In July, life felt a little bit more normal — I was able to take more time for myself and even went back to working regular hours. Since we couldn’t go on our vacation in June, we’ve planned a trip to California around Labor Day. Coastal drives, sunsets on the beach, and wine tasting — I can’t wait. My father is doing better, but there’s still so much we need to plan for. It’s been quite a learning experience for both of us.
I’m halfway through my 20 Books of Summer List, and it’s unlikely I’ll read all 20 (I’ll be happy with 15), but I’ve read some fantastic books this summer from that list, books I might not have picked up otherwise.
Here’s what I read in July:
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (audio)
- Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
- Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty (audio)
- The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (audio)
- Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
- The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker
- Book Lovers by Emily Henry
- Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel
My favorite reads:
My favorite was Miller’s Song of Achilles, but there were so many books I loved this month! Cannery Row was another one, a beautiful read by John Steinbeck. I had been warned that there wasn’t much of a story, more connected vignettes, so it was helpful to have that expectation. And in about four weeks, hopefully, I’ll be able to see the area he wrote about (Monterey) in person.
I was nervous about reading the sequel to The Golem and the Jinni, but Wecker didn’t disappoint! I found The Hidden Palace a little slow going at first, because it had been a long time since I read the first book, and there was so much happening, but once I got into it I couldn’t put it down.
The Dreamer is a beautiful middle-grade book about the childhood of Pablo Neruda, one of my favorite poets. I can’t say enough good things.
Book Lovers is probably my favorite Emily Henry book. It’s a romance about two people whose careers are in publishing, and it pokes fun at all the small town tropes in romances and romcoms. I loved the two main characters. I also really, really appreciate books with characters who don’t want children – it’s so rare to find that. Only downside was that the sister drove me crazy, but I think the audio narration contributed to that (I seem to be the only reader who doesn’t absolutely love Julia Whelan).
My expectations of Anne Bogel’s Don’t Overthink It were fairly low; I mainly wanted to read it because I love her blog and podcast. It had some good ideas but the whole idea of “overthinking” felt very generalized to me. For example, there’s no real discussion about anxiety and what that means and how it differs from other mental issues. Bogel references several books I’ve found really useful on the topic of brain science, Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score and Laura Vanderkam’s Off the Clock. For me, there wasn’t a lot that was new in this book, but that’s because I’ve already read more detailed books on the subject. For someone who hasn’t, this book might be a great jumping-off point.
On the blog:
I wrote about reading about the environment (for Plastic Free July), books from past TBRs I haven’t read yet, and some of my favorite reads of the year so far.
Books for challenges:
- TBR Pile/Backlist Reader: The Song of Achilles, The Dreamer
- Nonfiction: Diary of a Young Naturalist, Don’t Overthink It
- Nature/Environment: Diary of a Young Naturalist, Cannery Row
- Historical: The Song of Achilles, The Hidden Palace
- 20 Books of Summer: Diary of a Young Naturalist, The Dreamer, The Song of Achilles, Cannery Row, Don’t Overthink It
What I’m reading now:
I’m nearly finished with Brideshead Revisited, alternating between audio (read by Jeremy Irons) and ebook. I’m also listening to Rebecca Roanhorse’s Fevered Star, the sequel to Black Sun.
What’s coming up:
This month I have an ARC by Emma Donoghue, Haven, which comes out August 23.
Added to my TBR:
My work colleagues recommended Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer, which sounds perfect for me. From Booker Talk I added Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These and from You Book Me All Night Long I discovered T. Kingfisher’s Bryony and Roses, a take on Beauty and the Beast. From Doing Dewey I added Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert, a book about strategies for addressing climate change with technology.
That was July – hope you’re enjoying the summer, staying cool, and reading something good.
I enjoyed Cannery Row – as you say there isn’t a strong plot but there were many memorable scenes (I especially loved the frog hunting one).
I appreciated the characters so much, especially Doc and Mack, and I appreciated that Lee Chong didn’t feel like a stereotype. I’ve spent a lot of time in California but loved seeing this part of it through Steinbeck’s eyes.
I visited Cannery Row years ago, well before I’d read the book. Only stayed an hour because it just felt so commercial…
IF I owned Jeremy Irons reading Brideshead I’d never leave the house lol–it would be on a continuous loop. He’s a super-crush of mine due to that voice! LOL (sorry, probably TMI). I’m struggling with Diary of a Young Naturalist. The audio is so melodic it puts me to sleep. The print isn’t working too well either. I bought it (ordered from the UK) the day it came out, so I must finish it eventually to justify the expense. I love the family in it though.
I struggled with it too, mainly because there isn’t much of a story to follow. For me it picked up about halfway through, because the family moves and it becomes more about him as a person rather than just what he’s seeing. He does have a melodic voice! And yes, Jeremy Irons is a fantastic reader.
Oh awesome, I just read Cannery Row too! I reallyliked it — and like you, I’ll be in the Monterey area soon. I do hope you enjoy your California visit!! (Be warned, if you’re going to be in the SF area, you’ll need a jacket!) I’m glad to hear you enjoyed The Hidden Palace! I need to read it, but I’ve been hesitant because it’s been so many years since I read The Golem & the Jinni. It’s good to know that it’s a good read even if you don’t remember every detail from the first book!
I second the recommendation for Braiding Sweetgrass, one of my best books of the year for sure. So glad you enjoyed The Hidden Palace — it was a long wait. Looking forward to reading Cannery Row, and it will be interesting to hear about your trip to Monterey if you go there.