Summer Reading List


In summer it seems that the axis of the universe shifts. Rather than time being the constant and productivity the variable, summer stretches out and time becomes a loose, easy variable, and productivity seems happy to wait until September rolls around.

So for all of you who can “never find time to read” – now’s your chance. Here’s what I’ve been reading:


Shanghai Factor

The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry. OK, I loved this book. First, I love anything Charles McCarry has ever written because he’s smart, insightful and a master storyteller. Second, he’s experimental in this book, which I admire – the hero, a spy under deep cover in China, is never mentioned by name. Ever. Not once. Which is one helluva thing for a writer to pull off. McCarry was a covert CIA operative himself and draws on his experience to fill in the mood and ambiance in an authentic way, and writes female characters realistically (which is not often found in spy thrillers, let’s be honest). If you like the genre, you’ll like this one and probably another of McCarry’s books – Tears of Autumn which offers a plausible and gripping alternative explanation of the JFK assassination.

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway. Another new book I adored reading. Bee Ridgway is the nom de plume of a literature professor at Bryn Mawr, and is her first book. Ladies and gents, it’s a doozy. If you liked The Night Circus, The Hunger Games, or any of the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon, you will like this one. It’s part mystery, part fantasy, part dystopian, part time-travel, part love story. With this book, all you can do is suspend your disbelief and thoroughly enjoy the ride.

Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick. I admit it: I am a sucker for a good historical fiction book. Set at the end of the war between Stephen and Matilda over the throne of England, this tightly woven epic is very satisfying. It’s about a young man’s coming of age amidst change, and the vagaries of war. A good one.

A plague of zombies

The Custom of the Army and A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon. Maybe the “zombies” surprised you? OK, me, too. But these two short novellas are a kick to read. They follow the adventures of Lord John Grey, a character from the successful Outlander series as he investigates crimes and mysteries in the 1700s. He’s a nobleman, a gay man, an honorable man, and an officer – can’t you just feel the tension in the man’s life? I’ve also been re-re-reading the entire Outlander series  because I cannot get enough of time-traveling women and men in kilts. Obviously.

The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell. From the author of the Sharpe series of books, this is the story of a young man with astounding prowess with a bow and arrow who comes to find that he’s the heir of a noble house (of course) while he fights for king and country (and loves willing maids along the way).

flimsy little plastic miracles

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr. So there’s this guy, see. And he’s a writer, right? And in love with this attainable/un-attainable woman. And he sorta ends up faking his own death. Which causes a book to become a best-seller. His book. This, my friends, is a real book. A writer’s book. A book about writing, and love, and death, and The Singularity. Oh, and pop culture. Loved it.




Reinventing You

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Because I had to.

Reinventing You by Dorie Clark. Everything you need to know about making a transition and doing something new. Dorie was a guest on my WiseWork radio show – you can listen here: Reinventing You

The Wonder of Aging by Michael Gurian. The esteemed author of The Wonder of Boys has taken on aging, and what we can all do to make the most of our post-50 life. I’m talking with Mike about coming on my radio show and will let you know as soon as the date is set.

Leadership and the Sexes by Michael Gurian with Barbara Annis. Another of Mike’s books which I needed to read to understand the gender differences in leadership so I can be better at my work. It’s research-based and highly intriguing. Plus, extremely practical to implement.

Own The Room

Own The Room by Amy Su Jen and Muriel Maignan Wilkins. Showing up at meetings, speaking in public – all things which give folks heartburn. This great little book really helps, and Muriel was a guest on the radio show, too. You can listen here: Own The Room

Finally, my pal Virginia Hume Onufer has published her annual Books For The Beach List. By p0lling all of her reading friends and curating their suggestions, she provides the most comprehensive list of new and old titles to keep you in reading nirvana for the entire season. Check it here: Books For The Beach 2013

What are you reading? What do you like? Would love to hear – I’m always looking for something good.


[just a disclaimer – every link above is an “affiliate link”. If you click and purchase, I receive a small commission. This disclaimer is required by law but I’d tell you anyway.]

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  1. says

    Thanks so much for the wonderful recommendations! I am also loving a book-filled summer. Here are my favorites (so far):

    Running the Rift (Life-changing!)

    A Tale for the Time Being (Amazing!)

    Half-Blood Blues (Remarkable!)

    The Interestings (Completely absorbing!)

    What I’m reading at the moment: Plague of Doves (You’re always in great hands with Louise Erdrich!!)

  2. Joy Bucy says

    Wow! Great list! I will be reading The Shanghai Factor and re-reading The Tears of Autumn. The Tears of Autumn is a fascinating book and the explanation of JFK’s assassination has always been plausible to me. I heard Madame Nhu give a very passionate speech at UT Austin in mid- to late October 1963. About a month later, I was planning to go an evening rally for JFK in Austin. It was Nov. 22.

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