Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2021
While today has a definite summer feel, there were some decidedly fall-ish days (mornings, especially) when we were up north last week. In fact, there were a few times when I needed to put on a sweater!
It's coming. . .
A change in the seasons.
(The fall equinox is on Wednesday - the 22nd - this year.)
And you know what that means?
It means its time to share my Top Five summer reads with you!
(The book links below will take you to published reviews of each book.)
First up, I've got Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I've had this book on my to-read list for quite a while, and I'm so happy that I finally took the plunge and dove in earlier this summer. Because this one, friends, is truly a book to savor! This smart and savvy collection of essays brings a bit of everything: nature, ecology, science, storytelling, indigenous wisdom and spirituality, history, the environment. It is engaging to read, informative -- but not overly technical, with beautiful writing that strikes a perfect balance between science and poetry. This book is a gift: Life affirming; possibly life changing. I loved it!
Then, I've got The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade. This book has all the ingredients for a truly enjoyable read: a compelling storyline, excellent pacing, a setting that you can walk right into, and believable characters with heart -- oh . . . and flaws. (Lots of flaws.) The author does a brilliant job balancing the big hearts and deep souls of her characters . . . complete with all of their delusions and all of their (many) bad decisions. This is a rich story of redemption -- tenderly told and definitely worth reading!
Next, I've got one that's a little . . . tougher, a little darker. In What Strange Paradise, author Omar El Akkad invites us to witness the world refugee crisis through the eyes of children. This short, impactful novel is tender and brutal, hopeful and horrifying. The writing - spare and precise - is so effective and the story so compelling I couldn’t put it down; couldn’t get it out of my head. This book cracked my heart wide open.
Then, I have one that I finally got around to reading . . . The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. (This one kept coming up in my library holds last year . . . when I didn't have the "reading capacity" to get to it. Sometimes it works that way with library holds.) Anyway. I'm so glad I finally had a chance to get to it. Y'know, every time I read a book by Louise Erdrich, I think . . . THAT’s my favorite. Every time. So now that I’ve recently finished The Night Watchman, well . . . you can guess where my loyalties currently lie. Erdrich is such a gifted storyteller. Her characters are wonderfully drawn and her settings are so vivid that it always feels like you just walk right into her stories. She weaves a kind of magic with her words. It’s all so good -- and definitely worth my wait.
And, last, I bring you a two-fer, both re-reads for me: My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. I decided to re-read both books sequentially in anticipation of Strout's newest novel, Oh, William! (which continues the series), coming out next month. I am a total fangirl when it comes to Elizabeth Strout. I have read every book she's written, and many of them more than once. No one does love and tension in familial relationships quite like Elizabeth Strout. She is simply a master . . . at putting together a series of "snapshots" or little vignettes to tell stories that go so much deeper than the words on the page. I love her spare writing style, the intimate connections present in her stories, the delicate family dynamics she highlights, and mostly just . . . the human-ness she writes into her characters. She breathes life into what might seem to be bleak settings and lonely people. She really does show us that, indeed . . . Anything is Possible! (And now I can't wait for Oh, William!)
How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of Summer reading?
If you want to see what I'm reading now, or check out my recent reviews on Goodreads, just check out the sidebar here on my blog. You can find me here on Goodreads. And you can read my past Top Five lists by clicking the links below:
Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2021
Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2021
Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2020
Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2020
Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2020
Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2020
Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2019
Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2019
I'm so looking forward to _William_. (Love how beautifully you described Elizabeth Strout here. Yes, yes!) Sweetgrass has been on my radar for a long while now; two farmer friends fell in love with it and sang its praises so highly. One to own! Your Up North tume sounds like nice bait for fall weather :) Here's to a good week.
Posted by: Carolyn | 09/20/2021 at 08:17 AM
I am currently immersed in Braiding Sweetgrass... and I am simply in love. I don't want it to end! (and I did not think that I had seen the book here, but maybe I did?) I have added What Strange Paradise to my "read sooner" list! (and I too loved The Nightwatchman!) Fall... I am so happy to welcome you (and it seems like our weather is just as eager because the heat wave is gone on Wednesday!)
Posted by: Kat | 09/20/2021 at 08:25 AM
I started Braiding Sweetgrass earlier this summer, but it wasn't the right time for me. I'm going to give it another try, and also add Five Wounds and What Strange Paradise to the list. I can't wait for you to read Oh, William!
Posted by: Bonny | 09/20/2021 at 08:42 AM
My friend Sean read Braiding Sweetgrass a few years ago and I meant to read it at that time but never did. Now I've seen/heard about it over and over again - I saw a copy at a pow wow we went to on Saturday, Kat is reading it, and you are recommending it. I think the universe is telling me it's time to read it myself.
Posted by: Carole | 09/20/2021 at 09:09 AM
You've a couple of books I have heard much about so I've added them to my TBR. I reread The Night Watchman for my local BG and I loved it even more the second time through. I was thinking how I'd love to have every Erdrich I've ever read (and I've read most) on my bookshelf. She's a favorite author hands down.
Posted by: Margene | 09/20/2021 at 09:58 AM
I love posts about books! I have thought about rereading those Strout novels, too, but I’ll probably wait until the new one is out in paperback. I have the audiobook of The Night Watchman and found the first 45 minutes dull. But so many people love this book that I’ll have to try it again.
Posted by: Caffeine Girl | 09/20/2021 at 10:23 AM
I loved Braiding Sweetgrass and it is a book that I like having on my shelf to pick up and re-read from time to time. This summer I read a book about climate change called Earth's Wild Music by Kathleen Dean Moore, an environmental philosopher. In many ways it reminded me of Braiding Sweetgrass.
I'm going to add The Five Wounds and What Strange Paradise to my TBR list and I can't wait to read Oh William...I'm number 2 on our library system's hold list!
Posted by: Debbie | 09/20/2021 at 10:25 AM
Braiding Sweetgrass has been on my radar for a long time. Now it sounds like a book I should ask for at Christmas, so I can take my time with it and truly savor it. I need to look back in my book "journal" (of sorts) to see what stood out for me this summer. I know I read some great books, but I can't think what they are right now (brain dead at work!!).
Posted by: Vera | 09/20/2021 at 11:19 AM
What a gorgeous photo!
Posted by: Chloe | 09/20/2021 at 04:39 PM
I did not read a lot this summer, but one book DOES stand out. I loved In the Midnight Library.
Posted by: Dee | 09/20/2021 at 04:44 PM
I've got Braiding Sweetgrass in my TBR pile, and Robin Wall Kemmerer is part of the speaker series I subscribed to that just kicked off yesterday, so I'm going to get to it soon. Everyone who has read it has loved it, so I'm really looking forward to it.
My last two five-star reads (I've had a lot of three- and four-star reads in the past few months) were A Tale for the Time Being and Beloved. I'm in the middle of A Town Called Solace right now, and really enjoying it, and have a few hardbacks to read, including the newest Louise Penny (I didn't want to wait months and months to get it from the library, so I broke down and bought it from my local indie bookstore).
Posted by: Sarah | 09/21/2021 at 08:07 AM
I LOVED The Night Watchman. I think it may be my first Erdrich but not my last. Definitely my favorite this summer. And now on to fall reading.
Posted by: Pam | 09/21/2021 at 09:53 AM
I've been dipping in and out of Braiding Sweetgrass for months ... it's such a beautiful book (literally, too!) and am looking forward to Oh William. hummm, now you have me wondering if I should re-read those first two? it's been a while - several years? And I am definitely looking forward to a new Erdrich - I'm amazed and grateful she's so prolific!
Posted by: Mary | 09/22/2021 at 11:00 AM