Summer reads


When Sylvia of Artsy Ants posted her summer reading list a few days ago, my heart went into full-on carnival mode. Or maybe county fair mode? I’m talking lights, bells, cotton candy, Whac-A-Mole, carousel horses and giant Holsteins, demolition derbies and dripping ice cream cones on hot summer nights with nowhere else to be. I guess what I’m saying is I felt happy. Things have been Oh So Serious around here. Happy sure is nice.

Like Sylvia, I used to devour books. I was the girl who had to have a book with her in the car if we were going anywhere further than the stop sign at the head of our street. When I was 12 I could think of no greater misery than making the two mile trek to the grocery store while my book sat at home on the kitchen counter. When I was 12 I could not tell my grandma how to get to said grocery store, TRUE STORY, because I didn’t make that kitchen-counter mistake often.

These days, though, I’m still figuring it out. Five books by the end of the summer sounds pretty ambitious, really. But I just finished The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times, by Jennifer Worth, and I guess I’m feeling a little cocky. I loved it, so much. It made me think about motherhood, and also about the family support work I did in Pittsburgh and Peru and New York City before coming to farming. And it was just a wonderful read. Being lost in a book is such a profound pleasure. I want more!

So here we go, in no particular order:

Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns. I actually started this one a couple months ago, but set it aside when I found The Midwife at the library. I can’t wait to get back to 14-year old Will Tweedy and his take on a family scandal in a small town in 1906 Georgia.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, by Kim John Payne, M. Ed., with Lisa M. Ross. I was reluctant at first to put a parenting book on the list. I’ve been trying pretty hard recently not to read parenting advice (exceptions made for books and articles with a Buddhist or mindfulness slant). There’s just too much of it. And while plenty of it is compelling, I’ve grown weary of all these voices who seem to think they know best. I’m ready to quiet the din. But this one has been perpetually on deck for the last couple of years, and I’d like to give it a go.

A Circle of Quiet, by Madeleine L’Engle. I do love me a memoir. And I do love me some Madeleine L’Engle. This is the first book in a 4-part series.

Revenge of the Lawn: Stories 1962-1970, by Richard Brautigan. I picked this book up a few years ago mainly because of a Brautigan quote my friend Wesley had on her (former) blog: “Sometimes life is merely a matter of coffee and whatever intimacy a cup of coffee affords.” I really think it might have been that quote that first made me sure Wesley was someone I needed in my life. (I was spot-on, by the way. She’s wonderful. My life is so much better for knowing her. Let’s talk more another day about the good stuff that happens when people we meet online come into our real lives.)

Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1), by Julia Child. No, I’m not going all Julie and Julia on y’all! But I would like to know (at least some of) my (many) cookbooks better. There are so many I could pick from, but Julia seems maybe the best place to begin. She has never led me astray. And for all my confidence in the kitchen, I’m often struck by how many French basics I don’t know. I aim to try five new-to-me recipes from this book this summer.

I’ve stacked the odds at least somewhat in my favor, in that I already own all these titles, but this is a 100% guilt-free list. If I don’t make it through all five books, or if I get distracted by some other wonderful volume – so it goes.

What about y’all? Did you finish anything good recently? What are you reading now? What’s on your library hold list or bedside table?

9 thoughts on “Summer reads

  1. beth lehman

    i loved loved loved jennifer worth’s memoir, too. it had me so grateful for where i am, for motherhood, for some of the luxuries of living where and when i do. there are two more based on her time in the east end and another on caring for those at the end of life that she’s written and i so want to read them all. cold sassy tree is one my mother-in-law read to my husband and i on a trip once, i remember loving it. and the parenting book has been on my list for so long, i just wish my library had it. what a great list… i’m off to look up the others.

  2. Sylvia

    i loved The Midwife!! i read it last year after i had my baby girl and it was the best read! i will check the other books on your list. i agree about parenting books. last year i had Mindful Parenting on my list and read it, this year i wanted to stick to the nature education direction. i’ve heard a lot of good things about Simplicity Parenting though it that it does stand out among other parenting books… looking forward to reading what you think about it!

    Happy summer reading!!

