The books I wanted to include in my summer reading guide but didn’t (and for good reason)

summer reading guide in progress

summer reading guide in progress. only two of the books pictured made the cut. 

Last year’s summer reading guide was a big hit, so I’m doing it again. You can get your 2013 edition of Ultimate Beach Reading next Wednesday on the blog. And just like last year, it will be free!

In last year’s guide, I included some books in the “new releases” section that hadn’t yet been released–so I hadn’t read them yet. But since the early press looked good and I was very much looking forward to reading them, I included them in the guide.

That turned out to be a mistake.

(If you read Drop Dead Healthy last year on my recommendation, I’m really sorry. I thought it was pretty stupid after I actually read it, and many of you agreed. And yet it has 165 reviews on Amazon with a 4-star average. I guess that goes to show the value of a trusted reading guide, huh?)

This year’s summer reading guide also has a new releases category, but this year I only included books that came out in late spring that I actually read

And yet, it’s fun to talk about the books we’re looking forward to for summer reading, and I’ve listed some ones I’m excited about below. But I’m not recommending them…yet.

lucy variations

The Lucy Variations, Sara Zarr

I like a good coming-of-age story, and this YA novel sounds like the competitive piano version of Save the Last Dance .

homeward bound

Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, Emily Matchar

I am definitely intrigued…but then again I thought Radical Homemakers sounded really interesting, too–and I hated it. And the buzz that’s starting to leak out from bloggers I know isn’t exactly complimentary.

let's explore

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris

I actually finished this one since I finalized the summer reading guide, and there’s no way it would have made the cut. It’s not his best work, and way too crude to recommend. There were several essays I didn’t bother to finish. Of course David Sedaris isn’t for everyone, but I wouldn’t recommend this collection to any but his most devoted fans.

world's strongest

The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Strength, Faith, and the Power of Family, Josh Hanagarne

This brand new memoir sounds almost too outrageous to be true. A weightlifting librarian’s memoir of overcoming adversity? Yes please!

mountains echoed

And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Houssini

Everyone has high hopes for Houssini’s latest. But let’s be honest: I abandoned The Kite Runner 50 pages in because of the thematic content. I’m proceeding with caution on this one.

Have you read any of these yet?

In comments tell us 1. a book you’re looking forward to reading this summer or 2. a time you were really looking forward to reading a new book…and it disappointed you. 

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  1. Julie @ The Family CEO says:

    I have The World’s Strongest Librarian on my list. It’s just too intriguing to ignore.

  2. Shana Norris says:

    I’m looking forward to Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Half of a Yellow Sun was so very good.

    Also can’t wait to get my hands on We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo.

  3. Re-reading: Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton)
    Beach reading: Save, Send, Delete (Danusha Goska) and The Blue Castle (LM Montgomery)
    Finishing: The Unintended Reformation (Brad Gregory)
    Non-fiction: The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist (Matt Baglio) and The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

    The most disappointing book I’ve read recently is The Hunger Games. The story was great, but the fragmented writing left much. to. be. desired.

    • Anne says:

      The Blue Castle very nearly made the reading guide! It’s an old favorite of mine.

      I hear you on The Hunger Games. Great story, not so great writing. I could make an argument that the style suited the post-apocalyptic genre…but I don’t think that’s actually what Collins was going for. And it would have been a better read with better writing. In my opinion.

  4. Shana Norris says:

    Christina: Totally agree re: The Hunger Games. I’m not sure if I just got used to it, or if the writing really improved, but the other two books in the series didn’t irritate me quite as much.

  5. I am adding The World’s Strongest Librarian to my list! I am a School Librarian and I get so excited to read the newly released Newbery winners, but the past few years have been disappointing– I really enjoy the winners, but they never seem to be stories that kids will like.

    • Anne says:

      “I really enjoy the winners, but they never seem to be stories that kids will like.”

      Interesting point about the kids not liking the Newberry books. I really liked 2010 winner When You Reach me, but I have no idea whether the kids did or not. Mine aren’t old enough for that one yet…

      • I loved that one too! I’ve tried to get my students to read it but they seldom make it through. I think to fully appreciate it, you need to have a nice Wrinkle in Time foundation and I don’t know of many teachers who assign that book for the 5th/6th grade crowd anymore. The poor kids just got confused! They were all thinking “what the heck is tesser??”

  6. Jeannie says:

    This is a great post and I’m loving the comments too. I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Strout (who wrote Olive Kitteridge and Abide With Me), so I am eagerly anticipating her new book, The Burgess Boys. In fact I took it out of the library but then company arrived for 9 days and I couldn’t get to it and had to return it. Now I’m 12th in the “holds” queue!! Grrrr… patience is a virtue … patience is a virtue …

    I’m also a big Anne Tyler fan so was excited about her latest, The Beginner’s Goodbye — but it was blah and seemed weirdly dated (thirtysomething protagonist in 2013 seemed like a sixtysomething guy from the 50’s). I’m so glad I didn’t buy that one!!

    • Anne says:

      Oh no! That’s so sad to have your hands on a book and then have to take it back unopened. Sadly, I know this from experience….

      I’ve never read any Elizabeth Strout or Anne Tyler. Yet. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Somehow that doesn’t surprise me at all. I loved the idea of the book, but she didn’t take it in the direction I was expecting. At all.

