It is a joy to have one-on-one conversations with the staff members of The Booksellers at Laurelwood. Today we have asked them to suggest a list of books for your summer tote bag. It’s a mixture of old and new, mostly paperback, and more lighthearted fiction than non-fiction. Here are their 10 suggestions and some inspired reviews from some of their other bookseller colleagues:
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
This one is a New York Times Best Seller, the #1 Indie Next Pick, and the #1 Library Reads Selection.
In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books—and booksellers—that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud’s chronicle of a year in the life of 37-year old schoolteacher Nora Eldridge, is gorgeous and brutal, tender and fierce. When Skandar and Sirena Shahid (worldly intellectuals from Lebanon and Italy, via Paris) whirl into Nora’s Cambridge neighborhood, she falls into an intense relationship with their family. You know betrayal is imminent, but that doesn’t make the unraveling any less unsettling. Messud’s portrait of a woman’s rage is startlingly refreshing, and her sentences, as always, are perfection. — Elizabeth Sher, Politics & Prose Books and Coffee Shop, Washington, DC
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
In 1962, a young Italian innkeeper unwittingly ends up taking part in the Hollywood “clean up” of a love affair on the set for the film Cleopatra. Fast forward to present day Los Angeles; Pasquale Tursi shows up at the studio of a legendary Hollywood producer to find out the fate of the actress he met so briefly, so long ago. The “beautiful ruins” refer not only to the stunning descriptions of the Italian coastline, but also to the winding path a life can take and the sweet middle ground that we sometimes discover when our dreams don’t pan out. — Sarah Harvey, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
A New York Times bestseller—with more than one million copies sold—by the author of One Plus One and The Girl You Left Behind.
They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose.
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
Gulp by Mary Roach
Like all of Roach s books, Gulp is as much about human beings as it is about human bodies.
America’s funniest science writer (Washington Post) takes us down the hatch on an unforgettable tour. The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions explored in Gulp are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers in Stiff and every bit as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find words for flavors and smells? Why doesn t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? In Gulp we meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks of or has the courage to ask. We go on location to a pet-food taste-test lab, a fecal transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal. With Roach at our side, we travel the world, meeting murderers and mad scientists, Eskimos and exorcists (who have occasionally administered holy water rectally), rabbis and terrorists who, it turns out, for practical reasons do not conceal bombs in their digestive tracts.
The Blessings by Elise Juska
When John Blessing dies and leaves behind two small children, the loss reverberates across his extended family for years to come. His young widow, Lauren, finds solace in her large clan of in-laws, while his brother’s wife Kate pursues motherhood even at the expense of her marriage. John’s teenage nephew Stephen finds himself involved in an act of petty theft that takes a surprising turn, and nephew Alex, a gifted student, travels to Spain and considers the world beyond his family’s Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood. Through departures and arrivals, weddings and reunions, The Blessings reveals the interior worlds of the members of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family and the rituals that unite them.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
The New York Times–bestselling novel by Meg Wolitzer that has been called “genius” (The Chicago Tribune), “wonderful” (Vanity Fair), “ambitious” (San Francisco Chronicle), and a “page-turner” (Cosmopolitan), which The New York Times Book Review says is “among the ranks of books like Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot.”
The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.
A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.
Thank you, Eddie! Can’t wait to stock up for the summer with Booksellers at Laurelwood!