|BRAGG: Summer reading turns up good books
|Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2012 5:22 am
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|I've been on a reading kick again.
It was initially fueled by "What Dies in Summer" by Tom Wright, a book suggested to me by my sisters.
I enjoyed this easy read about a teenager (nicknamed "Biscuit") and his cousin who were raised by their grandmother though I must say I was a little dismayed because sexual deviancy was introduced into the plot. Why does current fiction do this so much?
But I enjoyed this tale of innocence and friendship with a little mystery thrown in and thought the author did a good job of portraying his characters.
I also enjoyed "A Daughter's Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill's Youngest Child" by Mary Soames.
Although this book was a little pedantic (what did I expect?). I enjoyed the insight into to her childhood and journeys. It did, however, keep me from reading "The Last Lion" also about Churchill, which I acquired from Tommy's mother's bookshelf last month. Knowing that Soames' childhood was happy and fulfilling was all the information I need right how.
When I returned these both to Linebaugh Library I found a goldmine of books in the new acquisitions area.
Among those were: "The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II" by Andrew Marr, "Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage" by Hugh Brewster (The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and their World)," "Voyagers of the Titanic" (Passengers, Sailors..and the Worlds they Came from)" by Richard Davenport-Hines and "Time Out New York," a 2012 NYC tour guide from the staff of Time Out New York magazine.
I plan to read both of the Titanic books.
I have sampled each and determined that I want to know all about the real-life characters from start to finish and am anxious to see which passengers survived and which ones didn't.
And Queen Elizabeth's history spans such a long time I think I will enjoy reading about her life from her allegedly happy upbringing to her historically long tenure as a monarch.
"Time Out New York" is also a real treasure-trove for anyone planning to travel there any time soon.
It covers some New York history, attractions, hotels, and restaurants, along with many of my own favorite restaurants are featured there (Union Square Cafe, The Spotted Pig, Celeste, The Shake Shack, among others).
If you check out the book, be sure to read "A Place to Reflect" on page 46 about the National Sept. 11 Museum and "Walk Mad Men Manhattan" on page 99, a map that traces places visited by Don Draper and his buddies on the TV series.
But the greatest find on those shelves was definitely "Once Upon a Secret" by Mimi Alford, chronicling her affair with President John F. Kennedy.
I had seen the demure, gracious Alford on talk shows after this book came out but was captivated by the written account of her 18-month affair with President Kennedy when she was an intern at the White House.
The book is very credible, but disappointing and extremely sad to me, and it is inconceivable to think that details of this affair could have been covered up as they were in the '60s.
This was one fascinating, and easy, read and I literally could not put it down.
Also captivating was "Yes, Chef," an autobiography by Marcus Samuelsson. From having been born in impoverished Ethiopia, Samuelsson went on to be adopted by a family in Sweden and he chronicles his moves from there to becoming the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star review from The New York Times.
I have seen Samuelsson on The Today Show and have been captivated by his culinary talent and beguiling smile.
In the first chapter of his book he writes: "I have never seen a picture of my mother but I know how she cooked."
What an intriguing beginning. I enjoyed it very much.
But by far the best book I have read lately may become one of my fall-time favorites ever; "Signs of Life" by Natalie Taylor is a true story of a 24-year-old woman with a baby on the way who learned of her beloved husband's tragic death on Father's Day.
This book follows Taylor through her first year as a widow and conveys her determination to draw strength anywhere she can find it, whether it be from the high school English students she teaches, from her beloved favorite authors – John Steinbeck and Emily Dickinson among them – and even from radio psychologist Dr. Joy Browne.
I literally cried and laughed out loud on the same pages of this book, and ordered myself a copy because I plan to read it again and again.
I have lived long enough to never experience the sadness known to Natalie Taylor but I have lost a few things this summer, too: a mother-in-law, a couple of friends and less significant things like cherished dogwood trees in my yard and ivy that took years to grow.
But there is comfort in the words of Tom Wright's fictional "Biscuit" whose grandmother says to him:
"What dies in summer never knows
Summer's death nor bitter snows."
Put it in that perspective, perhaps summer's not a bad time do to lose things after all.
'Til next week.