  7. Jimi says:

    Oh man, just last night my book club chose the David Sedaris book for next month’s meeting. And, of course, since it’s new, it’s not available at the library. I was going to buy it, but after reading your brief review, I’m not sure I want to spend the money. What a bummer. (But I loved your post and can’t wait for the summer reading guide!!)

    • Anne says:

      Sigh. I hate to kill your anticipation…but then again I thought it was pretty seriously lacking. I haven’t read anything by him I’ve liked as much as Me Talk Pretty One Day. This one just didn’t come close.

      I don’t know how much you know about the book, but this one includes several short fiction narratives that are written from someone else’s point of view. I hated each and every one of those. Way too dark for my taste.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Can’t wait for the summer reading guide!

    I’m looking forward to rereading Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith. I remember loving it years ago and hope to still like it.

  9. Jennifer H says:

    This book is on my library request list: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. It’s labeled science-fiction, but hey, I love the idea of a 24-hour bookstore, don’t you? I am 12 out of 17 on the request list, so maybe it will be summer reading for me 🙂

    Can’t wait till next Wednesday to get more recommendations!

    • Leese says:

      Mr. Penumbra’s was very interesting. I sort of felt like it was a more grown-up version of the Mysterious Benedict Society series of books. Besides, a sort of insider’s perspective of google, hey, all sorts of interesting stuff! It’s one of the few books I really didn’t know where it was going to wind up going. I thought it was a worthwhile read and have passed my copy along to several other friends since!

  10. I couldn’t finish The Kite Runner, either. Made me sick to my stomach and I just could not do it.

    I’m excited about The Lucy Variations, too. I love Zarr’s work. And I’m planning to reread The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. LOVED it.

  11. MK says:

    I loved (loved as in stayed up all night reading it and slid into my Spanish class seat after returning the book to the teacher the next day…she went really easy on me that day!) Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon, but his follow-up work was such a waste I can’t even remember what it was called.

  12. I am so eager to read Hosseini’s new book ~ I loved his others, especially A Thousand Splendid Suns. Right now I am eagerly plowing through Dan Brown’s Inferno.

    My biggest disappointment was The Night Circus ~ so much hype about it but I just couldn’t get into it.

    Excited to see your Summer recommendations!

    • Shana Norris says:

      I had a hard time with The Night Circus, too. It took me a looooooong time to get into it, but once I did I liked it. I listened to the audio version. In retrospect I wish I’d read a paper copy.

    • Jennifer says:

      I loved the Night Circus, all the way to the end. Part of it was just fascination with what was going to happen, and then what happened seemed too predictable.

  13. HopefulLeigh says:

    I read The Kite Runner at everyone’s urging. It was difficult in places and the ending left me unsettled. It was well written but…I don’t know. I have a hard time recommending it. I can’t remember if I started the second book and stopped or just speed read through it- either way, it bored me. I’ll pass on the 3rd. Adding the librarian memoir to my To Read list, however! That sounds fascinating.

  14. Breanne says:

    What a fun, fun idea! I’m looking forward to seeing your summer guide. I don’t have my summer list made yet but some of these will make it on there.

    I started JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy mostly out of curiosity to see what her adult writing would be like but I closed it after two chapters. She’s a great storyteller and I love the Harry Potter books but this one was just too much for me.

  15. Ellie says:

    I’m reading The Naked Gospel right now and I feel like the author engages in the same “theological gymnastics” he accuses other of doing. BUT… he has these moments when he explains faith in such a way that I breathe a huge sigh of relief and think “I’m not a failure after all!” So maybe that’s a proceed with caution recommendation. One book I expected to hate was Rich Dad, Poor Dad but wound up reading half of it in one sitting. My dad recommended it and said it would make me look at money in a different way and he was right.

  16. Stacey says:

    Love these types of posts!! I am also reading The Inferno now and am trying hard to do things other than read. It is a book that probably should have waited for vacation! I am really looking forward to J. Courtney Sullivan’s The Engagements. Maine was a perfect beach read last year and am hoping her latest will be just as good. I can’t wait to see you list 🙂

  17. Ironically I absolutely loved The Kite Runner, but rather disliked A Thousand Splendid Suns (for some reason it read more like a romance novel to me, but it could have been because I read a Danish translation). I will give the new one a chance though.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Anne says:

      Oh my goodness, I get that. I read Bridget Jones’s Diary in German ages ago (back when it was A Thing), and I had a terrible time telling which proper nouns were words I didn’t know, and which ones were people’s names! I probably should have given it a chance in English, but I never did.

  18. Leese says:

    It’s an older one, but I just read Tales of a Female Nomad and it was very interesting. When her marriage is on the brink of falling apart, the author and her husband decide to spend a couple of weeks reevaluating, and so she leaves the country. While she’s gone, he decides they should divorce, and so she ultimately decides to travel the world.

    She truly dives into other cultures, picking up a couple of languages, living among locals, and making good friends (largely with locals, but with some other expats). She really emphasized the importance of developing community, even if you’re only somewhere for a short amount of time.

    She had authored several books for kids before setting out on her trips and used that money to fund her travel – plus primarily went to third world countries so lived very frugally – and then wrote more about the places/cultures she visited for kids as she travelled. The diversity of places she went was an interesting mix.

    Overall I liked it a lot (but am not nearly as much a fan of the Female Nomad and Friends or whatever the semi-sequel is called) and couldn’t help but smile when the itty bitty little remote my place where I have family living was mentioned! 🙂

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