Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer Reading List

A friend of mine asked for a summer reading list, and I've been thinking about what should be included. Today is the first day of June--which seems to me the first day of true summer--so time's up, the list will never be ideal, and here are some of my thoughts.

First I thought about the kind of brief summer reading list I often make for my kids. This summer Walker's assignment is to read the Sherlock Holmes stories so he can keep up with the rest of us in conversation. Eleanor's is to read the rest of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes stories by Laurie R. King, because she has so far only had time to read the first one.

Thinking about the Laurie King series made me think about how many different mystery series I would recommend for light summer reading. Since taking Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse to the pool one summer and finding that only there could I finally enjoy it, I don't save light reading for the beach--in fact, often I do the opposite, taking something complicated that I haven't had time to sustain interest in during the school year.

But here are some summer reading suggestions for people who are looking for a few light, fun books that aren't too taxing. I compiled this list by going downstairs and taking paperbacks off the shelves for a friend who just had a knee replacement and needs some entertainment while she's recuperating. I didn't include some of the goriest or darkest murder mysteries, because even though they can be fascinating, they don't fit my "light, fun" criteria. Many of these are earlier works in a series that I think went downhill later, so beware--an author's inclusion on this list is not an endorsement of the entire oeuvre!

Lorna Landvik:
Patty Jane's House of Curl
Tall Pine Polka
Welcome to the Great Mysterious
Your Oasis on Flame Lake

Ruth Reichl:
Garlic and Sapphires
Tender at the Bone

Carl Hiassen:
Strip Tease
Native Tongue
Skin Tight
Double Whammy
Tourist Season
Stormy Weather

Faye Kellerman:
The Ritual Bath
Sacred and Profane
The Quality of Mercy
Milk and Honey
Day of Atonement
False Prophet
Grievous Sin
Milk and Honey

Margaret Maron:
Bootlegger's Daughter
Southern Discomfort

Diane Mott Davidson:
Catering to Nobody
Dying for Chocolate
The Last Suppers
Killer Pancake
The Cereal Murders

Elizabeth George:
A Great Deliverance
Payment in Blood
Well-Schooled in Murder
A Suitable Vengeance
For the Sake of Elena

MFK Fisher:
Here Let Us Feast
The Art of Eating

That's enough to get a discussion started, I think. If each person who reads this would add some favorite titles to my list, I think we'd have a decent start for anyone who wants suggestions for summer reading.


Harriet said...

The Reichl books and Hiassen have been on my list for some time. I've read the Fisher and George, but I'm not familiar with the other authors. On my list this summer is all those Stieg Larsson books that everyone is talking about.

Helen's Book Blog said...

I have read all the Faye Kellerman books and really enjoy them! and Lorna Landvik...the only one I've read is Housewives Eating BonBons and that was fun!

FreshHell said...

I've recently rediscovered Ngaio Marsh who wrote a gazillion murder mysteries in the vein of Agatha Christie. She's wonderful.

I've never really gotten into Hiassen. I've read a couple of his ya books to Dusty and while she enjoys them, I don't really like them. I can't put my finger on exactly why yet but they just don't do much for me. Haven't read his adult fiction.

Harriet said...

Also, I always like short stories for summer reading -- it's suitable for my summer attention span. I recommend the works of Alice Munro and Elizabeth Crane, but I also tend to pick up literary magazines for new discoveries. Also on my summer reading list: Arturo Pérez-Reverte's The Painter of Battles (I've never read any of his books, but my parents have been recommending them for years) and Appetite for America, Stephen Fried's book about Fred Harvey & the Harvey Girls.

Rohan Maitzen said...

Away from the mystery category, how about Anne Tyler? I am particularly fond of Ladder of Years and The Patchwork Planet. I think she's light--or perhaps, deft?--without drifting too far into whimsical.

FreshHell said...

I was thinking about Anne Tyler, too. And Lee Smith. If you haven't read her, you should.

Lass said...

