Lowell Reading Club: Our Favorite Books from the Summer of 2019

While summer isn’t officially over for another two weeks, Labor Day seems to mark the end of long lazy days at the beach for most people. Before we close the book – so to speak – on the season, we thought we’d share our favorite reads from the past few months. This is the first of an occasional series in which we’ll share our favorite books.

Before we get to the books, a word about our reading styles.

Until recently, Amanda’s reading life revolved almost entirely around picture books and board books. However, now that her boys are getting older, she’s returned to the world of grown-up literature. Amanda isn’t a fan of chick lit but is willing to give almost any other title a try. However, her favorite books include cozy mysteries and World War II-era novels.

Maryalene has apparently never met a book she didn’t want to read – as evidenced by the 2,600+ titles on her GoodReads to-be-read list. Well, that’s not entirely true. You won’t find any bodice ripper romances or Shades of Grey here, but she’s game for almost anything else literature-wise. Typically, she has four books going at a time: non-fiction for the morning, fiction before bed, an audiobook for the car and cleaning and a chapter book to read to the kids at night.

Fiction? Tina doesn’t have time for that. She owns two businesses, helps family members young and old and has big plans to build a greenhouse. If she’s going to take a break to read, she wants to be learning something. So we can almost guarantee that Tina’s top picks will always be non-fiction.

One more thing before we dive into our favorite summer stories: Amazon links on this page are affiliate links. As part of the Amazon Associate program, qualifying purchases made through these links may result in us earning a commission. However, you don’t have to make a purchase to read these books. With a library card, you should be able to borrow them all for free through the Kent District Library.

Now, on to our favorite summer books and along with an explanation of why we recommend each one.

Amanda’s Favorite Summer Read

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

5 out of 5 stars

I enjoy reading books which take place during World War II. This novel, however, was about an aspect of that period that I hadn’t read about before.

Elise is the daughter of German parents who have been in the US for almost 20 years. She finds herself in an internment camp in Texas with her family after her father is accused of being a Nazi sympathizer in 1943. There she meets Mariko, a teen of similar age, whose family is from Japan. The two form a friendship, and when Elise and her family leave the camp to return to Germany, they make plans to meet again and keep in touch. The story alternates between Elise’s present day quest to find Mariko and memories from her past.

If you enjoy historical fiction centered around World War II, this is one to pick up.

Maryalene’s Favorite Summer Read

The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright

4 out of 5 stars

This probably wasn’t the best book I read this summer. That honor goes to Still Life by Louise Penny. However, Still Life feels more like a cozy fall mystery than a beach read so I’ll go with The Canterbury Sisters here.

The Canterbury Sisters is chick lit so I won’t recommend it to Amanda, but if you enjoy stories of female bonding, this may be for you. Che Milan’s flamboyant mother has died and left a final request that her daughter carry her ashes to Canterbury. Reeling from a surprise break-up, Che ends up joining a group of women who are walking the traditional route to Canterbury Cathedral. As in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the women decide each will tell a story of love as they walk.

Let me interject to say that at this point in the book, I was prepared to roll my eyes through the rest of the novel. It seemed like a rather boring set-up, and quite frankly, a bit corny. However, the stories ended up being different than anticipated. Sure, the author had a lot of stereotypes in the pages – the character with a secret, the mother-daughter duo at odds, etc. – but she also took some unexpected turns.

Overall, it was everything I want in a summer read – a quick page-turner that has a relatively light topic but still contains enough substance to carry the story.

Tina’s Favorite Summer Read

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard H. Thaler

4 out of 5 stars

A friend once told me that you can watch a movie or read just for fun. That may be true for some people, but picking up a book of fiction just doesn’t feel right to me. I’d rather spend my time on non-fiction.

Being fond of economics, the title alone led me to this book. The Making of Behavioral Economics is a collision of practical economic theory with our humanity. From donating the organ of a loved one to choosing whether to drink the wine we’ve been saving in the basement, Thaler makes a strong point of how we often actively work against our best interests. He uses relatable experiences and anecdotes, and his stories often hit a nerve when you realize you have made similar “irrational” decisions that made perfect sense in the moment. Hopefully, you can laugh at yourself in hindsight or at least realize that you are only human.

I recommend this book to students who are actively pursuing a business or marketing major. It never hurts to have a better understanding of how the human brain rationalizes decisions. The economist in me is still grappling with this theory no matter how much it makes sense.

What about you? What was the best book you read this summer? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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