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Summer Reading Challenge! “We Lose Ourself in Books. We Find Ourselves There Too” -Anonymous

Beach blanket, hat, ocean waves, soft sand, and an engaging book in hand! That’s what I call a relaxing summer! For the past several years, I’ve had all of those things, but I also had two small children who would interrupt my indulgence with calls of “snacks!” “potty!” “she’s kicking sand at me!” “I’m too scared, come with me!” and “I hear the ice cream truck!” While I have relished those years for many reasons, quiet time alone wasn’t one of them. This summer I’m hoping to actually have some time to escape into words on a page. Below you’ll find an eclectic list of some books that I’ve read and some I hope to read. Since I’m an English teacher, you might expect me to compile a list of educational-literary-virtuous-type stuff, but this is not that list. This is a list of reads for pleasure. Truth is, the way to get better at reading is by reading. If you enjoy yourself along the way, that’s great!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett- I just read this *again* with my students recently. It is so well-written and it’s one of those books you can’t put down. Every once in awhile I recall Minny’s “terrible awful” and I have to laugh out loud. Yes, it’s lengthy and that may seem daunting, but, to be honest, I got through this 524-page book much faster than the 124-page Heart of Darkness. And it was way more enjoyable. Way.

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter- I was convinced this was a pseudonym based on the fact that The Good Daughter is in the thriller/killer genre, but it is not. Karin Slaughter was apparently appropriately named for her profession before she could even talk. I haven’t actually read this, but I intend to have this in my hand while my toes are nestled in the sand.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens- I love when a writer brings expertise from another field and exhibits the capacity to write it beautiful. Bravo to Delia Owens for taking a chance on fiction-writing when her “niche” had been writing non-fiction about wildlife science. The plot summary on goodreads starts like this: “For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.” Sold. I can’t wait to read this against the backdrop of a lakeside sunrise. Or next to a marsh. Hmmm.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt- This is another lengthy one, but you won’t notice because you’ll be reading it if you have four minutes to spare waiting in a grocery line, while you’re stirring spaghetti sauce, until two or three in the morning . . . this is one you’ll want to “binge-read.” The Goldfinch is a coming-of-age novel with a mysterious setting that draws the reader in. The writing winds around and through the tale like Dickens and includes a soft, dark tinge of sarcasm reminiscent of Salinger.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie- Ten, nine, eight, seven . . . Christie set the bar high for the quintessential thriller. One by one people are disappearing and your suspect pool gets smaller.

The Martian by Andy Weir- Yes. It contains a lot of F-bombs. In fact, the first line is: “I’m pretty much f---ed.” But. He has a point. He was left for dead. On Mars. You’ll have to read it to find out just how that all unravels. You could also watch the movie, which is decent, but doesn’t quite do justice to the text in my opinion.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque- Admittedly, I avoided this book for a long time because I assumed it was, well, boring. The title does sound a little boring. I also assumed that a WWI book translated from German and from the perspective of a German soldier would be difficult to relate to. I was wrong. As a matter of fact, I think this book is more relevant now than ever. Yes, our generation’s *war* in Iraq and Afghanistan has fizzled to a very low hum in the media, but the thousands of soldiers who fought have returned changed. All Quiet offers a glimpse of universal truths for civilians to gain some understanding of war and offers some validation for those who’ve lived it.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien- I know it sounds all "classic literature-y" and like now you’ll have to read the rest of the trilogy and sit through all the movies, but that’s not the case. This one can be fully enjoyed as a stand-alone. Dive on in to this strange little world. You’ll be glad you did. I finished this one off in a matter of days.

Anything written by Jennifer Weiner- Jennifer Weiner is one of my absolute favorite writers. I would caution readers against viewing her work as “chick-lit” if the definition of “chick-lit” is baseless mediocre writing geared for women. Jennifer Weiner’s books do appeal to women, but her writing is anything but mediocre, and most certainly not baseless. Her new book, That Summer will be available soon, and I can’t wait to get a copy in my beach bag!

© 2021 Trina A. Kraus

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