The first official day of summer this year is Saturday, June 20th. Shortly afterward, I’m heading to the beach—and I’m ready to dive into my summer reading list. Whether you’re planning a beach (or mountain) getaway or not, a stash of good books (and e-books) is a key ingredient to relieve the stress and anxiety we’ve all been under to some degree this spring.
Here are my 2020 recommendations, beginning with two books I recently read, followed by those that I plan to read:
- Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell. This nonfiction book was published back in September 2019, and I read it during the pandemic confinement, a few weeks before the death of George Floyd, and the resulting protests, unrest, and violence. In the aftermath of that tragedy and others like it in recent weeks, this book is very topical and informative. Gladwell is a master at examining what is going on in our culture, and how and why people do the things they do. Even the title intrigued me, because the novel I’m currently writing is titled What You Don’t Know. It’s about secrets, mistrust, and unfounded assumptions.
- The Dinner, a suspense novel by Dutch author Herman Koch. I ran across this by accident, read it and then watched the movie (starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney). You guessed it: the book was much better, as is almost always the case. The story intrigued me from the first page. It takes place in Holland during dinner out in a restaurant. Told by an unreliable narrator, back story is masterfully interwoven into the plot. The Dinner is more than just a nice meal: two sets of parents skate around and finally discuss how to deal with a horrific act committed by their teenage sons.
- The Ditch, by Koch as well. I’ve borrowed this on Kindle from the library (easy to do). I’m told it’s a clever story, also set in Amsterdam, about suspicion and secrecy within a so-called “happy family.”
- Three Hours in Paris, by Cara Black; I have it on Kindle as well. This is a spy thriller set in the City of Light in June 1940. Need I say more?
- Freddy and Fredericka, by Mark Helprin. I have this in hardback (it was a Christmas gift). This is a NYT bestseller published back in 2005 that “speaks of leaps of faith and second chances, courage and the primacy of love.”
- Emma, by Jane Austen. I’ve read it before, of course, but my husband recently reread it (we have it in paperback), and I want to do the same so we can talk about it. The 2020 film adaptation was the last movie we went to see together before the shutdown. We both loved it!
- Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. Seems like everyone I know has read this! It’s also been made into a movie. Got it on Kindle.
- All Those Things We Never Said, by French writer Marc Levy. It’s on my Kindle too, and is an unusual and charming love story, I’m told. If I like it (I think I will), I plan to read his novel A Woman Like Her, and then the French version of it, Une Fille Comme Elle, which I have in paperback.
- Mystery novel, Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker. It’s set in France and was recommended by my French conversation class instructor (who is French). On my Kindle.
- Finally,The Fifteen Percent: Overcoming Hardships and Achieving Lasting Success by Terry Giles. I’m not a big self-help reader, but this one seems timely, given what this year has been like so far. Hardback.
So grab some books at the bookstore, download some on Kindle, and borrow some from the library. I’m always interested in book recommendations, and I read almost everything except science fiction (well, rarely), and fantasy (almost never).
Friend me on Goodreads to compare books on your list, connect with me on social media, and find out more on my website, juliamcdermottbooks.com.
Finalist, Georgia Author of the Year
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