What I read this summer.

Summer is one of my absolutely favorite times for reading books.  (But, really, is there ever a bad time for reading books?  No.)  Between the tennis and swimming lessons, car trips, and longer days I put in a lot of reading during the months of June, July, and August.

Because I’m such a giver, I thought I’d share my favorite reads from this summer.

Salt, Sugar, Fat (by Michael Moss)  The author is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter who spent three years researching the processed food industry and how it is addicting us to sugar, fat, and salt.  This is truly an eye-opening read that will make you think twice about buying your next can of Campbell’s soup.  Occasionally (very occasionally) the language gets a bit technical.  Mostly, however, I found this book fascinating- especially when reading the sections about how the U.S. government actually promotes and enables the processed food industry at the expense of it constituents.

Also, as a good companion to Salt, Sugar, Fat, another great book to read is Fast Food Nation.  The author, Eric Schlosser, chronicles the birth of the fast food industry and its devastating effect on our economy.  Rather than a lengthy discussion on how fast food is unhealthy, this book focuses mainly on the unethical treatment of the workers inside this industry and the animals that provide much of the food.  It’s fascinating and extremely gross in some sections.  I can promise that you’ll never look at a Big Mac or Whopper the same way again.

On a much lighter note (because people cannot live on books that make you afraid to eat, alone) I’ve enjoyed some other great books, as well.

Steampunk young adult fiction? Oh yeah.  It’s real.  And real good.  Gail Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage has vampires, werewolves, a spy school for elegant young ladies aboard a dirigible airship, mechanical lap dogs, a boy school for evil geniuses, and much, much more.  Written tongue-in-cheek, this novel was made to entertain with its exaggerated characters and its witty banter.

Wanting something written for a more mature audience?  Try the Tradd Street series, by Karen White.  Set in the historic section of Charleston, South Carolina these books are part ghost story, part romance novel, and part HGTV home renovation program.  While it would be really easy to mess up such a bizarre combination, the author goes to great lengths to insure that the romantic side is more complex and fleshed out than your typical breezy Harlequin novels while combining it with solid, decent ghost stories.  Don’t get me wrong- every book in this series is fluff.  But if feels like superior fluff with solid writing and three dimensional, fully fleshed out characters.  The first book in the series is called The House on Tradd Street.  You should check it out.

If you’re a huge fan of either C.S.I. television shows or historical novels then you need to check out The Poisoner’s Handbook:  Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, by Deborah Blum.  In an era where poisons caused more unsolved murders than any gun, the need for forensic medicine and medical science in the courtroom became an absolute necessity.  This book tells the story of how it all came to be.  It’s fascinating, brilliant, and fully absorbing.  Despite using bits of chemistry jargon, this book is an easy read.  I skated by with only a high school level of scientific learning under my belt.

Finally, I have for you two incredible books that I thoroughly enjoyed, but whose main characters I despised.  (Which rarely happens to me- usually if I don’t like the characters I can’t appreciate the book.)

The first is Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl– a fast paced, psychological thriller that constantly kept me guessing.  By the end of the novel, I was completely shocked and I hated every single person in the book, but the exceptional writing and fabulous plot kept me from hating the book.

The other book is One Day by David Nicholls.  When I started this book I was pretty confident that I wasn’t going to like it, despite the excellent writing.  Discovering you really can’t stand the two main characters makes one a little devoid of literary hope.  But somehow these two characters wormed their flawed way into my stony heart.  Which is right when TRAGEDY struck.  Despite my pleas and tears (yes, this book makes you cry) the author insisted on ending the novel the way he did.  But at the end of the loveliest, bittersweet literary moment of my summer, I understood his reasoning, and I gained a whole new appreciation of David Nicholls.  Read it.  Seriously.

Well, Gentle Reader, that’s a list of a few of my favorite summer reads.  What have you been reading?  Don’t be a literary hoarder- let me know in the comments.

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7 Responses to What I read this summer.

  1. Alisa says:

    Your description of Gone Girl made me laugh! It was perfect! I don’t know if I’ve met (well, you know, read about) more despicable people in my life. Well, other than the people in the House of Sand and Fog. But I absolutely hated that book. It didn’t have any redeeming qualities. In Gone Girl, I also just hated the characters, but thought the book was good. It is a very confusing feeling!

  2. Stephanie Jackson says:

    Oh, I love it when you add more books to my reading list! I’ve been totally sucked into the Tunnels series(or the latest book, Spiral) recently-or maybe that was just yesterday… Dark and twisted series from the UK. My 15(girl) and 12(boy)-yr-olds love this series! If you are not claustrophobic now, you will be after reading Tunnels. The brief overview-Will discovers a human-like society living below the surface of the earth. Be warned! Theses books will suck you in and your children will be forced to forage for food on their own, and the house will be declared a health hazard due to neglect. That is, if the children are not also pulled into the unbelievable gravitational pull of these books.

    If you want to learn more about the evils of the US food industry, try watching Sugar, The Bitter Truth. It gets into some nice biochemistry, but basically it goes through why people crave soda(salt and sugar) and how the body metabolizes high fructose corn syrup(like alcohol-thus the “beer-belly” we see in so many teens). It would be a nice companion to your reading.

  3. Thank you! I actually read stuff that you recommend. From last year’s list I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and two others by that author.

  4. Gretchen Alice says:

    I’ve been recommending this to everybody, but only because it’s the best thing I’ve read this year. You need to read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. It’s about two misfit teens in the 80s that fall in love with each other and it is stunning. Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments is also a piece of VERY well-written chick lit.

  5. Pingback: On my nightstand. | bunkers down.

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