Friday, August 14, 2015

More great summer reading suggestions

Since my last Book Nook post, I've read more great (or at least very good) books. So I wanted to share.

Following are seven more books worth perusing this summer -- listed alphabetically by author, with an asterisk (*) denoting books that I particularly enjoyed. (If you missed any of my previous Book Nook posts, just click on the Book Nook label at the bottom of this post.)

And if you all have read any books worth recommending this summer, please leave a Comment with the title of the book and the author's name. Thanks!

Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Barry by Dave Barry. Nonfiction. Humor. Back in the day (i.e., the late 1980s and early 1990s) I was a huge Dave Barry fan. And because there was no Internet back then, and Barry's column wasn't syndicated in my local paper, my friend, Dave S., would photocopy and mail me Barry's weekly column right after it ran in the Washington Post. (I still have a copy of Barry's column titled "The Mysteries of Guythink" in my filing cabinet. If you haven't ever read it, click on the link. It's a classic.)

ANYWAY... at some point, Barry got a little too zany (and annoying) for me, and I stopped reading his columns and books. But when I saw Barry's latest collection of humor essays prominently displayed at my local library, I decided to check it out. And I can report that I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the "letter" to his teenage daughter regarding getting her learner's permit, something I could totally relate to. (As the mother of a new driver, I kept thinking, thank God we don't live in Florida, especially South Florida.)

If you're looking for a non-taxing beach, or pool, or backyard read that will have you laughing out loud, check out Live Right and Find Happiness. (Though those of you who do not have a teenage daughter, do not know who David Beckham is, or have never been to Russia may not find Barry's latest essay collection as funny as I did).

*Girl in the Moonlight by Charles Dubow. Fiction. A beautifully written tale of young love and (non-creepy) obsession, set in East Hampton and Amagansett, NY, Paris and Provence, and New York City. If you've ever been in love (or lust) with someone seemingly unobtainable, who keeps popping into your life, or had a first love you've never forgotten, you will relate to and (probably) appreciate this book. (Neither was the case for me, but I was good friends with two young women who greatly reminded me of the "girl" in question in Dubow's novel, and, like the author, grew up in New York City and spent many summers in East Hampton and Amagansett. So the book was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me.) Definitely goes on my "favorites" list of books I've read this year.

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan. Fiction. Total Guilty Pleasure. The sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, which, if you haven't read it, you may want to read first. Think of Kwan as the Robin Leach of the Asian jet set, his books a novelized Lifestyles of the Rich and Asian. You think we Americans are status-conscious and materialistic? Well, we are pikers compared to this crowd. A fascinating, often humorous, over-the-top, not-as-fictional-as-you-think look at the 1% of China, Singapore, and Malaysia. My fun trashy read of the summer.

The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio by Andrea Mays. Nonfiction. Great, well-researched tale of industrialist Henry Clay Folger's obsession with Shakespeare, in particular the first folio of Shakespeare's collected works. You do not have to be a lover of Shakespeare (I'm not) to appreciate this book. You just have to like a good story -- and/or have an appreciation for great scholarship. A true rags to riches story, The Millionaire and the Bard tells both the story of Shakespeare, how he became The Bard, and of Folger, who went from impoverished circumstances to becoming the president and then chairman of Standard Oil of New York. A fascinating, well-written story. Highly recommend.

*The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. Nonfiction. Lovely, lovely book about shepherding (i.e., sheep farming) in England's Lake District. Rebanks is a marvelous writer. His prose makes you feel as though you are there with him in the English countryside, tending his flocks, over the course of four seasons. And while sheep farming may not sound very glamorous (it isn't) or interesting, learning about life on the fells (hills and mountains) of the Lake District and the life of a typical shepherding family -- a very hard life, not for the faint of heart, or health, or for those who like a secure source of income -- is fascinating. Indeed, it's a life that Rebanks, probably the only shepherd to graduate from Oxford (and whose Twitter account is delightful), says he would not trade for any other (nor would many of his neighbors). A gem of a book.

The English Girl & The English Spy by Daniel Silva. If you enjoy a good international spy or espionage story, I highly recommend Daniel Silva's books featuring the Israeli spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon. The English Spy is Silva's latest novel and involves Irish terrorism and terrorists (not my favorite topics). The English Girl, the one before the one before The English Spy, which I liked better, is about the disappearance of a young, beautiful government worker who goes missing while on vacation in Corsica -- and whose disappearance threatens to topple the British government. (The Heist, about the hunt for a missing Caravaggio, which I also read and enjoyed, came in between.) I mention the order because it helps to have read The English Girl before The English Spy, though I did not and still enjoyed both.

Monday, August 3, 2015

When your "kid" becomes an "adult"

Being a parent is weird (and hard). On the one hand, our job is to nurture our children, to give them love and a shoulder to cry on, to provide them with shelter, food and clothing, to protect them from the evils of this world, and to teach them right and wrong.

On the other hand, and I truly believe this, one of our chief roles as parents is to teach our children to be independent and self-sufficient, i.e., to not need us anymore. Call it planned obsolescence. Kind of like your iPhone.

This summer, shortly after our just-turned-17-year-old daughter packed up her car with most of her clothes, along with her Vitamix and ice-cream maker, and drove off to Long Island to work on a farm (with a bunch of twentysomethings), I realized the spouse and I had entered that second stage of parenting.

Part of me, a very large part, is enormously proud of the teenager for being so independent and grown up. (She does her homework without having to be told or nagged to do so, loves to cook and is very good at it, is a good, safe driver, and does her own laundry.)

Another part of me, though, will always see her as my little girl (and not just because she's still shorter than I am).

While I worked very hard to make sure our daughter could take care of herself, and be self-sufficient (and succeeded!), I miss being needed (for more than a cash infusion)... and the hugs (though I still get those, just not as many or as often)... and waking her up each morning with a kiss on her forehead (she now sets her alarm and gets up before I do)... and our daily after-school, or after-camp, discussions. (Since she went to Long Island, we rarely hear from her, typically only when she has a money-related question. To find out what she's been up to, we log onto Facebook and Instagram.)

True, we still have a year before the teenager heads off to college. But she has already informed us that she will be very busy this year and to basically "not wait up for her."


I am happy she is happy. (We spent many years dealing with her being unhappy, and I will take happy over unhappy every time.) And I am proud our daughter is becoming (is?) an amazing adult -- and look forward to hearing about all of the amazing adventures to come. But this being a parent thing is a lot harder than I thought it would be.