It’s June and the weather here has been lovely–well, until today, which is cool and gray and occasionally rainy–and my thoughts have been on summertime. I don’t really do summertime things, being more of an indoors sort of person, but I like the idea of summertime things like gardening and barbecues and block parties and road trips and beach vacations and I enjoy experiencing them vicariously through books.
Some of my favorite summertime-ish food books right now have a rather nostalgic feel. Homegrown: Illustrated Bites from Your Garden to Your Table by Heather Hardison is illustrated by the author in a simple style and simple color palette that is reminiscent of vintage fruit and vegetable crates or signage that you would find at a roadside produce stand that had been in the same family for generations. It’s full of growing tips, for those of you who have a greener thumb than I, and delicious-sounding recipes for things like Tomato Watermelon Gazpacho and Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna. There’s also Icebox Cakes by Jean Sagendorph and Jesse Sheehan which features cakes in flavors sure to trigger nostalgia. It also has tons of recipes that can be adapted to use store-bought cookies and, therefore, require no baking. They’re perfect for if you have to take a dessert to a potluck but don’t want to heat up the house by turning on the oven. The Picnic by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson (of the Portland Picnic Society) covers everything from basic picnic fare to gourmet treats and even such items of interest as 99 uses for a Mason jar. It’s fun and pretty and makes me want to take my lunch to the park and eat outside, even if it’s raining.
This is also the time when my reading brain starts craving vacation reading, even if the closest I’ll come to a vacation this year is reading through the entries in National Geographic’s Abroad at Home: The 600 Best International Travel Experiences in North America. (Hey! Look! Both the Lan Su Chinese Garden and the Portland Japanese Garden are listed, so I can take a sort-of vacation without ever leaving the city.) Ahem… Anyway. Vacation reading. This is the time of year when I want to devour Romance and Mystery novels by the cartload and those are what I tend to recommend to customers who come in looking for something to read on the plane or on the beach or by the pool. There are the old standbys like The Rosie Project and Me Before You and The Expats and The Martian (which isn’t Romance or Mystery, but is still a perfect vacation book), which I haven’t quite managed to put into the hands of every reader I meet. But, there are also new titles like Susanna Kearsely’s lushly romantic A Desperate Fortune and the always-delightful Jill Mansell’s Making Your Mind Up. There are titles that are new in paperback, like Molly Gloss’s Falling from Horses (a 2015 PNBA Book Award Winner) and Stephen King’s Revival.
And now I’m going to go off on a bit of a Stephen King tangent because if any author just screams “summer reading” louder than Mr. King, I don’t know who it might be. These are the big, long meaty books you read when time is on your side. And when the days are getting longer so it’s light outside much later, because these are not really stories you want to read alone in the dark. (Okay, yes, sometimes you do because sometimes you just want to scare the bejeezus out of yourself, but you know what I mean.) And, lucky for us, not only is Revival now out in paperback, but Uncle Stevie has a new book for summer, Finders Keepers, which stars the same characters as his Edgar Award-winning Mr. Mercedes, which means it’s a Mystery novel written by Stephen King and is, therefore, the A-Number-One-Absolutely-Perfect Summer Read of 2015. You may disagree, and that’s fine, but you’re wrong. Stephen King is like Otter Pops: some of us will devour them at any time of year, but nearly everyone gives in to the temptation during the summertime at least once in their life. If you haven’t indulged in a Stephen King novel in a while, this is the summer to do so.
Back on track now.
Oh. Oh. Now I remember.
Other good vacation books now out in paper include That Summer by Lauren Willig and That Night by Chevy Stevens (similar titles, yes, but very different books); China Dolls by Lisa See and Frog Music by Emma Donoghue; and The Bees by Laline Paul, which is a book I wasn’t sure about when I read it, but have grown fonder of over time because a little distance allows me to appreciate how truly ingenious it is.
And, if you’re summering with children, or just want to indulge your own inner kiddo, may I recommend Around the World with Mouk or the Marvelous Book of Magical Horses, both of which are older titles, but I love them so much. They’re bright, silly fun to keep you (or the little ones) occupied for hours.
I hope you have a lovely summer planned and that you remember to make room in your suitcase for all your books.
Billie Bloebaum works at A Children’s Place Bookstore. Since most of her summer adventures will be of the armchair variety, she’d love it if you’d incorporate a Portland bookstore tour into your summer plans.