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Leave a Book, Take a Book

I Tweeted that I had just finished Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies and had started a new book and was thoroughly disappointed in the next book not because it sucked on its own, but it certainly sucked in comparison.  It is hard to leave characters you like–real or fictional–behind.

I didn’t think I’d like Gillies’s book at all, but I quickly jumped into her world and suddenly cared very much about her family and the demise of her marriage.  Memoirs are a bit like blogs–reading the intimate details of a person’s world.  There was an additional factor that drew me into this memoir; the people were so accessible.  They’re on Facebook.  They’re on a university web page.  It felt more akin to a blog than let’s say a memoir about a celebrity.

So, this next book (which shall not be named because it actually is quite enjoyable, just not in comparison to Gillies’s book) was sort of difficult to get into and I commented on how hard it is to leave a really good book and go into the next one.  Others chimed in with their book experiences and asked what else I was reading and could recommend.  It seemed like the perfect time to throw out what we’re reading and how we feel about it so people can take recommendations with them into the summer reading months.

This is what I look for in a beach/pool/summer book: readability–sort of the same idea as Bud Light’s drinkability, only with 100% less alcohol.  I want a book that is going to be meaty enough for me to want to return to the characters or the subject, but light enough for me to not have my mood changed or struggle to understand a paragraph.

But you know how sometimes a book can put you in a mood?  When I’m away or at the pool, I want a book I can jump in and out of quickly.  I think of my summer books in the same way as I think of my summer movies.  I save the heavy stuff for the winter when I’m going to spend hours curled up reading.  I like to relax with fun books and memoirs (even heavier memoirs) and chicklit and creative fiction in the summer.

So this is what I’ve read lately that I can recommend.  There’s also a lot of literary fiction out there that I enjoyed over the winter, but I’m throwing on this list books that sort of fit that summer mold–stuff you want to read on the beach when you have three hours to plop down on the sand.


  • Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies: fantastic–my best pick for memoir.  It is about a marriage unraveling and she writes beautifully.
  • Straight Up and Dirty by Stephanie Klein: I really liked Moose too.  It’s about her divorce, but more about the dating that took place afterward.  Very fast-paced.
  • It Sucked and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong: good, quick read.  It feels a lot like her blog–Dooce–in paper form.


  • Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner: you sort of can’t go wrong with Jennifer Weiner.  This happens to be her latest book and it’s a bit loose mystery a la the Desperate Housewives variety.  Really enjoyable read.
  • Something Borrowed and Something Blue by Emily Giffin: she has a new book coming out soon, but I just read these two books which are a few years old.  Great chicklit and it’s the same story told from the point-of-view of the two main characters.
  • The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn: chicklit in the Allison Pearson vein.  It’s that New York, ultra-rich world that is fun to peek into in fiction.


  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain: didn’t exactly hold together as a book, but it was fun if you went into it knowing it was a series of disjointed essays.
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan: a lot of food for thought, though the book didn’t grab me as much as it grabbed others.  Definitely worth a read, but I thought it could be boiled down to an essay and serve up the information better.

On My Summer Reading Wish List (and please chime in if you’ve read them and can either bump one up to the top of the queue or save me some time and not read it)

  • Neon Angel by Cherie Currie: memoir about the Runaways.  I started reading it in the bookstore and fell in love.
  • Publish this Book by Stephen Markley: again, I started reading it in the bookstore and found it amusing.  Maybe too clever?  I’m not the biggest fan of clever books.
  • Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster: I’ve always meant to read her books and a friend gave me a few to get started.  Would love any insight into where to start first.
  • Fluke by Christopher Moore: I’ve always been curious about his books and a friend recommended this one first.

Leave a book recommendation in the comment section below and take one if you’re looking for something to read.  Or chime in with your thoughts on a book that has already been thrown into the ring–either to cheer it on or dissuade.


1 Sarah { 05.10.10 at 10:10 am }

My sister gave me a 1942 copy of “We Took to the Woods” by Louise Rich. She wrote about the experience of living in the Maine woods with her husband and then their son. It’s a wonderful and humorous read about their adventures living out in the middle of nowhere, alone expect for the occasional sport fisherman or seasonal logger camps. It’s definitely an easy one to read for a bit, set down and then pick up again a week later.

