What I’ve been reading this summer

There’s a whole month left in summer (thank goodness!  I am not ready for it to be over!), but here’s a look at what I’ve ready so far:

The 100-Year old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared — a quirky and fun read.  Allan Karlsson climbs out the window of the nursing home and gets caught up in a far-fetched crime drama.  As the plot unfolds in the present, the reader also finds out about Karlsson’s fantastic history and many famous people he met along the way (Harry Truman, Chairman Mao, etc.)  A good summer read.

Bread and Wine — Katie recommended this book, and I really enjoyed it, especially Niequist’s focus on what coming to table means for Christians.  It’s a lovely blend of memoir, ode to food, and recipes.

Life after Life — I picked this book out from the new arrivals at the library.  I wondered if I would be able to finish its 500+ pages before the 7-day due date, but once I started, I could not put it down, finishing in 3 days.  The story imagines what it would be like to be reborn every time you die (which happens often for Ursula Todd) and the parallel lives that creates.  It got a bit tedious during the Blitz — Ursula dies a lot during that time — but captivating, nonetheless.

Return to the Willows — Bill read Wind in the Willows aloud to the girls earlier this spring, so I picked up Jacqueline Kelly’s sequel.  I loved Kelly’s The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, so I gave this one a try.  Mr. Toad manages to get himself into a who new set of pickles, this time involving a hot air balloon, and Ratty falls in love.  An enjoyable read that stays true to the spirit of the original.

The Cellist of Sarajevo — I picked this up at Half Price Books for the train ride home and loved it.  I’ve ready several books set in Sarajevo in the past few years and am fascinated by the history of this war-ravaged city.  In 1992, after a shell attack killed 22 people waiting in a breadline, a cellist played an adagio for 22 days to honor the victims.  This book imagines how that event might have impacted 3 different people living in Sarajevo at the time: a hardened bakery worker, a father risking his life to collect water, and a sniper who calls herself Arrow.  A lovely response to the question of what it means to be human.

Daring Greatly — Good stuff here.  I read this aloud to Bill as we drove to Yellowstone and back.  Brown discusses how to be more vulnerable in your relationships and how to conquer shame.  I found myself often wishing for more depth — that the academic in me, I’m sure — but still found it transformational.  The chapter on parenting was particularly good.

Beautiful Ruins — A great summer read.  The book moves between the Amalfi Coast in the 1960s to contemporary Hollywood.  All of the characters are deeply flawed, but the story draws the reader into their failings and allows a glimpse at their humanity.  The end probably wrapped up a bit too neatly, but I enjoyed the resolution.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake — Anna Quindlen’s reflections an aging and life as a 60-year old.  I really enjoyed the hopeful look that she offers about getting older.  It’s not that she doesn’t have sweet memories of when her children were younger and at home, it’s just that she’s (choosing to be) happy where she is.

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