Summer Reads

With the advance and retreat of Labor Day, I guess that officially closes the book on Summer, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t know it from our afternoon temperatures, but the nights and mornings are straight up chilly. That’s fine with me. I prefer the weather of Autumn.

Had a good hot weather season of reading. Back in the Spring, my friend Patti Abbott threw out a challenge that we should read an author we’d never read before. While that isn’t anything unusual for me, I took it to mean a “classic” writer. I’ve had a couple James M. Cain novels on my shelf for a couple years now, and while the guy is an icon of the crime/noir community, I’d never read him. So I endeavored to do so, and successfully knocked out both Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Both were fantastic, and every bit as excellent as I’d always heard they were. Forget all the arguments writers like to get into about “what is/isn’t noir.” If someone asks, just hand them one of these books. I loved them both.

I didn’t read a dud all summer long. A few of those I read did stick with me more than others and are worth mentioning; here they are in the order I read them:

  • Fun & Games by Duane Swierczynski¬† I think book two in this series comes out next month. I can’t wait. No one writes this kind of high octane stuff as well as Duane does, and I love it.
  • Swords of Talera by Charles Allen Gramlich Ignore the fact that Charles has become a friend of mine. This book totally fired me up to try my hand at some Swords and Sorcery/Swords and Planets type stuff, a genre I grew up loving but really haven’t written. This is book one of a three-book series, and I’ll be reading the next one very soon.
  • Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell Easily my most eagerly-awaited book of the year, and it didn’t disappoint. Discovering Bonnie’s writing was a highlight of last year. Meeting and spending time with her both as a reader and a co-schemer in ways to make life more fun will be a highlight of this year and years to come.
  • Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran I visited New Orleans for the first time this year and fell in love with it. Sara paints such a fantastic picture of the city post-Katrina in this mystery that I couldn’t possibly not love it. Sara is a great writer. When I told her I would be reading it on the plane to Nola, she said, “I hope my sad little book doesn’t ruin your trip.” It didn’t.
  • The Wave by Susan Casey I love the ocean, even though it freaks me out. Probably freaks me out even more after reading this book. Doesn’t matter though — I really enjoyed the subject, and Casey’s writing was easy to read and informative. Fantastic.
  • The Adjustment by Scott Phillips Phillips is a madman. I’ve read a handful of his stuff now, and I’ve yet to encounter a misstep. That kinda pisses me off. I don’t think Julia enjoyed this one as much as I did, but this is one of my favorite reads of the year, especially amongst the crime writer types I soil my reputation with.

You’ll note these links all go to Amazon. Yeah, they are the evil empire, but I’m sure none of these writers would be unhappy if you chose to spend your money there. Still, if you are intrigued by any of these titles — and you damn well should be, because I don’t read bad books! — consider getting one or two of them from your local, if you have one.

I also read two great collections via eBook, both of which are bundles of Western stories by friends of mine. Picking these up for your eReader of choice is really a no-brainer. Maybe you think, “I don’t like Westerns.” Well, all you need to do is like good storytelling and you’ll dig this pair. Seriously.

As for the rest, like I said earlier — it was a great season for reading. You’d do well checking any of these out.

  • The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter (nonfiction)
  • I Was Looking for a Street by Charles Willeford (nonfiction)
  • The Cold Dish and Death Without Company by Craig Johnson
  • The End of Everything by Megan Abbott
  • Payback at Morning Peak by Gene Hackman (yes, that Gene Hackman)
  • Choke On Your Lies by Anthony Neal Smith
  • Long Shadows by Terry James
  • Coyote’s Kiss by Christa Faust
  • The Riflemen by Tony Masero
  • Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs
  • Outliers by Macolm Gladwell (nonfiction)
  • Conan the Barbarian by Michael Stackpole
  • The Double Life is Twice as Good by Jonathan Ames (mostly nonfiction)
  • Rum, Sodomy, and False Eyelashes by Scott Phillips
  • The Kill Riff by David J. Schow

I have short reviews of all of these up on my Goodreads page. I’d be happy to discuss any of them with anyone. Also curious to know if anyone read anything particularly awesome this summer they’d like to mention. Any suggestions? Anything to stay away from?

6 thoughts on “Summer Reads”

  1. You had a terrific reading summer, Chris. Although I read a book by Lee Childs, 61 Hours, which I liked a lot, I don’t count that because it wasn’t a reach if you know what I mean. Although I had never read him, I can’t really count it. I read another new writer, David Abbott, but that book THE UPRIGHT PIANO was only so-so for me.
    All of the other books, like the Campbell one, were ones I knew I would love–and did. Or ones I was reading for a second time (A GESTURE LIFE, DINNER AT THE HOMESICK RESTAURANT). Or books on writing.
    My husband beat me up badly with this challenge and read a bunch of classics.

  2. Thanks, Patti. Another one worth noting for me was Craig Johnson. I hadn’t read him before, but went to a reading and he was fantastic. He didn’t read at all, just talked to the audience about stuff in general, told stories, talked about how people he meets and things they say and do end up in the books, etc. It was a blast. So I bought all of his books (I think there are 6 or 7) because I wanted to read them in order. Read the first two, and will probably read a couple more before the year’s end. I consider getting into his catalog to be a highlight of the year for me.

  3. I didn’t do that much in summer reading this year. The only books that I did were Edward Graingers fantastic e-book, a classic book reprint called “The Covered Wagon” and believe it or not, a neat paranormal book set in Connecticut (1st volume in planned series) called “Arson” by YA writer Estevan Vegas.

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