The Life of Bon: Summer Reads

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Summer Reads

Well friends, in case you've been under a rock for the best few months, I will let you know that summer is now in full swing.  In fact, it's already a third of the way done!  And I have read a total of one book.

Yep.  Just one.

I feel like an idiot.  I have recommitted myself to reading up a storm these remaining two months of summer- both books that I like to read, and books that I need to study so that I can teach those bratty ingrates next year. (Oh, but they're not really bratty ingrates!  Students, if you're reading this, I miss you!  I really do!) Currently I am reading 1984.  I'm thinking about teaching it to my seniors next year, but can't decide if it moves fast enough to hold their attention.  I also just started Janet Evanovich's One for the Money.  It seems like an easy, fun summer read, and well, I'm always about fun and easy.

I hope you are all reading lots of quality literature this summer... but... in case you are in a total reading rut, I thought I might help you out a bit with some of my favorites.  Now, I know we all don't like the same types of books, so I've chosen my favorites from several different genres to help you out.  Wow, I really am a saint, aren't I?

Favorite History book: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Why you should read it:  The book is based on the true story of Olympian Louie Zamperini as he becomes a prisoner of war during WWII.  You'd think because it's a history book it would be a little on the boring, slow side, but it's not at all.  Hillenbrand tells the story with an astounding focus on detail, but not to the point where it bogs the reader down. The strength and tenacity of this Zamperini is amazing. His plane goes down and he is on a life boat with two other men for forty some odd days before they wash up on shore in Japan and become POWs there. I never wanted to put this book down and that's saying something because I am on a kick where I am totally sick of WWII novels.  Above all, the book shows the power of the human spirit to find goodness, even amongst the most evil of circumstances.  One of my top ten books of all time. Also, you get to learn lots of cool stuff like if a shark comes to attack you, punch him in the nose!

Favorite memoir: Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Why you should read it:  McCourt did not set out to be a writer- he earned his living teaching, actually.  It wasn't until he was 66 that he actually published this memoir of his childhood (and then he won the Pulitzer Prize for it!)  Something about him publishing this at an older age shows how important it was to him and how much he felt like he needed to share it with the world.  Because of that, there is an incredible passion behind the book.  McCourt grew up in Ireland with a hard working mother and a mostly drunk father.  Although the memoir is heavy at times as he experiences poverty, death of loved ones, and constant disappointments, McCourt tells the story with humor and light heartedness.  That might be why I like the book so much- everyone deals with sorrow and disappointment- but I admire the way McCourt handles it all with humor and without feeling too sorry for himself.  The book is written in an interesting manner- it is in present tense and uses short sentences, short paragraphs, and no quotations for dialogue.  Although this kind of stuff normally drives me nuts, I feel like it really works for a memoir and it seems to speed the reading along.

Honorable Mention Memoir:  Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielsen.  
For a full review go here.  It's not the best written book by any means, but it just leaves you feeling uplifted and so much more grateful for everything in your life.

Favorite children's book/Young Adult:  Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Why you should read it:  I am ashamed of how little I actually remember about this book.  I read it six or seven years ago and can recall more than anything, being completely in love.  It's the story of a broken, somewhat dysfunctional family, and how they find love and hope out of it all.  It's got a crazy twist at the end- I finished the book on a plane ride to New Mexico and bawled through the last few pages.  I remember the men next to me saying, "Hey, you alright, sweetheart?  It's just a book!"  The characters are real and fun and easy to get attached to.  Also, it's a children's book, so it reads like candy.  You could finish it off in a day or two easily. (And apparently it's on sale now for $2.99 so you can't argue with that!)

Favorite Mystery/Thriller:  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Why you should read it:  This is the true account of the senseless 1959 murder of a family in a small town in Kansas.  There is no motive to the killings, no clues, no suspects.  The book chronicles the town's reaction, as well as the journey of the two men who killed the family.  When Capote wrote this book, he spent hours and hours interviewing the two killers, who at that point were on death row.  As you read it, watch the way that Capote portrays the killers, Dick and Perry; he is hateful toward Dick, while almost sympathetic and loving toward Perry.  Capote was homosexual and there are lots of theories that he actually fell in love with Perry as he interviewed him for the book.  The book is fascinating because it is all true, but also fascinating because of Capote's portrayal of it.  It's well written with close attention to detail, and once you get into it, it's one of those that you don't put down.    

