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Biblioracle recommends 5 books for summer reading

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Memorial Day signals the start of summer, which means we’ve hit summer reading season.

As I’ve written in the past, while it is popular to recommend “beach reads” at this time of year, I’m not a huge fan of reading on the beach. Too hot, too sandy, too many other people. No, for me, summer is hammock reading season. Hammock reading season calls for a little different type of book from a typical “beach read.” A beach read needs to be a propulsive page-turner that requires less direct attention to extract their pleasures.

A hammock read hits a quieter, more contemplative tone, the kind of book you look up from and think about as you sway gently in the breeze, maybe with a little dog — or in my case, two dogs — curled up at your side.

Here’s a mix of new and old books that will serve you well if you want to while away an entire day in the hammock.

“The Lager Queen of Minnesota” by J. Ryan Stradal: Stradal is particularly great at walking the line of sentiment without falling into saccharine sentimentality and breaking the spell. A novel about two sisters separated by circumstance and unsettled feelings that ultimately surrounds us with the experience of what it means to negotiate what we wish for in life when those wishes are not necessarily in the world’s plans. You’ll also learn a lot about beer, which seems right for summertime.

“Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance” by Alison Espach: Not necessarily a light read given that it’s about our narrator (Sally) dealing with the aftermath of a sudden tragedy from her childhood, but the humor with which Espach infuses Sally turns her into excellent company as she moves through different eras of her life, all of them both marked by and distinct from the tragedy of the past.

“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman: Yes, another book where death is central, but this book, about a group of septuagenarians in a rural U.K. retirement village who take to solving crimes, is what they call a hoot. Osman’s scenes crackle with expert comic timing and he manages to sketch in fully rounded characters even while unspooling an involving mystery. We’re up to four novels in the series now, so if you like the first one, you might have a good chunk of your summer reading figured out.

“Vacationland” by John Hodgman: Hodgman has had a long career as a television (“The Daily Show”) and podcast (“Judge John Hodgman”) humorist, as well as the author of several very funny books. “Vacationland” details Hodgman’s struggles with both middle age, and the beaches of Maine. A great choice for those of us who are suspicious of beaches, and have given in to our essential nature as hammock-bound readers.

“Falling” by T.J. Newman: OK, in the spirit of beach reads, I’m including one true, highly plotted, white-knuckle page-turner about a pilot, a flight attendant and the pilot’s wife (and mother of his children) trying to stop a terrorist attack against all odds. I never had any idea how the various plot dilemmas were going to be solved — maybe because sometimes the solutions seemed to appear out of thin air — but this is a real throwback thriller, reminiscent of 1970s action pulp novels. You’ll rip through it in a sitting.

My pile of hammock reading books looks like it would take me well into next year to get through, even with many hours per day in the hammock.

We all better get busy making sure we’re not too busy to read.

John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities.”

Twitter @biblioracle

Book recommendations from the Biblioracle

John Warner tells you what to read based on the last five books you’ve read.

1. “Straight Man” by Richard Russo
2. “Since We Fell” by Dennis Lehane
3. “Harlem Shuffle” by Colson Whitehead
4. “We Begin at the End” by Chris Whitaker
5. “The Trading Game” by Gary Stevenson

— Tim M., Oak Park

For Tim, I’m recommending some classic crime/noir, “The Killer Inside Me” by Jim Thompson.

1. “Whalefall” by Daniel Kraus
2. “The Bandit Queens” by Parini Shroff
3. “The Book of Dreams” by Nina George
4. “The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store” by James McBride
5. “The Phoenix Crown” by Kate Quinn and Janie Chang

— Linda R., Blue Island

I’m inspired by one of the authors on Tim’s list, but I’m going with a different book, “Empire Falls,” by Richard Russo.

1. “The Women” by Kristin Hannah
2. “The Idea of You” by Robinne Lee
3. “Mad Honey” by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan
4. “Remarkably Bright Creatures” by Shelby Van Pelt
5. “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” by John Boyne

— Barbara B., Houston, Texas

“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi is a book with an ingenious structure telling a literal family story over eight generations, starting in Africa’s Gold Coast and winding its way to the present day. It really is a masterpiece that anyone should make time for, but it’s a particularly good fit for Barbara.

Get a reading from the Biblioracle

Send a list of the last five books you’ve read and your hometown to [email protected].





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