If you, like me, are looking for a few books so that you can ignore the growing stack of other books next to your bed, here is a list of 10 books — including several by regional Northwest authors — that I’ll be reading (and rereading) this summer.
“The Music of Bees” (2021) by Eileen Garvin. Three isolated strangers, each with their own sorrows and obstacles to understand and overcome, bond over beekeeping in a rural Oregon town. Alice grieves the loss of her husband and the daily disappointments of a dead-end job. Jake adjusts to life with a disability despite the influence of his toxic home life. Harry struggles to cope with a crippling social anxiety that has kept him between jobs for years. Happenstance brings the unlikely trio together, and as they work together to save an at-risk colony of bees, they slowly realize that the bees have already saved them.
“Bonjour Tristesse” (1954) by Françoise Sagan. Written when Sagan was not much older than her protagonist, “Bonjour Tristesse” follows a young girl through the last easy summer before the rest of her life. Seventeen-year-old Cecile lives with her father, Raymond, and a string of his mistresses in bohemian luxury. Wealthy and unconcerned with her future as she enters adulthood, Cecile neglects her studies until Anne, a level-headed, hardworking friend of her late mother, arrives. While Cecile returns half-heartedly to her schoolwork, a romance develops between Anne and Raymond. Cecile worries that this will threaten her place in her father’s life and plots to sabotage the relationship.
“Anxious People” (2019) by Fredrik Backman. A confused burglar holds a group of potential buyers (lovable idiots) hostage in the middle of an open house. The situation intensifies as investigators from Stockholm and internal squabbles threaten the local police investigation. As the story unfolds, relationships are tested and life-long friendships are made.
“The Cold Millions” (2020) by Jess Walter. Set during the free speech riots of Spokane in 1909, the story centers on Rye and Gig Dolan, two brothers living by their wits and struggling to find their place in a world that doesn’t want them. “The Cold Millions” is available at Auntie’s Bookstore and Wishing Tree Books.
“Infinite Country” (2021) by Patricia Engel. Talia is arrested and sent to a juvenile detention center in Colombia after assaulting a male coworker. The assault, she believes, is justified, but the stain on her record could prevent her from ever seeing her mother and siblings back in the United States again.
“Before Familiar Woods” (2020) by Ian Pisarcik. Pisarcik’s debut novel, “Before Familiar Woods,” was released last year. Set in the densely wooded fictional town of North Falls, Vt., the mystery follows Ruth Fenn, a recently bereaved mother, and Milk Raymond, a soldier, five days returned from a three-year deployment in Iraq, struggling to deal with the stress of parenting alone. The death of Ruth’s son, Matthew, is shrouded in malicious gossip; Milk’s son, Daniel, seems like a stranger to him. Amid all this deeply personal angst, a greater mystery unfolds in the town. After the disappearance of her husband, Ruth begins to understand how far she had distanced herself from Matthew before his death; Milk tries to avoid doing the same while his son is still alive.
“The Bomber Mafia” (2021) by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell’s latest, “The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation and the Longest Night of the Second World War,” explores the conception and development of the U.S. Air Force, the strategic dichotomy between Curtis Lemay and Haywood Hansel and the invention of the Norden bombsight. With the aid of this invention, the “Bomber Mafia,” that is, the earliest members of the Air Force, would attempt to answer one question: “What if precision bombing could, just by taking out critical choke points — industrial or transportation hubs — cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal?”
Note: I would also highly recommend the audiobook version available on Audible.
“The Newirth Mythology” (2013) by Michael Koep. Currently in development for a limited TV series, Spokane-area author Michael Koep’s trilogy follows psychologist Loche Newirth through a series of increasingly surreal and traumatic events. As the story unfolds, Newirth finds himself hunted when he stumbles across a painting that opens a window to the afterlife. Mysterious forces gather on all sides seeking to control the art, chasing Newirth from the relative security of upper Priest Lake across time and space. Impossibly lost, Newirth begins to record his experiences in hopes that his mentor, Dr. Marcus Rearden, might interpret the revelations he is struggling to bear.
“The Maidens” (2021) by Alex Michaelides. From “The Silent Patient” author Michaelides, “The Maidens” follows group therapist Mariana Andros as she struggles to prove that Edward Fosca, a popular Greek tragedy professor, is guilty of her niece’s murder, among other crimes. Fosca is generally adored by students and staff, particularly so by a group of female students known as “The Maidens,” but Mariana is certain a monster lies beneath his charismatic exterior.
“The Echo Wife” (2021) by Sarah Gailey. “Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research,” the dust jacket reads. “She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband. Now, the (cheat) is dead, and both Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn is used to getting her hands dirty.”
Hammett writes for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane.