Looking Back: July in Books

I officially left my job and embarked on a summer of unemployment in June, but the unemployment lifestyle didn't truly begin to feel real until July. Two family vacations meant lots of travel time, downtime, and reading time, and there were some true gems mixed into my July reads:

The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russel: I've had people telling me for years to read this book, and yet for some reason it has taken me until just this week to finally read it. I actually started it in April, set it down after 50 pages, and had to start it again last week to get back into it--but once I did, I was hooked. Russel uses a vision of the future in which Jesuit priests are exploring other worlds to probe questions of morality, philosophy, religion, and humanity. Full thoughts to come.

The Wife, by Meg Wolitzer: Another one I've had on my radar for what feels like ages (July was a good month for catching up on some TBR books in my world), and another one I absolutely devoured, start to finish. I read and enjoyed The Interestings and was struck by the power of Wolitzer's writing, though I occasionally questioned where it was going. Never happened with The Wife, which is a searing, honest portrayal of a crumbling marriage, looking back over the history of how the woman became the wife. Hand-in-hand with Dept. of Speculation, this will make you take a good, hard look at marriage and all its implications.

To Have and Have Not, by Ernest Hemingway: Continuing my attempt to read all of Hemingway's works, To Have and Have Not traveled down to the BVI with me this month. While the setting is different--Havana and the Florida Keys, rather than the Caribbean--it felt right to read Hemingway's account of a boat captain looking for work and finding adventure in the sticky, sweltering sun of Great Camanoe island.

Tigerman, by Nick Harkaway: I adored Harkaway's Angelmaker, and though I have yet to read The Gone-Away World, Harkaway is cemented in my brain as a talented author who is capable of twirling together the absurd and the serious in such a way as to make us look more closely at our own shockingly normal lives.  Tigerman lived up to this expectation, relaying the story of an aging British Sergeant and a young boy who join together to fight against unseen forces in a sort of grotesquely wonderful scene ripped from the comic books. Full review to follow in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky, by Lydia Netzer: As with Tigerman, I picked up How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky because I fell head-over-heels in love with Netzer's debut novel, Shine Shine Shine. Like her previous work, Netzer's newest dabbles in space and romance, this time pulling together a couple who were groomed by their mothers to fall in love and be perfect for each other. It's quirky and weird and a little bit crazy, which makes it perfectly whimsical.

World of Trouble, by Ben H. Winters: Winters wrapped up his Last Policeman trilogy with World of Trouble, which continued the story of Detective Hank Palace, out to solve crimes in a world that is about to end. I love the creativity and cleverness of this mystery trilogy, which uses a pre-apocalyptic setting to repeatedly challenge readers to consider what they might do if, say, they knew the world was going to end on October 3rd. My full review of World of Trouble.

The Visitors, by Sally Beauman: The Visitors was not a perfect novel, but it was an epic one, spanning ancient Egyptian history, stories of British and American archeologists in the early 20th century, and family politics in the later 20th century. The familial storyline felt cumbersome at times, but the detail about Egypt and its many tombs and myriad secrets is compelling and fascinating for anyone with a passing interest in Egyptology. My full review of The Visitors.

What were the best books you read in July?


  1. Emily@Asthe Crowe FliesJuly 30, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    Nice list! That's funny--I took To Have and Have Not with me on a Caribbean trip once, too. I didn't actually finish it, but that's okay. I appreciated the atmosphere! I haven't read any of the other books that you read, but the book that blew me away in July was Ruby by Cynthia Bond.

  2. Looks like a good month. This summer I've managed to dip into a fair bit of back list as well, which makes me happy. We all need time to catch up now and then.

  3. Loved The Wife too and adored How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky. Went straight to the library afterwards and picked up Shine, Shine, Shine. It's sitting here on my bedside table but so many other books are arguing for attention! You're making me re-consider, though! Maybe I will just read it before it's time to bring it back :)

  4. I need your thoughts on The Sparrow. Because THAT BOOK. And I can't wait to read Netzer. Cannot. Wait.

  5. Like the selection. Need to check out a few of them

  6. I hope you enjoy them!

  7. Oh. My. God. SO THINKY. SO SMART. SO HEARTBREAKING. SO GOOD. (Re: The Sparrow. The Netzer is also fabulous, but not like The Sparrow. Is anything like The Sparrow?)

  8. I think I liked Shine, Shine, Shine a teensy bit more, but it's a tough call. They're both excellent. Hope you got a chance to read it before it was due back!

  9. I always find it refreshing to dip into some backlist. Like visiting old friends, even though I haven't met them before.

  10. The atmosphere of To Have and Have Not was good for a beachy climate, but I wasn't wowed with the novel overall (I can see why you wouldn't finish it... the middle just wanders away like it got lost and ended up in a different story).

    I've heard a lot of good things about Ruby but haven't read it yet.


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