Summer Reading and a New Book

Good morning, all! The title of the post pretty much says it all. This is the time of year where everyone and their dog comes out with a summer reading list. Most aren’t fit for much more than lining the bird cage with. A few, like the list I’ll be linking to, can at least spark a good discussion. Oh, and I have a new book out. 😉

This particular summer reading list comes via The Passive Voice. My first clue there might be problems with the list came from the fact it came from NPR. Let’s face it, NPR probably isn’t going to recommend light reading or escapist fiction where you can soar through the stars or get lost in a trashy romance. My second clue came when I started looking at who made the recommendations used to build the list. There were a number of poet laureates, college deans, the PIO for Arizona’s secretary of state. Hmmmm. . . what are the chances their choices will be of interest to me.

This list is a bit different from so many others in that the contributors to the list are supposed “to recommend quintessential reads that illuminate where they live.” 

Ooops, I’m beginning to worry that we’ll be hit with way too many literary reads and not summer escapist fun. (Don’t get me wrong. Literary can be fun and we should all suffer  read literary works when we feel like it. But the average reader doesn’t want to slog through a book for enjoyment and too many so-called literary works can be just that–a slog.

But maybe I’m wrong. Let’s take a look at my home state of Texas. The books were nominated by Athena N. Jackson, University of Houston Libraries dean. The books include Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show and Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger. Both books I can completely agree with. They are representative of Texas, or at least parts of it. But what about the other to books? One deals with the history of Juneteenth here in the state. That could be interesting but I’m not sure it’s what I would call “summer reading”. 

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the list is okay. But let’s keep looking. 

I decided to check to see what they have listed for Oklahoma. The list, if you can call one book a list, was suggested by the state’s poet laureate and he came up with one book. ONE BOOK. 

Tears of Sorrow, Tears of Joy by Granvil L. Hays: Subtitiled “a woman struggles for independence in the Oklahoma Territory,” the book is a well-researched historical novel that has much to say about the pioneering characters of those who contributed to the building of our state.

What about Grapes of Wrath (I can’t stand the book, but how can you not include it?), or Where the Red Fern Grows, or True Grit or The Outsiders? And those are just a few I can think of off the top of my head.

That brings me to The Passive Guy’s comments about the list:

PG won’t be the only person who thinks some of those called upon to name books for their state missed the most truly representative books.

He’ll pick one state – California. East of Eden, The Joy Luck Club, The Big Sleep, The Lincoln Lawyer, A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius,and The Maltese Falcon all popped into PG’s mind and he hasn’t lived in California for a very long time.

What do you think about the list? Are there books you’d have added to a state’s recommended books?

Now for a bit of promo. Jaguar Bound (Nocturnal Awakenings 2) is now available on Amazon and coming soon to all other major outlets. 

Twenty years ago, the world first learned of the existence of shapeshifters and other paranormals. It hasn’t always been easy but now Normals and Paras live in relative peace. Mackenzie Santos played a large role in making that happen. Mac has spent most of her adult life enforcing the law. Once she started turning furry, that law included Shifter law. Because of her and those like her, the world is a safer place.

Or is it?

A new threat appears on the horizon, one that puts both Paras and Normals in danger. Will Mac be able to meet and defeat this new challenge or will it turn into her greatest fear: war between Paras and Normals?

Until later!

34 comments

  1. Congratulations always in order on the release of a new book, especially the latest in a series as such should be a guaranteed sale to fans and generate interest in the back list as well.

    And here’s the link if I can figure out how to make it work:

    1. Thanks. Did I forget to add the link in the post? Probably, since I am waaaaay behind on my coffee intake this morning.

      1. You did, but that’s why y’all tolerate kindly old Uncle Lar hanging around so he can fix those minor details.
        And perfect timing as I had an accumulation of e-credits from Amazon that needed spent on a worthy book.

  2. I have a hard time with Where the Red Fern Grows. It feels like its theme is that beautiful dies.

    Old Yeller had the same dog dies at the end, but that feels more like it came from the idea that self-sacrifice and hard choices are what it takes to survive, rather than a ‘they were to beautiful for this cruel world’ like Red Fern’s felt like.

