Life’s a Beach – summer reading suggestions from the Mosquito staff
from Laurie Aragon
Pacific and other stories by Mark Helprin. Wonderful short stories and inspired use of whimsy and raw bravado.
from Bev Guyer
As I’m in the second half of my life with a few aches and pains and the potential to live into my 90s, spending my last years in a nursing home or in a drug-induced stupor does not sound appealing. These two books tell me I may not have to end up that way.
The Blue Zones Solution by National Geographic journalist Dan Buettner and Healthy at 100 by John Robbins (the son of Irv Robbins of Baskin and Robbins) have the same message. Both authors spent time talking and observing the lives of people who live in areas where it’s not unusual to live to be 100 or more and still be a healthy, viable person. (1) Eat a plant-based diet with small amounts of meat once or twice a week getting your protein from legumes, beans, grains, and nuts (no hot dogs, deli meats, bacon or sausage), minimize dairy, cut sugar, and eat only whole foods. (2 ) Moderate exercise daily like walking, biking, mowing the lawn (not a rider mower). (3) Live with a purpose. (4) Have strong family connections or a close circle of friends. (5) Reduce stress with a nap, meditation or religion.
Restitution by Eliza Graham is a World War II story. The book begins with the Russians invading Prussia. Alix, the daughter of a German resistance fighter, and her maid are attempting to flee in the middle of a snowstorm. After reading this book last year, I read all of Eliza Graham’s books, which are stories of World War II, though in different countries. Restitution is a fast-moving story that I found hard to put down. (As with many historical novels, the book flips from past to present which I like but many do not.)
from Tim Hult
This is a tough one. I have so many recommendations. I am on a mission this year to read 100 books—a goal I first accomplished last year.
Fiction: The Overstory by Richard Powers. This book, which was given several national awards, is a story about ecology told with interaction of several fascinating characters and their attempts to save our forests.
History: The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan. A fascinating overview of world history written from the perspective of the Middle East as opposed to the western centric viewpoint we have been steeped in. Eye-opening for sure.
Sports: The Great American Sports Page edited by Charles Pierce. If you love sports and sports writing as I obviously do, the collection of the best American sports columns in American history will grip you. Great writing in 800–1000 word bites.
Politics/Anthropology: Our Towns by Deborah and James Fallows. If you need a dose of optimism (and who does not these days) read this account of this couple’s journey across America visiting places where there is optimistic renewal and positive governance. A remarkable book.
First Alternate: The Library Book by Susan Orleans. The story of the fire that destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library in the 1980s is really the story of America’s public libraries and why they are so important to all of us. Very well written and compelling.
from Helen Lyons
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Owens spins a fascinating tale of Kya who, abandoned by her family, spends much of her childhood alone in a shack in the marshlands outside a small coastal North Carolina town. Strong and resilient, she watches and observes her beloved marsh, taking notes and painting what she observes. Although largely shunned by the townspeople, she becomes involved with a teenage boy who is found dead. This murder mystery/coming-of-age story brims with descriptions of the lush surroundings.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
John Carreyrou, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, provides this non-fiction account of the rise and fall of Silicon Valley wonderkid Elizabeth Holmes. A 19-year-old Stanford dropout, Holmes founded Theranos, a blood testing start-up which, she promised, would run hundreds of blood tests on just a few drops of blood. She was able to convince well-known figures including Henry Kissinger and George Schultz to serve on its board. However, the technology never worked. Early demos were either incomplete or the data was falsified. FDA investigators were steered away from the research lab. Hundreds of thousands of clinical tests done in Arizona were voided. Patients received incorrect information and some were treated for conditions they did not have. Carreyrou interviews a number of former employees to pull together the story of this great deception.
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
This non-fiction book, written by journalist David Grann, describes a series of murders of Osage people in the Great Plains during the 1920s. The Osage nation had been forced from its land after the U.S. completed the Louisiana Purchase, eventually settling on land that no one else wanted—until oil was discovered on the land. Soon Osage men and women began to disappear. Grann spins a well-researched and spellbinding tale of murder and betrayal that includes Texas Rangers coming to the rescue and the forming of the FBI.
Amity and Prosperity by Eliza Griswold
This book, which won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, describes the direct effects of fracking on one Appalachian family and on the towns of Amity and Prosperity, Pennsylvania. Journalist Eliza Griswold portrays the fracking boom through the eyes of a single mother and her family as she leases her property to a natural gas drilling company. This is a well-documented history of an area that experienced severe economic distress as the result of the closing of many coal mines.
from Betty McCullough
The Gardens of Bunny Mellon by Linda Jane Holden
This is a large handsome book detailing the landscape designs and their background stories involving Bunny Mellon, whose talent was put to use not only on Mellon family gardens, but also by the Kennedy family – the White House rose garden and by the French government for the restoration of the Potager du Roi at Versailles. Full of beautiful pictures.
The First Conspiracy. The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
A fast-paced recounting of treason, espionage, counter-espionage and top secret manoeuvers as the British fleet descends on New York harbor in 1776. —unputdownable.
The Mueller Report presented with related materials by The Washington Post. This report by the special counsel, redacted though it is, will blow you away with its thoroughness, detail and clarity.
from Linda Myers-Tierney
The Girl Before. Purported to be in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Not oversold! Suspenseful!
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson Tender story.
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin. I wanted to keep the Game of Thrones vibe going when it ended so my daughter (who has read all the books) recommended I read this prequel. It was a fun extension of GOT set hundreds of years before. Fun to hear stories of the Lannisters and Targarians who were legendary in the HBO series.
this was overhyped but I found I actually Where the Crawdads Sing. I thought this was overhyped but I couldn’t put it down. Couldn’t wait to read how it resolves in the end. And it didn’t disappoint.
Believe Me by Yolanda Hadid. “Real Housewife of Beverly Hills” memoir of her struggle for diagnosis and treatment for her neurological Lyme disease. Eye opening. Everyone should read about it to be more informed about how difficult and dangerous Lyme can be in advanced stages, and treatment.
Between the World and Me. Reads eloquently and is a heartfelt poetic essay by a father to his teenage son on the reality of race issues and history in America. A powerful eye opener.
from Carren Panico
The Traveling Cat Chronicles.
From Amazon’s review: “With simple yet descriptive prose, this novel gives voice to Nana the cat and his owner, Satoru, as they take to the road on a journey with no other purpose than to visit three of Satoru’s longtime friends. Or so Nana is led to believe...
With his crooked tail—a sign of good fortune—and adventurous spirit, Nana is the perfect companion for the man who took him in as a stray. And as they travel in a silver van across Japan, with its ever-changing scenery and seasons, they will learn the true meaning of courage and gratitude, of loyalty and love.”
from Nancy Pierce
I’m among the many fans journalist and history student Colin Woodard gained in Carlisle with American Nations, Gleason Library’s 2014 pick as Community Read, and so far this summer I’m enjoying his very readable first book, The Lobster Coast. Woodard describes individual mid-Coast fishermen/lobstermen (and occasional women) as exemplars of the end stage of a 400+ year saga of managing and plundering seafood in the Gulf of Maine. His concern is not just for the survival of these individuals, but of the culture and sustainable practice that has nurtured bounty of those cold waters.
Last summer I was blown away by Mrs. Osmond, John Banville’s sequel to Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady. Impressed by Banville’s mimicry of James’ voice and ingenious resolutions of the James unsettled finish, this summer I’m going back to the original 623-page (!) novel. Dipping into the density of the prose, I’m beginning to understand why those college profs made us adolescents read it in the first place. For instance: “[Her aunt] was as eccentric as Isobel had always supposed [which] to her had always suggested something grotesque and inharmonious. But her aunt . . . gave her so many fresh impressions that it seemed to her she had over-estimated the charms of conformity.”
from Bob Zielinski
Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky
A memoir of hotels, hustles, and so-called hospitality. He started as a parking valet and rose through the ranks to manager in hotels in New Orleans and New York City and had a “cleansing“ period in Paris. Tomsky gives the inside scoop on how to get the most from your stay—most legal, some a little shady.
Minibar machinations, free room upgrade, late checkout, and a complimentary bottle of wine—all depending on who you tip and when. What it means if your water glass has a hint of lemon. The book is very readable, available on Kindle and has anecdotes of the rich, the famous and the ordinary. Often you will ask: “Do people really do that?” ∆