Between the Lines – July 2019

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Best Bets for Summer Reading

    It’s that time of year again when our reading habits shift gear a little. The newspapers, Sunday supplements and public radio have all been doing their bit with lists of summer reads, and at Orinda Books, we have been busy helping customers choose books to take with them to the cabin, the pool, or on that long flight (and wait at the gate).
    There is an assumption that we all want something different this time of year and of course this can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s simply the top selling page-turner. This hands-down is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (we have sold over 200 copies) but Rules for Visiting by Jessica Kane Francis and Normal People by Sally Rooney are more recent releases that are hot at the moment, too.
    For others, it’s a biography or political book they have not had the time to dedicate to during their busy working week. Our history table at the store is piled high with extensively researched and beautifully written tomes including The British Are Coming by Rick Atkinson, The Pioneers by David McCullough, Our Man by George Packer and Stephen Budiansky’s Oliver Wendell Homes. All should satisfy most non-fiction buffs.
    We are frequently asked for suggestions for novels or memoirs set in the country a customer is visiting. Some of our favorites here include My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell set on the Greek Island of Corfu in the 1930s and In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson which chronicles the authors trip to Australia. Both are hilarious and informative.
    For Italy, we love The Italian Party by Christina Lynch set in 1950s Sienna and for France, Peter Mayle is always a good bet, but we also recommend A Bite Sized History of France by Stéphane Hénaut and Jeni Mitchell, and any of the short novels by Antoine Laurain. His latest Vintage 1954 is funny, charming and at 200 pages just perfect for slipping in your hand luggage.
    My first thoughts when anyone utters the phrase “summer reading” are of my 17-year-old self lying on my stomach on a crowded beach slavered in far-too-low factor sun oil, with a fat, rather low brow novel resting on the sand (the spine about to give in, pages yellowing from the heat and grease marks on the cover).
    After half an hour or so, I would flip over, the book became a sun shield for my face and I continued reading and getting a tan on my front. Except I never got that tan (I burned easily) and invariably the book fell apart before I finished it from a combination of salt water, sand and bending the binding back too far in an attempt to keep it on the page I was reading.
    And half the time I wasn’t actually reading the book at all but pretending to as I self-consciously scanned the beach for good-looking boys or other female bodies to compare to my own. But that was me back in the ‘70s escaping the rain and dreary skies of Manchester, England, and roasting on the shores of the Mediterranean. Those fat mass-market “airport books” are far too hard to read these days with their tiny print and my choice of reading has changed. Today the sunbathing is out and any reading is done under an umbrella in the shade with a wide-brimmed hat.
    So what’s in my summer reading pile? I can’t wait to read On Earth We are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Underworld by Robert Macfarlane, Black Death at The Gold Gate by David K. Randall and Alexandra Fuller’s latest memoir – Travel Light, Move Fast. Her first Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight was a beautifully written account of her childhood growing up in Rhodesia. Happy summer reading everyone! We’d love to hear what’s on your list. 

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