I read 18 books in June. 18!! I’ve always been a voracious reader, but I think that’s a new record.
I had a couple of reading goals going into June. I wanted to honor Pride Month, read a book by a Black author that I should have read a long time ago, and read the library books I’ve been holding on to since March so that they’d be ready to return when the library re-opens on July 1. And I wanted to read as many books off of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide as I could. Somehow I accomplished all of those goals!
Perhaps the most miraculous thing about my June reading is that I read four – yes, four! – books that are in the running for my top ten books of the year list. The Vanishing Half, Rodham, One to Watch, and The House in the Cerulean Sea are all ones that will live on my bookshelves for years to come.
Oh, and before I dive into my book reviews, I’m excited to share that I’ve launched a Bookstagram! Books are honestly one of the few things bringing me joy during this strange season. So, I really wanted to dive deeper into the book community online. Fellow book nerds, I hope you’ll follow @HopefulHannaReads!
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Months ago my book club picked The Vanishing Half for our June book club pick and then I blinked and it was the most talked about book of the year! In fact, HBO is paying seven-figures for the book and is going to turn it into a mini-series.
The book follows identical twin Black sisters as they leave their small southern hometown and take diverging paths in life. The story spans four decades and eventually expands to include the perspectives of their daughters. It’s very riveting and thought provoking but also something you can plow through pretty quickly. I’m so excited to discuss this with my book club tonight and see what everyone else thought about it!
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
Rodham is another book that I’ve been waiting to read for a long, long time. As I mentioned last month, I’m a huge Curtis Sittenfeld fan. So I’ve been waiting impatiently for her next book, not even knowing or caring what it would be about.
The premise of Rodham is simple – what if Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton had met and dated but never married. What would both of their lives have looked like? The book has been pretty divisive, even amongst Sittenfeld fans, but I loved it. And I’m not even a big fan of Secretary Clinton! It’s one of just a handful of fictional political books that I think are good enough to recommend.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
One to Watch is a book that was never even on my radar. I bought it from Book of the Month on a whim as an add-on to my order because it was recommended by former Bachelor contestant and founder of Spivey’s Book Club, Ashley Spivey whose taste I trust.
This book is about a fashion blogger who becomes the first plus-size star of a barely fictionalized version of The Bachelorette. It’s a romance but it’s also much more than that. I loved it so much. It’s official publication date is July 7th and I hope you’ll all pre-order it and read it and talk about it with me.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
And then we have maybe my favorite book I’ve read this year, The House in the Cerulean Sea. This was a Summer Reading Guide pick that I chose to read in June for Pride Month because the author is gay and so are several of the characters.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is about Linus Baker, a case worker who supervises orphanages for magical children. It’s what you’d get if you combined The Secret of Platform 13 and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine which I realize sounds odd but you’ll just have to trust me. This book is a balm for the soul during this awful summer and it’s one I’ll be thinking about for a long time.
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
I can’t really say anything about Big Summer without giving away the plot. Instead I’ll just say that this book isn’t what you think it is. And I’ve never before read a book that so perfectly straddles two genres. This is a very worthy pick for your summer reading list.
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie and other classic mystery writers, I think you’ll enjoy Eight Perfect Murders. It’s a book about books with one of the more interesting narrators I’ve encountered in a long time. Swanson could have used a better editor as there are continuity errors in several places. But overall it is well done. One note – this is not a thriller! It is a mystery. So if you like thrillers but not mysteries, you probably will not enjoy this book.
Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s not really summer until you read an Elin Hilderbrand book. This year I kicked off summer with Summer of ’69. It takes place in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and follows the women of the Levin family throughout the life changing summer of 1969. Elin Hilderbrand weaves in the Vietnam War, Chappaquiddick, Woodstock, the moon landing, and more pivotal events. I really liked this book and so did my mom. I think history buffs and beach readers alike would enjoy it.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
Dear Edward was my attempt to mix things up in the midst of reading a lot of light fiction. The book follows the life of Edward Adler, the twelve-year-old sole survivor of a plane crash. It tracks his life over the course of several years as he recovers from the trauma of the accident and builds a new life for himself. And the craziest part is that this is based on a true story.
I know a lot of people have found this book to be very moving, but to me it was just ‘ok’. If you enjoy heart wrenching contemporary fiction and/or ‘Read with Jenna’ books, of which this is one, then you’ll probably enjoy Dear Edward, too.
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
Love Lettering is about a calligrapher and her relationship with a man whose wedding program she designed. I started this book, hated it, and only persevered because it’s on the Summer Reading Guide and my best friend said it got better halfway through. It did get better. Some parts of it even turned out to be quite good. But it was never really great.
Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev
Recipe for Persuasion is a modern-day adaption of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I picked this up because Anne Bogel has featured it on her Summer Reading Guide. Anne and I share a love of Jane Austen adaptions and I really loved Ayesha at Last, a Pride and Prejudice adaptation that she recommended on last year’s guide.
The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin
The Lies That Bind is about a woman who meets the man of her dreams in the spring of 2001, only to have him disappear in the aftermath of September 11th. As she searches for him she realizes their relationship may not have been what she thought it was. It’s extremely mediocre and repetitive so everyone except the most devoted fans of Emily Giffin can probably take a pass on this book.
I’d Give Anything by Marisa de los Santos
I’d Give Anything is about Ginny Beale whose world is turned upside down at age eighteen when her best friend’s father dies in a fire at her high school. The book tracks those events and the way they play out in her life twenty years later when she is grown and has a daughter of her own.
I realize this plot makes it seem like the book is action packed and yet it feels so inconsequential and slow. There was a lot of telling vs showing in this book. For example, young Ginny is described as energetic and full of life. But she doesn’t do anything to earn that reputation. Somehow this book was neither character driven nor plot driven. It was just … there.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
I read Luckiest Girl Alive for the first time a few years go and decided to re-read it after recently learning that parts of the book are based on the author’s life. It’s a real page turner about a young woman in her late twenties who’s trying to run from a series of traumatic events she experienced while in high school.
As I was re-reading it I suddenly remembered how I felt the first time I read it. Yes, it’s unputdownable, but it’s also uncomfortable and kind of gross. As my friend Emily said, it makes you feel like such a voyeur reading it. And not in a good way! Hopefully the next time I feel the urge to re-read this I’ll just come back and read this review and talk myself out of it!
Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
A few weeks ago I found Call Me by Your Name in a nearby Little Free Library and I took it as a sign I should read it in June in honor of Pride Month. Call Me By Your Name is set in Italy and it’s about a summer romance between a young boy and one of his parents’ houseguests.
I did not like this book. I did not like it at all. Mostly I want to direct you towards my friend Mindy’s review as I feel like she perfectly sums up my feelings about this book. But I’ll also add a few thoughts of my own.
While I’m not a prude, I don’t enjoy gratuitous and unearned sexual content and this book was full of that from page one. To head in that direction before we had even come to know any of the characters just felt unnecessary.
Also, all of the female characters in this book were so poorly written! They came across as ghosts or ideas, not real people. And lastly, I thought the author was just trying to be way too literary in his style of writing.
As a straight lady who doesn’t enjoy literary fiction I am probably not the target audience for this book, though. So while I will say again that I did not like this book at all, that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be an enjoyable or at least meaningful read for others.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahesi Coates
I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t read Between the World and Me before now. Like Call Me By Your Name, I always saw it as a book that wasn’t written for me. After reading it, I still wouldn’t say it’s really my jam, but it’s a book that I needed to read this month.
I didn’t really connect with the poetic style of writing, but learning from my friend Rahmel that it falls into a tradition of Black prophetic writing helped me contextualize it more. However, there were still a number of sections that I took notes on and quotes I jotted down which for me is a marker of a meaningful book. And I learned a lot from this about the significance of HBCUs.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Untamed was another Pride Month read for me. I have decidedly mixed feelings about Glennon and her writing but her relationship with Abby Wambach is for sure #goals. The problem is that this book is just barely about that relationship!
To describe it as a collection of essays would be generous. I’d say it’s more like a collection of Instagram captions or very, very short blog posts. Many of the revelations in the book feel like ideas that she has recycled from her first and second books. I think this will be the last book of hers that I read.
Where the Light Enters by Dr. Jill Biden
My friend Melanie gave me a copy of Dr. Jill Biden’s memoir Where the Light Enters earlier this year. While it’s not on par with Becoming (and it doesn’t try or claim to be, so that’s fine), it paints a touching picture of our next First Lady. Dr. Biden is a living reminder of the outsized impact that community college professors have had on me and so many others. I also appreciate her honest account of the impact a child’s death can have on a parent’s faith.
Delancey by Molly Wizenberg
Delancey is always on lists of recommended food memoirs. It’s about a husband and wife team who open a pizza restaurant in Seattle. It was well written and included some good recipes. But ultimately it wasn’t super compelling and it wasn’t a book that made me feel anything.
So there we have it! My June book roundup. That was lengthy, huh?
In the spirit of full transparency, I want to share a few pieces of data about my reading from the first half of the year. Almost 25% of the books I’ve read so far were written by authors of color. But only half of those were written by Black authors, so I have room for improvement there. I’m aiming to read two books a month by Black authors for the rest of the year. And I’ve only twelve books this year that have been written by men! I don’t intentionally keep that number low, but I’m not mad about it!
PS: I’m sure you know this by now, but you can see all of my bookish blog posts here.