Growing up in Waukegan, Illinois, along the shores of Lake Michigan, summers never seemed terribly hot. When the heat did arrive, I had a favorite place to hide -- the bookmobile. Did you grow up in the era of the bookmobile? In my neighborhood, the Waukegan Public Library's bookmobile arrived on the same day each week and I would be waiting, sweaty, my bicycle discarded in the weeds, my shoulder bag full of last week's selections. Oh what cool comfort I derived from inside that book-lined van.
Forty years later, I still love children's books. What is it about them that is so appealing? (By the way, Anthropologie carries reissued sets of vintage children's books and they can't keep them in stock. Peek at them here.)
For this week's post, I am sharing five collections of vintage children's books currently available on Finder Not Keeper. I'm also sharing five adult reading recommendations that thematically correspond with each collection. I include links back to my shop for the sets of children's books I'm selling. I include links to Amazon for the adult books I'm recommending. This post is reminiscent of the best part-time job I ever held, working in a public library's fiction room, making coffee and suggesting books to the patrons.
Anyway, here's hoping that September, that spoiler of summer, gets caught in a lengthy page-turner (The Goldfinch maybe?) and doesn't show up on August 30 as expected.
Recommendation #1: A Classic
For adult lovers of classics, here's one that perhaps you haven't read: The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau. Published in 1964, this family saga about interracial marriage in the South won the Pulitzer in 1965. (Grau hung up on the Prize committee member calling her with the news -- she assumed it was a prank phone call.) The book is so brilliant and so southern, Faulkner is turning green in his grave. And the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes radiating off the pages will make you feel grateful for over-air-conditioned shopping malls. By the way, the author was targeted by the Ku Klux Klan after publication. She is one brave woman. More about her here.
Recommendation #2: A Read-Aloud Tale
For an adult book to be worthy of reading aloud, it must have a spirit of adventure, a bit of humor, likable characters, and an uncomplicated timeline. My pick in this category is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, a non-fictional memoir of a writer and his chubby friend hiking the Appalachian Trail. Bryson lived in England for over twenty years and upon returning to the U.S., the hike was his attempt to get reacquainted with America. Nothing I can say will do his humor justice. Here's a sample. In this passage, he is experiencing pre-hike jitters after seeing a camper's photo of four bears trying to get at a suspended pack of food:
"What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paper streamers you get at children's parties -- I dare say it would even give a merry toot -- and bleed to a messy death in my sleeping bag."
Recommendation #3: Coming-of-Age
The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert, is a coming-of-age novel that, thankfully, keeps going even after the heroine reaches adulthood. It is a sweeping saga of love, sisterhood, botany, ambition, masturbation, and the theory of evolution. Alma Whittaker is not your typical 19th century heroine. She's mannish, clumsy, brilliant, and loves without reservation. Her cantankerous father is the richest man in Philadelphia and his hypnotizing story could have been a standalone prequel to this book. Gilbert's earlier bestseller, Eat Pray Love, was a bit polarizing but there is no disagreement about this fabulous tome. Gilbert has a freight train of an imagination that powers us into different worlds and what a ride, what a ride!
Recommendation #4: Adventure
Sure, it was a fine film, but Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian is the best doggone book ever and you will weep when it is over. (Luckily there are twenty in the series.) The books are substantial and interesting, featuring a complex bromance for the ages between Captain Jack Aubrey and his ship's surgeon, Stephen Maturin. I love the unconventional women too. Set in Napoleonic Europe, O'Brian must have been a time traveler because everything is just right. And don't let the Royal British Navy intimidate you. Do you have to be a designer to enjoy Project Runway? These books immerse you and you are glad of it. They're pure Jane Austen except with salty language.
Recommendation #5: Multicultural
My final recommendation for a multicultural read is Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, by Firoozeh Dumas. It is a loving and laughing account of an Iranian family's assimilation to life in these United States. As an Iranian-American, I found much in common with the author -- for starters, the way she adores her father. Here, she describes how he votes: "As soon as my father receives his voting pamphlet in the mail, he sits on the sofa, pen in hand, and reads it cover to cover. He underlines, he circles, he writes in the margins. Once my father decides how to vote on all the issues, he then practices democracy with a dash of dictatorship thrown in for good measure. He tells my mother how she should vote." It's an easy read with short chapters, but fluffy it ain't.
I'd love to hear your book recommendations. I'm in a little bit of a dry spell these days. So leave me a comment and Happy Reading!
Photos by Renn Kuhnen.
Do you appreciate the occasional book recommendation? Why don't you join me on Friday mornings here at The Bubble Joy and we can chitchat about our latest faves.