Summer Reading Book Report ’15

A happy Labor Day to all in the United States. I hope you are enjoying this unofficial end- of-the-summer weekend.

Back in June, I shared a few of the books I wanted to read over the summer. I got to three of them (Dorothy Parker Drank Here by Ellen Meister and Alexander McCall Smith’s The Novel Habits of Happiness have been moved to the autumn to-read list) and would like to share my thoughts.

I always look forward to the latest from Anne Tyler, with A Spool of Blue Thread no exception. Tyler is a master at writing about a typical family’s life with poignancy and insight. Often, she creates a loveable character who is drifting through life, moving from job to job, and relationship to relationship, without direction. In A Spool of Blue Thread, the Whitshanks are the family and Denny the son meandering in and out of their lives. I hate to write this: The book disappointed me. I skipped over long sections that took readers into the family’s past and found that I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters. Still, I can’t wait for Tyler’s next offering.

Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman received a great deal of attention this summer, with many readers falling at the extremes with their reviews; some loved the book, others hated Lee’s portrayal of the Finch family twenty years after the iconic events of To Kill a Mockingbird. I fall in the middle, neither loving nor hating the work. I found it an interesting, but uneven, read, enjoying some passages and wishing for a quick end to other sections. I think students would benefit from reading Lee’s portrayal of the 1950’s South; it might help them understand the mindset of many opposed to the changes brought on by Supreme Court rulings.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower was my favorite book of the summer. Brower interviewed dozens of current and former White House staff members, not the people who serve in the president’s administration, but the permanent employees we never see: butlers, housekeepers, chefs, electricians, plumbers, florists. Brower shares their memories here, providing readers with interesting information on the work of the residence staff and tales of presidents, first ladies, and their families. There are no shocking revelations here; the staff holds much respect for the dignity of the presidency. There are entertaining stories on Nancy Reagan’s perfectionism, Lyndon Johnson’s demand for a shower that supplied scorching water with the force of a firehose, and George H.W. Bush’s tradition of playing horseshoes with the staff. There is a humanizing passage on Richard Nixon’s last hours in the White House, and very sad recollections on the days following John Kennedy’s assassination. The people and their recollections stayed with me days after I finished reading Brower’s excellent work.

I’ll finish with another White-House related book that wasn’t on my original list: And the Good News Is . . . : Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side by Dana Perino. Perino, George W. Bush’s press secretary in the last year of his administration, shares with readers personal and professional stories as well as advice to recent graduates (it’s welcome wisdom for those of us who aren’t, too) on how to reach their goals. She reflects on the decisions she made on the twisting path that took her to the podium of the White House briefing room, from what college to attend to moving to England to be with the man she loved. Perino’s you-never-know-where-life-will-take-you experiences prove there just might be a crack in that door you think you’ve shut forever. A very enjoyable, fast read.

What did you read this summer that inspired and entertained you? Please share; I’m always looking for good reading material!

Have a great week, everyone.

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