What I’ve Been Reading Lately: June, July, August

JUNE
The Dry, by Jane Harper
Police investigator Aaron Falk returns home for the funeral of a friend and old wounds resurface in this “page-turner of a mystery set in parched Australia.” I loved everything about the set-up, plus this baby got 4.07 stars on Goodreads (and lots and lots of great press as one of this summer’s Must Reads.) I found it not as compelling. In fact, I sped read (is that a word?) the last half of the novel. But clearly, that’s just me.

My Southern Journey, by Rick Bragg
A collection of essays from the beloved Southern writer (and pulitzer prize winner). Okay, friends, I got this on audiobook and the introduction alone–read by Rick Bragg–is Everything To Me. His voice is thick and rich as maple syrup (the real kind) and his writing? I underlined every sentence in my head, then got a printed version to study. Plus those stories of his Mama and front porches and good heavens all the cats–this one will stay with me a long, long time.

Heat and Light, by Jennifer Haigh
We live in a world of opposing interests, and the struggle between two of them is at the heart of this book about a dying West Virginia coal town and the massive deposit of natural gas that lies beneath it. Jennifer Haigh brings fire and heart to this story through the complicated, very human characters that live it. She’s a master storyteller with an uncompromising voice.

JULY
This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel
I heard about this novel from a podcast I love, What Should I Read Next. Hostess Anne Bogel (AKA Modern Mrs. Darcy) suggests you not read anything about the plot, including the book jacket, and that you just jump in. I followed her advice and totally agree. And I loved this book. It’s smart, poignant, and beautifully written. Oh, those family secrets.

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollen
I bought this book because it was a great Kindle deal and I am so glad I did. Practical, insightful advice and a perspective that was actually a bit new to me. Amazon says: Because in the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion–most of what we’re consuming today is longer the product of nature but of food science. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American Paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we see to become. Good one.

AUGUST
Trampoline, by Robert Gipe
I had heard many people I respect call this the best Appalachian novel in years and so it was on my radar. Then I met Robert Gipe at the writers’ workshop at Hindman. He is such a nice guy and LORD IS HE A POWERFUL WRITER. So I bought Trampoline on the spot, asked him to sign it, then cracked open that cover. I have never read anything like it and cannot recommend it strongly enough–particularly if you are interested in Appalachian literature or if you just want to be pushed. Intense, heartbreaking, fresh. Here’s the synopsis: Jagged and honest, Trampoline is a portrait of a place struggling with the economic and social forces that threaten and define it. Inspired by oral tradition and punctuated by Gipe’s raw and whimsical drawings, it is above all about its heroine, Dawn, as she decides whether to save a mountain or save herself; be ruled by love or ruled by anger; remain in the land of her birth or run for her life.  I do love me some Robert Gipe.

(Man, August was a good reading month.)

Fallen Land, by Taylor Brown
Gorgeous and oh so heartbreaking. Taylor Brown writes sentences that make you want to crawl up inside them. The synopsis: Fallen Land is Taylor Brown’s debut novel set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward. His descriptions of a decimated South* will leave you breathless. Plus the book jacket (hardback) is just so gorgeous.

 

If you have thoughts or other book recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any suggestions you have!

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