Remember when "summer reading" was an assignment? Now it's the knowledge that the summer may offer a tiny bit more time to delve into that novel everyone's talking about or to race through the latest non-fiction bestseller.
With the official kick-off of the summer season, I bring you a list of recommendations to get you through those days on the beach or by the pool.
A New Release
"Bring Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel is the sequel to Mantel's Booker Prize-winning "Wolf Hall" and the second novel in a planned trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII. This book, the author says, "concentrates on the three weeks in which Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn, is arrested, tried and executed for treason." Although it sounds like a history lesson, Anne Boleyn's dramatic life makes for some great reading. It's not necessary to read "Wolf Hall" before reading "Bring Up the Bodies," which is zooming up the bestseller list.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald can't be read too many times, and it's good preparation for the Baz Lurhman movie that will be released later this year starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carrie Mulligan as Daisy and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway. The plot takes Nick's character — a Midwesterner — into the lavish yet tragic world of his Long Island neighbor Jay Gatsby. Remember the symbolism of the green light at the end of the dock? If you don't, it's time to read this one again.
YA Book That Adults Will Enjoy
"The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green gives us a feisty protaganist in cancer-stricken Hazel, who falls hard for fellow cancer patient Augustus Waters. The way these two characters speak to each other is both ridiculous and charming, and you'll find yourself rooting for their love to flourish. Be warned, though: You'll need half a box of tissues to get through the ending.
Making Babies by Anne Enright was a huge bestseller in the UK and has been re-released for an American audience. Enright, who was married for 18 years before having children, writes about the nitty-gritty of being a mother in a witty and honest way. The Boston Globe calls it "keenly observed and gorgeously written… one of the best books ever on the experience of being a mother. Because it’s an experience so many of us share, Enright’s fearless and funny inquiry into why motherhood feels the way it does is not only entertaining, it’s deeply consoling.”
The Lost Daughter by Lucy Ferris is the latest novel by the acclaimed Trinity College writer-in-residence. Much of the story — about the delayed consequences of complex decisions made by a pregnant teenager and her boyfriend — is set in the Hartford area. It's a contemporary tale featuring a twisting plot that will keep you glued to your beach chair.
The One You Can't Avoid
Okay, I gave it , but everyone and her mother (!) is reading Fifty Shades of Grey, and I predict it will be this summer's No. 1 beach book. If you don't at least skim one of the books in the Grey trilogy — love it or hate it — you won't know what everyone is talking about.