Trying to keep my kids reading throughout the summer is like pulling teeth and performing a root canal. Not so for me. My favorite part of summer at the pool is reading. The only time my body comes into contact with the water is to hang on the ladder for ten seconds when I get too hot. Then it’s right back to the book.
My kids had to fill out their reading logs and keep track of the books they read, so I decided to do the same. So many times someone will ask what books I’ve read recently, and I draw a complete blank. It’s not that I didn’t like the book. It’s that I read too many of them to keep track.
Without further ado, here is my reading log:
1. BOUND by Erica O’Rourke
2. THE FARM by Emily McKay
3. GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers
4. PUSHING THE LIMITS by Katie McGarry
5. MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick
6. DEATH, DOOM, AND DETENTION by Darynda Jones
7. CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers
8. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
9. PAPER TOWNS by John Green
10. AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green
11. LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green
12. THE BEST MAN by Kristan Higgins
13. FOREVER AND A DAY by Jill Shalvis
14. SHADOW IN THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
15. THE CELESTINE PROPHECY by James Redfield
16. VERONIKA DECIDES TO DIE by Paulo Coehlo
17. AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED by Khaled Hosseini
18. IT HAD TO BE YOU by Jill Shalvis
19. CRAZY LITTLE THING by Tracy Brogan
20. YOUTH IN REVOLT by C.D. Payne
21. THE TORTILLA CURTAIN by T.C. Boyle
I love books. Clearly. But I do have to say that I loved every single book I read this summer. I loved them for all different reasons. Some I read for escape. Some I read to better understand a culture or social position. Some I read just for the romance. When I looked at my reading log, it occurred to me that the books I like to read the most are the books that I tend to write—Young Adult. It’s a genre that’s not really a genre. It’s a group of books caught in between the cracks of so many types of books. Most of the ones I read this summer are straight contemporaries, but some paranormals entered my log. The first five books on the list were all RITA-nominated YAs, but Darynda Jones followed close on their heels. ☺ I always have to read her latest.
Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins sit together on my shelf, friends both in my bookcase as well as real life. Their romances make my heart feel lighter. They make me laugh. They make me cry. But, more important is the laughter and those family and friendship connections.
Just when I feel happy, I decide to read Khaled Hosseini, who makes me cry in a way that hurts my heart. His stories don’t tug at my heartstrings. They pull them so hard that I feel drawn and quartered by the end. But I love his books so much. They take me to countries that I’ve never been, but I feel that I have. When I put down his books, I feel like I’ve known every character intimately.
After reading THE FAULT IN OUR STARS in the spring, I decided to buy John Green’s hardback collection, and I wasn’t disappointed. During our vacation, my daughters, husband and I traded John Green around like a bong at a hippie commune. If hippies actually smoked bongs. Not really sure about that as I’m not really acquainted with either hippies or bongs. I would say our John Green Marathon was successful since we all liked the books.
Several of the books were recommended by my nephew Heidar, who always gives me the best books during the summer. His recommendations were books that I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own: SHADOW IN THE WIND, THE CELESTINE PROPHECY, VERONIKA DECIDES TO DIE, YOUTH IN REVOLT, and THE TORTILLA CURTAIN. And I loved these books. Every year we go to California, I hit him up for his recommendations because I want to read out of my comfort zone.
Tracy Brogan’s book was funny and light-hearted but touching in the family relationships and the zany characters. I predict big, BIG things for Ms. Brogan. ☺
And of course, I’m probably going to get yelled at when I admit that—before this summer—I had never read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. What the hell took me so long? I think it’s because I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. If you WANT me to do something, don’t tell me I have to. As I always lumped Harper Lee’s classic into the “mandatory reading” category, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. I’m so, so happy that I decided to cave to conformity. What a book! Now I understand why people read it again, and again and AGAIN.
Just writing this quick write-up about the books I read this summer makes me excited about reading—and hopefully writing—again. If I could ever touch someone else’s life through my writing like these authors have done for me I would consider myself a success. It’s a rare gift indeed to change someone’s perspective about illegal immigration colliding with middle-class values (like THE TORTILLA CURTAIN) or doing the right thing in the face of prejudice (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD).
But, for me, it’s about teens. It’s about showing them that they aren’t alone—no matter their situation. Whether they’re struggling with that crazy hierarchy of popularity or identity crisis in any form, they need to know that they aren’t alone.
Isn’t that why we all read? To alleviate loneliness? To make our hearts feel? To know we aren’t alone?
Those are the reasons why I started reading when I was a kid and never stopped. My grandmother once said to me when I was four and bored: “When you learn to read, a whole new world will open for you. And you’ll never be lonely again.”
What books have you read lately that lifted your heart, changed your perspective or you loved for a different reason?
If you haven’t read any books lately (for shame!), what is on the top of your TBR pile?