I finished 10 books in July. I was on vacation for two weeks and packed 4 books with me. It felt like a major book nerd accomplishment not to overpack books on vacation and actually read everything I brought.
The first book I read in July was a fiction book to mentally transport me to Italy a few days before traveling, One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle. If you have been in any bookstore over the summer, you probably saw this book on a display table. It has a beautiful cover and has been getting a lot of buzz over the summer. This slim novel is only 272 pages which allowed me to easily read it in one day, while recovering from COVID. I struggled to form strong connections with any of the characters and I didn’t think the writing about Italy was very captivating.
My next book read in July was one that many Americans read while in high school, A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I had never read this book before and I selected it due to its setting in New Hampshire. Knowles is an excellent writer, he creates engaging characters and the plot moves at a good pace. First published in 1959, the novel shows its age with some content that might slightly ruffle modern readers’ feathers.
I started and stopped The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd several times before I finally finished it in July. It has a very slow start and took a while to get hooked on the story. The premise for those unfamiliar, Sue Monk Kidd imagines that Jesus had a wife and her name is Ana. I enjoyed reading the author’s imaginings. Sue Monk Kidd is a reliable author whose writing I usually enjoy.
The first book I packed for my Italy vacation was Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. I started reading the book on the plane and read more than half of the book before landing. I finished the rest of the book on the train from Rome to Cinque Terre. Doerr writes about a year spent in Rome through a writing fellowship with his wife and 6 month old twin boys. The book is partly reflections on his experience in the city and partly new parent reflections. Very enjoyable book. I recommend this book to anyone who has visited Rome or is planning to visit.
My next vacation read was The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Another book that begins with a slow burn. Miller is a great writer who paints a beautiful picture with her words. The reader can imagine the scenes very vividly. Again, most of my reading was on the train while on vacation. The Song of Achilles was published in 2011 and has excellent reviews on Goodreads. I also have a copy of Circe, Miller’s most recent novel, published in 2018. I will likely read Circe sometime in the next year.
The final book I finished while on vacation was Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall. This book was one that my mom had loaned me several years ago. The book is a memoir and I thought the author had sort of a strange relationship to herself, she was very self-critical. I wouldn’t really recommend this book, unless you love reading about gardening.
When I returned from vacation I finished reading The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. The author worked for The Motley Fool and I enjoyed reading the brief chapters on psychology and money. The chapters stand alone and the author is a good storyteller. While this book is not a traditional pool or beach read, it was in my pool bag for a good portion of the summer!
One of my favorite books in July was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. First published in 1961, I listened to the 2019 audiobook recording read by Rainn Wilson. Wilson does an excellent job conveying emotion while reading. I didn’t know much about the plot before beginning to read this book and I was pleasantly surprised by how captivating the story was. Listening to The Phantom Tollbooth was joyful and I highly recommend reading or re-reading this book.
Earlier in the summer, I read Emily Nagoski’s first book and I was very interested in following up with her most recent book, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, co-written with her sister, Amelia Nagoski. The book is based on both qualitative and quantitative research. Both authors do a good job breaking down complicated scientific explanations. And I enjoyed the composite stories that also weave throughout the book.
The final book I finished reading in July was An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo. Harjo is one of my favorite poets and I enjoyed this collection of poems, first published in 2019. Similar to Amanda Gorman’s collection, there is a variety of styles of poetry in this collection. Harjo’s poetry is thought provoking and educational. I learned a lot about the Mvskoke people and their homeland through Harjo’s poems.