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Small Talk: A summer between the book covers

The winds of the school year have blown my summertime reading window closed, but I made the most of it, as always. I find no shame in admitting I spent many an afternoon, accomplishing precious little and deep in a book.

I’d like to hand everyone a copy of the books I most enjoyed, but at least I will happily share the titles. My favorite read of the summer was “Delicious,” the first novel by chef and author Ruth Reichl. Friends have been recommending her books and I look forward to reading her earlier works. However, books like hers make me hungry and, worse, think I can cook. They are worth it.

If you are looking for a sassy, spiritual lift, I recommend “Hallelujah Anyway,” by Anne Lamott. It’s about offering mercy, even when you really don’t want to.

“Mrs. Saint and the Defectives” by Julie Lawson Timmer was a delightful surprise with a wonderfully original plot and quirky, lovable characters. It tells of unusual neighbors who bring joy into the protagonist’s life, in spite of her best efforts to avoid it. I also really loved “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin. Fikry owns a bookshop on an island, which endears him to me immediately, but he’ll remind you a bit of “A Man Called Ove.”

I indulged in two of R. Allen Chappell’s Navajo Nation Mystery series and have come to feel like I know Charlie Yazzi and his acquaintances. I caught up on No. 2, “Boy Made of Dawn,” and No. 3 “Ancient Blood,” having read the first in the series, “Navajo Autumn” a while back. I recommend them all.

I wandered back into Ireland in 590 A.D. and reveled in the storytelling of Kristin Gleeson, with “In Praise of Bees.” It’s a fascinating historical novel and mystery rolled into one.

For my sci-fi fix, I grabbed “Cinder” from my school library. It is the first of the Lunar Chronicles, a futuristic reworking of classic fairy tales, by Marissa Meyer, and pretty good reading for a young adult book. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic, considered a second-class citizen, who repairs a robot for the prince, and intrigue ensues.

A really different, and funny science fiction adventure I stumbled on, is “We are Legion (We are Bob)” by Dennis Taylor. Software expert Bob Johansson gets killed crossing the street. He wakes up a century later to find his mind has been uploaded into computer hardware and becomes an interstellar probe joining a global battle to be the first to find habitable planets.

I hope you don’t have to wait until next summer to find time to check these out. I’m thinking early fall evenings, perhaps by the fire. Let someone else do the dishes.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer with so many books and so little time. Contact her at [email protected].