Bookworm: Some Summer Reading

‘Tis the season for beach/hammock reads! Thought I’d suggest a few that I’ve finished recently (or am currently reading):

After spotting Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed at a friend’s house, I knew this book had my name on it. I’m picky with my “chick-lit,” but I do love a tale of building yourself up again after everything in life has dragged you down. I definitely related to her struggles, although mine have been very different…and to her end method of dealing with them. Sometimes you need to do something so out of your comfort zone in order to truly face yourself. In my case, I moved away from everything/everyone I knew – and then moved again into the unknown once that situation turned sour. But I’ve never regretted any of it because it’s exactly why I am happily where/who I am today! Unlike with Eat, Pray, Love, the author is VERY aware of her own faults and with her role in how she got where she did (although she chooses where/whether to be apologetic); she didn’t go on this journey specifically to write a bestseller (she didn’t tell the tale until 15 years after it happened); and you don’t find yourself constantly wanting to slap the sh*t out of her for whining all the time. This book is recommended for anyone feeling stuck – physically, mentally, emotionally – who needs a little inspiration to throw caution to the wind and hike their own path to a better future.

I love a good short story collection in the summer – maybe because my attention span is so short! Tove Jansson’s (creator of the Moomintroll) The Summer Book is 22 vignettes that are described as “the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland.” Maybe I related because the setting reminded me of the 1000 Islands where I live, or maybe because the spirited, mischievous, self-sufficient old grannie is exactly who I want to be someday. Some of the stories seem to have no specific purpose other than telling the events of the day, while others hold the meaning of life within them…which is actually a pretty good way to describe the days of summer! This book is recommended for anyone looking for a breezy read that isn’t brainless, set in a beautiful and magical land.

I actually read This Life is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres and a Family Undone by Melissa Coleman over a year and a half ago. I had grand plans to do a big review of it, and even contacted the author to answer some questions…but after an initial exchange, our communications kind of fell off, and I never got around to pursuing it again. This book is heavy, perhaps too heavy for a summer read. Coleman’s parents were some of the first early 1970s disciples of Helen and Scott Nearing in Maine and her father, Eliot Coleman, soon garnered a following of his own. All is not good on the farm, however, as it becomes more and more apparent that Eliot and his wife Sue wanted very different things when they chose to go “back-to-the-land” together. Add to that the tragic death of Melissa’s 3-year-old sister, which is not a spoiler, but a looming cloud that draws ever nearer as you read on, and you really understand the reality of an off-the-grid lifestyle. Reading it definitely helped me understand where my parents were coming from when they also chose to go “back-to-the-land” (although thankfully, not off-the-grid) in Maine in the late 1970s. This book is recommended for anyone who lives (or dreams of living) the homesteading life…not just as a tale of caution, but a work of inspiration.

If you truly want to read about life WAY off-the-grid, pick up a copy of Elinor Pruitt Stewart’s Letters of a Woman Homesteader. In her own writing, it tells the tale of Elinor Pruitt Stewart, who traveled out west to Wyoming in the beginning of the 20th century, with little more than a baby at her back. This book was recommended to me by new friend Michelle of Dust and Wanderlust, who happens to be Elinore’s great-granddaughter (and true descendant in DIY/homesteading spirit!). I didn’t know what to expect when I picked it up, but found myself pleasantly surprised by how hilarious and heart-felt her letters are – I found myself laughing out loud and re-reading passages more than once. And the letter format gives the entire book a sort of “greatest hits” feel, like flashy newspaper articles of the day. This is definitely a lady I would have liked to meet…but I guess I’ll have to settle for meeting Michelle someday instead! 😉 This book is recommended for cowgirls wanting to ride off into the sunset.

One that I’m currently reading is Ann Beattie’s Love Always. I’ve read a couple of Beattie’s other books, and am never disappointed by her sharp wit, searing judgement of others and overall awesomeness. Love Always is set in 1980s Vermont and follows around the usual Beattie crowd of people you love to hate – in this case the staff and relations of a “culture” magazine called Country Daze. I’m not far enough along to be able to hint at how it ends, but I can already tell that it will not end well for some…but mostly because that’s what they deserve. This book is recommended for anyone who loves to be a hater, especially against “high society.”

I am unapologetically a fan of the Ya-Yas. I randomly picked up a copy of Rebecca Wells’ Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood last year and fell in love. Now I’ve lent that book to a friend who could use a little “girlfriend time” and am reading the “sequel” – Ya-Yas in Bloom. I’m sure to some these sort of books would fall heavily in the “chick-lit” section, but I just find them very believable (and also, very hilarious) accounts of a wonderful southern “family” (some actually related) that I wish I was a part of! This book is recommended for anyone who wants to understand their biological family, or who’d rather be reminded why they chose their own version of family with their friends.

Well, I hope there was something in that list for you! But I can always use suggestions too – what do YOU suggest for summer reading?

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3 responses to “Bookworm: Some Summer Reading

  1. Pingback: Eliot Coleman reflects on four decades of organic farming in Maine | A Green(ish) Life·

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