I’m playing book bingo through my local indie bookseller, Annie Bloom’s Books, this summer, and have completed all 25 slots for the chance to win a $50 gift card. It’s been a great challenge to read outside my zone–literary fiction.
Here’s what I’ve read this summer, by category, and in the book bingo sheet’s order:
FROM AN INDIE BOOKSTORE
Stephanie Kallos’ Language Arts: Richly crafted, beautifully written, this is the third novel from one of my all-time favorite authors. I purchased this at Annie Bloom’s during Stephanie’s reading there in June–and I ended up winning an amazing gift basket!
TRANSLATED FROM ANOTHER LANGUAGE
The Merchant of Noises by Anna Rozen: I scanned my bookshelves, sure I had a translation I’ve always been meaning to read, and came up empty handed. This is not my usual category. But then I read this charming, whimsical book to my kids and realized it had been originally published in French and then translated into English. Ta da!
SET IN THE PNW
Polly Dugan’s The Sweetheart Deal: So many books I read are set in the Northwest, because they’re by friends. I actually read an ARC of this debut novel from the author of the story collection So Much a Part of You, both published by Little, Brown. This one has a great hook–two college friends who make a pact that one must marry the other’s wife if he dies. It’s very much a relationship-driven story, with lots of point-of-view characters that give their own takes on the situation.
Spheres of Disturbance by Amy Schutzer: I apparently read 26 books so far this summer… but had to add this one because it was a powerful multi-voiced tale of a dying woman and the people who had some sort of connection with her. A finalist for last year’s Oregon Book Awards.
WRITTEN BY A FEMALE AUTHOR
The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland: A quiet, lovely novel reminiscent of Glaciers by Alexis Smith, and set in the recording room at The New York Times. As a former journalist, I had my eye on this book when it came out and was glad to pick it up from Paulina Springs Bookstore in Sisters, Oregon, earlier this summer.
CHECKED OUT FROM THE LIBRARY
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton: One my toddler picked. A tiny warrior princess, her wish for a warrior horse, and lots of sweaters. I’m so obsessed with this–and happy to read and read and reread every day–that I’m going to buy a copy.
Richard McGuire’s Here: Unlike anything I’ve ever read. A pictorial history of one corner of a room in a house (and before there was a house there), spanning centuries, families, simple conversations, and major events.
OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Manspressions by Joe Biel and Elly Blue: A hilarious illustrated guide to Man-isms, i.e. words they defined or altered to include the word “man.”
A BOOK YOU OWN BUT HAVEN’T READ
Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven: This was a summer-changer for me, and kicked off a new round of revisions after I devoured it while camping back in June. She does so much world building so economically that it helped me see the flaws in my novel and got me to make a radical structure change, and call it done.
Drama by Raina Telegemeier: One of my daughter’s favorite authors. I love this sweet story about a middle-school girl and the boys whose lives intersect with hers while she’s working on sets for the school play. Great book, well worth borrowing off her bookshelves–and the conversation that ensued about why it might have been banned, and why banning books is an issue.
RECOMMENDED BY STAFF AT ANNIE BLOOM’S
Baby’s on Fire by Liz Prato: I love this author and this elegantly crafted short story collection from Press 53.
Now I See You by Nicole C. Kear: I met Nicole at Annie Bloom’s last February and was glad to dive into her memoir about learning she’d lose her eyesight when she was nineteen. Funny, powerful, and made me think about my own abilities and limitations in a clearer way.
TURNED INTO A MOVIE OR TV SHOW
Big Fish, Daniel Wallace: I loved this fable-like, whimsical, heartbreaking father-son novel the first time, and the second time, and the third time… and pulled it out again for the “reread” category, only to realize it’d fit the movie category–and almost no other books on my shelves would fit there.
RECOMMEND A BOOK YOU LOVE TO A FRIEND
This was the free square, but I’ve recommended tons of books, all summer, as usual.
A BOOK YOU LOVED AS A KID
Hippos Go Beserk by Sandra Boynton: Really any of her books would do, but this one was at hand, and it’s a family favorite.
