I am a reader. I have been one since the tender age of four.
I have piles and piles of must-read books sitting on my nightstand, behind my toilet, on my coffee table. My mother lends me her favorites, I constantly download books to my Kobo, and yet I still spend hours and hours in bookstores, judging books by their covers.
My idea of bliss is sitting someplace warm and cozy—on my family room sofa tucked underneath my Irish woolen blanket with a mug of tea, or someplace warm and beachy—by the pool with a beer in my hand and sunglasses on my face. With a book in my hand. Digital or actual, I'm not too picky these days.
I will be leading a fun book club at the YMC weekend at Cleveland's House this summer, but I will get to those awesome details later on in this post.
I'm in a great Toronto book club with some really lovely and smart ladies (who also know their way around a kitchen—hello, book club night homemade cookies and kettle corn) and we have read some great, meaty discussion-worthy books over the last few months. Those are the books I love—the ones that make you think, make you feel, make you cry, make you angry. I'd like to offer some suggestions for you to read this year, or for you to read with your book clubs.
1. The 19th Wife by
Fans of shows like Big Love or readers who are fascinated by the idea of plural marriage will love this one—the side-by-side stories of two 19th wives, one who in the late 1800s was married to Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church, and one who is married to a powerful polygamist in modern times, and finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation.
2. The Chaperone by
The imagined story of the famous actress Louise Brooks and Cora, the young Kansas housewife to agrees to take the young Louise Brooks to New York City. This one is rich with history about what the world was like in the 1920s and the 1930s—the glitz and glamor of the flapper era and also the surprisingly unglitzy parts—the homophobia, racism, and unequal rights for women. Our book club loved this one.
3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Now, I'm not always a fan of books that are written for YA eyeballs, but this one blew me away—I read it in just one sitting. Fourteen-year-old Hazel is somewhat of a medical marvel, being "cured" of stage IV cancer. She meets Augustus in a cancer support group and their relationship is one-of-a-kind, filled with a lot of funny, and a lot of heartache. This is a good one, folks. Just remember your tissues.
I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, considering it took me a long time to get into. But once I got into it, I could not put it down. Set on Janus Rock, an isolated island where Tom and Isabel are the caretakers and after years and years of miscarriage after miscarriage, find a baby washed up on the shore. This book forced us in our book club to discuss what lengths we'd go for our spouses and our children, even if they aren't even our children.
5. In the Garden of Beasts by
This one is so, so interesting. This non-fiction story about William E. Dodd, who in 1933 moved his family to Berlin to become the US Ambassador to Hilter's Germany. It's an often untold story of what Americans and germand were seeing and were doing during the late 30s and how it's even possible that a man like Adolf Hilter could possibly rise to power.
As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I read a lot of World War II fiction (and non-fiction) and I came across this book because of the cover. (I told you that I judge books by their covers.) I was surprised by how much I liked it. It tells the tale of Lenka and Joseph, two young Czechoslovakian Jews who fall in love against a fallen Prague. Told from each of the lovers' viewpoints, we learn their stories and how it is that they got separated and were reunited at the wedding of their grandchildren.
7. The Aviator's Wife by
In the way of The Chaperone and The Paris Wife, this is another fictionalized story set against an actual, real story. The real story here is that of Anne Morrow and her somewhat complicated marriage to Charles Lindbergh. Even though she is pretty awesome in her own right—after all, she was the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States which is no small feat—she struggled to deal with the idea that she was really just the aviator's wife. It's a good one, and for fans of historical fiction, this one paints an excellent picture of a time that's not often written about in fiction novels.
8. Ghost Moth by
I picked this one up because I pretty much have to read every Irish book ever written. I visited Ireland in October, and I have fallen head-over-heels with everything about the culture, the history, the story. This story is one of Katherine and George and it flip-flops between 1949 and 1969, revealing, bit-by-bit insights into the tumultous relationship between the two. This one has lots to discuss, it's perfect for a book club.
9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
It's no secret that I am a fan of Gatsby—both the book and the movie. This summer is a great time to read this novel for the first time, or to re-read it if you, like I, hadn't picked it up since high school.
10. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
This is the only one on the list that I haven't read.
So, why am I recommending it to you, you ask?
Well, by the stroke of good luck, and by the stroke of being the editor-in-chief of this here amazing website, I will once again be finding myself at Clevelands House this coming August and I will once again find myself in this position:
Only this year, instead of getting lost in a great book by the pool SOLO, I will be getting lost in a great one, this one, which just happens to be YMC's Book of the Month, with all of you. If you sign up for the YMC weekend at Muskoka's awesome family resort Clevelands House from Aug 15-18 of this year you will receive a free copy of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, courtesy of our friends at Random House. From the publisher: In his brilliant, haunting novel, Stegner Fellow and Whiting Award winner Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in Chechnya, where eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night, accusing him of aiding Chechen rebels. Across the road their lifelong neighbor and family friend Akhmed has also been watching, fearing the worst when the soldiers set fire to Havaa’s house. But when he finds her hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.
This is the book that Sarah Jessica Parker calls “the greatest book of 2013.” You’ll have the entire summer to read this best seller and then you can meet up with me in a lovely, lovely spot to discuss what you loved, what you didn't love, what made you happy, what made you angry. All over some baked goods and some (probable) libations.
Just say yes to Clevelands House, you guys. It's fun, it's funny, and it's full of breathtaking views.
How can you say no to this? How much would you like to curl up with a book right there?
(Answer: VERY MUCH)
And don't get me started on the amazing Cleve's Kids Day Camp and Playworld—where your kids can enjoy a full day of activity and fun while you are off...reading.
Wanna win your YMC Clevelands House Weekend?
We're giving away a four day/three night summer vacation package that includes accommodations, $400 towards meals, and access to resort activities, facilities and entertainment. It’s a value of $1,600!