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Friday Question of the Day – Summer Book Recommendations?

by Prince Of Petworth — July 19, 2012 at 10:22 pm 73 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

Some folks have been sharing book recommendations in the rant/revel posts and since it’s beach season – I’m ready for this year’s summer reading recommendations from PoPville. We got some great recommendations last year.

While not the most traditional beach read, I just started The American Porch An Informal History of an Informal Place by Michael Dolan. So far it is awesome.

I’m also gonna recommend a book from one of our own. PoPville contributor and Petworth resident Eric Nuzum has a new memoir coming out in early August called GIVING UP THE GHOST: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted. I was lucky to get an advance copy and it is a terrific read.

So for today’s FQotD – what are you reading this summer? Have any good beach read recommendations?

  • schwaban

    Check out D.C. resident, Sam Kean’s book, The Violinist’s Thumb. It is smart, funny, and you will learn something reading it.

  • Anonymous

    I’m pretty excited about this book: http://www.npr.org/2012/06/06/153914855/brit-wit-meets-manor-mystery-in-uninvited-guests Hoping I can track it down at one of the DC library branches!

    • DC Library has it, but there’s a wait list.

  • caballero

    Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods.” It is especially good if you are a hiker, or have even a passing interest in the Appalachian Trail. It’s a real breeze, and really funny…I read it in about two days.

    • PG

      I’ve read and enjoyed most of his books. “A Short History of Nearly Everything” is one of my favorites.

      • A Walk in the Woods is a great summer read! Also enjoyed A Short History of Nearly Everything and The Lost Continent. Bryson is one of my favorite authors, I love his sense of humor.

        • Reader

          In a Sunburnt Country is also pretty amazing.

    • Read this when I was living in France. It was the only English book my host family owned. Loved it!

  • Michael

    “Ready Player One,” “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe,” and rereading anything Vonnegut.

    • ew

      I can’t help but second the love for Vonnegut. He is like my third grandpa that I never knew.

      Also, I highly recommend Room by Emma Donaghue (sp?). It was nominated for a bunch of awards last year, and is a really touching thriller (what a combo) that I couldn’t put down for days last summer.

      • Caroline

        Room is one of those books you can’t put down, and it haunts you long after you read it. I was just thinking about the other day, and I read it months ago. Be prepared to feel claustrophobic while reading it, though.

        Someone gave me one of Emma Donaghue’s other books, Hood, a long time ago and I really enjoyed it too. Probably the best LGBT fiction I’ve ever read.

        • I didn’t like Room quite as much as others did – I thought the treatment of male characters, and I’m not talking about the abuser but the ancillary male characters and the view of maleness, was pretty clumsy – but I’ve loved some of her other books, and she’s a gifted writer. She has a short story collection that’s great and a perfect beach read.

          I’ve gotten into a series of mystery novels set in rural Quebec by Louise Penny for planes, trains, and automobiles. She’s not as serious a writer as Donaghue, but they’re very readable.

          • Caroline

            That’s true. I think Room loses some steam and becomes less believable once they actually get out of the room. But I still liked it a lot.

      • True story: My real grandpa was friends with Kurt Vonnegut in high school. They started a food fight and got detention for a week. When they walk into detention the teacher asks their names & Vonnegut says my grandpa’s name & my grandpa says Kurt Vonnegut. So….Kurt Vonnegut is my grandpa!

        (Sorry if you’ve heard that story before, I bring it out every chance I get.)

        • ew

          Oh stop, I’m massively jealous. I thought I was all cool with a tattoo of his self sketch. Foiled again.

          • Anonymous

            Does the tattoo look like this? * 🙂

          • ew

            Ha, actually I did pick the sketch that included the asshole next to his signature- although not the one with the cigarette. The asshole makes me feel impish 😉

          • zrc

            That might be the coolest tattoo ever. I’m super jealous.

        • Anonymous

          When I was in college, my father and I went to a Vonnegut talk on campus. I brought some books to be signed, but he didn’t do a signing. We found our way backstage and saw Vonnegut wandering around. He appeared lost and said, “This is like that movie Spinal Tap, where the band gets lost backstage.” So Vonnegut was a Spinal Tap fan. Pretty cool. Also, he signed the two first editions I brought.

    • zrc

      I read all three of those this summer (actually reading the Vonnegut biography, which kinda counts…), so I can firmly say that we are both mega-dorks. Ready Player One was extremely addictive, and without a doubt the dorkiest book I’ve ever read (Zork? Rush’s 2112 album? Talk about nerd references…)

  • yz

    Alan Furst has a new book that I plan on reading.