300+ PAGES LONG
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton: Many of my selections fit this category, but I picked The Miniaturist because it’s long and epic-feeling, set in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. It was recommended by a friend because of the gender role themes and the bit of magic that reminded her of my novel-in-progress, and like Station Eleven, it played into how I thought about my own manuscript. Mine’s a lot sunnier, but the way the themes develop here definitely made me want to chisel and hone a bit more.
YOU’VE ALWAYS MEANT TO READ
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom: I love Amy Bloom, and while this wasn’t exactly “always,” because it came out in 2014 in hardcover, and I bought it and had it signed while Amy was at Powell’s, and had been waiting for a quiet block of time where I could savor and enjoy. Glad I did find that time to fall into the pages of this lovely sister story, set in the 1940s.
MacDeath by Cindy Brown: I adore this sassy theater-inspired mystery by my friend Cindy. I was laughing out loud within the first few pages–and I’m not usually a mystery reader. So excited another in the series is in the works.
YOUNG ADULT BOOK
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling: I insisted that my daughter let me read this to her–not for book bingo as much as for the experience of experiencing it together. She’s officially hooked and the second book is waiting at her bedside for us to dig in together.
Mayakovsky’s Revolver by Matthew Dickman: I bought this when Matthew was up for an Oregon Book Award in 2014, but held off reading because it’s about (in part) his brother’s suicide, and that’s something my extended family has experienced. I wasn’t sure I wanted to dig into that material. But this collection is sheer genius, totally readable and breathtaking, and yes heartbreaking too. I read it like a novel, page after page, instead of savoring, and will for sure go back to savor these poems one by one. Together, it was like a symphony, so much bright sound and thought clashing together in a very American way, in a way that I could relate to as a novel-reader.
SET SOMEWHERE YOU’D LOVE TO VISIT
Ms. Baross Goes to Paris by Jan Baross: Another book by a friend. Jan charmingly explores a trip to Paris with her food-researching friend, through illustrations and text.
Mr. Putter and Tabby See the Stars by Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard: My younger daughter loves Mr. Putter and his cat, and we’ve read and reread this book more times this summer than any other book in our house.
#WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS
The Hour of Daydreams by Renee Macalino Rutledge: In addition to reading this summer, I’ve been working on manuscripts, and it seemed very exciting and fitting to add our 2017 title to my book list. It’s not a book, but will be in galley form this fall. It’s based on a Filipino folktale about a young woman with wings, and it explores how well we can ever really know the people we love. One of the best love stories I’ve ever read, and one of the best stories about in-laws, too.
AUTHOR’S FIRST BOOK
The Deception Artist by Fayette Fox: I learned about this sweet first novel because Roaring Forties Press is also distributed by Legato Publishers Group–and who are we kidding, I loved the superhero-costumed girl on the cover. A wonderful exploration of family, from the perspective of a highly precocious, imaginative girl.
RECOMMENDED BY A FRIEND
Oh! You Pretty Things by Shanna Mahin: This debut novel has received all kinds of media attention, and it wasn’t just recommended by one friend, it was introduced to me by a bunch of friends who also know Shanna. I bought a copy earlier this summer from a friend who held a house party in the author’s honor, and enjoyed following the whip-smart, funny protagonist through her Hollywood life. It’s a really genuine, accessible look at a place, and a lifestyle, I know nothing about.
FINISHED READING IN ONE DAY
420 by Lou Beach: My husband bought this searing series of tiny 420-words-or-less stories for me, hardcover, a few years ago, and I had never cracked it open. The pieces were originally written as posts on Facebook. I thought about reading a kids’ book for this one-day challenge–rarely having hours to read a full novel–but decided I wanted to pick an adult book. This one was a great choice. The mini-stories are like poems, almost. Now I’ll have the freedom to go back and piece the pieces back together, in smaller chunks, so I can re-enjoy them.
That’s it! My list. Next up: Us Conductors by Sean Michaels, published by Tin House. Loving it so far.