Lists, Reviews

The Long, Hot Summer: A Top Ten List

I’m going to complain about the weather (the same weather I just joyously celebrated the arrival of). I’m officially boring. For eight months of the year, it snows (October-May). I don’t like snow. For the rest of the year, it’s hot. If I had access to any type of cooling system, I might not complain, but I don’t. I sleep on the top floor of a Cape Cod. This refers, rather unfortunately, to the architectural style in which the home is built and not the location. And while Dirty Dancing makes 90 degrees at midnight (with the crickets chirping and the wind rustling through the trees) look romantic on screen – I assure you it’s not. There’s nothing cute about sticking your head in the freezer at 2 am for a modicum of relief.

Beach Reading

Just stick me wherever she is….

However, the upcoming season is synonymous with beach reading (as hosted by The Broke and The Bookish). While beach reading is typically associated with books of a lighter nature, that’s not really my style (if I can be said to have a style). So here are ten books to read during this long, hot summer – both classic and contemporary selections – in no particular order.

10. Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway. Certainly not essential Hemingway, but it has a so-bad-it’s-good vibe going for it and some of the drunkest sex you’ll ever read (shouldn’t even have been humanly possible, but there it is…).

9. In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill. Admittedly, parts of this novella are gory, but there are dirty limericks to be found. Also poignantly illustrates why I’ll never stop at a deserted Kansas rest area. Ever. Except that one time

8. The Fun Parts by Sam Lipsyte. If you prefer to laugh at the dark side of life (let’s call it satiric tragicomedy), Lipsyte is a good option. Warning: has boy humor. And this apt-for-Rory line:

I sound like the narrator of a mediocre young adult novel from the eighties. Which is, in fact, what I am.

7. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams. Perhaps the only traditional pick on this list, but I need someone to remind me that there is such thing as happily ever after (of course, maybe I should read less Stephen King and more Nora Roberts). Bonus: lots of gin and pretty dresses.

6. Love Is a Canoe by Ben Schrank. Remember that summer you found out your husband was a philandering asshat? Or when you tried to save your marriage by visiting an elderly, emotional con-man who erroneously compared marriage to canoeing? No? Then read this book, it’s one release from 2013 I wish had gotten more attention.

5. Straight Man by Richard Russo. A hilarious look at campus life and the absurdity that is academia politics. I’m not a professor, but I was a teaching assistant in grad school and I currently have the pleasure of being a field mentor for a local university’s graduate program. Did you get that pleasure is supposed to be read sarcastically?

4. Abide With Me by Sabin Willett. Sometimes a summer romance is unforgettable and its end can cause unimaginable consequences. This is a modern (and perhaps better?) retelling of Wuthering Heights.

3. The Hamlet by William Faulkner. The Long, Hot Summer, starring Paul Newman at his finest, was partially based on the first entry into Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy. Below is an example of ONE sentence of what you’re in for:

It was that amateurish, that almost childlike, lack of premeditation and plan or even foresight of one who, depending on manipulation and not intellect in games of chance, finds himself involved in one where dexterity cannot avail, yet nevertheless attempting to cheat even at bald and simple draughts with an incredible optimism, an incorrigible dishonesty, long since become pure reflex and probably now beyond his control, making his dashing and clumsy moves then withdrawing his closed fist to sit watching with his little intent unwinking eyes the still, wasted, down-looking face opposite, talking steadily about almost everything except money and death, the fist resting on the table-edge still closed about the pawn or king’s crown which it had palmed.

You’ll feel smarter for it – promise.

2. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. A whale explodes, an absolute cad falls from a rooftop, and there’s a New England summer wedding – a dryly humorous must read.

1. Donnybrook by Frank Bill. For those who like gritty, hillbilly literature – this one’s for you. If you read my review you’ll learn practically everything you ever needed to know about me and the etymology of the word donnybrook.

The weather is making it very easy for me to complain, it was over 100F today and will be a bit warmer tomorrow. It’s still spring mind you. I would pay an obscene amount of money for air conditioning, though not $22,000, which is what I was quoted.

Image found here – original source unknown.

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  • Christine @ BookishlyB

    I’ve been on the fence about Seating Arrangements- glad to hear that you enjoyed it.

    • Rory

      I thought it was really well done, especially considering it’s a debut. It was one of my favorite reads in 2012.

  • Lianne @

    I really want to read Seating Arrangements, it sounds my type of book! lol xD

    My TTT

    • Rory

      Do it! Give in to blogging peer pressure. In all seriousness, I would highly recommend it, the dry humor in it is top notch and the satire is well done.

      • booksaremyfavouriteandbest

        I also give the thumbs-up to Seating Arrangements (and I read it on my last beach holiday…)

  • Lost in a Great Book

    Yes to Seating Arrangements and to anything by Hemmingway – although he’s always seemed to me to be more of a porch guy than a beach read. Maybe it’s the closeness to the liquor cabinet….

    • Rory

      That made me laugh – mostly because it’s probably true.

  • Vikk Simmons

    Great list. I also enjoyed your commentary. There’s a few here I just might have to try.

