Earlier this spring, we reached out to a handful of our favorite bookstores to discover their picks for the perfect summer read. To learn what the booksellers at The Vermont Book shop and The Yankee Bookshop are suggesting, keep reading below.
To find out what the booksellers at Left Bank Books and The Norwich Bookstore recommended, check out Part 1 of this series.
The Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, Vermont
Whenever we happen to be in Middlebury, our first stop is always The Vermont Book Shop. We just love the vibe of this store. The Vermont Book Shop is one of the older bookstores in Vermont; they've been providing book recommendations to the local community since 1949. Jenny Lyons, their Marketing and Events Coordinator, selected six novels to share that will definitely appeal to fans of literary fiction. If you swing through Middlebury this summer, stop in and tell them Literary North sent you!
The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai
Rebecca Makkai has launched herself into a whole new category of literary achievement with this flawlessly written third novel, a lovingly told saga about the immediate toll of the AIDS epidemic on the gay community and the long term impact on its survivors and their families. Set in mid-1980’s Chicago and Paris in 2015, The Great Believers features characters whose lives have been indelibly marked by the virus. (Note: Rebecca Makkai will be at The Vermont Book Shop on July 11 at 6pm in conversation with local author Stephen Kiernan about this novel.)
Mad Boy, by Nick Arvin
Not only does this novel offer an insider’s view of the oft-neglected War of 1812, it also offers a smart, highly enjoyable, fast-paced, wholly original book reading experience. Pick it up, you will not be disappointed.
Tin Man, by Sarah Winman
Loss and love figure prominently in this warm novel, sparingly yet richly told. Details of life, brief moments, words exchanged between friends and family, small kindnesses, grand gestures, memories recovered and re-lived—these valuable bits that make up a life are recorded as a testimony to human lives, their fragility and temerity and strength. It’s a love story, but an unconventional one, one sure to broaden the reader’s view on what it means to love another person.
Circe, by Madeline Miller
I devoured The Song of Achilles when it came out a few years ago and have been waiting, not so patiently, for the incredibly talented author Madeline Miller to publish again! Circe is smart, fresh, and authentic; a beautiful literary Greek mythology tale. I loved every word. Miller's depth of knowledge makes it possible for her to spin a rich and believable tale that readers will love.
Florida, by Lauren Groff
Wow. That is all you really need to know. These short stories each have their own Floridian resonance and each touch on heartrending truths of life, family and humanity. Lauren Groff doesn't pull punches but also be prepared to hang on every word because she will surprise you with joy as well as hardship.
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik
Sophisticated plotting and intricate storytelling in this redux of Rumpelstiltskin shed some much needed light on dusty preconceptions. The voices that tell the story are distinct and powerful, unforgettably unique. At once a tale of values, value and self worth, Novik also reminds us of our responsibility to our choices and reflects on the roles of honor and truth. Along with these big topics and heavy-hitting truths, Novik tells an artfully enthralling story.
The Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, Vermont
Have we told you how much we adore The Yankee Bookshop's new co-owners, Kari Meutsch and Kristian Preylowski? They are welcoming and kind, eager to collaborate, and full of excellent recommendations. We had a lovely event at their shop in the spring (Lady Sings The Blues book group) and were very impressed with the little changes they've made to Yankee. Hello, vinyl! Kari offers four picks that you'll definitely want to add to your summer reading list. If you haven't popped in to Yankee in awhile, make it a summer priority! You won't be disappointed.
The Electric Woman, by Tessa Fontaine
Few things make it feel more like summer to me than a carnival, and how many of us are consistently intrigued with the characters that make up the mythical traveling sideshow? Sword swallowers, fire eaters, death-defiers and all of their like. Tessa Fontaine spent a summer following the last American Traveling Sideshow and lived to tell the tale of learning their tricks and seeing their life on the road. Dovetailed with the story of her mother's recovery from what should have been a life-ending stroke, both women set out on adventures that teach them more about themselves and each other than they ever thought possible.
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, by Cherise Wolas
This book is best gone into mostly blind, recommended by a trusted friend who knows you will love it—which is how I found it myself. Since we aren't that level of friends (yet), what I will tell you is this: Joan Ashby knew at a very young age that she wanted to be a famous writer. At one point, in an early journal, she set down a list of rules for herself to make that happen, two of which proclaimed that she should never fall in love and never have children. She does become a world-renowned short story author, but then proceeds to break her own rules and essentially falls off the face of the writing world. What happened to her? You have to read to find out. Side bonus: Throughout the book, Wolas shares bits and pieces of the fictional Ashby's writing that are so intriguing I wish Joan Ashby were real and that I could read all of her books. And also that we were friends and could go out for a glass of wine together. This story is amazing, and you will not be able to put it down.
Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
If you are looking for a new fantasy world to sink your teeth into, I highly recommend you give Orïsha a try. A world where magic had been beautiful and strong is taken over by a king who fears it, and ultimately drives all maji into poverty or hiding. After losing her mother, and discovering her own abilities, young Zélie must decide whether to back down or help lead a rebellion to bring the maji and their powers back from the brink of extinction. Adeyemi's magic system is borne out of West African mythology, her characters are fully fleshed out and engaging, and the scenery is so vividly brought to life. I loved it, and can't wait for book two!
Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
Written in the 1990s, but set in the ever-closer 2020s, this dystopian novel is disturbingly timely when read today. The story chronicles the experience of Lauren Olamina, a young girl with hyper-empathy, a condition that causes her to feel others' physical pain, as she tries to navigate an increasingly dangerous world and get herself and her loved ones to safety. Along the way, we also watch her develop a new religion, writing it down and sharing it with others she meets on her journey. If you are a fan of dystopia or speculative fiction, and intrigued by some comparative religion mixed in with your reading, this one will not disappoint.