  • PG

    I’m picking up Dan Silva’s latest novel from the library tonight. Looking forward to reading that.

    Also reading “Nemesis” by Jo Nesbo and I have a couple of Walter Mosley books on deck.

    I recently discovered (thanks to the AV Club) The Ultimate Spiderman comic books and I’ve read the first five trade paperback volumes (with more on the way from the library.)

  • Britt

    On long trips for work, book series have been perfect – it’s so nice to automatically reach for the next one and stay inside the book’s “world”. Recently it’s been Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones.
    I’ve also been loving the older mystery writes like Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, and PD James.

    • ShawShank

      Big second on Game of Thrones – loved every bit of the 4 or so months it took me to read those books. Amazing storytelling and character development. Highly, highly recommend it.

    • Reader

      If you like those, I think you’ll definitely like The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. They’re pretty amazing, honestly, and the third and final is coming out within the next year, supposedly.

  • Caroline

    Any nonfiction fans here? I’m almost done with If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley. The scope was more limited than I was expecting, but it’s full of quirky historical details that are imparted with understated humor. It’s been a fun read.

    Another book I recently enjoyed was Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert by Michael Krondl. Probably not for everyone, but I’d recommend it if you’re as obsessed with food and cooking as I am.

    I’m just starting The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner. It should be really fascinating and, I’m hoping, somewhat inspirational.

    My girlfriend’s really been into The Power of Habit and I’m going to borrow her copy when she’s done. I’ve skimmed a few sections and it does look interesting.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, Bill Bryson was mentioned earlier.

      I recently read “Hazardous Duty” by retired General John Singlaub. Excellent book on modern US military history.

    • Sammy

      Just want to say Eric’s book sounds fantastic! Congrats!!

  • ehg

    I just read Calico Joe by John Grisham–if you are into baseball at all this is a MUST READ. Fantastic!

  • I’m reading some Nancy Mitford novels because the Mitfords were such a messed up family.

    • md86

      Have you read “The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family”? Great biography.

      • Yes! Reading it as well as the Nancy Mitford novels.

  • My bookclub recently read “Room” by Emma Donoghue. It’s the story of a woman kidnapped and held captive Elizabeth-Smart-style told from the point of view of her five year old son born in captivity. It’s pretty disturbing in some respects so it’s not traditionally light summer reading, but it reads quickly and it was a mindblow.

    • Heh, didn’t see someone had already mentioned this one above! In any case I second the motion.

  • The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright – Jean Nathan. Even if you don’t remember the Lonely Doll books this is an absolutely fascinating read. Dare Wright led a crazy life. Abandoned by a ne’er-do-well father, lived with an overbearing controlling mother – She was a model and an artist and was possibly in love with her long lost brother (no really). The scandalous self portraits are amazing all on their own! I read it at the beach 2 years ago and could not put it down! Passed it along to my sister, and it is still making the rounds of all her friends – I don’t think I’m ever getting it back.

    • That’s on my list too. 🙂

  • Summer reading is all about “chick lit” for me. I read the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, which was like how you keep looking at a car wreck even though you know it’s terrible and you shouldn’t keep looking. Then, in search of some chick lit with more substance, I’ve read through almost every one of Marian Keyes’ novels which were mostly really good and less predicable than your typical fluff novels, especially Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, Is Anybody Out There, and This Charming Man.

    For non-fiction, although it’s been out for awhile, I recently read The Warmth of Other Suns about the great migration of African Americans from the rural south to northern cities. An epic and amazing book.

    • PG

      My girlfriend’s addicted to the 50 Shades books. I’m trying to get her into Elmore Leonard. She’s a big fan of Justified, but the copy of “Pronto” I bought her has been collecting dust for months.

      • Pronto is a great book-read it a few months ago. Elmore Leonard is one of those authors that never disappoints.

        • PG

          I’m a big Leonoard fan and I’ve read most of his books. I wish I could agree with you on him never being disappointing, but his last three or four books haven’t been very good. Not horrible, but not up to his usual standard. He really seems to be phoning it in now.

      • Irving Streete

        Rude question: does her reading the books translate into more exciting times for you?

        • PG

          No comment. 🙂

  • I just finished “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett and it really kept my attention through the whole narrative. It takes place mainly among a tribe in the amazon and explores many ethical issues, particularly surrounding medicine. A book that truly combined lush settings, great writing, and an intriguing plot.

