Summer reading guide rejects. {Quick Lit}

Summer reading guide rejects. {Quick Lit}

Drumroll please … the 2015 MMD Summer Reading Guide is launching Friday, May 15. This is the fourth annual guide.

I started reading “summer reading” books back in October. As always, I read a ton of books to vet them for this year’s summer reading guide. Some of them earned a spot; some were just plain duds. (This year’s crop of summer novels had a disconcerting number of the latter.)

I read plenty of terrific books that nevertheless weren’t summer reading material. And there were some releases coming early this summer that I couldn’t manage to get my hands on. (Blast.)

I’ve always loved getting a peek at the outtakes, so today I’m sharing mine. Here are 7 books that didn’t make the cut:

Summer Reading Rejects
Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina

Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina

You may know Misty Copeland from her stint as a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance. (Don’t hate me—but I’ve never seen it.) Copeland made history by earning a spot as the only African American soloist at the American Ballet Theater. In this memoir she examines her path to success, from her peripatetic childhood to the incredible opportunities ballet has brought her. (I loved the chapter about dancing with Prince.) This look into Copeland’s life and the world of dance is fascinating, though the narrative sags in places.

More info →
I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller

I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller


Best thriller, best of 2014, best debut: every conversation I’ve had about this book has been laced with superlatives. It was a good book (although I wouldn’t want to burden any book with those kinds of expectations). Two problems: while I like big, thick books, there aren’t any doorstops in the reading guide (well, at least not to the tune of its 700 pages). And some of the storylines are pretty gruesome. Okay, seriously gruesome. Strong narrative drive, intriguing plot, but maybe not a crowd-pleaser. At least not this crowd.

More info →
Magic Hour

Magic Hour

I first discovered Hannah when so many of you recommended her as a sweet spot author. You recommended this as one of her best, and I enjoyed it. The poignant story sucks you right in, and I especially admired Hannah’s depiction of female relationships: mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. But I cried like a baby during the last two chapters, and I don’t think a good beach read should make you cry. At least not a whole box of tissues’ worth.

More info →
The Year of Pleasures

The Year of Pleasures

Over her long career, Berg has consistently written strong female characters at many ages and stages. In this book, I appreciate her portrait of small town life, her recently widowed 55 year old protagonist, and the significance of different kinds of friendship to the story. When the main character was in a bad way, it wasn’t a man who came to her rescue—it was her friends. (Fun fact: Liane Moriarty cites Berg as her favorite author and early inspiration.)

More info →
Sisterland: A Novel

Sisterland: A Novel

Auden said that for an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five; here's mine. Sittenfeld can write; she does what she does very well. But it's not to my taste. I enjoyed so much about this book. But her brief yet vivid depictions of adolescent sex make me shudder. It’s not because they’re badly written, or particularly graphic: I think it’s because she nails it. These passages are painfully accurate, emphasis on painful. They take me right back to scandalous gossip sessions in the high school bathroom, and that’s not a place I’m eager to revisit.

More info →
Crossing to Safety

Crossing to Safety

I adore this book, but it’s not in this year’s guide because if you’ve hung out on MMD for any amount of time, you probably already know that. (Read it!) This novel asks, "How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these?" The answer: just like this. Stegner weaves a compelling story out of four ordinary lives and their extraordinary, life-changing friendship as it spans across forty years, tackling themes of love and marriage, calling and duty. One of the best explorations of friendship in literature. Finish the book and go right back to the beginning—so much becomes clear on a re-read. More info →
To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird

Like every other reader on the planet, I can’t wait to get my hand’s on Harper Lee’s mysterious second novel To Set a Watchman, due out July 14. I was strongly tempted to include this 1960 classic in the guide: I’ll be re-reading it early summer so I’m primed for the new release, and many of you will want to do the same. But do you really need me to tell you to read To Kill a Mockingbird? I didn’t think so. More info →

P.S. Last year’s reading guide rejects, and my summer reading fail.

49 comments | Comment

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  1. Amy says:

    I am going to get Crossing to Safety! I have a couple of books I want to finish quickly so I will be ready for your new Summer Reading Guide! Thanks for posting this. I have reviewed Dear Mr. Knightley here.
    Have a great day!

  2. Arenda says:

    I love that you included the word ‘peripatetic’ in your book review; makes me smile every time I read it. Fun to read your out-takes (just re-read TKAM and it was wonderful!), and looking forward to your summer reading guide in a few days! Cheers.

  3. I’m reading To Kill A Mockingbird right now. I had forgotten how wonderful it is.
    Kristen Hannah’s books strike me as emotionally manipulative. I won’t read Jodi Picoult for the same reason.

