I have book recommendations for you. Well, not for you, the discerning reader, but for you, the reader who needs a book fluffy enough to be able to divert your attention from it often enough to make sure your kids are still properly afloat in the ocean and all is right on the beach, yet interesting enough that you feel like you are indulging yourself in a decent read while lounging on the beach and smugly thinking about all the poor suckers working.
First and foremost, I want to tell you about a great website for finding new authors similar to those you already like. Wait, that’s pretty silly. You probably already know about this website. It’s http://www.literature-map.com. Here’s a shot of a map generated from one of my favorite authors for beach/pool reads: Tana French.
I circled some of the other authors on this map I’ve read. I’ve read most of Erik Larson’s books and enjoyed all of them. His books are some of my favorites. I particularly enjoyed Isaac’s Storm and The Devil in the White City. I also highly recommend Caleb Carr’s The Alienist. Circling back to Tana French, if you haven’t read In the Woods, and you like mysteries/thrillers, do yourself a favor and give it a try for a beach/pool read this summer. I appreciated how much time she invested in character development, and I became invested in them. Made for a very affecting read. And finally I just finished The Bright Forever by Lee Martin and enjoyed it very much.
I loved the Divergent trilogy. I can say that now because I just finished Allegiant which made me sob like a baby who has been left in a poopy diaper for 6 hours, has missed two feedings, and has had to bear the agony of someone holding its favorite pacifier j u s t out of reach during the entirety of its distress. Are you getting a sense of the deluge of tears I produced? An entire container of tissues was necessary to contain the waterworks and accompanying mucus. OK, now I’m just staying true to my site name. It wasn’t an entire container. It was the remnants of a container that I found laying around somewhere. I don’t know why I’m bothering with these details. But since I appear to be on a roll, I should mention that the puffiness of my eyes this morning is horrifying to behold. I have no idea what industrial-strength de-puffer formula I could use to make the eye area unswell so that it could fit better on the rest of my face. I have an important meeting to attend today, and I’m afraid I have no choice but to go to it looking like I spent some time in the boxing ring. At least, the eye area isn’t bruised. Just cartoonish in its swollenness. What? I’m certain that swollenness is a word. Why all the red underlining? To make matters worse, I have small, deep-set eyes. Do you know what happens to small, deep-set eyes when your eye area gets all swollen-like? They disappear into the puffiness. I look like a stuffed animal up there.
But all that puffiness and swollenness was SO worth it! Because Allegiant was so great, y’all!! I loved the dual perspective approach for this one; and though it’s not fair to compare, I definitely felt this was a much more satisfying end to this trilogy than Mockingjay was to the Hunger Games trilogy. So much to talk about!! Which of course I won’t, so as not to spoil anyone. But this book could certainly launch fascinating discussions about the trust we are forced to place in our government, the desire to control the proliferation of certain genetic characteristics, the implications of choosing to take a drug that would allow a person to avoid the emotional impact of devastating events such as the loss of a loved one, etc. I could go on and on. Years ago, I was in a book club. I yearn to be in one again. Discussing this book would be pure pleasure.
It was a simple and logical request, but it has led to some navel-gazing on my part. Prior to my being a mystery reader for Anna’s third grade class, I answered some standard questions so that the teacher could have the students guess who the mystery reader might be. One of the questions was, “What was your favorite book in third grade?” Well, I agonized over that question because SO MANY! HOW WILL I EVER CHOOSE? And I finally narrowed it down to The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I settled on The Phantom Tollbooth because: a. weird and b. slightly uncommon. So I thought maybe it should receive some love. And I went about my business.
After I got home from performing my mystery reader duties, I asked Anna if she would read The Phantom Tollbooth. I heard the eagerness in my voice and was a little puzzled. Anna is a voracious reader, and she is always carting at least three or four books around in her backpack. If we are going on an errand, she is typically carrying a book with her. Just in case. Even if that errand is to the store to grab an item or two and come directly home. She reads a lot, and it would be a little surprising if she didn’t like a book like The Phantom Tollbooth. So, it was interesting to hear the barely-controlled anxiousness in my voice as I asked her to read what was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. But, it was worse when, a couple of days later, I asked her what she thought of the book. She thought it was ok. She saw the look on my face when she gave me that response, and she upgraded it to good. It was clear that she enjoyed reading it, but it was also clear that she didn’t think the book was anything special. I found myself surprisingly sad that she didn’t feel the same love for the book that I remember feeling.
But, I’m a glutton for punishment, and I’m going to forge ahead with A Wrinkle in Time. This time, I’m going to stack the deck a bit and read it to her. I am going to have to practice reading it without the underlying note of pleading in my voice, because I don’t think the book will be quite as impactful that way. Wish me luck.