During our recent hour, “What To Read This Summer,” we spoke to those who know books, and they highlighted their top picks for the season.
Here are just five of their recommendations (along with excerpts from the audiobooks):
Mary Ann Gwinn: “This is such an epic, and it will just consume you. She takes the character of Thomas Cromwell, who was sort of Henry’s IV’s fixer/right-hand man/henchman. She just fills out his back story … What Hilary Mantel does in a way that I have never experienced from any other writer is she just plumps you down in that time, and you feel like you are living and breathing it … Anne Boleyn is becoming a liability to Henry and Cromwell has to work to get rid of her. It is just suspenseful and riveting and great literature.”
Sarah Bagby: “[The novel] contrasts two people: One is a writer with writer’s block int eh Pacific Northwest and the other one is a young girl in Japan who has just moved there from Sunnyvale, California because her father lost his job in Silicon Valley. Once she gets to her new home, she’s bullied relentlessly because she’s bigger, she’s different, she hasn’t grown up with all these other kids … The beautiful and so-creative thing that Ruth Ozeki does is combines these deep issues with popular culture, so the voice is very contemporary yet very smart and engaging.”
Mary Ann Gwinn: “[The protagonist] works in the tribal records office of her North Dakota reservation. She’s married to a tribal judge. She goes to the office one day, and she’s viciously assaulted; she’s raped. And the rest of the book relates the father’s and the son’s attempt to find out who did it and what it does to the family. It is a terrific book, very hard material, but Louise Erdrich is such a magical writer. It also has humor and vivid descriptions. It’s great. It won the National Book Award for fiction this past year, deservedly so.”
Sarah Bagby: “The latest is a little bit of a departure for Khaled Hosseini. It begins in Afghanistan; it’s set also in Paris, Greece, San Francisco … It is a book where the politics are more off the page and there are stories of individual lives. In the background is political upheaval and the history of the politics in Afghanistan. It opens with an incredibly moving fable in which a father has to sacrifice one of his children to save the rest of them. And he’s eventually given something to erase his memory so that he can forget about this child that he sacrificed in order to just sort of live his life. Anyway, that sort of sets the themes of the book … Khaled’s ability to tell a story just is gripping. It’s a book you have to read slowly … He just grabs your heart and has so much empathy for every character.”
“The Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans And Their Epic Quest For Gold At The 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown
Mary Ann Gwinn: “This is a story of a very homegrown University of Washington crew team … It was in the depths of the Depression. Most of the guys on the team didn’t have two cents to rub together … It’s a heroic story, but it’s not an individual hero. It’s eight boys working together, in some ways subsuming their egos because that’s what you had to do with crew.”
For more summer reading recommendations, check out the full hour.