  4. Julia says:

    I love Crossing to Safety. What a fragile, beautiful story. And I read it on a beach in Delaware, incidentally, so I count it as summer reading. 😉

      • Anne says:

        The summer reading guide is launching Friday so I posted Quick Lit early. (I shared on social media but couldn’t notify everyone that way, unfortunately). I’ll leave the link-up an extra few days to make sure everyone has time to share their posts.

  5. Cath in Ottawa says:

    I so so so love Crossing to Safety. Can’t wait to see what actually made the cut!

  6. Bethann says:

    Thanks for this list because I always love reading your reviews/recommendations and can’t wait for your 4th summer reading list!!!
    Ohhhh, I’ll have to add “Crossing to Safety” to my list! I love reading those type of books as you describe…rereading them after finishing to catch everything.

  7. Jeannie says:

    Even your outtakes look good! I’m especially interested in the Berg and Hannah books (I haven’t read any Kristin Hannah).

  8. Emily says:

    Oh, I love the Year of Pleasures. My favorite Berg book. I actually re-read this just about every year. 🙂 We Are All Welcome Here is good, too. I agree on Curtis S., though. She’s not my cup of tea.

  9. Julie says:

    I love, love, love Elizabeth Berg and would include her on any list, any time. But I am 60, not in my 30s and I think much of Berg’s appeal for me is how she nails life after 50 for women. I am looking forward to seeing what books made the cut!

  10. Amy Patton says:

    Anne, I’m so excited and honored you gave Hannah a shot. I know I’ve only mentioned Magic Hour a hundred times here and in FB. I’m glad you liked it and saw its value. You are so right though Magic Hour (and probably Firefly Lane) are books you might start on a beach chair but want to end in the privacy of your own space with a box of Kleenex. You are a trooper. Thanks for this list. Can’t wait until Friday.

  11. I read To Kill a Mockingbird in grade 9 and really did not enjoy it. I think my adult self would love it. I really need to reread it so I think it will go on my summer reading list! Looking forward to seeing your list on Friday!

    • Dawn says:

      I didn’t care for TKAM as a teenager, when it was required in high school. But I re-read it as an adult and got it. It is brilliant. I am going to re-read it again this summer; it’s been about 8 years since my last read.

  12. Dana says:

    My husband just started I am Pilgrim…it sounds like the kind of book he will love, but not a book for me.

    I am planning to read TKAM before To Set a Watchman comes out.

    Just ( in the last hour) finished The Last Bookaneer By Matthew Pearl. I wanted to love it, but…it was a good read but not great. The story premise is fascinating, but it sagged in places.
    Made me want to read Under The Wide and Starry Sky in my TBR pile next since both are about Robert Louis Stephenson.

    Lots of folks are gushing about The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, so it is on my list to check out. Never read anything by her or Elizabeth Berg before.

    Also reading By The Book, a compilation of the weekly interviews of authors ( and other famous folk) from the NYT Book review. I am loving it. Of course it is just causing me to add tons of books to my never-to-be finished reading pile! It is interesting to see which books get mentioned over and over as favorites…Little Women, Middlemarch Harry Potter to name a few.

  13. Andrea says:

    I’m a big fan of Curtis Sittenfeld, and I loved Sisterland (even more than I loved American Wife, which is also so good). I think she has the ability to pull the reader completely into the story, so that you look up from the book and realize with a jolt that real life is still going on! Sittenfeld is writing Pride & Prejudice for The Austen Project (though none of those novels have completely thrilled me yet).

    • Anne says:

      Oh, I’m definitely reading her version of P&P (and I’ve heard literary critics aplenty say they will be devastated if that one isn’t good, despite the mediocrity of books 1-3 of The Austen Project), although my reaction to every book of hers I’ve read so far makes me very nervous for P&P…

  14. Kari says:

    I read ‘I Am Pilgrim’ and ‘Sisterland’ last summer and enjoyed both of them. In fact, I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel to Pilgrim. But I love your reasons for why they didn’t make the list. Books are not created equal. I know the season plays a big role on what types of books I read.

  15. Theresa Mattina says:

    I love to peruse reading lists…thanks for this one! I have read a few of them but the list made me think
    I am looking forward to finishing the Miss Buncle series from DE Stevenson I read Miss Buncle’s Book and it reminded me of Jane Austen/Barbara Pym….funny because of the characterizations.
    I also think I will finally give the Outlander series a try.
    PLus I do think tips on writing a good book review would be interesting!

  16. Melissa says:

    I enjoyed I am Pilgrim but I did get lost in all the details. So. Much. Information. I really had to focus to read that book!

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