22. Commonwealth: A Novel by Ann Patchett (Harper Perennial, 2017. 336 pages.)
Compelling and complex characters, interesting settings (LA and Virginia), exquisite description (I want very much to own an orange tree in my backyard for the purpose of mixing party cocktails), and heartbreaking plotlines made this one of my favorite books recommended in the Summer Reading Guide Anne Bogel publishes each year.
23. Chicago: A Novel by Brian Doyle (Thomas Dunne Books, 2016. 320 pages)
A uniquely constructed novel that felt like it might be mostly memoir. I began to believe Edward, the beloved dog, could actually talk and summon neighborhood meetings. This novel by the gone-too-soon Brian Doyle was a complete joy to read. It's one I'll come back to and probably recommend to anyone who asks. It made me want to know my neighbors and my city better (and even my dog).
24. The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday, 2016. 320 pages)
"In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom." (Amazon summary)
Here's what I realized. Other than being aware that such a thing as a metaphorical underground railroad existed in the U.S., I knew hardly any actual facts about it. So much so, that I'm not 100% positive I would have realized that Colson Whitehead's novel could be described as "fantastical". Embarrassing, but true. In either case, this was another novel I had a hard time putting down this month. That's either because the reading's been really good or because I'm highly motivated to PROCRASTINATE house packing and cleaning.
One other note: I read this book because of a reader personality quiz I took at Modern Mrs. Darcy in which it was determined by their algorithm that I am the sort of reader considered an INSIDER.
If you're an insider, your reading list is full of contemporary literary fiction—you pay attention to what's coming out of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and which hot new authors are on NPR these days. Your friends see you as the one who's “in the know” about what's happening in publishing. You pay attention to what the critics say, but you read to please yourself.
Not sure if the "hot new authors" part is completely accurate since I'm still making up for many lost years of reading, but I'll take it.
25. God Is Love: Essays from Portland Magazine by Brian Doyle (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2002. 140 pages)
Like the novel, Chicago, I found this title when I read about Brian Doyle's death and searched my local library for everything they had in their stacks. This is a collection of essays published in the University of Portland's publication, Portland Magazine, edited by Doyle. Reflecting the university's Catholic roots, the essays cover topics of spirituality from a variety of faith backgrounds. I love essays with a deep and abiding love, but for some reason rarely read them in the anthology format. I think, in part, the reason is that anthologies often feel inconsistent in their selections. This particular collection was of high quality, and I enjoyed almost every title. Still, my favorite part was the Introduction and selections written by Doyle, himself. I can't believe I'd never heard of him before this summer. Highly recommend!
Go to my reading lists page to see my reading lists from 2016 and previous years.
Here's my Goodreads page. Let's be friends!
I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
What are you reading these days?
p.s. This post includes affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!