Labor Day Reads for Wherever You Are

Hi Friends,

Can you believe summer is almost over? Yeesh – where’d the time go?? My sister and I have been planning on Labor Day Weekend trip all summer, only to find out the band we were going to see broke up last week. We’re scrambling now to put a lake trip together.

What are your plans for the weekend? Whether you’ll find yourself in the mountains, on the beach, on the road, or stuck at work, if your plans involve reading, I’ve got you covered. Scroll down to find some great reads to pack with you.

Beach Balls

If you’ll find yourself toes deep in the tide, beach towels on the sand, consider one of these beachy reads:

As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner – This family drama (fiction) stars three Jewish sisters and their kids, as they spend a summer at their family cottage on “Bagel Beach.” But when a terrible accident occurs, the family must rally together – or split apart – to make it. Told from 12 year old Molly’s point of view, this is a beautiful, touching novel about the bonds and limitations of family, and the cost of guilt and grief.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – Travel writer Lo Blacklock, after a terrifying break in, is looking forward to a week on the water upon one of the world’s most luxurious and intimate cruises. All is well until Lo sees a woman thrown overboard and no one on the boat is missing. Who was this girl and what happened to her? Or did Lo make the whole thing up? Ware’s sophomore novel is perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and will keep you guessing until the very end.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery – Naturalist Sy Montgomery journeys into the deep blue to meet one of the sea’s most famous creatures.  Both in aquariums and in the wild, Montgomery befriends several octopuses and seeks to answer the biggest questions – of both them and us. Montogomery’s project is a delightful and probing narrative into what makes octopuses, octopus, and humans, human.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

All At Sea* by Decca Aitkenhead – Award-winning Guardian journalist Decca Aitkenhead turns her investigative attention to herself as she spills out her partner’s heartbreaking story. Tony, Decca, and their four year old son are vacationing in Jamaica when the unthinkable happens: their son starts to drown. Frantic, Tony jumps in and saves him, and then, right before Decca’s eyes, drowns. A heartbreaking, powerful story about a couple who finds each other at the exact right moment, and a musing on what happens when unexpected death steals away those we love.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)


To the Mountains

I just got back from the mountains myself, and can swear that these books are perfect around the campfire or as a precursor to staring at the stars:

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller – Hig, Hig’s dog, and Bangley are among the last of Earth’s survivors after a flu epidemic. The three spend their days protecting their land against raids, scavenging for food, and flying their plane. But when Hig hears a call through the plane radio, he flies past the point of no return, searching for hope in the wasteland. Told in choppy but beautiful prose, Heller’s novel shines as a love letter to humanity.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

A Poet of the Invisible World by Michael Golding – In thirteenth-century Persia, Nouri is born perfectly normal except for his extra set of ears. Orphaned early on, Nouri is raised up in a Sufi order. Following his life, as he moves from place to place, Nouri’s journey is one of sexual and spiritual formation. Golding’s novel reveals the world’s most treasured intricacies, in beautiful and sweeping tones.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

Wilderness Essays by John Muir – Muir was one of the earliest writers and explorers of the American West. He was also one of the first incarnations of environmental activism and preservation. His travel journals and essays ring true to this day – full of wonder we know, and nostalgia we don’t, Muir dazzles in this collection of valleys, mountains, and glaciers.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel – Chris Knight holds a few records. For 27 years, Knight avoided all human contact, camping out in the deep woods of Maine. To survive, he broke into dozens of homes thousands of times, likely a record for crimes committed without capture. Told in full fledged honesty, Finkel’s biography is the portrait of a hermit, and an exploration into silence and loneliness.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

On the Road

Driving America’s scenic highways this weekend (or, like me, driving through flat plains and cornfields?), plug in one of these audio books and keep your eyes safely on the road.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Ian Reid – Jake’s girlfriend opens the novel with a confession – she’s thinking of ending things. On a long, snowy drive to her boyfriend’s parent’s house, our unnamed narrator muses on love and destiny. And then they get to the house. And everything changes. Reid’s short novel is a non-stop thrill ride with an ending that will, truly, take your breath away. Runtime: 5h23m

(Review of the Paperback) (Goodreads) (Audible) (iTunes)

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions  by Randall Munroe – Blogger Randall Munroe makes a living off of people’s absurd hypothetical scenarios. In this collection, the best (and worst) questions are assembled – with detailed and hilarious scientific answers.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Audible) (iTunes)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – Confession: I haven’t actually listened to this one… yet. But The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite books I own (I have a 1940’s copy) AND this one is narrated by ANNE FREAKING HATHAWAY. I’m literally dying to go back to school so I can listen to this one on my way to work. Please let me know if you like it!