    1. Oh, I agree. I dislike or have issues with several of those I named. It was more a “what about these” sort of comment than a recommendation for the books.

  3. If you want a quintessential California book, Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flats is it. For Texas summer reading read anything by Bill Crider or Ron Rozelle. Crider’s stuff is all mystery, either set in small-town Texas or Galveston and Houston. Rozelle’s stuff is heavier, but it is such a delightful read you don’t care.

  4. The Florida selections seem to emphasis what a terrible, horrible state this is to live in – full of social inequity and such. So I recommend both books to anyone thinking of moving here – we’re terrible people, if the humidity won’t kill you the Palmetto bugs will, and we’re full. Go Away.

    The PA selections were a bit western PA focused, but I’d still read them (having grown up outside Philly, I can call it my home state).

    1. My parents moved to Columbia, SC and asked the realtor “what do y’all do about the palmetto bugs down here.” Without missing a beat she replied “We name them.”

  5. As Steinbeck goes, “Travels with Charley” is about all I like. “The Grapes of Wrath” need to be put back into “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” not left loose on bookstore shelves.

  6. From what I scanned, the list seemed pretty predictable: mostly literary novels about trendy minorities. I think they even managed to shove a book about transgenderism in there.

    I wouldn’t read the one for Colorado on a bet, though I’ll admit that I don’t necessarily have a better suggestion. Except maybe a series about shapeshifters running a diner, or perhaps one about fairies haunting the mountain roads : – )

    How do you have a list for Florida and not include anything from Carl Hiaasen or Dave Barry?

    Finally, I was rather amused by the Oregon guy who recommended Left Hand of Darkness: “Yeah, this book doesn’t really have anything to do with Oregon, other than the fact that author is from here, but I want to put it on the list, and what are you going to do about it?”

  7. For the criteria listed I guess it’s an OK list. Some of them actually looked kind of interesting. But I wouldn’t consider this light summer (beach) reading. It’s really heavy on the minority experience.

    1. It’s really heavy on the minority experience.

      :start deliberately perky voice that suggests eyes so wide you can see the light coming in her ears:
      Oh! You mean like what it’s like to live in a modern rural area?
      Homeschoolers?
      Females, urban minorities, or people under 25 who are openly politically conservative?

      ANYTHING that doesn’t flatter the mindset of late 1960s upper-income brats?

  8. For California, I’d recommend Moe Lane’s Frozen Dreams, and the CalExit anthology. Two different distillations of the way the state is headed, with a good understanding of the state it is today instead of trying to preserve pieces of the state it used to be.

  9. Maybe the folks making the list were thinking “summer reading” like the ones schools do, where it’s supposed to be depressing because if there’s one thing a school kid on summer break needs, it’s to be depressed?

    If I were to be picked to suggest books… I’d probably go for ones that have a strong sense of Place. Like, Sarah’s Dyce books– Goldport is a GREAT imaginary Colorado city. It wouldn’t work if you stuck Dipped, Stripped and Dead in Washington, or Iowa.

    1. Well, as to depressing summer reading, you have to get the kids in the proper mindset for English class, donchaknow.

      I managed to luck out because my summer reading was a mixed bag. Freshman year was Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, which was about Hasidic Jews in post-WWII New York, and was at least kind of interesting. Sophomore year was the worst–Riding the Bus with My Sister, which could basically be summarized as “how my mentally disabled sister affected my life.” I can’t remember what junior year’s summer reading was. Senior year, however, was the best, because we got to read Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, which spawned a hilarious Amazon review from one of the moms at my school who complained that her daughter couldn’t relate to it and why couldn’t the school have chosen Twilight instead.

      1. By the time I got to high school, dueling English Teachers (60s radical and Contrarian) had outraged EVERYONE with their reading choices, so they weren’t allowed to require or even “expect” that we’d read anything.