Favorite Foreign Book: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Why you should read it:  The book follows the lives of two Afghan women: Miriam and Laila.  They bother suffer immensely, oftentimes due to the men in their live and their requirement to be subservient and obedient.  Both women are strong willed and lovable.  The book has some exquisite imagery and there are sections that are particularly hard to read just because the imagery is so intense.  In one scene one of the women is forced to eat rocks by her husband, in another the woman must give birth via C section without any anesthetics.  These are the images of the book that still haunt me.  Although many would say the book is too sad or heavy, I strongly believe there is value in reading about these kinds of experiences.  Above all the book shows the ability to endure the unendurable and the strength of the female human spirit.

Honorable mention Foreign book:  Hosseini also wrote The Kite Runner which is every bit the book that Thousand Splendid Suns is.  I think I liked Thousand better the protagonists are female and such strong, admirable women, but Kite Runner is another huge favorite.

Whew.  Who knew it took so much energy to write about books?  Now, I'm off to the pool to relax and knock out some of my summer reading.  I hope you'll do the same.  And don't let me hear you complaining that you haven't go anything to read, you hear?!?

For more book reviews check out my top five favorite books ever, and my least five favorite books ever!


  1. One For The Money is the best. They are legit the funniest books ever! I have all 18 of them and they are all amazing!

  2. Wow what a great selection! I haven't read any of them, but they sound really interesting!

  3. Walk Two Moons is one of my favorite books EVER EVER EVER. Such an amazing book!

  4. Omg. So many good books! I haven't read A Thousand Splendid Suns yet, but I did read The Kite Runner a few weeks ago. SUCH a powerful book. But then again, so are In Cold Blood and Angela's Ashes. Geez. You made so many good choices.

    And Walk Two Moons was one of my favvvorrrites, but after seeing this, I realized how little I remember from it! Must reread it soon.

  5. I LOVED Walk Two Moons. You should definitely check out The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. It is so beautifully written. I must blog about it myself. Thanks for the idea!

  6. I love a thousand splendid suns, but couldn't stomach kite runner.... To graphic for me. Left me feeling ick. Of course it was moving and everything but just to much for this girl. Love your choices though.

  7. I have been wanting to read Unbroken for the longest time now... I'm slowly getting closer to it on my list of books! I'll have to check out your other recommendations also!


  8. I LOVEDDD Unbroken. We just read it for our book club. And I remember Walk Two Moons was one of my favorite books growing up, but you know what, I just realized I can barely (if at all) remember what it's about. I think I need to pick that one up this summer!

  9. I loved Angela's Ashes although there were more than a few tears shed. Such a profound book... it stays with you for awhile. The Kite Runner is awesome too! I never did watch the movie - but I've heard good things. I'm gonna have to get a copy of 'In Cold Blood', thanks for the suggestion!

  10. I loved Angela's Ashes. My father's mother had a very similar childhood - sickly mother who died too young and a drunk father who had a hard time holding down a job. Reading it, I felt pieces of my own puzzle fall into place. When you live through something like that, the only way to deal with it is humor really.

    In Cold Blood is another favorite. I love how Truman Capote wrote - have you read Breakfast at Tiffany's?

    Currently I'm reading Stephen King's Dark Tower Series. I have them loaded on my kindle and go from one to the next. I also have an advance copy of the first novel a childhood friend wrote (so exciting!!) that I'm going to write about on my blog when it comes out, if I could ever put the Stephen King down.

  11. In Cold Blood is one of my favorite books. Great list!

  12. Wow! You've got a great selection of books here! Angela's Ashes or Walk Two Moons are definitely very inspiring and touching. These books are definitely going to keep you entertained and engaged throughout your summer!

  13. A Thousand Splendid Suns was a really memorable book for me too! Often I'll read a book and a few years later forget all about it, but it's been years since I read A Thousand Splendid Suns and the scenes in that book haunt me to this day.