We’re rolling up to the solstice this week, which means a lot of lazing about in the hammock while waiting for your apple pies to cool. You might as well have a book or two or six on hand to keep you company.
Let’s start with Richard Power’s The Overstory, a novel that reads a bit like deciphering tree rings. It’s a little bit of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, a little bit of Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, and a little bit of Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees. The Financial Times calls it a “Great American Eco-Novel,” which sums it up nicely without giving too much away. Of course, spoiling this book would require a few dozen more paragraphs, and so we’ll just stick with “sprawling, multi-generational, ecological, and heartbreaking.” Not to mention lots of talk about trees, which we’re always keen on.
And speaking of difficult realizations and lost secrets, Ann Mah’s The Lost Vintage is a heady mixture of familial mysteries, heartbreak among the vines, and all manner of gorgeously rendered food and drink. Mah’s novel swings between sun-drenched Burgundy and dreary and terror-drenched Nazy Germany as she tells the story of a family of vintners with a terrible secret. Show up for the gripping drama; stay for the sumptuous descriptions of wine and the French countryside.
And speaking of family drama, we also have Save the Date by Morgan Matson. Now, Charlie’s sister is getting married, and Charlie just wants everything to perfect for the wedding. However, family is coming to town, and . . . the wedding planner quits, and her biggest crush shows up unannounced, and a tuxedo goes missing, a dog wanders in, and a pesky neighbor bent on BURNING IT ALL DOWN keeps hovering on the other side of the fence. Oh, and the wedding planner’s cute assistant—who didn’t quit. Naturally, things get worse after chapter three.
And speaking of things getting complicated after chapter three, David Arnold’s The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik is filled with those subtle shifts that make you feel like you are losing your mind. Except when you aren’t, because the world has gone wonky around you and you’re the only one who can see things for how they should be (though they aren’t). Noah begins his story with a description of his fascination with a YouTube video of a woman who has taken a picture of herself every day for forty years, and what Noah realizes about the woman isn’t that she is aging, but that she is fading.
Soon, Noah gets hypnotized (it’s complicated), and afterward, he realizes the world is different, How does he know this? Well, he’s a bit obsessive about some details, and it is in light of these strange fascinations of his that identity, reality, and more than a little bit of surreality start to come into play. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik is one of those books which changes as you read it, though you may wonder if it is you that has changed. But which changed first? You or the book? And did one influence the other?
And now, you’re all twisted up in the hammock and someone has to come rescue you.
And speaking of being rescued, Energy, Richard Rhodes’s newest examination of historical challenges, is out. This one is about human ingenuity, and how, over the centuries, our continued quest for new sources of energy mirrors our own progress as a species. Rhodes traces our story through wood to coal to oil, and even looks ahead to renewable sources of energy. We’re going to shelve this one next to Simon Winchester’s The Perfectionists and Charles C. Mann’s The Wizard and the Prophet, aka The Grow Your Brain During Summer Shelf.
Oh, and we’ll put this new biography of Tesla there, too. Richard Munson tackles one of the most enigmatic entrepreneurs and inventors of the last century in Tesla: Inventor of the Modern. Nikola Tesla was filled with ideas—too many ideas, in some ways—and many of his designs were not fully realized until almost a century after his death. He was the sort of cat who could go out for a walk, recite all of Goethe’s Faust while strolling through the park (in the original German, no less), and come back with an idea for an engine that previously did not exist.
And then he would have lunch, and go all bonkers about how many napkins he needed in order to prevent the germs from touching him.
Anyway, science is cool, and highlighting that is a fabulous new children’s book called Cece Loves Science. Cece is a curious girl, and as curiosity naturally leads to scientific experimentation (see Tesla, above), Cece decides to find out if dogs eat vegetables. Whimsically illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Cece Loves Science shows us how much fun you can have while exploring and experimenting in the world around you. We’re delighted to have such a lovely “science is good and fun” book on our shelves.
In fact, one of the co-authors is Kimberly Derting is a local author, and we can totally set you up with a signed copy, if you like.
And speaking of lovely books, we also have Stuart Kells’s The Library, a history of our favorite room in the house. Kells, in doing research for this book, went all library tourist, and now we would like that to be our summer job description. Anyway, Kells has written a lovely exploration of the value of the library to humanity, as well as a delightful travelogue of some of the more impressive and marvelous libraries in the world.
Alas, though, we have to wait until August for Massimo Listri’s oversized The World's Most Beautiful Libraries—one of those gorgeous Taschen art books. It’s five hundred pages of hot library shelf action. And speaking of shelving, we'll just put that one over here, next to our copy of Cabin Porn, right?
And speaking of good lighting and to-die for pictures, we have Brian Hart Hoffman’s Bake From Scratch, which is totally the size of your stomach and contains marvelous recipes for things called Julekake, Joululimppu, Saffranskrans, Roosterkoek, Mooncakes, and Croquembouche. We’re sure they are all delicious, and if you’re looking for a book to help you get that “bake a recipe from a book” stamp on your Summer Bingo Card, well, this might be just the thing.
And speaking of whimsey and things that make us laugh with delight, Ryan T. Higgins’s We Don’t Eat Our Classmates is an absolutely splendid children’s book about Penelope the T. rex and her first few days at a new school. Penelope, as it turns out, is a little apprehensive about all these new faces, and when she is nervous, she eats things. Which, as you can imagine, is a bit of a problem with grade-schoolers.
And with that, we will wander off, probably with a copy of Kari Bovée’s Girl with a Gun, a fast-paced Western mystery starring Annie Oakley, or a copy of Donald Westlake’s lost “Bond” novel, Forever and a Death. It’s a good time for reading.
And baking. Don’t forget about baking. Like, say, Rhubarb-Ginger Muffins with Rhubarb-Vanilla Bean Streusel. Just in time for Rhubarb Days, right?