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Summer Reading

As an English teacher, my earliest inspiration was my love of a good story. Summer is my time to approach literature as a lover of books rather than a scholar of them. While the two cannot and should not be totally separated, there is a difference in what, how, and how much I read during the summer as opposed to the school year. I also love to read good lists. I especially love lists which introduce me to something new or help me reconsider what I have dismissed, neglected or forgotten. One of the best listers of books I have found recently (and pretty damn good writer) is Michelle Kerns. Check her out at: http://www.examiner.com/x-562-Book-Examiner

In a similar spirit I offer my own summer reading list of books I have already read or plan to before September.

I love the mystery genre. I also like to start out my summer with books that are trashy, make few demands on me as a reader, and can be consumed in a few sittings. What I believe makes a good mystery novel is one centered around the pursuit of truth, understanding and knowledge. What makes a great mystery novel is one where the protagonist is deeply conflicted and flawed but a deeper, innate sense of integrity and decency overrides their flaws and allows them to struggle with good and evil in a fruitful manner. That is what is at the core of the human condition and by extension, it is at the center of the Resurrection–the greatest mystery ever.

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The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest
Parts 2 and 3 in Steig Lasson’s trilogy. You probably won’t put these down once you start them. They are on the bestseller list for a reason. Worth your time.

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The Stranger Beside Me
Small Sacrifices
Ann Rule writes for bored middle-aged white women. These books are complete trash but you are lying to yourself if you don’t go immediately to the 10 pages of pictures in the middle. True crime, bad writing, too many words, fascinating stories. I confess.

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Echo Park by Michael Connelly
One of the better American mystery writers. He won’t insult your intelligence.

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Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
Fun. If you are a dog lover and a mystery lover it doesn’t get much better than a canine narrator who happens to be a police dog school drop out.

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The Indian Bride by Karen Fossum
She is my favorite Scandinavian mystery writer. And not just because she’s Norwegian.

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The Fourth Man by K.O. Dahl
Another Scandinavian (also Norwegian) mystery writer. This novel had a noir/femme fatal vibe going but seemed to end flat to me.

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The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale
Recommended to my by a mystery lover.

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Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Seriously, under no circumstances should you ever read this alone at night. I did when I was 19 and it has taken me this long to pick the book up again.

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The Road
Cities of the Plain
Cormac McCarthy has become my favorite writer. I’ve recently been studying Flannery O’ Connor and the similarities in characters and the use of violence and the grotesque is striking. One difference is that McCarthy creates characters you really care about and then proceeds to let life and circumstances beat the shit out of them.

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Summerland
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union
After avoiding Michael Chabon for years I finally was forced to read his collection of essays, Manhood for Amatuers and found myself laughing outloud at several points and nearly weeping at others. So I decided to give his fiction a shot. I started with Yiddish Policeman, got in about 70 pages and quit. It was too fussy and I wasn’t enjoying it. Summerland, on the other hand, had me from page one and I was once again in awe of Chabon’s ability to move a reader. It is allegorical without being pedantic, casual without being cheap, emotional without being overly sentimental. I’m not sure who his intended audience was (it is marketed for young adults), but the novel blends the fantastical and mythical in a way that is both dark and uplifting.

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Design and Truth by Robert Grudin
The newest non-fiction book by my favorite college professor. An amazing mind. I was overjoyed when my 18 year old son picked up American Vulgar read it, and said it was an outstanding and thought-provoking book.

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The Violent Bear it Away
The Complete Stories by Flannery O’ Connor
I’m teaching a class on Flannery O’ Connor this summer. She is a remarkable writer. I’ve read her short stories too many times to count, but this is the first time I’ve read one of her novels. (She only wrote two). And like all her work it was disturbing, humorous, challenging, and left me haunted with images.

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Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein
I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain (another great book for dog lovers) so I thought I would give an older novel of Stein’s a shot.  (I thought it was newer until I actually looked at the publication date.)

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The Day Dreamer by Ian McEwan
One of my favorite writers.

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Oh Play That Thing by Roddy Doyle
I’ve loved everything I’ve read by him.

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