Friday Question of the Day – Summer Reading Recommendations

Photo of the Little Free Library at 1312 Florida Ave, NW by PoPville flickr user Hopadidl

Checking out Hopadidl’s photo of the Little Free Library at 1312 Florida Ave, NW, which is awesome by the by, it reminded me that I forgot to ask for this Summer’s reading recommendations. Since it’s already August – let’s narrow it down to only one recommendation. So if someone only had time to read one book this summer – which one would you recommend?

54 Comment

  • I just finished reading The Rho Agenda Series, and really enjoyed them. It’s a present day sci-fi, but not over the top. I would consider them an alternate reality series looking into the Roswell Alien “conspiracy”. It’s free to Kindle owners with a prime account.

    My wife recommends “The World of Karl Pilkington.” If it’s anything like An Idiot Abroad, I’ll be reading that very soon.

  • My favorite: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

  • The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

    • Blithe

      I really enjoyed this one! It’s a good novel, with a compelling-to-me topic, with the wonderful bonus info re the “language” of flowers. Great recommendation!

  • I really enjoy The Best American series. I read the Best American Science and Nature writings every year–a new editor every year means a great collection of easily-digestible science writing. Gets your mind thinking, and reminds you that the world around you can be incredible 🙂

  • I just started “The English Girl,” by local writer Daniel Silva. It’s the latest in his Gabriel Allon spy/thriller series. When I finish that I’m going to read some Jim Thompson and Richard Stark novels, then “The Phantom” (Harry Hole series) by Jo Nesbo.

    I recently read and enjoyed Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” and I plan check out more of his stuff soon.

  • If you’re looking for something fun, easy, and engrossing – Ready Player One. I spent two very enjoyable days on the beach with that book!

  • jim_ed

    Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders. Its a collection of short stories, perfect for the beach.

  • Paul Tough, How Children Succeed. Non-fiction

  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Amazing read. Thoroughly entertaining. Although it’s fiction, you learn a lot about a lot of wide ranging subjects, too.

  • I recently finished Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller and really enjoyed it – it’s about how she grew up with her father hoarding.

  • If anyone is looking for great non-fiction writing, I highly recommend Toms River by Dan Fagan. The book explores the relationship between decades of illegal waste dumping and pollution that occurred in the town of Toms River, NJ and the apparent increase in childhood cancers. It’s a long book, but incredibly well written and researched.

  • The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Gorgeously and tightly written fiction about the realities of the Iraq war. Couldn’t put it down.

  • epric002

    khaled hosseini’s and the mountains echoed. imo, not as good as a thousand splendid suns, but still a great read.

  • My favorite read so far this summer has been Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. I found it fascinating and I don’t think you have to be a runner to enjoy it. Although if you are a runner (or attempting to be) this book was very inspirational.

  • Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead. It’s about the beach! Specifically about a group of black teenage boys spending the summer in the Hamptons in the ’80s, based on Whitehead’s own adolescence. It’s hilarious and beautifully written and will make you so hungry for a melty ice cream sandwich.

  • Oops, that was for How Children Succeed. Not so good at the internet today, I guess. 🙂

  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Excellent memoir of her hike on the PCT. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll long for adventure.

  • wmm

    If you love dogs and want a great, heartfelt story of a loving father, read The Art of Racing in the Rain. Incredibly uplifting story told from the dog’s perspective!

  • KSB

    The Art of Hearing Heartbeats was a beautiful read.

  • My recommendation is my usual go-to recommendation, especially for those unfamiliar with either the novel or the novelist: “Lucky Jim,” by Kingsley Amis (yep, Mart’s dad). The funniest novel ever written, period.

  • Boomsday by Christopher Buckley. It’s a quick read and laugh out loud funny…about DC and lobbyists and PR mavens and senators BUT good:)

  • Yes, I loved Wild! Excellent read. Her collection of advice columns, Tiny Beautiful Things, was also great. For a more humorous and lighthearted first hand account of hiking, I highly recommend Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods (and also would recommend every Bill Bryson book, one of my favorite authors!)

  • “The Count of Monte Christo.” On a beach. In France.

  • Great recommendations so far. I try to read Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey every summer. I love that book.

  • For summer road trips I like recorded books – does everyone know you can get them at the Library on CD, or download them from home onto your own MP3 or ipod? I listened to “Master of the Mountain” (about Thomas Jefferson & his slaves) on a drive to NC. Currently listening to “Pretty Birds” a novel by Scott Simon. Set in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war, I had passed it by several times thinking it would be too depressing, but it isn’t. Tragic sometimes yes, but also funny, poignant, engaging and well-narrated.

  • I’ve really been enjoying ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’, it’s an easy read that you can breeze through on your morning commute.

  • Great book! I hope they eventually get around to making a movie version of it. John Goodman would have been perfect for the lead role 20 or so years ago.

  • I actually read it last summer, but I really enjoyed Under the Tuscan Sun (never seen the movie).

    This summer, 1984 (never read it before – believe it or not). As a friend told me — “it gets better”

    And also the new Dan Brown book, Inferno – a quick and enjoyable read (although not quite as good as his others.

  • “Plague of Doves” by Louise Erdrich. Very good precursor to “The Round House.” It has a very magical realistic sense about it.

