Octavia Butler

Summer Reading Lists - Allie Levy

Hanover is so lucky to have Allie Levy in town. Allie gave us a little behind-the-scenes tour at Still North Books & Bar, and we can assure you, it’s going to be a fabulous space to gather this fall. In the meantime, we have Allie’s summer reading list for you. We love how Allie gives a nod to rereading old favorites. Don’t forget: you can still play Summer Reading Bingo to win a Still North tote! Thank you, Allie!

 
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I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this summer. Despite the popularly held opinion that summers are for relaxing by a body of water, it often feels like the least relaxing time of year up here. The extra daylight hours and warm weather create a kind of mania—squeeze as much work and play into the summer months or risk devastating regret come September. With so much to do, my reading time and brainpower have been limited, and I’ve gained a new appreciation for rereading. As such, I give you my favorite books of the summer—a few new or new to me, and some I’ve been happy to revisit.

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

A gorgeously written, contemplative post-apocalyptic adventure story. Peter Heller began his career as an outdoor journalist, and his background shines through in his depictions of the natural world. Dog Stars is the first of Heller’s now four novels. Think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but more hopeful in its devastation.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb

It says a lot that Maybe You Should Talk to Someone was published in April and I’ve already begun a second reading. In it, therapist/writer Lori Gottlieb demystifies the therapeutic process by sharing the journeys of several of her patients (fictionalized to protect patient confidentiality), as well as her own experience on both sides of the couch. Part memoir, part self-help, part exploration of the mechanisms through which therapy works, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is a book for anyone who is currently in therapy, has thought about therapy, or would never even consider going to therapy.

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

Originally published 25 years ago, Octavia Butler’s story about a teenage girl who physically feels the pain of others is set in a near-future dystopia. Society has fallen into utter chaos, and the preceding circumstances have many uncomfortable similarities to our current predicament. Tackling climate change, racial violence, retrograde politics, and religion in one fell swoop, Parable of the Sower is the kind of novel that proves the importance of fiction.

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Reading Normal People, in some ways, felt to me like re-reading Irish author Sally Rooney’s first, excellent novel Conversations with Friends—in a good way. Once again, Rooney deftly deals with the emotional landscapes of a young couple and the concentric circles of relationships surrounding them. Rooney has an uncanny ability to distill complex emotions and self-contradictory behaviors into crystalline sentences. In Normal People, she follows one couple from their high school almost-romance through their days at Trinity College. An unputdownable romance with substance.

The Body Artist, by Don DeLillo

When it comes to the number of times I’ve read a book, The Body Artist may be second only to the third Harry Potter. An intimate portrait of the ways in which we grieve, DeLillo’s novella tells the story of a performance artist coping with her husband’s suicide. As the grief sets in, her reality begins to fragment. The Body Artist is short and strange, alienating yet familiar.

Local Indie Bookstore Summer Reading Picks, part 2

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, Vermont

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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.

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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.

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