Summer has drawn to an end and with it some of that precious reading time. But even though you may have less time, you’ll still want some books for your to be read pile, right? Right!So let’s chat about what I read over summer break and whether or not I think you should read them, too!
On Writing by Stephen King
I’ve been reading more books about writing by writers lately and this was my second of 2022. Although there were some bits of (fairly typical) writerly advice, King’s message feels a bit more “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and just do it.” There was a lot there to intrigue and inspire, but part of me still felt like King’s success is mostly luck or natural talent.
If you’re a fan of Stephen King, I’d give it a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for the memoir-esque section alone. If you’re looking for writerly advice, I’d put it somewhere closer to the ⭐️⭐️⭐️ range.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
I learned of Richard Osman watching Taskmaster—easily one of the funniest shows on TV. So, I was absolutely thrilled when I saw that he had written a book. And a murder mystery, no less!
This felt like my first “summer read,” and it was a perfect way to start the holiday. The characters were positively lovely and charming, while still remaining just a wee bit mysterious. The mystery was compelling enough to keep you coming back—even though it took a backseat to the characters. The ending was not what I expected and made for a nice surprise.
The Children of Hurin by JRR Tolkien
Okay, I’m a complete Tolkien addict. Let’s just get that out of the way.
I read Beren and Luthien earlier this year and then moved on to The Children of Hurin at the beginning of the summer. And I think it’s worth noting some of the differences between these standalone stories from The Simarillion.
If you’re not aware, JRR Tolkien’s son, Christopher, completed many of his unfished works, including The Silmarillion. The Children of Hurin, The Battle of Gondolin, and Beren and Luthien are stories from The Silmarillion published as full-length books. Beren and Luthien isn’t so much a narrative as it is an exploration of the many forms the story took over Tolkien’s life that Christopher then arranged to create a chronological narrative.
The Children of Hurin, in contrast, is simply the longer narrative version of the story. I thought I would find Beren and Luthien more interesting than I did, and perhaps I would have if reading it to study. But the vacillation between narrative and poetry and history struggled to keep my attention.
This made Hurin, when I sat down to read it, a breath of fresh air—and that’s saying a lot for this humdinger of a story!
If you aren’t familiar with the story of Túrin Turambar, prepare yourself, for it’s a bleak one. But if you’re interested in reading one of the stories Tolkien thought was integral to his world, it’s a good ⭐️⭐️⭐️.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
I spent much of this read comparing it to the movie (despite it having been many, many years since I last saw it). Though I was a little surprised at some of the differences, it was generally as charming and fantastical as you would expect. For something short and simple and sweet, it takes ⭐️⭐️⭐️.
Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart
When I was a teenager, I stumbled across Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave in my local library. Like most Anglophiles, King Arthur and Merlin have been a bit of an obsession of mine, and I loved every single second of it.
Fast forward some 15+ years and for some reason, I still haven’t read the rest of the Merlin trilogy. But I have discovered that Mary Stewart writes murder mysteries and that is a wonderful discovery.
Wildfire at Midnight was cozy, compelling, and even a little bit scary. The addition of ancient Celtic practices added a darkly spiritual vibe to the story, and the mysterious setting on the Isle of Skye adds to that even a bit more. Though I can almost always do without a love triangle, I was still happily uninterruptable for the day or so it took me to read it, so it’s a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me.
Across That Bridge by John Lewis
I stumbled across John Lewis’s book in the Little Free Library outside one of my schools and tucked it away as a summer read.
Alabama-bred Lewis writes like a southern gospel preacher—something I’m quite familiar with as a Mississippi girl. His stories were harrowing and inspiring, and his advice was both timeless and timely. I walked away ready to take on the world. It’s a sure ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Rotten to the Core by TE Kinsey
I’m a big fan of the murder mystery, in case you haven’t figured it out, and TE Kinsey is the only current author I enjoy. This is the most recent installment of his Lady Hardcastle mysteries, and it was as delightful as ever.
Lady Hardcastle is a widow and former spy who moves to the countryside with her lady’s maid and BFF, Flo (also a former spy). Instead of settling down quietly, they find themselves constantly solving the mysteries of their little English village and the ones surrounding it. (People die a lot in English villages, in case you hadn’t noticed. There’s a whole book about it).
What has made the series, including this book, a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me is the relationship between Lady Hardcastle and Flo. They keep me constantly chuckling at their banter and in awe of their companionship. They’re probably a little bit twee, but I can’t help it—i just love them.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
What an absurd little book! But we all know that, don’t we?
I honestly can’t remember if I had ever read this book before. I’ve seen the film adaptations many times over, of course, so the story is familiar. And, overall, I would say quite true to the source material.
What is perhaps so clever about the story is how completely like a dream it is. We all know that feeling of trying to explain something that seemed so logical while we were asleep to someone who wasn’t in our mind with us.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is exactly like that and takes ⭐️⭐️⭐️.
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Okay, I genuinely had NO idea what was happening in this story for basically the entirety of it.
And in fact, I still don’t.
I was terribly intrigued and, frankly, a little freaked about by this story for the entirety of the read. The structure of the story—with each chapter a period of time in which the protagonist is inhabiting the body of a different character—was fun and original. But though I know what happened at the end, I still don’t really know what happened at the end. You know? Still, it’s a ⭐️⭐️⭐️ book in my book.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I first read Neverwhere in college some 13 (🙊) years ago, but the most I remembered about it was that it was… strange.
And it is. But in a good way!
This imagining of what life is like for those that society has forgotten is intriguing thrilling, disturbing, and inspiring. Watching Richard shift and change over the course of the book feels realistic, in that he doesn’t really follow a straight, undisturbed path. He wavers. But he always comes back round.
I suppose there are parts of this one that might be considered a tad on the dark side for some readers, but for me (someone who deeply despises all things scary), I still give it a solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Outside of the bits and pieces we all know, my knowledge of Frankenstein came from Young Frankenstein and Victor Frankenstein. And since I remember very little of the latter, most of my knowledge came from the former.
Just know—they couldn’t be more different.
For nearly all of the story, I expected something to change. I don’t know why. I know it did much to shape the horror genre (as well as science fiction). But still, I was half expecting the monster to end up tap dancing by the end.
The monster doesn’t tap dance. Things don’t get better. It’s a brilliant but unhappy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ story.
Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
Just a slight shift in the list, here. I know a lot about Rachel Held Evans but had never read any of her books. When this showed up on my Libby app, I decided it was time to rectify that. Inspired reminds me a lot of Peter Enns’s How the Bible Actually Works, a controversial book that I found fascinating and refreshing in a world that seems hell-bent on rigidity over freedom.
Whatever you think of these kinds of works, I think being open to exploring possibilities without immediately freaking out is a worthy endeavor, and Evans’s attempt gets ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ from me.
Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
Five Litle Pigs is an interesting take on the murder mystery, as Poirot has been asked to solve a murder case from 16 years in the past. Conducting his investigation primarily through interviews of the individuals present at the time of the murder, Poirot is able to reconstruct a reasonable narrative to the satisfaction of the family (and maybe even the police).
I can’t say more than that, of course, but I thought this style of mystery was different enough to make it stand out against Christie’s many other works. Poirot’s techniques are all cleverness and logic and watching when and how he chooses to interview each person to recreate a logical narrative is fascinating. Like most of Christie’s works, I give it a solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️.
The Inimitable Jeeves by PG Wodehouse
If you want a bit of old, British humor in your life, PG Wodehouse is the author for you.
Parts of it might be considered in poor taste these days—and some of the language is definitely antiquated. But the sheer absurdity of Bertie Wooster (Jeeves’s naive employer) is well worth engaging with.
Not to mention, there’s just something delightful about Bertie and his “contentment just to exist beautifully” that is appealing to me (though not without privilege). I’d say it’s a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, what?