  • For historical fiction: Wolf Hall, and its new sequel, Bringing Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel, are so excellent! A reimagining of Thomas Cromwell (likely resulting in confused then passionate adoration of Thomas Cromwell).

    For fantasy + history lovers, The Discovery of Witches and its new sequel, Shadow of the Night, by Deborah Harkness, are like Harry Potter + Twilight for grown ups who think spending all day in an Oxford library thinking about the history of alchemy is good fun (the sequel has a Elizabethan time travel element too, with various historical actors popping up).

    • Seconded. I loved Wolf Hall and am reading the sequel right now!

    • Katie D.

      I just finished a back-to-back reading of ADOW and SOTN and loved them both! I am totally jonesing for the third one, and am sad I have to wait a year! Another book that I recently read and liked (and also got as an advanced reader copy) is God Save the Queen by Kate Locke which is alternative history set in 2012 but Queen Victoria’s never left the throne. Lots of vampires and werewolves and steampunky aspects. A similar read, but with it being the Elizabethan Age has never ended because Elizabeth I reproduced and had lots of descendants–and there’s no vamps or weres–is Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett. I was caught by cover copy describing it as James Bond meets Blackadder.

  • Anonymous

    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

  • I’m on a historical fiction kick right now. “Bring up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel, and Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales are currently in heavy rotation on the Kindle.

    Just finished The Kite Runner.

  • mpetworth

    Infinite Jest, all the way. . .

  • Katie D.

    Oh! For those who are into Fifty Shades and want to read something similar here’s a couple of suggestions:

    For the sexy times aspect, there’s Bared to You by Sylvia Day.

    For the rich older guy and younger woman drawn into his world (and as long as you don’t mind a little time travel) aspect, there’s Overseas by Beatriz Williams.

    • Anonymous

      I would also recommend “Penthouse Letters.” 🙂

  • -Best book of last decade: City of Thieves by David Benioff. Everyone I’ve recommended it to has loved it. (His book of short stories rocks too)
    -Book Thief was awesome
    -Instance of a Fingerpost by Ian Pears is massive but amazing historical fiction (from 1999 or so), maybe my fave book ever
    -The Fault in Our Stars is a YA book that I really liked and is new
    -People keep recommending “Gone Girl” to me
    -I always loved Poinsonwood Bible, and for nonfiction/related, King Leopold’s Ghost
    – Old school, I thought Time Travelers Wife was amazing. Took me a few tries to get into it but it sucked me in once I got going.

    • kcampane

      Oh my gosh cahbf, you have exactly the same tastes in books I do. I am 3/4 done with Gone Girl and it is mesmerizing – I can’t put it down. Highly recommend!

      • since we have the same tastes, I need some recs. I read a lot. Know any good ones?

        • K

          I also have the same taste in books! Have you read These Is My Words by Nancy Turner? Mudbound by Hilary Jordan is also a favorite!

          What else should I read? I’m a teacher, so with the summer off I am going through a few books a week!

        • Anonymous

          Oh man I have a million! I get most of my recs from Goodreads.com. Have you been on there? Its great. I am totally mesmerized by Gone Girl, read it ASAP! My other favorite of the summer so far was The Fault in Our Stars. A must read….YA so reads fast but it makes you laugh AND cry! Other recent faves:
          Buddha in the Attic
          11/22/63 (don’t be turned off by the author – Stephen King…its not a typical King book!)
          Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
          State of Wonder
          The Art of Racing in the Rain
          Book Thief
          The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
          The Help
          People of the Book
          Devil in the White City

          • Kerry

            Tip: Don’t read the Art of Racing in the Rain if your dog is old/your dog recently died. Just don’t.

        • Anonymous

          Oh sorry cahbf, for some reason that post went up as Anonymous, but its from me, kcampane….enjoy….and share some more of your favorites with us (me)!

  • Irving Streete

    “Snowstorm in August” by PoPville resident Jefferson Morley: Washington DA Francis Scott Key, a freed African American running the best restaurant in DC, a teenage slave who may have tried to murder his mistress, a forgotten race riot, Andy Jackson and fascinating local details from the 1830s — and all true.

    Recommended by the Left:


    And the Right:


  • JT

    What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel

  • anon

    I’ll 4th Rebecca Skloot’s impressive work in ‘The Immortal Life of Hentrietta Lacks”. Recently enjoyed Cheryl Strayed’s touching “Wild,” Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run” (fascinating whether you run or not) and Dexter Filkin’s “The Forever War” (nuanced, brave, and important work on US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan)

  • KMM2

    The Paris Wife is a favorite of mine from last year!