  3. Lee

    I just finished Shadow Divers- about deep sea divers who find a u-boat off the coast of New Jersey. It wasn’t what I would normally read but came highly recommended and I LOVED it! I couldn’t put it down. It makes me want to read more about WWII.

    I have The Midwife on hold at the library and I’m really looking forward to it.

  4. wesley

    You are too sweet to mention me. I am truly blessed knowing your family and love the way I came to do so.

    Brautigan’s not for everyone, but at least his stories are short, funny, and can be read easily with interruptions. It probably says something about me and my dad and our relationship that he introduced me to Brautigan through the book Trout Fishing in America when I was a teenager.

    Oh yes, I was the girl with a book everywhere I went, although in early parenthood I had a long stretch where I couldn’t concentrate long enough to finish any book, which was highly frustrating. I’m back, though, and reading both for pleasure and for class. And I do adore a reading list!

    Here’s what I have on tap this summer:
    The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O’Connor–bought it to prepare myself for my summer fiction class, thinking that immersion into the short story form would serve me well. And it has. Although after reading Ron Rash’s latest collection, Nothing Gold Can Stay, before this one, I’m wondering if a short story can ever be uplifting.

    Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon–Had this on my shelf for a while but was intimidated by the 200-page footnotes section. After hearing so much wonderful buzz about it and seeing his TED talk, I *might* be ready to dive in.

    Your post makes me want to look again at my copy of Circle of Quiet, which I bought a while ago but never read.

    Just finished (after a marathon reading weekend not feeling well and neglecting my children) Khaled Housseini’s And the Mountains Echoed. Just in time for his reading here in Asheville this Friday. I cannot express how beautifully he humanizes the people and politics of Afghanistan. How he shows the depth of human emotion. How he gives you endings that don’t tie everything into a neat little package but leave you weeping and still satisfied and hopeful at the same time. What a skillful writer.

    Take care my friend and make sure to come back and let us know what you think of the books you’re reading!

  5. Lucy

    Cold Sassy Tree is one of my all-time favorites. Might have to revisit it again this summer. Thanks for reminding me. Enjoy.

  6. shari

    i’m reading the known world by edward p. jones, which is amazing and heartbreaking. i have a few short story collections on my bedside table (bobcat, the peripatetic coffin, and this close). hope you are well! xo

  7. amanda

    love the list. i will admit i read simplicity parenting and found it oh-so annoying. i felt like most of it was common sense. of course most everyone i know that read it, loved it. so maybe there is something wrong with me 😉

    on my list:
    : revisiting a lot of plath and some writings of hughes on sylvia for research
    : the movement of stars
    : wallace stevens

    and there is a rather tall stack of books awaiting me when i finish those 😉

  8. Chessa

    I *love* Cold Sassy Tree! It’s been so long I could totally read it again for the first time! If you haven’t read Rita Mae Brown’s Six of One, I HIGHLY recommend it. Hilarious, sweet, heartbreaking, like life. 🙂

    I also just had to tell you that my husband is famous in his family for the EXACT same thing – not being able to give directions, since he was ALWAYS reading in the car! I love love love that that was you, too. He will be so pleased when I tell him that he’s not alone.

    Like Amanda above, I too found Simplicity Parenting irksome. But I’m generally irritated by Waldorf inspired stuff. It just rubs me the wrong way, too prescriptive/bossy.

    On my TBR pile right now:
    Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
    A Long Way on a Little by Shannon Hayes
    Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
    Eona by Alison Goodman (YA indulgence!)

  9. amanda (sweetpotatoclaire)

    I know what you mean about parenting books~ there’s only so much you can take in of other people’s ideas of what’s right before just getting around to figuring out what feels good and right to YOU. that said, I did find Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting to be moderately helpful, and I love the Buddhism for Mothers books by Sarah Napthali. I’ve yet to read Momma Zen by Karen Maezen Miller, but I’ve got it in my basket. I am currently working through Anna Karenina. I say working just because it isn’t a page turner, not for me anyway. I am enjoying the story and the characters, just reading it slowly. I’ve read a couple good historical fictions lately, Hanna’s Daughters and The Kitchen House. I have Telling the Bees in the book basket as well. and a long, long goodreads list.


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