Been There, Read That: Top 10 Summer Reads

Librarian and Alternating Current Press Deputy Editor Paige M. Ferro dishes up her favorite reads of summer 2018.

I read a lot — it’s part of my job. Libraries aren’t dead, people. In fact, they are alive and well and are dishing out thousands of free books in all mediums (audio, ebook, LARGE PRINT) every single day. I get to be part of that cycle, and that means I get handed a lot of books, and I hand off a lot of books, too. Here’s me handing you my Top Ten Just-Came-Out-This-Summer Reads! For a full reading list, or to check out what I’ve been writing, visit me here. Thanks — and happy reading!

There There
Tommy Orange
Urban Natives with urban problems — a telling of what it is to be Native American today, from the shifting perspectives of 13 Natives living and working in Oakland, California. This book sold out of its first printing before it was even published on June 5th, 2018. The book of the year, some people are heralding. Poignant, dramatic, deep, and real. The ending was unexpected and yet perfectly set up. For a debut, this novel is almost as perfect as it gets.

Madeline Miller
The evil witch or wicked stepsisters always get bad raps in fairytales. But we all should know better — people are simply not that one-sided. And when it comes to Greek mythology, not even the gods are as squeaky-clean as they make themselves out to be. Circe is narrated from the first-person perspective of the goddess witch Circe who traps Odysseus’ men on her island and turns them to pigs; this brief snippet is all we’re given as a view of her story in The Odyssey, but allow her to set the record straight. I love retellings of classic stories, and this one is no exception — beautiful writing, strong narrative, and an unearthing of the “real” motivations behind the myth.

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon
Robert Kurson
1968 was shaping up to be the worst year in current history for the United States — never had the country felt so divided in recent memory. The Vietnam War was spiraling out of control; Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on his hotel balcony in Memphis; Robert Kennedy was assassinated, as well; and the Soviets looked like they were going to be the first to land men on the moon. In a desperate attempt, NASA pushed to send three brave men to the moon — in just four months. I am not, perhaps, the first person to pick up a nonfiction book over fiction, but the storytelling aspect of this book blew me away. Never so timely a book, either — the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 launch is this December, and our country seems again at a low point in its unity. Reading this book I was, if even for a moment, proud again of what our country has accomplished.

Theory of Bastards
Audrey Schulman
How to describe this one? Let’s try — speculative fiction about a young scientist with reproductive issues who goes to study a group of bonobos in captivity that appear to have absolutely no discrimination in mating partners, unlike the rest of the animal kingdom. Part of the way through her study, the apocalypse happens. And things unravel quickly from there.

The Feather Thief
Kirk Wallace Johnson
The biggest natural-history crime of the century, and no one even knew it had happened. That was how the researchers at the Tring Museum describe it when they discover 90% of their bird skins missing, and currently being sold on the fly-tying black market. You will learn everything you didn’t know you didn’t know about fly-tying and feathers. Johnson takes his reader through the history of Wallace and Darwin discovering the theory of evolution and survival of the fittest at the same time by different means, through Victorian fashion, and through to the modern journey across Internet chat rooms to recover history’s lost treasures.

All the Names They Used for God
Anjali Sachdeva
A poignant short-story collection that hops through time and across distant lands, following the varied lives of the most varied people, all connected by their lack of faith and understanding of the mysteries of the world. Aren’t we all connected thusly? A beautiful debut that left me hanging in the best way — anxious for more from this new author, wondering how, or if, these characters all made it out alive.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
Michelle McNamara
Don’t read this book late at night alone in your house — that is what the East Area Rapist is looking for, and he will find you. This book is the true account of writer Michelle McNamara and her obsessive search to discover the true identity of the man who terrorized California for decades, leaving behind him a trail of fear.

Christine Mangan
Who doesn’t love not one but two unreliable narrators? A psychological thriller that builds slow and leaves you on the edge of your seat until the final page, Tangerine, is the story of a young couple and their unexpected guest. Set in Morocco in the 1950s, this is a delicious summer read with twisted love triangles, hidden traumas, and revealed secrets.

Sadness Is a White Bird
Moriel Rothman-Zecher
This is a hard book. Not only is it written so exquisitely that it makes you want to cry, you will actually cry at the heartbreaking depictions of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the love triangle of three young people trying to make their way through a broken world. Semi-autobiographical, this is a debut novel by a wonderful poet. Anxious to see what he comes out with next.

The Sparsholt Affair
Alan Hollinghurst
Oxford, London, 1940. The Blitz is raging overhead, and behind closed, black-out-curtained windows and doors, blitzes of the heart are raging in the young men of Oxford. The dashing young David Sparsholt has dropped in and turned everyone’s world upside down, particularly young Evert Dax, son of a famous writer and destined to become a writer himself. The juxtaposition of World War II and the tangled mess of the lives of the students inside the cushioned walls of the college was a great perspective on the different ways the war affected everyone. And I’m a sucker for a good LBGT+ romance, too.

PAIGE M. FERRO is Deputy Editor at Alternating Current Press. Her fiction has appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine and She holds degrees in Creative Writing, Literature, and Spanish from the University of Montana, and her writings focus on Queer Studies. You can find her online at her website.