Here are a baker’s dozen of good reads I’ve picked from some of the more interesting books I’ve come across at the library. There’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction, with some interesting travel memoir type books, in case you’re not leaving the city this summer. You can kick back under a tree and imagine yourself in Paris, Berlin, or Manila, or hide out inside while waiting for the next plot twist…
The Only Street in Paris: Life in the Rue Des Martyrs, by Elaine Sciolino
Paris is a city I know quite well, although I may have to visit the Rue des Martyrs when I am next there: it sounds like an interesting little corner of Paris. I enjoyed this book, which describes in detail life on the Rue des Martyrs and many of the characters that live and work on the street. It illustrates very well the push and pull between tradition and modernity, which keeps the unique character of the street.
Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy
Willowdean Dickson is a fat girl and proud of it, but when the new boy at school seems to reciprocate her crush, she begins to doubt herself. Her relationship with her best friend isn’t helping things as they don’t seem to be on the same page these days either. To get back her confidence, she enters the local beauty pageant, which is run by her own mother… Once all the challenges are overcome, Willowdean finds love, new friends, and herself once again. A fun read and very body positive.
The Angel and the Cad: Love, Loss and Scandal in Regency England, by Geraldine Roberts
Catherine Tylney became the richest heiress in England at the age of sixteen so there was rash speculation as to whom she would choose to marry. Unfortunately, she married the dandy William Wellesley Pole, who was exceptional at spending money. He managed to spend her whole inheritance in a decade and they had to escape to the continent to avoid all the creditors. This is all a prelude to further scandals and a landmark court case. It reads like a historical romance novel, but this is a completely true story.
The Ex, by Alafair Burke
A good legal thriller, Olivia Randall agrees to defend her ex-fiance after he is implicated in a triple murder. Olivia is confident Jack had absolutely nothing to do with the series of killings, but the evidence begins to pile up and it keeps pointing to Jack. The story keeps twisting until the final chapter. Burke writes very solid characters, and I wasn’t sure who to believe…
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride, by Lucy Knisley
This is a great graphic novel all about Lucy’s trip up the aisle. She had broken up with her long time boyfriend, John, in 2010 but they got back together three years later when he proposed. Between insightful analysis about being a bride and the hype that surrounds contemporary weddings, you learn about the relationship between John and Lucy. I really enjoyed reading this one.
A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab
Kell is a resident of Red London and one of the few Travellers who can pass between the four different Londons that exist in parallel. He finds an artifact from Black London where no one has entered for years as it was quarantined when its magic grew out of control. Along with Lila, a thief from Grey London, he has to outsmart everyone who wishes to possess the artifact as a source of power. Quite a fun read.
Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne
Although some of the observations might not reflect the current state of some of the cities, this is an interesting memoir and travelogue from former Talking Heads singer David Byrne. Turns out he’s been a cyclist from before it was cool, and has brought a small folding bicycle with him as he visited many cities around the globe. His observations on cycling, infrastructure, creativity and the differences in each city he has visited are thought provoking.
Horrorstor, by Grady Hendrix
Orsk is a cut-rate Ikea in the Midwestern US which is doing great in all its stores, except the superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Staff come in daily to find the furniture destroyed and filth everywhere. Basil, the uptight manager, asks two of his staff to stay the night to discover what is going on in the store. I liked the conceit in this one where even the book cover looks like a catalogue from an Ikea store, and the chapter headings all feature solutions for better living, or so you’d think…
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, by Phaedra Patrick
Much in the vein of A Man Called Ove or The Little Old Lady who Broke All the Rules, this book tells the story of Arthur Pepper, a widower coping poorly with his bereaved status but sticking to his daily schedule, day after day. On the first anniversary of his wife’s death, Arthur finds a gold charm bracelet that belonged to his wife, and this starts him off on a journey to discover more about her life before marriage. It’s a sweet tale.
Driving Hungry, by Layne Mosler
Layne Mosler has the travel bug and decides to move to Buenos Aires where one day, post tango dancing, she asks her taxi driver to bring her to their favourite restaurant. This gives her the idea for the blog, Taxi Gourmet, where she discovers the eateries the locals adore. When Mosler tries to replicate her formula in New York City, it goes poorly until she becomes a taxi driver herself, and eventually she moves to Berlin to drive taxis. This is a definite “road less traveled” type of memoir, and terribly interesting.
On the Move: A Life, by Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks turns his insight onto himself as he tells all about himself in this entertaining memoir. It’s a sequel of sorts to his book about his boyhood, Uncle Tungsten, and you learn all about his passions for weightlifting motorcycles and scuba diving, to name just a few. Through anecdotes, Sacks revels more about his family, his friends which included many famous scientists, writers, and celebrities, and how he got started as a writer.
A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro
Jamie Watson is the descendant of that Dr. Watson and encounters the descendant of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte Holmes, at his new boarding school, under unfortunate circumstances when the pair is framed for the murder of their classmate. Of course they have to try and solve the murder just as their ancestors would have done. It’s a very well done mystery, and a dark look at private schools. I can’t wait for the sequel!
Bonus book: Unseen City by Nathanael Johnson
I just finished this as I was putting the finishing touches to this post and it is a fabulous read all about the outside world in our cities. By looking at some of our fellow city dwellers like pigeons, ants and ginkgo trees, Johnson reminds us that there is a large and interesting world out there to be explored. For instance, I had no idea that so little was known about turkey vultures. It is a good reminder to stop and take a look around as there is so much going on around us that has little to do with human activity.