturing events and emotions like no news report ever could. Mariam and Khalil move through Cairo’s surging streets and roiling political underground, their lives burning with purpose, their city alive in open revolt, the world watching, listening, as they chart a course into an unknown future. As players in a new epic in the making, they believe they are fighting a new kind of revolution. From the communal highs of night battles against the police to the solitary lows of post-revolutionary exile, The City Always Wins cuts to the psychological heart of one of the key chapters in the twenty-first century. Intensely lyrical and uncompromisingly political, this story is not just about Egypt’s revolution, but about a global generation that tried to change the world.
So Much Blue by Percival Everett. Kevin Pace is working on a painting that he won’t allow anyone to see: not his children; not his best friend, Richard; not even his wife, Linda. The painting is a canvas of twelve feet by twenty-one feet (and three inches) that is covered entirely in shades of blue. It may be his masterpiece or it may not; he doesn’t know or, more accurately, doesn’t care. What Kevin does care about are the events of the past. Ten years ago he had an affair with a young water colorist in Paris. Kevin relates this affair with a dispassionate air, even a bit of puzzlement. It’s not clear to him why he had the affair, but he can’t let it go. In the more distant past of the late seventies, Kevin and Richard traveled to El Salvador on the verge of war to retrieve Richard’s drug-dealing brother, who has gone missing without explanation. As the events of the past intersect with the present, Kevin struggles to justify the sacrifices he’s made for his art and the secrets he’s kept from his wife. So Much Blue is an emotionally-charged tale about art, marriage and the past, told with deadpan humor and insightful commentary about the artistic life.
The Accomplished Guest by Ann Beattie. An astutely observed collection of short stories which explores unconventional friendships, frustrated loves, mortality, and aging. Surprising and revealing, the stories in The Accomplished Guest, which are set along the East Coast of the United States (from Maine to Key West), are woven together with mordant humor. They have one theme in common: paying visits or receiving guests, traveling to see old friends, the joys and tolls of hosting company (or being hosted). The occasion might be a wedding, a birthday, a reunion, an annual Christmas party, or another opportunity to gather and attempt to bond with biological relatives or chosen families. In the stories, as in life, what begins as a benign social event becomes a situation played for high stakes.
Our Little Racket by Angelica Baker. Told with astonishing precision, insight and grace, Our Little Racket, is a timeless social novel about wealth, envy, and secrets, centered around five women whose lives are dramatically changed by the downfall of a financial titan. On September 15, 2008, the world of Greenwich, Connecticut, is shaken. When the investment bank of Weiss & Partners is shuttered, CEO Bob D’Amico must fend off allegations of malfeasance, as well as the judgment and resentment of his community. As panic builds, five women in his life must scramble to negotiate power on their own terms and ask themselves what – if anything – is worth saving. Bob’s teenage daughter Madison begins to probe her father’s heretofore secret world of information. Four other women in Madison’s life – her mother Isabel, her best friend Amanda, her nanny Lily, and family friend Mina – begin to question their own shifting roles in their insular, moneyed world. For the adults, this means learning how to protect their own in a community that has turned against them. For the younger generation, it means heightened rebellion and heartache during the already volatile teenage years. And for Lily, it means deciding where her loyalties lie when it comes to the family in which she is both an essential member and, ultimately, an outsider.