Here at Knock Knock, we’re not “regular bookworms”—we’re literature zealots. We’re ravenous book lovers, devouring novels, newspapers, magazines, and RSS feeds on a daily basis, and end up still asking the reading gods for extra helpings. So in our newest feature, “Between the Stacks,” we’re delighted to share our own reading recommendations and reviews.
Tonight’s the official start of summer, which makes perfect timing to offer up our final suggestions for your own summer reading list. In this post, Kate, our associate editor, Dayna, our assistant editor, Erin, our managing editor, Travis, our sales associate, and Jamie, our editor at large, share their top choices for the season. Now let the Personal Library Kits feast!
(From left to right) Kate, Dayna, Jamie, and Travis. Note Jamie’s Bartleby shirt. (But if you “would prefer not to,” it’s okay.)
Kate’s picks: Because I commute an hour each way to work, I do a lot of my “reading” with books on tape. (Technically, they’re on CD. But “books on tape” sounds cooler.)
"The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith
1. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I recently “read” this and enjoyed it so much, that I plan to “read” the entire series. I can’t imagine better summer reading: light, witty, humanistic, but real page-turners. I have just started book two, Tears of the Giraffe. He has a gift for understatement that goes down like a cool glass of water on a hot day.
2. The Great Black Way: L.A. in the 1940s and the Lost African-American Renaissance by RJ Smith. I just started reading this, and it’s on the nonfiction end. I am developing a passion for Los Angeles history, and this describes an area not far from where I grew up, Central Avenue in South Los Angeles, and an amazing part of American history that has (inexplicably) been more or less forgotten.
"Advanced Style" by Ari Seth Cohen
1. Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen. There is nothing sexier in this world than a crazy old lady in a leopard-print pantsuit. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration or a complete lie, but I still find mountains of respect for the graceful aged women who keep themselves looking fresh and stylish in their, shall we say, advanced years. In Ari Seth Cohen’s book, which originated from his incredible blog, photos of old women looking snazzy in everything from Chanel coats to Manolo shoes are exhibited. When I’m on the beach this summer, being passed by swimsuit-clad beefcakes and busty babes, I’ll happily find solace in a few old women in pearls and fur coats. I’ll be the one wearing a body-length swim tunic.
2. Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks by Zack Hample. For those who have dedicated their lives to baseball or have occasionally drank a few brews in a parking lot of a stadium or even for those who half-heartedly watched Moneyball because Brad Pitt is dreamy, I suggest you read this book. There is no doubt that summer is about baseball and getting rowdy at games, so if you want to avoid being the jerk who keeps complaining about how bored you are, Watching Baseball Smarter will change all of that for you. It’s informative, interesting, and pleasantly simple. Don’t know what the infield fly rule is? Learn up. Like to know why pitchers pee on their hands? The secret is revealed. This book will make you look like you were born behind the plate.
"Dead End in Norvelt" by Jack Gantos
1. Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. I saw Jack Gantos speak on a panel at the Los Angeles Festival of Books in late April. He was completely charming. I love his writing—so funny, vivid, and clean.
2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Someone I love and admire recommended this to me ages ago. It’s been sitting in the tall stack of books next to my bed since then, waiting to be read. If the first few pages are any indication—and I believe they are!—it’s going to be brilliant. The voice is so strong and compelling. Plus, the whole author/pseudonym backstory is a great industry-insider twist.
"Half Broke Horses: A Real Life Novel" by Jeannette Walls
1. Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls. Like most books in my collection, I stumbled across this gem at the airport, just before a cross-country flight. Part memoir and part fiction, Jeanette Walls’s “true-life novel” about her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, does not disappoint. Simply put, this woman was a badass. Born in 1901 in a dirt hut somewhere in New Mexico, Lily leaves home at age fifteen—alone on horseback—to teach on the Arizona frontier. The first-person narrative of this teacher, horse trainer, rancher, bootlegger, wife, and mother spans over fifty years. Walls’s version of her grandmother’s no-nonsense, no-tears, funny-as-hell approach to life out west kept me laughing throughout an otherwise dreary flight. (I also cried a little too, but whatever.)
PS. If the above isn’t your idea of a good time, try reading Walls’s personal memoir, The Glass Castle. It’s well worth it. Trust me.
2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I haven’t started this book yet, but it’s next on my “must-read” list. I learned about this book after watching a clip of Susan’s amazing TED Talk online. Finally, someone who gets what it’s like being an introvert and sheds some light on our quiet, bookish awesomeness. I can’t wait to learn more.
"A Clash of Kings" by George R.R. Martin
1. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. The sequel to Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize-winning novel Wolf Hall, which I am reading right now. Okay, an historical novel about Tudor England sounds either woefully tired or bodice-rippingly cheesy, but Mantel manages to bring a huge cast including Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Cardinal Wolsey, but most importantly Thomas Cromwell (the King’s advisor), to vivid, heartbreaking, fantastically detailed life. Best part: the surprisingly modern dialogue coupled with its evocative, period-perfect minutia.
2. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. Guess it’s sequel summer. I’m watching the HBO series and I’ve almost finished the first book, A Game of Thrones. I’m about to move on to Season Two . . . Oops, I mean the second book in the series. Bonus: occasional confusion between the Mantel and the Martin books—political intrigue, horrifying deaths, manipulation at court, knights and ladies and suits of armor and dragons . . . Oh, wait, no, that’s only the Martin book. See what I mean?
Want more book picks from the Knock Knock team? Check out Part One and Part Two of our summer reading list. And tell us what you’re reading in a comment below!