2 Kir { 05.10.10 at 10:12 am }

really, no comments yet???
well I love Emily Griffin…she’s awesome.
I also love Elizabeth Noble, her books make me smile. I love British Chick Lit.

and wouldn’t you know it, I am NOW READING “Bitter is the New Black” and I LOVE her. I’m even reading her blog now. The book is funny and off the wall and I’ve laughed out loud a lot…John will look over at me (I can only read in the car) and look at me like “My wife has finally LOST IT” but in a good way!!! The book is delicious !!!

thanks for the suggestions, I will look into some of them, I really want to read “Pillars of the Earth” this summer, it’s been sitting in my kitchen for a year now. 🙂

I also will look into that Jennifer Weiner, I love her.

HAPPY READING, let me know what you think of Bitter…I’ll be reading her other books after this one. 🙂

3 Heather { 05.10.10 at 10:20 am }

I’m reading all of Jane Austen because I FINALLY own copies of my very own!

4 loribeth { 05.10.10 at 10:30 am }

My “to read” pile is actual piles, plural, & they just keep growing & growing. I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction, although I’ve been reading more fiction lately. I just finished “The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society” which was just as wonderful as the title — all about books & letters & friendship & the Nazi WW2 occupation of the island of Jersey. Reminded me of “84 Charing Cross Road.”

At the moment I am reading “Enlightened Sexism” by Susan Douglas, who also wrote “Where the Girls Are” — both great analyses of the status of women, as reflected in the pop culture of the day.

Among the many volumes in my “to read” pile, off the top of my head: “Bright Sided” by Barbara Ehrenreich, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, “The Bishop’s Man” by Linden MacIntyre (award-winning Canadian novel), Gail Collins’ book, and “The Bridge” by David Remnick.

I’ll be heading to Mom’s for a week soon, & am already debating which books to take, since I can usually polish off a couple while I’m there — away from work, my regular life, & all its distractions.

5 Chickenpig { 05.10.10 at 10:38 am }

I love Christopher Moore, but Fluke is not one of my favorites. I would read Lamb first.

6 T Lee { 05.10.10 at 10:39 am }

Fluke was great- chuckle-type funny, and a little out there (like all of his books are). My favorite Moore, though, is “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove,” a small, sleepy little town, weird supernatural hilarity ensues- fabulous, and a pretty light read.

This summer I’ll be catching up on all of the summer releases by my fav authors (ok, well, the paperback releases, lol)- Patricia Cornwell, Erica Spindler, Janet Evanovich; Mostly procedural and suspense, but a decent dose of chick-lit ‘brain trash’ as well, lol.

7 Peaches { 05.10.10 at 10:55 am }

I LOVE to read. I just went to a book swap and came home with 45 new books. It will take some time to plow through those. I really like Emily Giffin and just finished Baby Proof. I also LOVE Sophie Kinsella if you want a quick funny book. T LEE mentioned Janet Evanovich and her books are laugh out loud funny. These are older books that I just read and loved – Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen; Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold; Life of Pi – Yann Martel.

8 mrs.spit { 05.10.10 at 11:31 am }

I like to go through series in a summer. I’ll buy all of the books and then plow through them one by one. Some of my favourites have been Elizabeth Peter’s turn of the century series about Amelia Peabody, who was married to The Greatest Egyptologist of this Age or Any Other. They are a sort of mystery book set in Egypt.

I’ve liked the Aunt Dimity Series, about an aunt who leaves her God Child a wealthy woman and communicates to her through a diary.

I’ve liked the Alexander McCall Smith Number 1 Ladies Detective Series, about Mma Raomtswe, who is a lady detective in Botswana.

Last summer I re-read Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time quintet and then the Austin series.

9 Krista { 05.10.10 at 11:50 am }

I know what you mean about leaving a good book behind. Though it is heavy reading and at times, terribly sad, I just read The Grapes of Wrath (somehow got by without it in school). It is such a beautiful book and when I was done, I really missed it. I’m so glad I read it as an adult and not as a teen. But, I’ve moved on to Julia Child’s My Life in France, which manages to make me hungry and a little sentimental because it reminds me of our four years in Italy. It’s a fun, easy read and inspiring, too, since Julia didn’t even begin to learn to cook until she was about 38. There’s still hope that I’ll figure out what I want to be when I grow up!

10 alison { 05.10.10 at 11:54 am }

I recently read Rattled! by Christine Coppa (memoir) and really enjoyed it. NOTE: Don’t read it if you’re not in a good mental space/in the throes of IF as the book is about her accidental pregnancy. But I truly loved reading about how she processed the reality of her pregnancy and it’s an awesome testament to a mother’s love.

11 kwally { 05.10.10 at 12:02 pm }

Bitter is the New Black is very funny and light. Of those in that seriers, I would start with that one and from there order doesn’t matter. Her tone and writing styles are very enjoyable. Have fun!

