Is there a point to having a “summer reading list” when you aren’t in school anymore? Isn’t summer about the same as the rest of the year? Maybe because this is when people take more vacation days–traveling and beach trips are both great reading opportunities. For whatever reason, summer seems to be the time when people pick up a few more books to read (Bibliomantics resident librarian Kelly can perhaps verify this).
Now that I’m out of school, IN THEORY I have more time to read, so I should be zipping through my list easily. This past week, however, I have been suffering from what I shall henceforth call “commuter sleepies,” and so reading hasn’t been a hugely viable option. I’m HOPING this will wear off by next week, because man, there are a lot of books I want to read.
Here are my top 10 books (in no particular order) I want to read by the end of the summer. The theme of this year’s list is finishing old projects and re-visiting old favorites.
The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch
(translated by Lee Chadeayne)
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Summary: 1659 – Schongau, a small town in the Bavarian region of Germany, is rocked to its core by a heinous crime. A small boy is pulled out of the river, severely beaten and with a strange marking on his shoulder. After he dies, the townsfolk cry witchcraft and immediately blame the midwife, Martha Stechlin, for killing the boy. The townspeople form an angry mob and attempt to extract justice, vigilante style. However, the town’s hangman Jakob Kuisl puts a stop to it, insisting on a fair trial.
Kuisl believes Martha is innocent, but using logic in a time of superstition is highly suspect. Fears mount, especially as more children disappear and people whisper reports that The Devil himself walks the streets of Schongau. The young physician Simon Fronweiser and Kuisl’s daughter Magdalena are the only two willing to help the hangman find the truth behind the terrible events befalling the town. But will the truth come too late?
Not gonna lie – the cover is what attracted me to this book. The fancy font against the matte black, and the slippered feet hanging ominously over the title. It just looked cool. So I was pleasantly surprised when judging the appearance of something turned into an excellent reading experience. In your face, proverbs!Read More »
Nothing by Janne Teller
Genre: Young adult, existentialism, philosophy
Rating: 5 out of 5 (not that it matters)
Summary: The first day of school for the newly minted seventh graders of Tæring should be the start to a perfectly boring year. But minutes into that day, Pierre Anthon stands up and announces “Nothing matters. I’ve known that for a long time. So nothing’s worth doing. I just realized that.” With that, he leaves the classroom and goes to sit in the plum tree outside his house. He taunts the other children from his perch, and though they initially pretend he doesn’t affect them, they soon decide something must be done.
They want to show Pierre that there is meaning in their lives, and so the kids start collecting items that matter. They keep it all in an abandoned sawmill outside of town, creating a heap of meaning. It soon turns into each child demanding an item they know another cherishes. While it begins with beloved books or favorite shoes, it quickly takes a dark turn. As the heap grows higher, the class of 7A must decide if their meaning will ever come at too high a cost.
The inside flap of this book states it’s a “Lord of the Flies for the 21st century.” I was immediately turned off. A more boring book than Lord of the Flies is hard to come by. Look at those stupid boys run around an island, and look! CHRISTIAN ALLEGORY BEATING ME OVER THE HEAD. That comparison, along with the rather emo-looking cover, had me convinced Nothing going to be boring and angsty. So I half-heartedly started reading, and I am so freaking glad I did.
This book is haunting. From the first page onward, it just blew me away. The story itself is so simple, yet compelling. Tæring is a town that could be in any developed nation in the world, and the kids could be any 7th graders. Unlike Lord of the Flies, this book does not take place in a vacuum. The kids search for meaning in the world around them, a world that their parents built and that they’ve always known. Pierre Anthon makes them look at their environment for the first time, and they revolt at what they find there. They don’t want to accept the boring buildings and streets as meaningless, because that would mean Pierre was right. We exist with purpose; things matter. It’s this urgent quest for meaning that makes the events so plausible.