A Summer Reading List

I know that summer is not quite here — but it feels like it will be soon.  This week, I will be buried under final classes, final papers, and final tests.  And after all these “finals”?  I want to attack the big box of unread books in my spare bedroom.  (Plus, I want to read all the unread books that are piling up in my Kindle!)

Every spring, my school compiles a fun reading list for the summer, and below I have listed my recommendations.  Alas, I don’t usually include poetry books (maybe I should!), but even poetry lovers/readers need to devour something besides verse!

The Age of Miracles Karen Thomas Walker

Part apocalyptic tale, part coming of age story, Walker’s novel follows a young girl named Julia, who with the rest of her family, awakens to the news that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow – days and nights grow longer and the natural environment is thrown into chaos.  In the middle of this world, Julia learns to navigate the normal blunders of everyday life, including cracks in her parents’ marriage, the bizarre behavior of family members and friends and the heartbreak of first love.  The Age of Miracles is both a disturbing and beautiful read – and the best novel I read last year.

Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America’s Heartland by Patricia Bryan and Thomas Wolf

On a winter night in 1900, a Midwestern farmer was murdered in his bed, killed by two blows of an axe.  Four days later, his wife was arrested for the crime.  Midnight Assassin is based on the popular play by Susan Glaspell, and this book not only presented the investigation of the case, but gave a lot of information about the bleak lives of women during this time period.

The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale

In this novel, the narrator, Harry Collins, takes the reader back to his childhood days during the Great Depression.  Set in rural Texas in 1933, young Harry’s world changes forever when he discovers the body of a young black woman.  A disturbing story of race and class relations, The Bottoms is a great read.  Warning: This book does contain many scenes that are very violent, so if you do not want to read about violence, you may want to skip this novel.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed believed that she had lost nearly everything in her life.  Struggling to survive her mother’s death and a broken marriage, she makes the impulsive decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to Washington state.  This book chronicles that journey in beautiful and thoughtful prose.

The Day After the Day After by Steven Church

At first, it’s hard to imagine that Steven Church and I would have anything in common, starting with the simple fact that he grew up in Lawrence, Kansas and I grew up in rural Pennsylvania – but we do.  We both grew up in the last days of the Cold War.  We also grew up with what he terms as “Atomic Anxiety.”  One of my first memories was the Three Mile Island meltdown in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Church also catalogs man memories dealing with the Nuclear Age.  His childhood was marked by the fear of Nuclear War and the Stress of Reagan’s America – these fears come to ahead when filming begins of The Day After in his hometown.  In spite of poor special effects and melodramatic plotlines, The Day After is still considered one of the most watched TV movies in history.   Church explores the meaning of Cold War fears along with their influences on his generation.

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

While not a real “autobiography,”  Melanie Benjamin’s fun novel explores the life of Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Warren Bump, (aka Mrs. Tom Thumb) through a first person point of view narrative.  Only two feet, eight inches tall, Vinnie struggled to make her way America’s Gilded Age, eventually finding fame when she took part in P.T. Barnum’s shows and married Tom Thumb.

In a few weeks, I will post my Summer Reading List for Poetry Lovers! Besides poetry, do you have any great books you have read lately?  I would love to add more titles to my own list!


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