12 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 05.10.10 at 12:25 pm }

Man, I’m still working on my fiction list from last summer!

I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately, and I think What The Dog Saw would make a great summertime read. It’s a collection of essays by Malcolm Gladwell, and if you like his other stuff, this is probably a great choice for summer because each essay can completely stand on it’s own.

Summertime is also a great time for short story fiction, and Ahdaf Soueif is one of my latest favorite authors. She wrote Map Of Love, which is a most excellent read (a seasonless read, I think), but I also picked up her collection of short stories called, I Think Of You. And I think it would be a great choice for a summer read.

13 Pam { 05.10.10 at 1:29 pm }

I love anything by James Patterson or Jeffery Deaver. I start them, and they keep me engaged…I’ll find myself reading in bed well past when I should be sleeping. Love their stuff! I also like the easy reads like Sophie Kinsella. In the past I read a lot of the Clive Cussler books with Dirk Pitt (I’m loyal to my heros) which were really good beach reads. The fact they were tied to events in history made them that much more interesting. And I also liked, but haven’t read in a long time is Wilbur Smith. I read his Courtney series which takes place in the last quarter of the 19th century in South Africa. Truly a compelling series of books and one that I had forgotten about. I think I’m going to go find the first “When the Lion Feeds” and read them again. Here’s a link to an excerpt –>

He also has an Egyptian series which I haven’t read which apparently meets up with the African series in his latest book.

Anyway, a few more for you to think about. 🙂 Happy Reading!

14 SassyMama { 05.10.10 at 1:51 pm }

I just finished reading Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto”. I enjoyed it a lot although it dragged slightly in the middle. It is a fiction book about a group of hostages taken during an event in South America. The interesting part is the relationships that form between hostages and between hostages and their captors.

I also recently read Nevil Shute’s “A Town Like Alice” from the 1950’s. Also a fictional book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Non-fiction wise I just finished “Men to Match My Mountains” by Irving Stone. It is an exceptionally detailed account of the settling of the American Far West. It is slow reading and at times I didn’t care about all the detail, but overall I learned a lot and I’m glad I read it.

Thanks for the ideas!

15 Kristin { 05.10.10 at 2:12 pm }

You really, really need to read The Art of Racing in the Rain. It is truly an incredible book.

16 Genevieve { 05.10.10 at 2:47 pm }

I am a non-fiction memoir fiend 🙂 and fiction. i eat books for lunch. LOL. You will enjoy Christopher Moore. He is seriously depraved 🙂

17 MLO { 05.10.10 at 3:42 pm }

I haven’t reviewed them yet, but I shall “curse” you all – who enjoy really good fantasy – with a series of books that a friend recommended to all of us and we have been able to accomplish NOTHING once the book is in our hands. Until the books in the series are read in completion they were not put down by any of several in our social group. The books? The _Cast_In series by Michelle Sagara. The first?

Cast In Shadow

Once you start reading, try to get anything done.

18 luna { 05.10.10 at 3:42 pm }

I must come back and take notes.

but first, christopher moore. fluke was cute but not my fave. definitely read “lamb” first: http://www.chrismoore.com/lamb.html (subtitle alone will grab you: the gospel according to biff, christ’s childhood pal). it is hiLArious.

19 mybumpyjourney { 05.10.10 at 4:22 pm }

I <3 Jennifer Weiner and Sophie Kinsella!! I am currently listening to the a book called "Just Breathe" (can't remember author) I know, listening to audiobooks are not the same as reading them- but I just never seem to have time to read anymore. I can just throw on the MP3 and go out and garden, or clean house.
Marian Keys' books are also great summer books, and they are a series (of sorts) that follows each of the sisters. "Watermelon" and "Sushi for Beginners" are a few. They are older, but really good. 🙂

20 Rhi { 05.10.10 at 4:42 pm }

I’m all for chick lit! Loved Something Borrowed & Something Blue… and I want to read her others (she has two other ones out, would love to read the next one too!!), just haven’t had a chance yet… I live in the middle of nowhere so books are hard to get to!

21 Rhi { 05.10.10 at 4:44 pm }

darn, I clicked “submit” before I meant to.

I also loved The Time Traveler’s Wife (considerably more than the movie) and am going to start reading Firefly Lane soon–no clue what it’s about, but I figure it’s getting to be firefly time on the east coast, and so it’ll at least help my sadness that I’m about 4,000 miles from the nearest firefly.

