So I’m in the last gasp of my summer vacation here, which is painful to write/think about. Â It’s never long enough, ever.
That said, it’s been a pretty productive summer. Â We’ve tackled some home projects like redoing the bathtub and reupholstering the armchair, Â we’ve taken some great family trips, we celebrated the big #10 with a romantic weekend away, and I’m just putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for my next book (more on that soon, very soon). Â And — Â massive book nerd that I am — I’ve read. Â A lot.
Here are some of the highlights of my summer readathon.
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty was a wonderfully fabulous escapist read. Â It’s about Cora, a housewife from Wichita, Kansas in the 1920s who agrees to escort the teenage Louise Brooks (later to become the famous silent film star) to a summer dance class in New York. Â Â Cora, as we later find out, has her own very personal reason for wanting to go to New Â York, and the book very quickly becomes unputdownable. Â The plot goes in some rather surprising and thought-provoking directions, raising some social issues that I wasn’t expecting. Â I thoroughly enjoyed it.
When I was a kid, I looooved the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald. Â She also wrote for adults, too, and this summer I finally picked up The Egg and I, Â first published in 1945, which I’ve been meaning to read for ages. Â It’s the hilarious — no, make that really hilarous — account of her experiences moving to a chicken farm in rural Washington state and trying to cope with no running water, far too many chickens, and some of the most colorful neighbors imaginable, the Kettles. Â (Speaking of neighbors, I should mention that MacDonald’s portrayal of the local Native Americans is anything but culturally sensitive — it’s the one thing I didn’t like about this book.) Â But if you’re looking for a book that is laugh-out-loud funny in places and will make your own household chores look like child’s play, you’ve found it.
In spite of the fact that California has a significant Vietnamese population, I know very little about the country and the culture. Â After reading Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of VietnamÂ , however, I can’t claim quite the same stunning level of ignorance I did before. Â Andrew X. Pham shares the story of his solo bike tour around Vietnam, the country he and his family escaped from when he was a child. Â The descriptions — of food, the towns, the traffic in Saigon, and the people he encounters — are amazingly vivid, and Pham’s own family story is engrossing and,in places, heartbreaking.
I’ve spent the summer going slowly through Margaret Silf’s Â book Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality. Â I really can’t get enough of her writing. Â She presents the basic insights of the Spiritual Exercises in a totally accessible and inviting way. Â It has done great things for my prayer life and if you are curious about the legacy of St. Ignatius, this is a great place to start. Â (Her brand-new book Just Call Me Lopez is also a super way to get to know St. Ignatius.)
Phew. Â I could go on and on, but it’s late, and I’ll stop there. Â What have you been reading this summer? Â Anything to recommend?