    It’s the story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley, set in Paris during the 20’s.

  • K

    I really enjoyed The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom for those of you who enjoy historical fiction. I also just read Salvage the Bones by Jesamyn Ward, and highly recommend! It shares a family’s struggle in the days before and after Katrina.

  • Right now, I’m reading Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery. It’s kinda nutty (you’re all shocked, I know), but I think anyone who liked Foucault’s Pendulum (so hilarious) would enjoy it.

    Other books I’ve read recently:
    Stacy Schiffer’s Cleopatra biography: underwhelming
    Niall Ferguson’s Civilization:at little too mass market; I was hoping for meatier historical analysis. Still, he had some interesting and provocative arguments about the rise of Western civilization.
    Zamora Linmark’s Leche: light and enjoyable with some interesting things to say about Philippine culture and politics, family, and sexuality, but it felt a little too much like an MFA thesis
    Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife: I think I’ve recommended this one before. It sucked me in from the beginning with a heady mix of history, politics, mythology, and family life in all of its good and bad manifestations. I was shocked to find out that it is her first novel. It’s a mature and engaging work.
    I like to re-read classics in the summer, so I recently read Rebecca. I’d forgotten how good it is. My Grandpa and I had a long conversation about it, and my teenager is reading it now – she likes it!

    Next up for classics: Middlemarch. If anyone hasn’t read it, I highly recommend it. It’s long, but it’s just an amazing book.

    And because I never met a crime novel I didn’t love (thanks, Mom!), I’ve been devouring Karin Fossum’s books, which are Norwegian. They slight books, but interesting, not too grim, and leave you thinking.

    Also, I love Dexter, so I’ve started reading the books. Naturally, they’re pretty different from the TV show, but I’m enjoying them.

    On, and Tana French’s latest book comes out SO SOON. I really love her work. Her books are engrossing studies of human psychology, and her way with language is just gorgeous. I highly recommend any of her books.

  • 1Q84 isn’t as trendy anymore, but it’s still an epic read – surreal, sexy, suspenseful – and somehow after a thousand pages you still want more. It’s worth downloading on an e book if you don’t wanna carry a brick around.

    I also just finished Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, which is nonfiction but reads like a well crafted novel. The subject matter – the slums of Mumbai – may not sound beach friendly, but it’s really a engaging and thought-provoking story without being too depressing.

  • “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” made me laugh out loud. If you like her blog, you’ll love the book. Various other books I’ve enjoyed: “The 19th Wife” was a really interesting book about polygamy and the early Mormon church. “The Elegance of the Hedgehog.” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” “The Marriage Plot” (and all things Jeffrey Eugenides). “Eating Animals.” “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”

    • +1 to Elegance of the Hedgehog

  • iowan

    Not new, but The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is an awesome tale.

  • ‘Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere’ by Jan Morris. A well-crafted book about a favorite city that escapes classification. The book also waxes philisopgical (Trieste as metaphor). Captivating read and perfect for the lazy summer. It made me think that Washington is, like Triests, a city caught in between. Not really norther, not really southern. Etc, etc. Anything by Jan Morris is worth reading.

  • Grid

    I recently read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and was very, very sad to finish. It’s a beautifully written novel about magic (and so much more!) and an enchanting traveling circus.
    Also, on the subject of Ann Patchett, I re-read Bel Canto and it’s one of my favorite books ever. Another escape, and such gorgeous flowing passages. A must-read for music lovers. Oh, and Amy Tan’s Saving Fish from Drowning paints a detailed picture of Burma, and is still somehow funny and ironic.

  • akb

    Loved “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walters. Also, 37th “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” For lighter fair, Jennifer Weiner has a new book out–“The Next Best Thing”– and Emily Giffin’s newest is coming out. And for local flavor, George Pelacanos had a new one last summer–“The Cut.”

  • NoLongerNew2CH

    Can’t believe no one has yet recommended Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. All of her books are can’t-put-em-down types, but this one was especially good, I burned through it in a day and a half basically without being able to stop.

    For non-fiction, I recently read True Story, a really unusual and fascinating combo mea culpa by a disgraced journalist who also began a correspondence with an accused murderer. Also could not put it down.

    Both have been optioned for movies and major actors are involved, but neither will be as good on the screen.


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