22 S { 05.10.10 at 6:20 pm }

You and I have read quite a few of the same books and seem to have similar opinions of them (with the exception of Straight Up and Dirty, which I did not like). I’ve read all of Emily Giffin’s books and enjoyed them and also like Jennifer Weiner. I loved In Defense of Food.

I read one book by Jen Lancaster (Such a Pretty Fat) and couldn’t get into it. . . I gave up about 100 pages in.

The best books I have read lately are The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire (both by Stieg Larsson, third book coming out soono); The Art of Racing in the Rain; and The Help.

I have another 15 books or so waiting in my “to be read” pile. I love books!

23 Manapan { 05.10.10 at 7:01 pm }

I’ve fallen in love with the Quirk Classics. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and its prequel, PPZ: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, both rocked my world. Maybe because I loved Pride and Prejudice in the original?

24 Laura { 05.10.10 at 7:33 pm }

I always loved Space: A memoir (by: Jessie Lee Kercheval), because I lived in that area when I was younger and I connnected with the author on some level. She grew up in Cocoa Beach during the space race 60’s and it’s about maturing and her teenage years. I’ve also gotten into reading all of Jodi Picoult books, because they don’t end how you think they would all the time.

25 tara { 05.10.10 at 8:55 pm }

i’ve got to ‘second’ christopher moore’s stuff. Lamb is great but I think it has a narrow window of attraction (since it’s about religion) so I like Dirty Job & Bloodsucking Fiends (and the followup stories) as the gateway Moore books. He has a seriously warped sense of humor and his Abby Normal character is my all time favorite.
I like the Sunday Philosophers Club series by A McCall Smith too.
I’m really enjoying the elegance of the hedgehog right now- you can check out some quotes on my site if you’re interested. It’s not plot driven but is really good introspective character development.

26 gingerandlime { 05.10.10 at 9:09 pm }

I’m reading “Failed States” by Noam Chomsky now. Not exactly beach reading–for that I would recommend anything by Connie Willis. I assume (from “Chickienob” and “Wolvog”) that you are a Margaret Atwood fan, and I think Connie Willis is similar in a lot of ways.

27 Suzanna Catherine { 05.10.10 at 9:48 pm }

Love, love, love books! Memoirs are my favorites. Can’t wait to get my hands on Happens Every Day. Thanks for all the suggestions.

Just finished The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness and the Men Who Could be Me, by Bruce S. Feiler. Amazing book by a wonderful writer. (He’s the author of several books including Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses, Looking for Class: Seeking Wisdom and Romance at Oxford and Cambridge, Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus.) I highly recommend them all.

28 Orodemniades { 05.10.10 at 10:47 pm }


The Lost City of Z:A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon- David Grann. fabulous book about a modern day journalist’s journey into the Amazon, retracing the steps of one of the most famous adventurers in the world, Col. Percy Fawcett, in an attempt to find out where he disappeared in 1924… Utterly fabulous book. Fawcett’s own writing was compiled by his remaining son in 1954, and has just been republished: Exploration Fawcett: The Lost City of Z.

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story– amazing, engrossing, horrifying and redemptive story of one man’s journey into American Neo-Nazism, and how he came out of it. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Scent of the Missing: Life and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog – Susannah Charleson. Extremely well-written book about living with a SAR dog, training, and what SAR is really all about. There is some interest for the Infertiliosphere, as well.

Mixed: Porttraits of Multi-Racial Children Does what is says on the tin.

The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of Little Bighorn – Nathaniel Philbrick. Does what it says on the tin, and though I only managed 50 pages before I had to bring it back to work, it’s already on my ‘best of’ list for the year.


Faithful Place (advance reader’s copy, not yet for sale) – Tana French. Another murder mystery set in Ireland. The writing is gorgeous, hilarious without being sentimental or twee or overly ‘oirish, me lad’.

The Help – Kathryn Stockett Fantastic writing from a first time author.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins Most excellent novel, written for “young adults”, but we sell it to older kids as well as adults. Gritty, fabulous read with a light touch of romance. She also writes the popular Gregor the Overlander series for middle grade children.

Turn Coat (Dresden Files #11)- Jim Butcher Morgan lands on Harry’s front door, asking for help…all I can say is that this series, which just started off as light entertainment perfect for beach or plane, has morphed into a wicked good series.

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters Another book taking place in post-War Britain, concerning an enigmatic family, a (possibly haunted) country pile, and a bachelor country doctor. I didn’t care for Tipping the Velvet or Fingersmith, but my god, Affinity affected me for days, as it did my mother. If you’re going to read one book by Waters, make it Affinity.
Connie Willis has a new book out, a weight tome called…Blackout. Can’t recall what it’s about.

