We’re avid readers here at Jmore and we really seem to take our book selections to the next level when it comes to summer reading. This year, staff members dove into a wide range of literary genres — autobiographies, historical fiction, mysteries and romance are all well-represented.
Here’s what some Jmore staff members are reading right now.
“CSNY: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,” by Peter Doggett
Since my college days, I’ve been addicted to books chronicling the music scene, with the archetypal rock bio being a particular guilty pleasure. Must be the frustrated amateur musician in me. My latest is Peter Doggett’s “CSNY,” which examines the fractious and shambolic relationship between — yep, you guessed it — David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young. The book is billed by its publisher, Atria Books, as “the first ever biography focused on the formative and highly influential early years of ‘rock’s first supergroup.’” In their day, CSNY was a musical juggernaut with groundbreaking counterculture anthems like “Teach Your Children,” “Ohio” and the Joni Mitchell-penned “Woodstock.” “CSNY” captures the folk-rock quartet during its most glorious and potent period. Between the years of 1969 and 1974, CSN — and occasionally Y — came to be spokesmen for their generation, helping to inspire social consciousness and drive their arch-nemesis, President Richard M. Nixon, out of office. But to paraphrase their classic “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” the book gets to a point where it’s no fun anymore. Doggett writes in an engaging and entertaining fashion, but his propensity for delving into too much detail becomes rather distracting and mind-numbing, even for a rapidly aging classic rock voyeur like me. After all, how much minutiae does any reader need about four incredibly talented but juvenile and pampered musicians and their forays into debauchery, discord and druggy derangement? To sum, CSNY — the group and the bio — got “wasted on the way.” —Alan Feiler, Editor-in-Chief
“Lilac Girls,” by Martha Hall Kelly
A novel about World War II that takes place partly in Ravensbruck — the only concentration camp exclusively for women — may not sound like vacation reading, but I tore through Martha Hall Kelly’s “Lilac Girls.”
In her debut novel, Kelly weaves together the stories of three women of different nationalities and in different situations, whose lives are deeply impacted by World War II and the Holocaust. Interestingly, none of the women are Jewish. There’s Carolyn Ferriday, a real-life actress, philanthropist and New York debutante-type who volunteers at the French consulate helping orphans affected by the war; Herta Oberheuser, a young Nazi physician who works at Ravensbruck; and Kasia, a Polish teenager taken to a Ravensbruck when the Nazis discover her resistance efforts. At Ravensbruck, Kasia and the other Polish women at the camp (nicknamed the Rabbits), become the unknowing victims of ghastly Nazi medical experiments. Based on an astonishing and true story, “Lilac Girls” presents a nearly forgotten slice of history in a compelling and deliciously readable way.—Simone Ellin, Associate Editor
“The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter,” by Theodora Goss
What if some classic (and sometimes monstrous) literary characters had daughters? Enter Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Justine Frankenstein, Catherine Moreau and Beatrice Rappaccini. With the help of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary leads this group on adventures of mystery and a good old-fashioned whodunnit. “The Alchemist’s Daughter,” the first book in the series (“The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club”), is accessible and humorous and a fun read for the summer. The second book, “European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman,” is out now and I hear it introduces Lucinda Van Helsing! A third book, “The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl,” is due in October. —Molly Blosse, Senior Graphic Designer
“Alex, Approximately,” by Jenn Bennett
I’m a sucker for romance, but who isn’t? This book is a teenage re-telling of the classic rom-com, “You’ve Got Mail.” With plot twists, complex characters and a summer romance for the ages, it was impossible to put down. “Alex, Approximately” ignited my passion for reading, and made me want to move to California pronto. If you ever had — or wished for — a summer romance, grab a copy of this book. You will not be able to tear yourself away. –Lauren White, intern
“Unsheltered,” by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver is of a heavier ilk than I usually prefer to dive into for my summer reading, but her “The Poisonwood Bible” about a family of missionaries in the Belgian Congo in 1959 is easily one of my top 25 all-time favorite books. So, I decided to give “Unsheltered” a chance. Kingsolver (who was born in Annapolis) is known for the way she weaves science and environmental issues into her narratives. This one — set in Vineland, N.J., during both the 19th and 21st centuries in alternating chapters – does not disappoint. While much of the book revolves around two families occupying the same crumbling house in different eras, it especially makes for good beach reading during the parts set in and around Cape May, N.J., where I have been known to spend a few summer vacations. (Plus, I picked up this particular copy at The Book Thing, which makes it feel like a special treasure.)—Amanda Krotki, Digital Manager
“Becoming,” by Michelle Obama
My older daughter Sarah gave me “Becoming” as a gift and promptly asked if she could borrow it. Several months later, it made its way back to me (Sarah lives in Ohio). Michelle Obama would have loved that story since her book is a celebration of what a young, determined woman can achieve. She has a masterful way of storytelling and even before she was First Lady, she was an accomplished professional. In the hyper-polarized political world that we live in today her authenticity and humanity shine brightly. This is a must-read for anyone who believes that hope, hard work and education are all pathways to a more enlightened society. — Jonathan Oleisky, Managing Partner