    • Rory

      Thank you. I think it’s useful to note why I liked to book, instead of simply listing it (and it helps me remember).

  • Jasprit

    I love how so different your picks for the beach are Rory. I normally gravitate towards the cute fluffy reads, but now I think I may have to check out some of your suggestions too! Great picks! 🙂

    • Rory

      Thank you! Cute and fluffy can be good, though it’s not what I usually read. When I do, it’s a nice change. Only a few of these are really dark, but the reading world can’t be all unicorns and rainbows. 🙂

  • Lucy

    Really looking forward to listening to A Hundred Summers soon. Glad to see it made your list. Love is a Canoe and In the Tall Grass are a couple others I’m eyeing. Great picks!

    • Rory

      In the Tall Grass is a bit gruesome, but still a lot of fun. A Hundred Summers is the quintessential “beach read” for me, although it’s not my typical genre, I really enjoyed it.

  • Heather

    Living in the northeast is pretty “le suck” as far as the weather goes, I know what you mean. Cold, cold, cold, cold, cold, hot, cold. I need to live in a place that’s 65-75 degrees (F) year round.

    • Rory

      I think my dream place currently is Seattle. Rainy, not too cold, and (generally) good music. Maybe someday…

  • Words for Worms

    Duuuuuuuuuuuude. You should put together a kickstarter or just a donation page for the A/C fund. Instead of taking a honeymoon, Hubs and I purchased a new furnace/AC unit. Best idea ever.

    • Words for Worms

      Then again, since we were already vented for Central air and all that, it certainly didn’t cost 22k. Ouch.

      • Rory

        I have hot water heat (pipes running under the floor), so to have AC you’d have to rip out my (brand new) flooring, install duct work, and buy the cooling unit since my boiler can’t do both. So never going to happen…

        I bought my house in October, AC didn’t occur to me. And now…tears.

  • Turn the Page Reviews

    I have A Hundred Summers on my list also- gin and pretty dresses make a perfect summer!
    Still in the high 70s here in northwest NJ- but lots of humidity! NJ summers stink too, unless your at the shore all of June, July, August, and September

    • Rory

      Gin and pretty dresses make the summer perfect any time – 1938, 2013 – perfect in both eras. Of course, that may just be my preference for gin…

      I think the summer can always be improved by the inclusion of the seashore. One of my few regrets about living in Colorado is being totally landlocked (with no real lakes and it’s not a lake if I can swim its entire length).

  • Bookseller Cate

    Confession: Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers have made it impossible for me to read the Hemingway. I would have their voices in my head the whole time. And much as I love them (they were a big part of my childhood) I just can’t stand that song for that long. 😉

    Great list. I see more than a couple I’ll need to check out. Though Faulkner has and always will intimidate me and I live him carefully alone now. . 🙂

    • Rory

      Haha, that song! I was walking around yesterday singing Anne Murray’s version of Danny’s Song – so I know what you mean about a finite tolerance for a particular song. I hadn’t thought of that song in years, but I still know all the words…

      Faulkner is a chore to read. The only one that is not is Sanctuary, which he reportedly hated because he wrote it for the masses. And there is this one truly vicious corn cob scene in that book, a little off-putting.

      • Bookseller Cate

        I’ve added Faulkner to my notes for the upcoming TTT topic “intimidating reads”. Thanks for reminding me of him.

  • booksnyc

    I like a mix between easy reading and more meaty stuff for summer – often I only have long days to read during summer so it is a good idea to get into a heavier book. I read Seating Arrangements last summer and really enjoyed it – I still think about that crazy family and the wedding weekend!

    • Rory

      I liked that the situations were ridiculous, but not actually too far off. I grew up with a staunchly New England family on my mother’s side and that behavior is not that far fetched. It’s satire done very well (in my opinion only, of course).

  • Bonnie (@missbonnie13)

    Man, I don’t know what I’d do without my air conditioner. It got over 100+ for several days last week and it was hell. Okay, not literally but it sure felt like it.
    hahaha In the Tall Grass. Yucky. 😛 Your Top Ten Tuesday lists forever cause my TBR pile to grow.

    • Rory

      I can tell you what you would do (if you were me); First you would cry a few (glistening) tears, then you would go to the nearest big box store and buy a kiddie pool (and then luxuriate in all 8 inches of icy cold water from the hose while pretending that your neighbors can’t see you in your bikini), and follow that up with a margarita (once it has reached an appropriate hour in the day, even though it was 90F by 9am). You would get slightly more nauseous than the tequila warranted upon thinking about In the Tall Grass.

      But that’s only me. I cower and wilt in the face of truly hot weather – and my dignity goes out the window.

  • igeekteenbooks

    If you’re looking for something a little more upbeat (and can stomach teen lit), I reccomend –

    I find that reading books that take place mostly outside in the summer help me to not hate the summer sun AS much (this coming for a girl that lives in southern Louisiana, AKA, HELL)

  • Pingback: Turnabout is Fair Play: Books recommended to me | Boxes of Paper()

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