The fall equinox is not until next week, but it sure feels like fall around here! It's cool . . . and the clouds are just different now. Although the leaves aren't really turning yet, it won't be long. It's time for me to wrap up my summer reading with with a Top Five books list.
In the summer, I tend to slow my reading down just a little bit. I have more outdoor things going on that distract me in the summer, for sure. But my reading tastes also change in the summer, when I tend to read more classics . . . or long epics . . . short story collections . . . and lots of poetry.
Looking back over the last 3 months of reading, I've put together my Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2020 list:
First up . . . Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell, pushing Apeirogon out of first place for my favorite book of the year. This one really just blew me away. I can think of no better words to describe this incredible book than these (from Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles): “through the alchemy of her [author Maggie O'Farrell's] own vision, she has created a moving story about the way loss viciously recalibrates a marriage.” I was intrigued and entranced and, finally, totally in awe of this book. Hamnet is a powerful testament to love and marriage -- and grief. The writing is beautiful. The entire premise so inspired! This one will haunt me for a long, long time.
(Hamnet was awarded the Women's Prize for Fiction last week.)
Next . . . Deacon King Kong by James McBride. Energy, vitality, and heart come together perfectly in this tight package of a book, where fates collide, everything connects, and it is all so very satisfying in the end. Absolutely packed with richly-drawn characters and a strong sense of place, this book transports readers to 1969 Brooklyn. Humor, agony, resilience -- and a really great vibe. Deacon King Kong is a delightful read any way you look at it.
Next up . . . The Door by Magda Szabó, translated from Hungarian by Len Rix. This is a fabulous book -- originally written in 1987, but not translated to English until decades later. This book is one of those that will rattle around in my head for quite a while. The story - about an aspiring writer and her hired housekeeper - sounds rather basic, but from the opening paragraphs, you know you’re in for something of a ride. Slowly, the author unravels details about the housekeeper and her history. . . and before you know it, you’re lost in intricate layers of just fabulous storytelling. What I was left with . . . was an intense character study of two women, drawn together over decades and life circumstances. The Door is beautifully written, and the translation makes it sing.
Now we have a re-read . . . Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout. I originally read this when it was first published -- way back in 1998. I thought it was brilliant then -- and it set me off on a path of total Elizabeth Strout fandom. I was reminded of Amy and Isabelle when I read Olive, Again in late 2019 . . . when Isabelle shows up as a background character in Olive’s life. (Strout is amazingly skilled at dropping characters in and out of storylines and even whole novels.) I decided then that I needed to re-read Amy and Isabelle! Still brilliant, over 20 years later. Compelling. Strong characters (both major and minor). And a story with heart.
Lastly we have my near-constant summer companion . . . The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel.
There is no question that this is an incredible novel; an incredible feat for the author (and the reader, actually). But, oh my. Reading this one takes A Commitment! I loved the first 2 books in this trilogy, and was really looking forward to this one -- the third and final installment. Hilary Mantel absolutely does not disappoint. She brings Thomas Cromwell to LIFE. It's fascinating. Entirely believable. And . . . ungodly long. Still. I really enjoyed this cherry-on-top of a great trilogy. (Thanks, Hilary Mantel. You set the standard for historical fiction with this trilogy.) (And ruined me for reading any other historical fiction, probably forever.)
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: