It’s almost summer and the reading is easy
Summer brings more reading time as the days grow longer (and warmer finally). Here are some ideas for your summer reading list.“The Women in the Castle” (2017) by Jessica Shattuck is …
It’s almost summer and the reading is easy
Summer brings more reading time as the days grow longer (and warmer finally). Here are some ideas for your summer reading list.
“The Women in the Castle” (2017) by Jessica Shattuck is another book with a unique view of World War II. Marianne von Lingenfels is the wife of one of the conspirators who tried to assassinate Hitler. She was the only wife privy to the planning and was tasked with caring for the others’ wives and children if the plan should go awry. But, the wives are imprisoned and the children sent to re-education camps.
Once the war is over, Marianne tries to find them and manages to reunite two of the resistors’ wives and children and bring them to her aunt’s ruined castle in Bavaria. It’s not an easy time in Germany. There are the Americans and the Russians, food shortages, and many Germans who see the women as traitors. Drawing on family experience, Shattuck views the war through a different lens, looking at the painful choices each person made, the secrets they kept, and the guilt and shame some of those choices engendered.
“The Zig Zag Girl” (2016) by Elly Griffiths is the first in a three-book Magic Men mystery series. Her books about archaeologist Ruth Galloway are one of my favorites series. The Magic Men series is more historical, set in post-World War II England, but just as entertaining. Edgar Stephens was part of a clandestine group called the Magic Men during the war. He was the only non-theatre participant. The others, including his best friend, Max Massingham (the famous magician Max Mephisto) were to make the Nazis think the north of Scotland was heavily fortified.
Now it’s 1950 and Edgar is a police detective inspector in the seaside town of Brighton, and Max is back performing on the circuit. When a woman’s body is found cut in three and she was once Max’s favorite assistant, he arrives to help Edgar find her killer. It’s obvious the Magic Men are somehow involved. But, why and how? I enjoyed all three books. They’re an interesting look at a vanishing world of pantomime, magic, comedians, ventriloquists and greasepaint — the itinerant performers who trod the boards in theatres across England.
“Eternal on the Water” (2010) by Joseph Monninger. I like this author a lot. One of the things his books have in common is they always make me cry. I love his characters and how real they are. I love the New England settings. I love how he brings the settings so alive. Mary Fury and Jonathan Cobb, both teachers, meet in Maine the night before they plan to kayak on the Allagash River. It’s Yeti love, which is rare or, as Mary says of the odds, “In a universe, on a continent, in a country, in a state, in a county, on a river, in a small yellow boat.” And, as Cobb adds, “And you have to be born roughly the same period… And probably you need to speak the same language.”
Set in Maine and New Hampshire with side trips to an island in Indonesia and Yellowstone National Park, this tragic, yet uplifting love story is also a paen to nature. Mary is an expert on corvids (crows and ravens) and tells lots of fascinating folk tales and stories about them. Cobb is on a sabbatical following in Thoreau’s footsteps on the Allagash in 1857 and plans to write a paper on his adventures in Maine.
“Lab Girl” (2016) by Hope Jahren is a fascinating mashup of memoir, botany textbook and a wakeup call on the damage we do to the planet. Hope takes what we learned about biology in school and makes it so accessible and easy to understand, and puts it all in perspective. “One third of the Earth’s land used to be covered in forest. Every 10 years, we cut down 1 percent of this total forest, never to be regrown. That represents a land area about the size of France.”
But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She also looks at how sciences are treated in this country, how research is funded, how women are treated in the sciences, and lots of fun facts about seeds, roots, soil and more. But, this isn’t a polemic. It’s also a funny, harrowing look at her life, research and adventures, along with her friend and colleague Bill. An award-winning researcher, she has lots of questions she still wants to find answers to and I hope she keeps searching. “Earth is nearly a Dr. Seuss book made real: every year since 1990 we have created more than eight billion new stumps.” After reading this book, I wanted to go out and plant some trees.
“The Stranger in the Woods; The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” (2017) by Michael Finkel. In “Lab Girl,” Hope Jahrens said research shows a brief glimpse of green can improve creativity. In Michael Finkel’s book about Christopher Knight, that theory is taken to the extreme. In 1986, 20-year-old Chris Knight walked into the Maine woods with nothing but a backpack and a tent. In the 27 years he spent living in the woods, he spoke one word, “Hi,” to someone he came across by mistake. His goal was to live a life of complete aloneness. In writing this book, Finkel extensively researched hermits, solitariness and being alone, and some of his findings are astonishing and say much about the cacophony of modern life and our priorities for how to live.
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