Books: Top Summer Read
For summer, I often revert to page turning books which are fun to read. So my top is Alexander McCall Smith, who makes simple life so very engaging. Then, Amitav Gosh and Barbara Kingsolver.
Top Authors to Read in the Summer
I had been reading Alexander McCall Smith every summer and when I spotted a new surprise in a book store here in Hanoi, I leapt over the counter, shouldered out a granny and nailed the desired tome in a single swoop. At 4 ft. 11, and 100 pounds I can be savage in attack mode.
Once in a while, I love to read a real papery, page-turning book not just shuffle my Kindle. Thinking that this store certainly needed the business, I nipped smartly to the counter with Tea Time for the Traditionally Built. I had leaped, swooped, shoulder blocked, nailed and nipped, and I hadn't even started reading yet!
Aside from Alexander McCall Smith, there are two other writers I really enjoy reading during the summer. When our minds are cleared of work, we are more able to enjoy our books. The other two authors I have not yet gotten tired of are Amitav Gosh and Barbara Kingsolver.
Amitav Gosh is an award winning Bengali Indian writer whose books focus mostly on the colonial period in the East specifically, India, Mauritius, Malaysia and China.
The various characters are from varied cultures and often speaking different dialects but master spinner that he is, he is able to give us a picture of life during the Empire from the eyes not of the British but of the other people who were also active players then.
For a more contemporary take on some of the issues that concern us today, read the books of Barbara Kingsolver. She addresses today's issues of the environment and the interaction of people within communities, struggles for social equality, hardships of the working poor especially women.
My Top 3 Writers:
1. Amitav Gosh
Glass Palace was the first book I've read of Amitav Gosh. The story started in Burma just at the end of the Konbaung dynasty in Mandalay grew through the Second World War in Bengal, India and Malaya.
The story engaged readers in the issues people struggled with as society moved towards modernity. So, it is not the story of just a few countries but that of all nations.
For me, the next books I read were the first two in the Ibis Trilogy, The River of Smoke and Sea of Poppies which dealt with the Opium trade between India and China and the bringing of coolies to Mauritius.
But the story is much more than this. Gosh is a master teller of tales that draw you in until you see some of your own life. As a story teller, he is a genius.
The third book in this Ibis trilogy is the Flood of Fire scheduled to come out this year, 2015. Those of us who have read the first two are sitting at the edge of our seats wondering what web Tales Master can next spin to draw us in to his spider's web of discovery.
2. Barbara Kingsolver
Another award winner American novelist, Barbara Kingsolver, has grabbed my interest for summer read. All her books ended up in the New York Best Seller's list. They often address social issues just like the most recent, Flight Behavior, which highlights the effect of global warming on the Monarch Butterfly and the lives of people.
The legendary Poisonwood Bible was Kingsolver's first book that I read. I just couldn't put it down at the same time it made me feel disgust at established religious beliefs which when taken to the extreme destroy people.
Winner of the Orange Prize, The Lacuna tells the story of Harrison William Shepherd, half American and half Mexican, growing up in Mexico embroiled in the lives of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and eventually Lev Trotsky.
It moves from there to Shepherd going back to the United States and becoming a writer during the McCarthy era.
Once again, we have a wonderful story teller but this time with real world characters and we learn a bit of history as we follow the fictional journey.
3. The Alexander McCall Smith Series
As Alexander McCall Smith explores the amusing depths of each of us through characters who could just be anyone in our circle or ourselves, he makes us laugh at how little things in our day to day life, can take on colossal stature and then collapse into simplicity once again. You can read this in some of his series:
As I ease into the chair next to Mma to watch, listen and savour people caught in the act of being decent human beings, I am pulled away from the complexities of daily downtown, electronic, instant everything living. I am immersed in simple village life like Mma Ramotse and like that in my childhood memories.
As she moves through the village on a mission to solve her assorted client's dilemmas , it brings me face to face with people and circumstances that once were mine but now are only memories which are given new life and new faces as they come alive again after so many years.
Isabel Dalhousie seems to find herself obliged to investigate little somethings in between her editing of this review, taking over her niece's, Cat, coffee place and caring for her son which she gladly shares with the Father and her rhousekeeper, Grace.
These whimsical characters are woven into by Smith in these other titles in the series: The Right Attitude to Rain; The Lost Art of Gratitude; The Careful Use of Compliments; The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday; Friends, Lovers and Chocolate and the first book The Sunday Philosophy Club.
Here is a group of professor-doctors sharing the faculty rooms, in lifetime love-hate relationships unique to the academic establishment.
Our son calls these types "Toppers", each trying to out-do that last doctor-professor's claim to immortality.
Maybe I have seen too much academic puffery and frippery in real life and as a result spot so many I have known. I rollick in the images.
The satire is truly magnificent as we watch the stratospheric self-importance of the world's greatest expert in Portugese Irregular verbs grow to become hubris' response to Everest. It will bring you to your knees.
Yes, McCall Smith has entertained me for so many summers that I hope you would love him, too. He will warm your heart with his stories as simple as living in an apartment in London, a village in Botswana or working in a cafe in Edinburgh. Like L’il Abner…”we have found the enemy and he is us”.
What book are you reading now?
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