        1. I now have a mental image of two English teachers with a banjo each and rapier between their teeth while they play.

          1. ….the Troll would have *absolutely* gone along with something like that.
            (Burnt out college professor who couldn’t stand the college politics.)

  10. OK, doesn’t really fit here but I’m going crazy trying to figure this out and I figure asking you guys might help.
    I’m trying to figure out what is and is not allowed in a fair fight (probably fist fight). I *know* that if it’s a real fight you don’t fight fair because you could die. That is *not* what I’m trying to write here.

    I’m trying to write a fair fight, with people able to enforce the fairness aspect. I know some basics: both agree to the fight, pick on someone your own size, no double-teaming, no moves that are likely to cause serious injury. Some way to indicate surrender (which is slapping the ground, saying “uncle”?) I have *no* experience with any kind of fighting. No, it doesn’t have to be blow-by-blow, but I don’t want to make stupid mistakes.

    Every time I google, all I get are rules for non-physical fighting.

    1. Violence: A Writer’s Guide by Rory Miller

      Discusses that for different cultures and socioeconomic statuses. Because that’s a very simple question with a very long and complex answer.

  11. Can I nominate Star Trek Original Generation books for Iowa? Kirk was from there.
    The Buxton book about black coal miners looked interesting. Showing the downside of getting rid of coal mining (oops, don’t think that was the point).

  12. Well. As expected, Delaware (where I grew up) got one listing and it’s for Wilmington. I suppose that’s better than Rehoboth but neither area is representative of the state AT ALL.

  13. Hmm. I see Maryland gets a Michener novel called Chesapeake. I’ve recently finished a James Clavell binge. Perhaps I should start on Michener? They both write fat books, so there’s that. Nah. I just picked up Ghosts of Malta and am loving it. Besides, both Malta and Maryland start with an M, so that’s good enough for me.

  14. Simak’s Goblin Reservation is set here in Madison WI.
    I’m not saying the Wisconsin of the book is _exactly_ like Wisconsin, but there are probably worse introductions.

  15. I apologize for this OT question, but why do so many people hate ‘The Grapes of Wrath’? I didn’t like seeing it my school. Like ‘Of Mice and Men’, we weren’t required to read it. We sat and watched a B&W movie of it and man was it ever boring. But then I was always told my tastes were too lowbrow.

    1. I didn’t hate The Grapes of Wrath. It wasn’t a book I loved, particularly, but there were a few passages that were lyrical and pretty. And we read so many things that were so much worse that Grapes was almost a relief to have a break from them.

      That said, if you’re looking for reasons to hate Grapes, they certainly exist:

      (1) It’s slow and boring. It says something that I far preferred the chapters about things like turtles crossing the road than I did the chapters about the Joad family.

      (2) It’s depressing. The Joads can’t do anything to improve their situation, pretty much everyone they meet is awful, and nothing can be done. Despite the fact that the “other” chapters kept trying to insist that the people weren’t broken, and they still had the essentials, and like the turtle crossing the road, they would eventually make it to the other side, hope was in pretty short supply in the main story.

      (3) It’s Communist propaganda. The one exception to “there’s no hope” was the chapter where they go to a government run campground, and all is hunky-dory, and it’s the best place they’ve been since leaving Oklahoma. Despite the Joads having an absolute horror of taking charity, they love government handouts, and it’s made clear that only the government can save people like them. Plus, the whole repeated mantra of “the grapes of wrath ferment into anger” seems like it’s supposed to foreshadow a Communist revolution.

  16. “why do so many people hate ‘The Grapes of Wrath’?”

    It’s not bad, but Tortilla Flats is a better Steinbeck novel of California.

  17. Have never heard of the Idaho books, but the one by Grace Jordan sounds interesting.

    I’m surprised Kirby Jonas didn’t make the list. He’s pretty famous, at least locally, a Westerns writer, I liked the one book of his I read well enough (not a big Westerns reader), and has a reputation as a decent man. Probably too popular or too genre.

    Actually, the Idaho picker gets credit for avoiding Hemmingway. So there’s that in favor of all her choices!

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