29 Carrie { 05.10.10 at 10:51 pm }

Great idea! I’m going to sort through and write a list.

Love all Nicholas Sparks’ books.

Just started reading Jodi Picoult and I’m enjoying it.

I’ve read a few of Elizabeth Berg’s books – easy to read and can be left and picked up easily.

30 a { 05.10.10 at 10:56 pm }

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore had me laughing out loud. Lamb is quite hilarious, too, and I think you will appreciate the spiritual journey. But, for pure silliness, A Dirty Job is my absolute fave.

Also love the Jim Butcher Dresden Files Series. Always something very funny in those too – I once heard them described as Harry Potter for adults, but I don’t think that covers it well.

Under the bad influence of TwangyPearl, I am attempting to read James Joyce’s Ulysses. So far, I read the preface regarding the Supreme Court obscenity case, and I’m very intrigued.

Thanks for requesting suggestions – now I can add to my book list!

(I’ve read Bitter is the New Black, and came away thinking that this is someone I really would have no patience for in real life. It was funny-ish, but I didn’t think it was great.)

31 Alexicographer { 05.10.10 at 11:25 pm }

I’m just nearing finishing Beryl Markham’s West with the Night, and wow, just wow (I was in junior high school back when this “rediscovered” book hit the NYT bestseller list, so apologies if you’ve already read it). Non-fictional account (apparently some question of whether it is or isn’t truly auto-biographical, that is, whether Markham, whose story it is, in fact wrote it) of a young woman who grew up (a colonist — British) in what came to be Kenya and who worked as both a pilot and a race horse trainer.

32 Heather { 05.11.10 at 8:31 am }

Bitter is the New Black is hysterical. I loved it. Witty and sarcastic.
Want me to send it to you? I think I have it here somewhere?

33 Gail K. { 05.11.10 at 9:10 am }

I’m reading the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton. Each one has a different title and I am currently reading the 10th book in the series. I got hooked on them when I saw that a reviewer called them an “R rated Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and I just knew that they would be good. I like that almost all of the books in the series are in paperback (this means that they are cheap) and the main characters stay the same from story to story. I really enjoy escaping reality to read about vampires and werewolves and other monsters that are set in modern-day St. Louis. These are great beach books because you don’t have to think about what you’re reading and you can easily put the books down long enough to take a dip in the pool.

34 coffeegrl { 05.11.10 at 9:57 am }

Lisa Lutz wrote the Spellman Files and subsequent books. Fun, zany characters if you like mysteries – light and easy to read. Also, I enjoy a nice twist on the Pride and Prejudice themes, like “Vanity and Vexation” by Kate Fenton. And here’s another vote for Kinsella – specifically “Remember Me?” the only book of hers that I’ve read so far. And I have to plug Anne Fadiman’s “Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader”. They’re just essays, but capture all the wonderful feelings that go along with being a bookworm.

35 Battynurse { 05.11.10 at 2:52 pm }

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately with being off work but I haven’t had many books that just said “wow, that was fabulous” at least not recently. I will say there is one I read a few months ago called the Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes that was really good. Really good. I also read Bitter is the New Black about a year ago and really liked it as well.

36 Still Not Sharing { 05.11.10 at 6:23 pm }

I think Lamb is a much better first book for Christopher Moore! And Good Omens by Gaiman/Pratchett for irreverant apocalyptic humor.

37 Terry Elisabeth { 05.14.10 at 3:26 pm }

I have Jennifer Weiner’s book at home and you convinced me to read it. I have been in a True Blood spell and I have trouble reading other books and since I have borrowed Best Friends Forever at the library, I will finally read it. Thanks Mel !

38 jodifur { 05.18.10 at 11:21 am }

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman. One of my favorite books ever. And from the look of your list, we have the same taste in books.

39 TexasRed { 05.19.10 at 8:50 am }

I definitely echo the love for Christopher Moore. I read “Fool” — a re-telling of Shakespeare’s King Lear this spring and was laughing out loud on the plane.

I definitely also recommend “The Hunger Games” (and the sequel “Catching Fire”). They’re based in a future America where teens are forced to compete in a to-the-death “Survivor”-type game. My husband and I can’t wait for the third book to come out in August!

My favorite author, though, is Charles de Lint. He’s a Canadian who writes urban fantasty / science fiction that draws from Celtic and Native American folk stories.

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