(Goodreads) (Audible) (iTunes)

Stuck at Work and Home

For those staying at home, I highly recommend The Simplicity of Cider* by Amy E. Reichert. You’ll feel like you’re walking through Sana’s apple orchard, following a budding romance between her and Isaac. It’s a perfect novel for the time between summer and autumn, and you’ll feel completely at peace no matter which season (or living room furniture) you find yourself in.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

If you’re stuck working this weekend (my mom feels your pain), unwind with these quick novellas and other shorter novels.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman – There’s a square that grows smaller every day. Noah, Grandpa, and sometimes Ted (Grandpa’s son and Noah’s dad) sit and laugh, discussing their lives and math. This tiny novella packs a big punch, and is the most original, personal thing Backman has ever written.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter – A widower and his two boys are visited by a strange crow after the tragic death of his wife and their mother. A long form poem, Porter captures what it means to grieve and move on, and searches in strange places for help.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt – Rediscover this childhood classic of three seemingly random events in the first week of August: a man walking down the road in a yellow suit, a family with a dangerous secret reuniting, and a young girl talking to a toad. A beautiful, if somewhat shallow, novel.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell – An American teacher begins a journey into predation and lust when he enters a bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. He pays Mitko for sex and keeps returning, unraveling the story of this strange young man and the country he calls home.

(Review) (Goodreads) (Barnes and Noble) (Amazon)

What are your plans for Labor Day? What books are you planning to pack? Leave a comment down below to let me know!!

You can follow Ben on TwitterTumblr, and read along with him on Goodreads.

*denotes a book provided by publisher via a giveaway. This in no way affected reviews or placement on list.




Books to Read In Pairs vol. 1

Hello Friends!

A new pair of shoes, lovers, and your kidneys (usually) all have something in common: they come in pairs. Sometimes, being alone is just what the doctor ordered, but other times we want to be with that special someone. Reading is no different! I thought it’d be fun to discuss some books to read together, or to read one right after the other. I got this idea after watching some videos on Youtube. Happy reading!

My sister Bri and I making a good pair on a hike

Awakening A Thousand Miles From Nowhere

Book One: The Awakening by Kate Chopin (Goodreads)

Book Two: A Thousand Miles from Nowhere by John Gregory Brown (Goodreads)

Get your classic and contemporary fix on, by reading these two books one right after the other (starting with The Awakening).  John Gregory Brown models his 2016 novel after the classic feminist novel of 1899 (and frequently references it throughout). The Awakening is an excellent book and one of my all time favorites. But your appreciation for the struggles it details will be deepened by the modern application of them in A Thousand Miles From Nowhere. 

* For another book-ception combination, try 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and All The Light We Cannot See* 

The Heart and Soul of Protests

Book One: Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa (Goodreads)

Book Two: When We Rise by Cleve Jones (Goodreads)

In today’s political climate, protests are a normal part of everyday life. To best understand them, why not take pick up a non-fiction and fiction perspective on protesting. In Yapa’s fast paced debut, you’ll walk alongside a host of different fictionalized characters set against the very real World Trade Organization protests. You’ll meet cops, activists, and businessmen caught in the middle. Add Jones’ memoir, and you’ll get a feel for his life in the LGBT+ rights movement. Both take place on the West Coast, and each has a distinctive attitude towards protesting. I think it’d be fun to read the two together!

November 22, 1963

Book One: 11/22/63 by Stephen King (Goodreads)

Book Two: The Kennedy Detail by Gerald Blaine (Goodreads)

Another pairing of non-fiction and fiction books, these are just two of a host of books about John F. Kennedy. In Stephen King’s novel, Jake Epping, a high school English teacher is tasked with going back in time to save President John F. Kennedy’s life. There’s just one problem: he can only go back in time on one specific date, years before the assassination takes place. In Blaine’s memoir, he paints a wonderful picture of who the President was, and the horrendous manner in which he died. Together, you’d get quite the picture of one of the nation’s most iconic presidents.

Complicated Mothers

Book One: Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Goodreads)

Book Two: Happy Family by Tracy Barone (Goodreads)

These two are both fiction books that feature mothers abandoning their young children. In both cases, this abandonment plants deep seeds that affect their adult relationships. Both children are in sinking marriages and have complications with their own children (or lackthereof). I read these two separately, but close together, and I really feel the pair would work well together.

I hope you enjoy this list! Let me know if you read any of these combinations, or tell me what the best books to read in pairs are. Sometime in the distant future I’ll post another list.
Happy reading! 🌸

You can follow Ben on Twitter, Tumblr, and read along with him on Goodreads.