Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Summer Book Report

I usually talk about books that I've read on Wednesdays when I link up with Kat for Unraveled Wednesday. Last week I was so thrilled to finally finish the BSJ that I didn't even mention any books, but there have been some good ones so I want to get caught up. 

First, there were a couple of average books. 

I think I would have enjoyed Bomb Shelter much more if I had read it 20 years ago. While many of Philpott's essays were humorous, reading about all of her anxieties got to be a bit much after a while. I found the essay about meditation especially tedious. She shares her worries and crippling anxiety, and while every mother (and really every human being has something), many of her concerns seem to be about her children leaving. Her son's pediatrician provides her with a brochure, “Getting Your Baby Ready to Leave Home,” and she sees this as an “attack upon my soul”. There may be some hyperbole there, but much of motherhood involves teaching your children to be strong, independent, and think for themselves. It's often hard to let them do it but you cannot "swallow them whole". "Sometimes when I thought about the children leaving, I had a primal urge to swallow them whole, just absorb them back into my body and keep them with me forever."

I rarely read publishers' blurbs anymore because they are too often way off the mark. I definitely should have looked at the one for 100 Poems to Break Your Heart more closely though. I was expecting a compilation of poetry for times of grief or sadness, and while it is that, it is also quite dense and full of analysis. Edward Hirsch has chosen 100 poems and arranged them chronologically, from 1815 to 2018, with poems from many diverse sources. There were several that really spoke to me, such as Sharon Olds' "The Race", Kate Daniels' "The Addict's Mother", and Patricia Smith's "Ethel's Sestina". The last one is about Hurricane Katrina, and begins "Ethel Freeman's body sat for days in her wheelchair outside the New Orleans Convention Center." It is indeed heartbreaking.

I would have preferred more modern poems with less analysis that would have allowed me to develop my own thoughts about the poems, but this is a good volume to choose if you are looking for plenty of grief ("We are not so much diminished as enlarged by grief") and analysis to go along with it.

Then I read two really good books. 

I really enjoyed Kevin Wilson's previous unique and quirky novel, Nothing to See Here, so I was quick to request Now Is Not the Time to Panic when it was available on NetGalley. This story about two 16-year-olds who don't quite fit in, the art that they make one hot summer, and what spins out from there is just as interesting and original as Nothing to See Here. Frankie and Zeke are both just muddling along in Coalfield, Tennessee when they meet, create an arresting and enigmatic phrase (“The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.”) and artwork to go along with it. They make copies, post them anonymously all over town, and then things begin to spiral out of their control. The glimpse into Frankie's and Zeke's lives 20 years later, who they have become, and the tale they tell and why added a welcome element to the novel beyond the usual coming-of-age story. There are several other characters, Frankie's mother and her next-door neighbor, that provide more elements of surprise. This is a story about not fitting in, identity, who owns art, the power of art, and secrets, all wrapped up in a captivating novel.

The only thing missing from my ARC was a page with the poster, but I don't know if that is something that will be included in the final edition. If not, the reader's imagination may serve just as well. Something that I especially liked was Kevin Wilson's "On Writing Now Is Not the Time to Panic" at the beginning of the book. He explains how and why he came to write this book and what it means to him. It was so personal and good that I felt primed to like this book before I even started the first chapter. This book will be published on Nov. 8.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is quite simply, an epic book. I was not a big fan of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and found it a sappy fairy tale, and I'm also not much of a gamer, but this coming-of-age story about Sam Masur and Sadie Green was one that I was happy to immerse myself in. From Sam and Sadie's reconnection in a Cambridge train station after an initial meeting in a hospital game room where they met as children and bonded over Super Mario Bros., Zevin tells their story over 30 years through the video games that they design together. From their first success with Ichigo, through other successes and failures with games like Both SidesOur Infinite Days, and Pioneers, there is intense collaboration, heartbreak, shared passion, and creativity. Sam's roommate, Marx, is the third person in the triangle, adding to this long-term relationship's messy dynamics.

Zevin shows us that games are just another way of telling stories, ones we can immerse ourselves in for escape and art. She does this incredibly well in Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and I highly recommend you consider reading it, gamer or not.

"What is a game?" Marx said. "It's tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. It's the possibility of infinite rebirth, infinite redemption. The idea that if you keep playing, you could win. No loss is permanent, because nothing is permanent, ever."

There are still a couple of weeks left to fit in some summer reading. What books have you read this summer that you would recommend? 


  1. Well, "Bomb Shelter" is on my TBR list, but I think I may just delete it. That doesn't sound like a book for me! I did finish "Fellowship Point" last night and thoroughly enjoyed it!

  2. I really enjoyed Bomb Shelter, but I think it's probably because I'm a lot closer in age to Philpott; I can see how all her anxiety could quickly become exhausting. I think how we connect with books (or not) depends so much on our current stage of life. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow -- I've been hearing a lot about it and didn't think it would be the kind of book I'd like, but I think I'll likely give it a try.

  3. I felt the same way about Bomb Shelter. I recently read and enjoyed Mercury Pictures Presents and The Colony. I'm currently re-reading The Shell Seekers and I'm loving it. I read it over 30 years ago, around the time it was first published, so I don't remember the details, but I do remember the feeling I had the first time I read it.

    1. I have The Colony on hold and am looking forward to reading it. The feeling of reading The Shell Seekers has stuck with me through three or four re-readings. It's pure comfort reading for me!

  4. You are reading up a storm, Bonny. I haven't read any books that knocked my socks off, but I did enjoy The Firekeeper's Daughter and How to Walk Away. FKD is supposedly a YA book, but it didn't read that way to me. I tried to read Count the Ways, but it was not my kind of book. I found it depressing, repetitive, and long. I managed to get about halfway through, then gave it up. Sooner or later I will find something, after all, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while.

  5. Sadly, I did not read much this summer. I certainly didn't read anything worth recommending. I hope fall is better on that score.

  6. I've been looking forward to Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow! Glad you liked it, Bonny! I just finished Mercury Pictures Presents (which I did like quite a bit), and I managed to get through a Trollope novel (my summer "goal"). I recently finished Remote Sympathy (very good) and A Year of Marvellous Ways (also very good). My reading has been hit or miss this summer. :-)

  7. I may skip the poetry book. At this time, I am not looking for more grief. Your reviews are always so thoughtful. Isn't it interesting how our age reflects our perception of what we read?

  8. whew - two of the books on my near-term TBR are those last two :-) I'm really looking forward to both and love that you enjoyed them, too!


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