Friday, July 27, 2007

Summer Reads

The lazy days of summer. Even for those of us who work, there is something about the warmer weather and the promise of a respite from the usual drudgery that makes us feel a little more free. Tomorrow, August will arrive. However, there is still enough summer left to make good use of that feeling of freedom to dive into a good book. Even if you don't get around to them this summer, here is my short list of favorite reads. Some are a little lighter than others, but I do believe that there's enough variety here to please an array of literary tastes.

Summer At Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
A light memoir in which Ms. Hart relates her experiences during the summer of 1945, which she spent working in Manhattan as one of the two first female sales pages at Tiffany's. Ms. Hart vividly describes glamor of WWII era old New York as seen through the eyes of a small towngirl from Iowa. A light and fun summer read written by a member of, as Tom Brokaw christened them, "The Greatest Generation."

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover
This newly released book by novelist Barbara Kingsolver chronicles a year in the life of her family after a collective pledge to eat only foods grown within their county lines. Well written and highly informative, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is a pleasure to read, as well as a wealth of information regarding the food we eat, where it comes from, and the enormous amount of effort that goes into growing it. I also love the fact that the book is co-written by Ms. Kingsolver's husband Steven and her 19 year-old daughter Camille. With the bountiful produce that graces this season, summer is the perfect time to read this illuminating book.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
I'm a sucker for anything to do with the Tudor family. My daughter teases me, claiming that I keep reading the same story over and over again, just in slightly different wording! That may be true, but of all the books I've read about the usual Tudor history, "The Other Boleyn Girl" is my top pick. It's juicy- filled with intrigue and narrated by Anne Boleyn's sister Mary Boleyn, who was Henry VIII's mistress before her ill-fated sister. The story is so good in fact, that it is actually being made into a motion picture with Scarlett Johansson as Mary and Natalie Portman as Anne. I'm sure it will be highly entertaining. In the meantime, pick up the book to to see what I mean!

Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
This book by an American writer who buys a villa in Tuscany has already been made into a largely successful film starring Diane Lane. However, the similarities between the book and the movie stop there. Well written and easy to read, Frances Mayes' observations on living in Italy and refurnishing her old home in the hills of Cortona will make you want to jump on a plane and do the same.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
David Sedaris is actually my daughter Alessandra's contribution to this list. He is one of her favorite authors. They share the same dry wit as well as a knack for zoning in on absurd aspects of a situation and then retelling the events in such a way that has you laughing out loud. "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is a collection of personal essays in which David Sedaris reflects on his struggle with the French language and the dynamics of his offbeat family among other amusing topics.

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis
"Auntie Mame" is another book containng colorful characters, namely the author's extravagant and dramatic aunt, Mame Dennis. The Plot: As a little boy, Patrick Dennis goes to live with his Auntie Mame in Manhattan during the roaring 20's. Chaos, adventures, misunderstandings, and hilarious circumstances ensue.

French Women Don't Get Fat by Mirele Guiliano
This book is a great guide on how to live a balanced life. It is written by a French woman whose husband is Italian. With this background, it goes without saying that she is a connisseur in la belle vie, or la bella vita. Whichever you prefer.

Tender At The Bone by Ruth Reichl
Another memoir, gorgeously written by the editor of Gourmet magazine. Ms. Reichl gives us the whole story from the beginning of her love affair with food. The book includes some of Ms. Reichl's favorite recipes, and I guarantee she will have your mouth watering within the first 10 pages.

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Although this novel was written in 1925, it is still as evocative today as it was 82 years ago. Kitty Fane is unhappyily living in Hong Kong with her doctor husband when she begins an affair with a wealthy business man. When Kitty's husband finds out, he forces Kitty to accompany him on a medical mission into the heart China, which is being ravaged by a cholera epidemic. After estrangement as a result of Kitty's affair and confrontation of the brutal realities of cholera, Kitty embarks on a journey of self-awakening, a reassesment of her values, finding love and what is truly important in life.

Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
The original account of forbidden love between a society lady and her gamekeeper, banned in england until 1960. The novel is infamous for its detailed passages of the pair's sexual encounters, but the story is about so much more than their physical relationship. It is about growth, self-realization, and the stunning transformations we undergo when we fall in love.

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
This last read is another fluffy one, set in Renaissance Florence during the reign of the Medici family. The city is in tumult as a result the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who decires the luxury, learning, and art that is Florence's trademark. The main character Alessandra Cecchi, the precicous daughter of a wealthy merchant. She has a talent for drawing and a curiosity about the timid young artist her father has comissioned to paint the frescoes in the family chapel. I won't give anymore anway- you'll have to read the book yourself!

I hope you found something to your liking among my favorites. For me, reading is both a pleasure and an escape, a way to see the world without going anywhere at all.

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