Summer Reading Escapes

by Carolyn Lyon James

Come, pull up a chair, and sit beside me on the patio. I’ve just brewed a fresh pot of tea, and I happen to have an extra cup on the off chance that someone may drop by. I love sitting out here early mornings in June. The air still holds some of the night chill, and the grass and flowers are drowsy and heavy with the morning dew. This past school year has been long and sometimes arduous, but sitting in my favorite chair looking out on the backyard, I can breathe in the sweet summer air, and relax, knowing that by summer’s end, I’ll be ready to go back to school, refreshed and excited to meet next year’s class. The one thing I’m missing, besides your company, is a good book to read.

Summer vacation would not be complete for me without a pile of books to read. Before school let out, a co-worker recommended to me a few titles and authors that she thought I might like. I usually go to the Cedar Rapids Public Library, but I decided this time I would try the library in Hiawatha. I expected a quiet, empty place, but quite the opposite was true. The parking lot was full of cars, and inside was bursting with kids and adults of all ages searching, like me, for the perfect read. I came out with some wonderful books that I started reading immediately.

There has been a recent surge of novels and biographies about historical female figures, so I was excited to find books that follow that theme. Lady Clementine, by Marie Benedict, follows the life of Clementine Churchill, wife of Great Britain’s most famous prime minister. Written in novel form, Benedict nonetheless did exhaustive research to write the novel, using historical documents as well as personal letters written between Clementine and Winston that spanned their entire marriage. This story is not only about their personal life, but about their political views, and how Clementine’s political views began to differ from Winston’s over time. The novel begins on the day of their wedding, in 1908, and ends at the end of World War II.

The Only Woman in the Room is another novel written by Marie Benedict, and it follows the dangerous and harrowing escape of actress Hedy Lamarr from Nazi-occupied Austria to the United States. While still living in Austria, Lamarr used her beauty to hide her Jewish heritage as well as hide the fact that she was a scientist. After gaining acclaim as an American actress, she then used that fame to secure passage to the United States for her mother. She also worked on many different inventions to help the Allies during World War II but didn’t receive recognition for them until the 1990s.

Not every book I brought home is based on historical figures. My third read is titled, The Witch Elm, by Tana French. I love a good murder mystery, and this author can really deliver a good story with lots of twists and turns. French resides in Dublin, and all of her stories take place in Ireland. I read another book by her called In the Woods, and I’m hoping this book will keep me as captivated as that one did.

Well, the pot of tea is nearly empty, and the heat from the summer sun is chasing me into the cool darkness of my house. It is time now for you to get to the public library and find a few gems for yourself. If you’re interested in one or more of my suggestions, you can check the Cedar Rapids Public Library website. It can tell you if the book is available, and at which branches. If it isn’t available, you can request to reserve a copy using your library card number. I just reserved a copy of American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummings, another suggested reading by a co-worker. Take time for yourself this summer and get lost in a great book. Happy hunting!