Fun Summer Reads
Miriam R. Kramer
Fun Summer Reads
As Old Town, Alexandria and the DC metropolitan area start getting sleepy, vacationers and “staycationers” are seeking reading to take them away. Here is a list of escapist possibilities, both recent releases and a few classics.
After all the hype from this spring’s final season, we are suffering from the Game of Thrones TV series withdrawal—the drama, the violence, the sex, the White Walkers, the wolves, and the dragons. So read George R.R. Martin’s books in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, starting with Game of Thrones. Both the books and the TV series weave characters into a complicated saga. If you’ve seen the series, it is easier to keep track of the book’s characters and vice versa. George R.R. Martin’s books offer a much more intricate and engaging plot than the filmed version, however. He creates many characters and plot twists not seen in the series. Like most books, it is “better than the movie,” although HBO’s series is spectacular in its own right.
For fans of stories about the Navy and tales of the sea, Sea Stories: A Life in Special Ops by Admiral William H. McRaven, U.S. Navy, Ret., is a sure bet. His clearly written account starts by offering moving tributes to role models who influenced his life, such as his father and a coach. The book provides a clear-minded meditation on war, life, and the scale of American special ops throughout the world from the man who oversaw the Navy SEALS operation to take out Osama bin Laden. Most books on Navy SEALS do not tell stories about how operations are planned and led, so McRaven’s stories provide useful context. With some touches of humor, he offers lessons from his own life, and leaves the reader impressed by this American leader’s character and service record.
Elin Hilderbrand is the undisputed queen of summer novels. Her latest, The Summer of ’69, is set fifty years ago on the shores of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Using song titles of the era as chapter headings, she tells the tale of four siblings who experience that eventful summer in different ways. The oldest, Blair, pregnant with twins, debates whether to give up her job for her husband. As the civil rights movement progresses, Kirby, the middle sister, takes a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard and finds love there. The only son, Tiger, an infantry soldier, has recently deployed to Vietnam. Kate, their mother, is stuck at home with her mother and thirteen-year-old daughter, Jessie, on Nantucket, worried about her son. In the meantime, Jessie navigates adolescence. During a period of great change, landmark events such as the moon landing and Chappaquiddick provide the context for the characters to come to some hard-won realizations about themselves and issues of the time. Although all readers who like beach novels may appreciate The Summer of ‘69, those who grew up in that time frame will probably enjoy it in particular.
For those on the endless quest to improve themselves in a realizable way, James Clear’s Atomic Habits is a thought-provoking work that provides an excellent plan for achieving long-term goals little by little. Providing examples from his own life, he notes, “We all deal with setbacks, but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits. With the same habits, you will end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible.” What makes this book attractive is that his plan is approachable and achievable. He shows how changes that seem negligible will compound and eventually result in breakthrough changes that are the result of previous incremental steps. Having seen this result in my own life, I endorse his philosophy. His book is perfect for the nonfiction reader who wants something meaningful but well-written enough to skim during vacation.
Last but in some ways first, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion has become one of my favorite go-to books to recommend, since it speeds by and offers plenty of laughs. Don Tillman, an Australian genetics professor with a touch of Asperger’s Syndrome, struggles to have a relationship with a woman and find a wife. In the process he approaches the problem scientifically, developing The Wife Project, a plan complete with a questionnaire to rule out all women who do not meet his criteria. Don’s colleague, Gene, a randy psychology professor, sets him up with a freewheeling bartender and psychology student named Rosie. Although Don immediately dismisses Rosie as a romantic prospect, he decides to help her find her father through genetic tracing by creating The Rosie Project. While this book may feature a bizarre scenario for a romantic comedic novel, it is one of the funniest, most endearing books I’ve read in the last ten years. Men should look past the chick-lit cover and enjoy it too.
So take your suntan lotion–stained novels and e-readers and get cracking relaxing. Summer is the time to improve your life by taking a break, and these reads will help you do just that.