Summer Reads 2015

dog_driving_carHeaded Out for A Little Fun in the Sun?  Want to take the perfect book(s) with you?

I thought I might be able to help.  All of these are in paperback, because I find it much more difficult to haul 5-8 hardbound books.  Any of the below books would be divine at the beach or the pool, on the campground or in the air.  I often try to match my reading to my destination, hoping to add a little insider info to my trip.  Just a tip.

Happy Vacating!

In Euphoria, Lily King’s intoxicating trek into the exotic locale of Papua, New Guinea, three anthropologists (Australian, euphoriaAmerican and British) find themselves far from home.  King’s anthropologists are simulacrums of Margaret Mead, her husband Reo Fortune and her future husband, Gregory Bateson.

Originally reviewed:

f_doerr_allthelight_fAnthony Doerr’s gorgeous novel won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.  All The Light We Cannot See encompasses WW2 within an examination of the lives and worlds of two teenagers:  Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl, and Werner Pfenning, a German whiz-kid desperate to live the coal mine fate of his home town of Essen.   Written mostly in the present tense, with recurring flashbacks throughout both children’s lives, All The Light progresses inevitably to their meeting during the siege of St.-Malo, France, in August of 1944.

Originally reviewed:

the secret place

Tana French has become one of my obsessions.  She publishes a new book, I must have it in hard back and begin reading immediately.  In the Woods, her first novel, remains my favorite of her five books; however, all are excellent.  Her most recent, The Secret Place, is my second favorite.  These are page-turning, mystery novels set in Ireland with a cast of realistic, driven and haunted characters.


Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.  On the rugged, Mediterranean coast of Italy, a land of five towns clings stunningly to the edge of the cliffs;  accessible only by boat, offering fresh seafood pulled daily from the Ligurian sea by men whose families have done the same for centuries and a hiding place from the modern world, the Cinque Terre seems just the place for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to have sought refuge during the filming of Cleopatra in Rome.  In Jess Walter’s sumptuous novel Beautiful Ruins, they do just this.  And the tale of the IT couple’s visit to Porto Vergogna, a lonely innkeeper, a starlet, star-crossed lovers, a wannabe screenwriter (whose big concept is “Donner!,” a movie about the Donner party,) a nauseating Hollywood producer and fifty years of frustrated confusion make the novel one of my top five reads.

Originally reviewed:

VacationersA New York family brings a large set of first world problems to Mallorca, where even more challenges await:  a Spanish tutor both mom and daughter have the hots for, a retired Spanish tennis stud and lots of gorgeous food and descriptions and you have The Vacationers by Emma Straub.

Other books that would make great traveling companions:  The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff (Utah); Boy, Snow, Bird (Maine); Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple (Seattle); The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion; The Perfume Collector, by Kathleen Tessaro (Paris), Dominance, by Will Lavender.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

Seaside Resort in the South of France 1927 by Paul Klee 1879-1940

Euphoria by Lily King


Image of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea found on

     Once upon a time, in a land very far away, there lived strange, isolated, fearsome people who cared not for books, electricity, Catholicism, Christianity, clothing.  They lived in tribes along a river called the Sepik, rife with crocodiles, and ate bizarre foods, conducted outlandish rituals, they intentionally scarred the bodies of their young men and occasionally indulged in orgies of sexual abandon.  They made art, made war, traded goods and each tribe spoke its own language.

png-karim-tribe-intiation-dance-_25524_600x450Photo, National Geographic

     But all good things must come to an end.  In Euphoria, Lily King’s intoxicating trek into this exotic locale, three anthropologists (Australian, American and British) find themselves far from home.  King’s anthropologists are simulacrums of Margaret Mead, her husband Reo Fortune and her future husband, Gregory Bateson.

Bateson, Mead and Fortune in 1933.

Bateson, Mead and Fortune in 1933, from The Guardian

     Euphoria was named a top ten best of 2014 by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, NPR and others and won the 2014 Kirkus Prize.  The New York Times lauded the novel, calling it a “taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace — a love triangle in extremis.”

     When Nell and her Aussie husband Fen appear in Euphoria, Brit Bankson has been rescued by natives trying to drown himself in the river.  He is sick, lonely, depressed and hopeless in his work.  For the most part, King chooses Bankson to narrate the tale further into the heart of darkness, through the tendrils of roots and vines, into the smoky interiors of huts and along the blackness of a river at night.

     Bankson tends to Nell, wrapping her broken ankle, gifting her a pair of glasses to replace her broken ones, offering her aspirin for a fever.  Bankson and Nell are drawn together intellectually at the same time as Nell and Fen are at odds:  Fen jealous of Nell’s success in publishing a detailed account of the sexual exploits of a tribe she had studied before their marriage.   Nell ensnares Bankson with her brain, her purpose, her methods and her words:

It’s that moment about two months in, when you think you’ve finally got a handle on the place. Suddenly it feels within your grasp. It’s a delusion – you’ve only been there eight weeks – and it’s followed by the complete despair of ever understanding anything. But at the moment the place feels entirely yours. It’s the briefest, purest euphoria.

     As Bankson falls for Nell, so does the reader of Euphoria.  Believe me, I stay in the least camp-like environment I can find and yet by the end of the book through the beauty of King’s prose even I could understand, if not seek to emulate, the passion that drove Margaret Mead and others like her to explore to the ends of the earth.  As Nell explains:

Why are we, with all our “progress,” so limited in understanding & sympathy & the ability to give each other real freedom? Why with our emphasis on the individual are we still so blinded by the urge to conform? … I think above all else it is freedom I search for in my work, in these far-flung places, to find a group of people who give each other the room to be in whatever way they need to be. And maybe I will never find it all in one culture but maybe I find parts of it in several cultures, maybe I can piece it together like a mosaic and unveil it to the world.

     It’s a sensual, exciting, glorious read.  I am going to suggest it for my next book club.



I will offer my book club a version of one of Bankson’s most pleasant meals, barramundi and champagne.

Here’s a lovely looking recipe for barramundi, which also has the advantage of being sustainable and available at Whole Foods, apparently.


So this is where I’m really having fun.

Jungle Love, by The Time (one of my favorite boogie songs from an earlier life)

The Lion Sleeps Tonight, the Tokens

Jungle Boogie, Kool & The Gang

Bungle in the Jungle, Jethro Tull

Jungleland, Springsteen

You get the idea.


Nell:  Amy Adams

Fen:  Eric Bana

Bankson:  Hugh Dancy

   Enjoy!  Happy Reading and Eating.