On my personal summer reading list are the short stories of Shirley Jackson, the Hiassen books, a biography of Karen Carpenter (really), To Kill A Mockingbird (I read it every year, always in the summer), a biography of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a book about the history of Golden Books, and some other stuff I've had laying around since last fall.

Jeanne said...

Ooh, the list is growing well! I'll have to look up some titles by Ngaio Marsh, Alice Munro, Elizabeth Crane, and Lee Smith. Shirley Jackson short stories are always good for a re-read.

If I hadn't read any Perez-Reverte I'd begin with The Flanders Panel or The Club Dumas (my favorite).

I think Anne Tyler's best novels are Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Accidental Tourist, so I'd start with one of those if I hadn't yet read any Tyler.

Harriet said...

I agree with Jeanne about Anne Tyler. She was one of those authors O.D.ed on one summer. I read everything. And that was a little too much. As for your rec for a starting point for Pérez-Reverte, I'm starting with The Painter of Battles because I have it. My mom sent it to me. A book in the hand is worth two in interlibrary loan.

lemming said...

Just discovered Carola Dunn, who writes murder mysteries set in the 1920s. Loving them.

Ngaio March is awesome!

I'm hoping to get caught up with YA lit this summer - I really should read some of the Warriors books and at least dip a toe into Twilight, just so I know what the fuss is about.

Jeanne said...

Lemming, have you READ Eleanor's review of Twilight?!

I can see reading one of those Warriors books since you have a kid who loves them, but my general policy is to at least try to steer the kids towards better YA titles. Redwall, at least. Eventually Watership Down and Animal Farm.

lemming said...

Redwall is also on my list, but Twilight is getting the pop culture discussion. I suspect that it won't do a damned thing for me (neither did John Grisham) but at least I will know for sure. I did see Eleanor's review and I suspect I'll send up agreeing with her.

To flog an older horse, do look at Paris to the Moon. Can be read in nits or in one great gulp -

Jeanne said...

Lemming, on my personal summer reading list are some biography/memoirs that came home with Ron and Eleanor at the end of March! Paris to the Moon is on my list, but I haven't procured a copy yet.

Jenny said...

Perez-Reverte has been on my mental list for a while - sounds all swashbuckling, plus he apparently likes Rafael Sabatini. That is the word on the street anyway.

Jenners said...

I keep meaning to read Carl Hiassen ... thanks for the reminder!

Jodie said...

Summer makes me lazy so how bout some lazy English countryside books like 'I Capture the Castle' and 'Cold Comfort Farm'.

Thinking back to the last summer holiday I had everyone could do worse than pick up the first book in Ellen Emerson White's young adult series about the teenage daughter of a female president (begining unsurprisingly with 'The President's Daughter') or 'The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants' series by Anne Brashares.

And books about India vs collonialist England or just India always seem to call to me in summer. 'East of the Sun' by Julia Gregson is fab as is 'A Suitable Boy' and 'A Passage to India'.

Oh and one last one a Laurie R King book I think lots of people would enjoy - 'Birth of a New Moon' which is a standalone book not part of her more famous series. There are cults!

Jeanne said...

Jenny, yes, Ron is the biggest Perez-Reverte fan around here, and he's read everything of Sabatini's we can find in print.

Jenners, sometimes I read Hiassen in the winter because all of it has such a summery, Florida feel.

Jodie, oh yes, I'm writing down your suggestions. I Capture the Castle and Cold Comfort Farm are favorites with anyone I know who's read them.

PAJ said...

Laurie King's Mary Russell novels are all wonderful, but I'd also suggest her Martinelli series, particularly To Play the Fool.
Jeanne, you've reviewed Alexander McCall Smith's books about the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and any of those would be great for a summer read. (And if you should tire of reading, take a look at the DVD of the HBO series based on the novels.)
Finally, Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series is good, as are her stand-alone books, my favorite of which is What the Dead Know.
(Thanks for the post. I've made a list and tucked it into my purse for the next trip to the library or book store.)

Jeanne said...

PAJ, oh yes--all good additions! I tend to want to read the Tess Monaghan in the fall--seems like it's always sleeting on those Baltimore streets--and I like them enough I've "saved" the last few.