Read uP: the 2010 pH-Approved Summer Reading List

14 06 2010

Now that all the good television has ended, I’ve decided to focus my time on more important things that actually feed my brain rather than numb it. Since most of my weekends from June-September will be spent relaxing on the beach at Sea Girt with a bloody mary and a handsome husband, I thought I’d put together a little required summer reading list.

I am, in no way, shape or form a literary critic (please keep this in mind while perusing my snippets), but I read constantly and I know a good book when I see one. Some are old and some are new, but here are my picks for Summer 2010:

1.) The Help by Kathryn Stockett- If you haven’t already read this, I suggest running to the bookstore immediately because The Help was by far the best book I read last year. If you’re reading on the beach, please be careful that you don’t burn to a crisp because it’s that good. The summary doesn’t do it justice, just trust me on this one.

2.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- This is actually the first book in a young adult trilogy (the third book is due out this summer). Narrated by 16 year-old Katniss, a female narrator we can actually look up to (suck it, Bella), The Hunger Games tells the story of a postapocolyptic United States that has turned into 12 districts. Every year, one boy and one girl from each district are chosen to participate in a televised event in which they fight to the death. Don’t be put off that this is a young adult novel. It’s a brutal story with a kickass heroine that’s fun for the entire family.

3.) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho- I had never read this book but it always seems to come up when people talk about their desert island reads. I finally picked it up and understand the hype. The Alchemist is a simple fable about a young shepherd who leaves home to pursue his dreams. Sounds boring as hell, right? But it’s the simplicity of the story and the messages the shepherd finds along his journey that make this story ring true for so many people.

4.) Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok- I got an advanced copy of this book and started spreading the news about it months before it even came out. Girl in Translation is narrated by Kimberly, a Chinese immigrant who moves to New York with her mother after her father dies. Together they fight for survival while living in roach infested apartments throughout the boroughs and working together in a sweatshop on the Lower East Side. A beautifully narrated story that’s filled with hope despite the bleakness of their conditions.

5.) Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen- Read this book before the movie starring none other than Edward Cullen comes out! It took me about 50 pages before I really got into this one, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. The novel is told in flashback, by Jacob, now in his 90s, as he recalls the time spent as an elephant trainer in a traveling circus during the depression. It has a real John Steinbeck quality to it, but none of those stories had a character quite like Rosie.

6.) Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez- You don’t have to be in the beauty industry to appreciate this true story of an American woman who starts a cosmetology school for women in Kabul. It really explores the lives of women living in Afghanistan and the intricacies of living in such an oppressive country. Fascinating read.

7.) Mind Hunter by John Douglas- If you’ve ever read or seen The Silence of the Lambs, the character of Jack Crawford (Jodi’s boss) is based on the author of this book. John Douglas essentially “created” criminal profiling for the FBI. This is not a book for the faint of heart but is a thrilling read about the criminal mind and how to catch a killer.

8.) Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum- This is the story of Trudy, a German history professor and her German immigrant mother, Anna, a regular civilian who became the mistress of one of the higher-ranking Nazi officers in WWII. What sets it apart from so many WWII novels is that it views things from the perspective of ordinary German civilians.

9.) Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See- I hate to use the term “historical fiction” because that makes me think of a passage about “heaving bosoms breaking loose from their corset,” but this is a lovely and sentimental story that is, yes, historical fiction, about the lifelong friendship between two Chinese women and the sacrifices they make for each other throughout their lives. Plus, it has lots of detailed information about foot binding, which is always a plus!

10.) The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga– Part Slumdog Millionaire, part A Bronx Tale, this is a comic novel set in India. It tells the tale of Balram, a chauffeur who transforms from a hardworking boy growing up in the slums of India to a determined killer. My client lent it to me two years ago and I have yet to return it. Sorry, Laura!