  • Flipflopirate, it (Confedoracy of Dunces) is set in New Orleans.

  • andy

    If you’re going to the Chesapeake or Delmarva for summer, read Beautiful Swimmers, by William Warner.

    It shows really well the disappearing watermen’s way of life, and it’s an older book so what it shows has even declined since then in many ways.

    And it will make you want to eat some crab, which is a great idea if you’re on the Bay or out at the ocean!

  • you just gave me a great idea. or, i think it’s a great idea. I am a librarian and run the nonfiction book club for my branch. it’d be fun (again, my idea of fun) to have folks read their choice of ‘wild’, ‘a walk in the woods’, or ‘into the wild’ (by jon krakauer) and then compare/contrast them. hmmm?

    • andy


      As someone who grew up backpacking and really loves it (when I am homesick for my hometown, the image in my head is always of hiking in the mountains) I never liked Bryson’s walk in the woods. He was just an unprepared chump! And I often sympathize with unprepared chumps in other areas, but not in this.

      Much more down with the people who think of going into the mountains as a strenuous way to see amazing things that you need to be ready for.

      Rant over. Phew.

  • I don’t understand why Lucky Jim is so acclaimed. I liked it fine, but it’s not a book I recommend. What makes you like it so? Personally, the funniest stuff I’ve read in recent years are some David Foster Wallace stories and essays.

  • Blithe

    This isn’t quite a recommendation, since I haven’t read the book yet, but “The Great Turning” by David Korten has been highly recommended to me, so whenever I get focused enough to read a non-fiction book, that one is next on my list.
    I DO recommend “An Island Out of Time” by Tom Horton. It’s also non-fiction, but it’s beautifully written, and it’s about a family’s experiences after moving to one of the Cheseapeak Bay Islands. It’s a great beach/plane read.

  • Blithe

    I would also recommend anything by Nick Hornby. I”m new to his work, but the three that I’ve read so far: “How to be Good”; “About a Boy”; and “Juliet, Naked”, are great!

  • I’d highly recommend any of the Dan Brown novels.

  • I third Ready Player One, especially if you have an affinity for 1980’s popular culture, but even if you don’t, it is a fantastically fun read.

    If you enjoyed that and like the fantasy / sci-fi genre, you will also love The Magicians (and its sequel) as well as The Rook. All four of those books I plowed through essentially without breaking for air.

  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, about a group of kids who meet at an arts summer camp and the paths they take in their lives after.

  • I’ve heard from people who hiked the trail that summer that he hiked alone the whole time, and that his friend who was always tired and wanted to quit was kind of an alter-ego for how he was feeling a lot. Not sure if it’s true, but it’s a fun idea.

  • see, andy, you would already have something to contribute to a discussion of ‘a walk in the woods’! I think a theme that runs across the 3 books i mentioned is preparedness, or lack thereof – but each narrative has different reasons for how much or how little s/he prepared for the respective treks.

  • Agreed. Great book. I’m an Iraq vet and this hit close to home. Broke my heart.

  • Just finished “A Thousand Splendid Suns”; it was really, really good. Am waiting for “And the Mountains Echoed” at the library.

  • Why do I like “Lucky Jim” so much? I’ll take my cue from Kingsley’s son, Martin Amis, who wrote in the preface to “The War Against Cliche” that “[we] proceed by quotation. Quotation is the reviewer’s [or, for our purposes, critic’s] only hard evidence. Or semi-hard evidence. Without it, in any case, criticism is a shop-queue monologue…” So I’ll quote mine (and just about everyone else’s favorite passage from “Lucky Jim,” where the protagonist, Jim Dixon awakes from a night of Olympic imbibing to what are the obvious results:

    “Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.”

    Leaving aside my own personal predilections for liking the novel (it’s a university satire, and I happened to have read it while in grad school pursuing an MA in English lit, and Amis’ ability to capture the pretentiousness and boredom of a campus Humanities department was pitch-perfect), I must also add I’ve never encountered a comparable passage in any novel since. It’s rhythm and imagery bear all the earmarks of a master comedian (which Amis apparently was in real life — Martin described him as an “engine of comedy”); as well, few novelists come close to peopling their novels, and that novel in particular, with such distinct, rendered comic voices (more “from real life” evidence: Amis was an excellent mimic — voices, verbal tics, accents, sound effects — an oft-requested parlor piece was an imitation of one of FDR’s “fireside chats” as heard during WWII-era short-wave radio, complete with static, the voice fading in and out, interruptions from other signals; Christopher Hitchens owned a recording of it, and he played it for an audience I was in that had gathered for a reading by Zachary Leader, Amis’ biographer). By all accounts he was one of the funniest human beings of the 20th Century, and, to my mind, “Lucky Jim” captures that energy.

  • It’s August, and all I want to do is have a vacation. I’m always reading industry-stuff or non-fiction.
    I’m heading to the West Coast.
    Lapses of Memory, by M S Spencer. It’s her 5th/6th book, and each makes one think about how/why people behave the way they do in relationships.

    This is based in DC, so I can relate;
    it’s about people & life, and again, I can relate;
    and one of the characters is Iranian, as is one of my best friends, so I expect to enjoy it.


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