I have to confess that I have a leaning tower of books that I think I “should” read. This “should read” stack usually includes that classic I never finished or a book that has been nominated for literary awards and everyone likes but I cannot get into. These are books I label as more tedious than fun. However, during the summer, I totally ignore my “should read” books and give myself the gift of reading whatever I want to instead of whatever I should be reading. Some of my more enjoyable binge-worthy books are listed below.
Dead as a Door Knocker
Dead as a Door Knocker by Diane Kelly is the first in a series featuring Whitney Whitaker, a character who makes her living in Nashville, Tennessee, managing rental property. Whitney aspires to buy a fixer-upper and then flip it for profit because that is the trendy thing to do in Nashville. As she prepares for her open house, she finds a dead body and must find the killer before she is the next victim. You can put a copy of this paperback in your bag and sneak a peek whenever possible.
See You in the Piazza
See you in the Piazza by Frances Mayes made me want to get on the next plane to Italy. Since I cannot do that today, reading this book is the next best thing. Mayes, the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, knows how to write about Italy in descriptive terms that will make you dream. She describes in a travelogue 15 regions of Italy that may not show up in popular guide books. Italy looks better and better when our South is at 100% humidity.
The Widows of Malabar Hill
I love historical mysteries because they offer an escape from today’s news. I recently discovered The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey. This book has turned into a personal favorite because for almost 20 years I have been an aspiring yoga student, and many of my teachers have studied in India. Massey’s protagonist is Perveen Mistry, an attorney in 1921 India who comes from a distinguished family who are members of the Zoroastrian faith. Perveen’s family are the lawyers for a rich merchant who owned a mill, was Muslim and was married to three different women at the same time. Upon this wealthy man’s death, he had three widows all of whom had a claim to the money left behind by their shared husband. However, the deceased husband left control of his fortune to a male guardian instead of one of his wives, a situation that ultimately leads to a murder. Perveen must figure out why someone was murdered, and by whom. It was not easy to be a career woman in India during the 1920s, but Perveen rises to the challenge. I eagerly anticipate Massey’s next book in this series.
Southern Lady Code
For any of you who just moved to the South, have I got the book for you. Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis is a guide to understanding and becoming a “Southern Lady.” Ellis grew up in Alabama and moved to New York City when she was 22. Those of us who are already “Southern Ladies” will completely understand what she describes in her essays. Those of you who aspire to join us will learn many of our secrets when you read this book, or you will at least have a greater appreciation of our winsome ways. If you are welcoming anyone who was not raised in the South into your family, do them a favor and give them this book as a welcoming gift. I must warn you, I heard my husband laughing out loud when I caught him reading my copy.
Beyond the Point
Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson is the story of three women who enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point just before 9/11. Gibson was raised at West Point so she knows this topic well. Nothing comes easy for these three determined women, and Gibson writes in a moving way about how they experience harassment, abuse and death. Faith and a belief in God are strong components of this lovely book.
RELATED: Claire Gibson: FACES of Nashville
Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy)
If you are experiencing Game of Thrones withdrawal, the Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy) by Marlon James is the book for you. You will be swept away by the story of average people who must accomplish fantastic things. African fairy tales, legends and myths play an important part in this book.
Save Me from Dangerous Men
I picked up a copy of Save Me from Dangerous Men by S.A. Lelchuk because the main character, Nikki Griffin, is described as the owner of a used bookstore. I expected a sweet, cozy mystery about a book lover who solves murders that are not really violent. What I got was a fast-paced, razor-edged thriller because of Griffin’s side job of creating attitude adjustments for rude, belligerent and hostile men. In other words, bad people get what they deserved. I loved it and could not put it down. If you like mysteries by Lee Child, featuring Jack Reacher, then you will love Save Me from Dangerous Men.
The Last Romantics
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin begins in the year 2079 with a best-selling poet, Fiona Skinner, who is 102 years old looking back on her life. Fiona’s father died suddenly in 1981, and Fiona and her brother and two sisters do not have an easy time of it. Their mother retreats into her bedroom for two years, so Fiona and her siblings basically raise themselves. Conklin, who wrote The House Girl, knows how to write fiction about family relations, and The Last Romantics is a great choice for a book club discussion.
The Guest Book
My favorite book for summer reading is The Guest Book by Sarah Blake, who authored The Postmistress in 2010. The Guest Book is the saga of a wealthy East Coast family, the Milton Higginson bankers, described in the book as “one of those families who used to run the world.” The story begins in 1935 and is more than 400 pages of family successes and tragedies. Don’t wait for the paperback.
Don’t forget to buy I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott and Confessions of a Christian Mystic by River Jordan. I could not stop laughing when I read the first chapter of Philpott’s book, and Jordan is one of today’s best writers about faith and endurance. Both these books of essays are already climbing the bestseller list. Plus, I cannot wait for the July 9 publication date of Late Migrations, a Natural History of Love and Loss by New York Times columnist and Nashville writer Margaret Renkl.
Here’s to some fantastic summer reading!
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