Summer is one time of year where I often wake up in the morning and just want to read and drink delicious iced tea all day (or how about something a little stronger?). Other times of year I enjoy this include spring, fall, and winter, but it is really best in summer. There is nothing like picking up a book in the morning and not putting it down again until you have finished. This is not a list of short books, it is a list of books that are so good they demand to be finished in one day. Most of these books will lead you to other books as well. This is also a good opportunity to try something you may not normally read. You may actually like ghost stories, and if you don’t it’s only one day.
Michael Chabon’s first novel, which he began writing when he was an undergrad at Pitt, is a coming of age story, set in 1980’s Pittsburgh. For me, it was like a manual for braving the angst, thrills, lunacy, and sorrow of young adulthood. An indisputably talented writer, Chabon brings new focus to common YA themes, such as breaking away from family, exploring sexuality, and facing the future. This was my Catcher in the Rye. (Don’t you hate it when people say that!?)
Young Adult books are easy picks for one-day reads, but not all of them can be fully enjoyed by adults. A Wrinkle in Time is the ice cream of books: It doesn’t take any effort to consume it, but the payoff is huge. This was a book for people who like to think their way out of problems, rather than just hulk-smashing all obstacles out of the way. The story is poetic, the main characters are the right kind of eccentric, and it starts off by saying “It was a dark and stormy night”. If you prefer your fantasy fiction with a healthy dose of physics and math and guided by a strong moral compass, then this is the book for you.
Ladies – this is a great summer read, you won’t be able to put it down! It’s the story of a young girl, Lily, who leaves her abusive father and sets off on her own searching for answers about her deceased mother. She is taken in by a family of three black sisters living in the deep south during a time of serious racial unrest. Lily is put to work in their honey house for the summer and begins a wonderful journey of self discovery in women, family, love and trust. I swear you can actually smell the honey from the bees and feel the sweltering heat of the south in summer! I ran out and got The Mermaid Chair (by Sue Monk Kidd) the very day I finished this – I couldn’t get enough! The Mermaid Chair was great, but not as affective and haunting as The Secret Life of Bees… LOVED IT!
Although I’m typically not much for short stories, the pleasure in these (as in Bradbury’s other stellar short story collection, The Illustrated Man) is that they are interconnected by both a common theme and shared emotional subtext, making them more of a new kind of novel, rather than just stories. Ray Bradbury is my science fiction BF, (no offence, Robert Heinlein, I <3 you, too) because he writes SF as a poet would, not so much concerned with the science, as the hopes and dreams of humanity and beyond. Fun Fact: The story Mars is Heaven, plays a key roll in my favorite Stephen King book, Bag of Bones. While you are reading, read that too.
I picked up this book, because Stephen King recommends it as one of his favorite haunted house novels (His other favorite is The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. Read that too, but The House Next Door is better). After reading it, you can certainly see why. Our narrator, Colquitt and her husband Walter live an idyllic suburban life, until the empty lot next to their house is bought by a young couple and built upon, by a genius, wunderkind, architect. Stuff happens, lets just say that. The most brilliant example of sunlit horror, I have ever read, this book is just as much about the human condition, what makes us tick, and what can break us, as it is about horror. Although, it’s horrible. In a good way. I have recommended this book to many friends, who have all loved it, except for one, who said she had to stop reading because it was too creepy. Be warned.
This is the perfect pair to read in tandem, so allow two days. Jones, the hero of Company, is just that, a hero. We follow him from his first day at the mysterious Zephyr Holdings, starting with the “doughnut crisis that rocked the world”, and through all kinds of corporate culture strategies designed to turn this (relatively) fresh faced go-getter, into just another brick in the wall. Why would a company want to suck the souls from their employees? The answer surprised and pleased me! You will root for Jones all the way.
On the other hand, Shane, the “hero” of Apathy, is the most unlikable, horrible person, maybe ever. The fact that he has the most mind numbing corporate job you could imagine, will not arouse your sympathy for this HUGE LOSER, because his every problem is caused by his own huge loser ways. And, Shane steals salt shakers, lots of them. And a character has a B&D relationship with a guinea pig. And all afflictions possible, including deafness and the mentally challenged, are HARDCORE mocked. And there is a murder mystery. Apathy is quite simply the funniest book I have ever read. It may not be for everyone, but if you read it and like it, come sit by me. We should hang out more. So, there you have it, two minor masterpieces of corporate satire, for your summer reading pleasure.
Even though this is NOT another tandem review, it is worth noting that I read this book the day after I finished The Passage, by Justin Cronin, an odyssey of a book, whose post-apocalyptic, dystopian ways kept me up for many a night. Not a review for that book, but go read it right now! BUT, I DIGRESS.… Horns, on the other hand, is a ditty of a book by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son, BTW) that was the perfect refresher after the 784 pages of The Passage. The protagonist, Ignatius Perrish, awakens, after a drunken night of doing awful things he cant quite remember (been there) with a hangover to end all hangovers, and a pair of horns growing out of his temples. And, devilish powers to match. This book poses the question, what if a basically good guy, who has had some bad luck, was granted the power of evil? A very interesting character study, by a guy who can really write. Also, read Joe Hill’s other book, Heart Shaped Box. Just sayin’.
I think of Agatha Christie as a quintessential one day read, and Death on the Nile is my favorite.
Exotic locale? Check. Love? Check. Murder and plenty of it? Check. You suspect everyone, and will never guess the culprit? Double check! Reading any Agatha Christie makes me want to drink literally gallons of hot, strong, sweet tea. You have permission to switch to iced tea for summer reading.
This was my favorite book as a kid, and I have re-read it many times since then. In my opinion this is the best of the children’s fantasy series. This book owes a lot to Tolkien, but what fantasy book doesn’t? They both share a foundation in Welsh mythology, so the connection goes beyond swords and dark lords. I like heroes who make dumb mistakes, learn from them, and eventually succeed, and the hero of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Series, Taran, certainly fits that description. He starts as a downright dufus. Nevertheless, you root for him throughout the series as he gathers skills and meets friends of all kinds, including my favorite, Gurgi, who is sort of like Gollum mixed with a loyal pooch. A dirty one. You may be reminded of Tolkien at first (and is that such a bad thing?) but Prydain is a land all its own, and at its core, the Prydain series is all about growing up, for all the characters in the books. If you like the first one, there are four more, all of which are one-day reads, and the final book is the best one.