August has been a good reading month, in more ways than one — I got in extra reading time on our beach vacation to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, and I happened onto a string of fantastic books that I plan on keeping on my shelves for a long while. Unless, of course, I'm shoving them into the hands of a friend and insisting they read this now. Hah!
First, three titles I would recommend to anyone:
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
What I most love to read about in World War II novels are the ordinary domestic details of life on the home front in Britain during the war — and Dear Mrs. Bird has got that in spades. Despite taking place in London during the Blitz, the focus of this novel is squarely on the everyday life of its delightful heroine and her small circle of friends and family. Emmy desperately wants to be a Lady War Correspondent, but instead ends up typing up the advice column for a women's magazine, and volunteers in the call center of the local fire brigade at night. The tone reminded me of I Capture the Castle and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in all the best ways. Utterly charming, this is a novel I zipped through and wished I could keep reading forever.
I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos
This is the August pick for the Modern Mrs Darcy book club, so I was already planning to read it — but it moved to the top of my reading pile when I spotted a copy with not one but two "staff pick" stickers on the cover while browsing The Island Bookstore in Corolla, North Carolina. This is an uplifting, beautifully written novel that feels like a beach read with soul. Set in the 1950s and the present day, it follows the intertwined stories of two women navigating love, life choices, and loss. Blue Sky House is a character in itself, a lakeside cottage that became a stop in a secret relocation system for women fleeing domestic violence in the 1950s.
Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan
Don't say I didn't warn you: this memoir by the author of Glitter and Glue and The Middle Place will break your heart. This was the first Corrigan I've read, and I immediately felt like scooping up all of her previous work because she is so obviously a kindred spirit. Tell Me More is about family, motherhood, marriage, and the deep bond between friends, told in a series of stories about the 12 hardest things she is learning to say.
Next up, three titles that I thoroughly enjoyed, but might not be for everyone:
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Teenage girls suddenly discover they have the power to shoot lightning from their hands. What happens next is nothing less than a complete restructuring of the powers that be. This is a strange, intense story, masterfully told. Be advised: there are several very graphic, violent scenes that sensitive folks will want to skim over. That said, this is sci-fi that I think even readers who don't usually dip into this genre could enjoy. And with so much to talk about, this would make an excellent book club pick.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I read the first half of this book and set it aside for about a month before coming back to it — to be fair, it clocks in at over 500 pages! But when I did come back to it, I flew through the rest of the book, and I'm so glad I did. Adichie is a keen observer of cultural differences, racism, class, national identity, and hair (to name a few). The protagonist of Americanah is Ifemelu, a smart, independent Nigerian woman who comes to America to do postgraduate work, and ends up starting a popular anonymous blog called “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black." Equal parts wise, funny, and painfully true, as soon as I put this book down, I knew I would be an Adichie fan for life.
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
This is historical fiction set in Albany, New York, and Washington, D.C., at the outset of the Civil War, featuring a smart, determined midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon. There are a few gruesomely detailed scenes of battlefield surgeries (*cough* amputations *cough*), so if you are squeamish about blood, this may not be the book for you! I read this as we traveled through Washington, D.C., and loved reading about the early days of the city (in the novel, the National Monument was only partially built) with the real thing right in front of me. It was also fascinating to learn about how the war influenced the advent of modern medicine — what seems like common sense today (like washing hands between patients) simply wasn't done, and the effects of unsanitary conditions were horrifying.
I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my reading life as much as I enjoyed sharing it. Let's do it again next month! And please feel free to share a link to your own reading list in the Comments.