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The First Coast Connect Book Club: Great Summer Reads

Random House

In the market for a great beach read this summer?

Here are some suggestions from the First Coast Connect Book Club, courtesy of  local book blogger Stacey Goldring.

Transatlantic by Colum McCann

McCann is a master of weaving together stories that are seemingly separate.

Who: Two aviators, Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown. Fredrick Douglas and George Mitchell

What: first attempt at transatlantic flight; abolitionist speaking tour in Ireland; brokering Northern Ireland peace negotiations.

When: 1919, 1845-46 and 1988.

Why: A trinity (if I may) of themes: grace, identity and history

Credit Broadway Books

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Who: Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot and her family. A future film is planned by Oprah/HBO.

What: Non-fiction that tells the story of Henrietta Lacks’ cells contribution to modern medicine. Her cells were harvested without her consent because she died from cancer in 1951 and she was a “colored” woman. The ethical issues and miraculous advances spurred by the HeLa cells are page-turning!

When: Just recently in the news because the family’s genome was published without their consent.

Wired Magazine has an excellent graphic of the HeLa effect.

Lite ‘n Beachy

Credit Knopf Publishing

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen knows South Florida. Both he and Dave Barry have said that you don’t need to make anything up, just read the Miami Herald (that’s a newspaper). Did I ever tell you the time I reported on an dead body, minus an arm, a gator trolling in a canal, considered “waterfront” property down in Boca Pointe…technically in Coral Springs, Florida and an rifle happy ATF guy who wasn’t all too smart? For another time….

Who: Andrew Yancy, a cop, a bad former actor monkey, a voodoo which, a widow with a twitch, and idiot real estate developer and perhaps a cameo of the governor!?

What:  Andrew Yancy has a human arm in his freezer (hmmm.) Of course, with Hiaasen, there’s a logical explanation. Yancy is a policeman presently on Roach Patrol, restaurant inspection, in the Keys.

What: He knows the arm is fishy and connected with a murder that if he can prove, can upgrade is policeman status on the force.

Where: The Keys, Monroe County and the Bahamas.

Hot and Bothered

Don’t like the heat?

Credit Warner Books

Snow in August by Pete Hamill

Like Hiassen knows the Republic of South Florida, Hamill knows Brooklyn.

What: Unlikely friendship of the innocence of youth and wisdom of age

A boy witnesses a horrible crime and serendipitously seeks shelter from the physical and ethical issues that ensue. Even weather patterns are affected. Their friendship and experiences will keep you reading on and on.

Who: 11-year-old Michael, Yoda-like Rabbi Hirsch, Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers, a gang and its leader and the Golom.

Where and When: Brooklyn, 1940s. It’s August. But it snows!

Love the heat?

Credit Bantam Classics

Summer by Edith Wharton

Wharton is known for lifetime work set in New York City among the wealthy elite.

Summer, published in 1917, is set in rural New England. But unlike EF, this book is hot. Pay attention to the names of places and characters for greater meaning of the very proper and pre-50 Shades!

Who and Where: Charity Royall, Lucius Harney and the New England hamlet North Dormer

What: A story of the sexual awakening of a young Charity. She’s not looking for a house, and white picket fence, she’s lookin’ for hot love in the summertime!

Why: Summer explores the issues of social class structure, infatuation, power of gossip and sexual awakening.

Bonus: For Fun... For Some

Credit Grand Central Publishing

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

A la Tolstoy with a a few McRib sandwiches thrown in the mix.

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Who: Meet the Middlesteins: Edie and Richard. Solid family in Chicago (elements of Franzen’s unhappy world apply here, too.) But take a look at Edie’s girth.

What: Edie’s obese. It’s a problem. The problem Attenberg posits is whose problem is it? Edie’s?

Why: The Middlesteins tackle America’s obsession with food, finding love later in love and the universal quandaries of family dynamics: Robin, the insecure tad alcoholic daughter bent on making her dad pay for his decision to divorce. Bennie, the brother minus a backbone and worried about hair loss, his wife, Rachelle, the organic, skinny neurotic  annoying Florence Nightingale of the clan.

The Middlesteins is either hysterical of incredibly sad, depending on what you bring to Edie’s table. Of course, I cried with laughter!

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.