Friday, August 16, 2013

Good books for a rainy summer evening...

Hi guys! This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but much chaos ensued when I managed to lock myself out of my apartment and posting my blog had to move to the back burner. A day late, here is the post that should have been uploaded yesterday!

I have a confession to make. These last few weeks of writing and revising, researching graduate programs, working extra hours at both libraries, etc., I haven't been spending a lot of time with the printed word. I finished two audiobooks (yay for shelving jobs, which allow me to retreat into quiet spaces good for listening and thinking) – Shelley's Frankenstein and Armistead Maupin's Michael Tolliver Lives. But my actual reading time has been rare, usually in the nooks of time just before bed and on the train. When I have had longer stretches of time to myself, my brain just hasn't been in it and instead, I've been binging on episodes of The Bridge and Doctor Who (which are very good, of course – seriously, you guys, you should check out The Bridge; if you're at all interested in crime dramas and immigration, this show is for you... and, okay, there is a lesbian side character, too). This is unfortunate and disheartening, because summer is usually such a good time to catch up on reading. There are books that are good for the beach side, and there are good books to read on road trips, unless you get car-sick. But I really like a good book on a rainy summer evening, when a heat wave is being washed away with a nice, heavy thunderstorm and you're lucky enough to have the whole evening to yourself, to listen to its soft pounding against the roofs, gutters, windows, and you can snuggle in next to your favorite furry friend and your book of choice. I'm determined to take advantage of those rainy evenings more often, and for the rest of this summer. If this falls in line with your own summer resolutions, here are my top five recommendations for good rainy summer evening reads:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – Emily Danforth: With all my distractions the past few months, it took me much longer than usual to finish this one. But it was such a supremely gorgeous read, with evocative language and characters you could just about reach out and touch, they were so well-drawn and three-dimensional. The story centers around Cameron, a teenager who has lived with her hyper-religious aunt and her grandmother since her parents died in a car accident. She's independent and secretive, hiding from her aunt that she watches a lot of videos, is constructing an elaborate dollhouse from various found objects and oh, yeah, that she likes girls. One in particular, a girl named Coley, becomes her downfall and she is sent away to be “fixed” at a religious school/camp for the sexually deviant teenager. There, she makes some unlikely connections and eventually, against all odds, comes to terms with who she is.

Taking The Ferry Home – Pam Conrad: I have written about this book once before, in great detail, because it happens to be one of my favorite books of all time. All the descriptions of beaches and water around the book's setting, a fictitious place called Dune Island, make you want to be riding the ferry across it yourself.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald: Is there anything hotter than this book? I don't mean sexy-hot, though at times, it is that, too. But Fitzgerald's way with language makes you feel as affected by the humidity and the heat as his characters are – sometimes, its effect is claustrophobia and sometimes its restlessness (which are almost the same thing, really).

Necklace of Kisses – Francesca Lia Block: Even if you've never read a single one of Block's Weetzie Bat novels, you'll still be able to appreciate her use of rich sensory language and quirky fairy tale characters to convey relatable problems, like the occasional rut of a long marriage. Weetzie Bat and her long-time paramour, My Secret Agent Lover Man (yes, those are their names) have been stuck, and their relationship is no longer the magical adventure it was. So Weetzie takes off to stay in an enchanted hotel and find herself; along the way, there are invisible housekeepers and mermaids, and Weetzie must kiss enough strangers to create a mystical necklace (the gems of which come out of her mouth after each kiss) which will eventually reunite her with her lover. A terrific punky fable with a heavy helping of magical realism tossed into the mix.

The Dive From Clausen's Pier – Ann Packer: When this novel first came out, I was obsessed. I'm the kind of person that is admittedly a bit of a nomad at heart; or perhaps “nomad” isn't the right word. Perhaps “escapist” is more correct. It also begins on Memorial Day weekend, which makes it the perfect summer read. A young woman debates how she will break up with her boyfriend until he gets injured in a diving accident that leaves him paralyzed and her with bigger questions; in an effort to escape the pressure, she runs away to New York and begins a new romance and a fashion program at Parsons. The book is in turns electric with longing (for something “more”) and frustrating as you feel Carrie's pull toward and away from her own guilt and the stifling Midwestern life she has always known. It's a light, quick read and perfect for both beach side and those rainy summer evenings.

And that's all for tonight. It's time for me to settle in with my own cat and good book. Tell me: what's your favorite summer read?

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