I started gathering up my list of what I've read this month and did a bit of an incredulous double-take - how the heck did I possibly power through as much as I did this month? Then I realized it's been a super-stressful month which, for me, triggers acute insomnia, which in turn means I'm often up reading for an hour here or there over the course of a night when I get frustrated with my own inability to sleep like a normal human. So there you have it - a ridiculously robust July reading list!
Also, I dog-sat Leia the first weekend of the month, and pretty much all I did was this, because Leia is my favorite dog in the world and I mostly want my entire life to be cuddling and playing with her (ideally while also reading a plethora of books).
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond: Dave recommended this to me almost immediately after we moved in, and I picked it up recently in a darling local bookstore. Guys, I couldn't put it down. The author wrote an ethnography, essentially, on life below the poverty line in the rental market of Milwaukee, WI. The stories he illustrates are deftly told and left me simultaneously frustrated, saddened, and grateful for my own good fortune. I need to unpack this further in its own post - such a fantastically impactful read, proving (once again) that Dave has surprisingly excellent taste in literature.
Next Year in Havana, Chanel Cleeton: I half-heartedly read along with the Reese Witherspoon Book Club from time to time, largely because her books are generally popular (or become generally popular, once selected by her). This one sucked me in right away - set in Havana during the Cuban Revolution and in present day, it's a love story to both people and places, and highlights how once we love either, they never really leave us.
Fake Plastic Love, Kimberley Tait: I liked this much more than I was expecting after a very lukewarm first chapter - two college friends take very divergent life paths, one into the world of banking and one into lifestyle blogging. As I straddle both worlds (sort of?), I laughed and grimaced in equal parts. The characters and settings are so idealized as to be nearly caricatures, but that just added to the excellent beach-read tone of the entire work (I read this in an afternoon in the pool).
My Oxford Year, Julia Whalen: Kels recommended this to me and I'm so glad she did! Loosely based on the Ali McGraw classic "Love Story," Verdi's "La Traviata," and Alexandre Dumas's "La dame aux camélias," our protagonist, Ella, receives a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford for a year. She must balance love, her professional career, and her own best interests along the way among a series of dramatic (and unforeseen by me!) twists and turns. Super enjoyable and a very quick read.
When Life Gives You Lululemons, Lauren Weisberger: The author also wrote "The Devil Wears Prada," and this is told in part from the perspective of Emily Charlton (portrayed by Emily Blunt in the movie) from that iconic chick-lit classic. It's escapist, frothy, fun, and everyone comes out happy in the end, which I think makes for a perfect July insomnia read, don't you?
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recomment, Katarina Bivald: A friend from college recommended this on one of my numerous "what are you reading?" posts on FB, and it was sweet and wholesome and lovely in every way. A young, socially awkward Swedish woman comes to rural Iowa to meet her elderly pen pal, only to find said pen pal has died. The ensuing events are the stuff of a Nora Ephron movie waiting to happen, I swear. Read this over tea when you're having a cranky day and it will make you smile!
The Devlin Diary, Christi Phillips: The sequel to "The Rossetti Letter" (see "Re-reads" section, below!) finds our young researcher at Oxford solving mysteries with her hot professor, falling for another hot professor, said other hot professor ending up mysteriously dead, and all the while a parallel story about codebreaking and serial killers in Restoration England is raging like, every other chapter. Again, this is historical fiction with very little history and VERY much fiction, which is fun and escapist and enjoyable. Think "The Tudors," not the BBC!
Jane Austen: The Secret Radical, Helena Kelly: I loved this, as I've been going through a bit of a Jane Austen renaissance and I enjoy just about anything that explores her life and writing further. The book picks apart a different Austen novel every chapter and peels back the layers, revealing (hypothetical) critiques of everything from social class stratification, primogeniture, the clergy, the military, and censorship embedded in Austen's works. A fascinating, if not entirely convincing read!
Georgiana Darcy's Diary, Anna Elliott: I love a good "Pride and Prejudice" spinoff, and this perfectly fit the bill for an e-reader book to pick up and put down on my phone while waiting in lines. Picking up after P&P and told through diary entries by Mr. Darcy's younger sister, it's sweet and Hallmark-trite but still warm and fuzzy.
From Pemberley to Waterloo, Anna Elliott: See above - same premise, just further into the action.
Kitty Bennet's Diary, Anna Elliott: See above again - this time reforming noted flibbertigibbet Kitty Bennet and pedant Mary Bennet. Big fan.
A Lady's Guide to Selling Out, Sally Franson: EH. This was such a letdown because it was recommended publicly by a Minnesota writer I adore, and she recommended it largely because it was set in Minnesota - and yet there was absolutely zero Minnesota in it. I wanted a MN version of Curtis Sittenfeld's lovely "Eligible," specific and tangible and indelibly of a place, and this was not that novel. Also the plot was insipid, the heroine didn't inspire me, and I found the entire novel simultaneously predictable and irritatingly convoluted.
The Precious One, Marisa de los Santos: I've waxed rhapsodic about Marisa de los Santos so many times here, but as I'm sitting here the phrase "lighting truths like candles" popped into my head, and that's from this gorgeous story of screwed-up families, failed and budding relationships, and how we all somehow come together. The best read for anytime you need new faith in love, language, or life in general.
The Rossetti Letter, Christi Phillips: A young researcher in Venice teams up with a sexy Oxford professor to solve a centuries-old mystery about the Spanish Conspiracy of 1618. There's also a parallel story set during the Spanish Conspiracy, and it's all deliciously frothy, Philippa Gregory-esque historical fiction - light on history, heavy on fiction, which is exactly as it should be for a good escapist read.
Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare: Such such such a good tragedy, one that I think often gets overshadowed by "Macbeth," "Hamlet," and "Othello." Even "King Lear," for that matter. It's DARK. Pick it up! Although I don't recommend it for the car dealer - it doesn't pair well with Muzak and sales pitches.