An August for the books

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If you haven’t made a dent in your summer must-read list yet, you better hop to it. No excuses. What better month than August to plop yourself down outdoors with a great book, a cold drink and a few hours to escape from the tourists and the frantic pace of our too-short summers?

There’s a feast of good reads out there this season, no matter what your taste in genres runs to. We asked some favorite women writers in Maine to tell us what they’ve been reading.

Photo by Matt Cosby
Jessica Anthony
The Convalescent, Enter the Aardvark, coming March 2020

I’m reading a biography of Patricia Highsmith called The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar. Highsmith is the original thrillist, one who cut her teeth writing copy for comic books. The biography is, so far, one of the most salacious, hilarious and deliciously wicked (and true!) mother/daughter stories I’ve read in some time.

Photo by Karin Diana
Sarah Blake
The Guest Book, The Postmistress

Prairie Fever by Michael Roberts. I can’t stop thinking about this book about two sisters and their schoolteacher in 1917 in Oklahoma. The sisters ride four miles to their one-room schoolhouse every day in the middle of winter, wrapped and pinned in a blanket to keep them warm, the horse knowing the way. A story of the secret language of sisters, of longing for a life beyond the confines of your family, of love, of the sorrow of typhoid deaths, of farm poverty, and above all of the immense beauty of the prairie, the wide open sky and land, this may be one of the most moving, perfect novels I’ve read in a long time. Indescribable, really—but essential, like all great books.

Photo by Liz Norton
Christina Baker Kline
Orphan Train, A Piece of the World

I’m a little old to be obsessed with the Irish wunderkind Sally Rooney, but I am; I just devoured her two novels. (Normal People, Conversations with Friends). And I also loved Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, a creepily atmospheric slip of a novel. I’m now diving into Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers, having had dinner with her [recently] and found her delightfully brilliant (and shame on me for not reading it sooner). My summer reading will also include Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok—the book is getting a lot of buzz.

Photo by Greta Rybus
Joan Dempsey
This is How it Begins

I’m on a Greg Iles kick. I devoured all three thrillers in his epic Southern trilogy about both modern and historical race relations in Mississippi: Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree and Mississippi Blood. They are each massive, engrossing page-turners, chock full of compelling characters, intense politics and unflinching descriptions of life in the Deep South during the early ’60s and how that history resounds today. Prepare to cancel everything—you’ll want to keep reading!

Photo by Winky Lewis
Lily King
Euphoria, Father of the Rain

I’ve just started Isabella Hammad’s The Parisian and am loving it. It’s set during and after World War I and tells the story of an innocent young man from Nablus, in what was then Ottoman Palestine, who gets caught between the East and the West and love and duty at the moment when the British take over his country and, along with the French, chop up the Middle East.

Photo by Shane Thomas McMillan
Mira Ptacin
Poor Your Soul, The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna, coming in October

I’m quadruple-fisting this summer with two novels and two books of nonfiction. First: Ocean Vuang’s On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous; I am blown away by its beauty and craftsmanship. Next, Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benin—she’s a phenomenal storyteller. Because I volunteer in a women’s prison and want to learn more about domestic violence, my dearest friend Linda Holtslander lent me No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder, and finally I’m reading A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (for the very first time!) because I’m in Maine and I’m a women so how could I not?

Photo by Michael Lionstar
Susan Conley
Elsey Come Home, The Foremost Good Fortune

Reading Normal People by Sally Rooney feels like going back to college with my two new, wildly likable, incredibly sexy, genius best friends. We have all stayed out very late at the Dublin bar, but it’s the proverbial morning now and I still can’t stop reading.

Photo by Tim Coburn
Linda Holmes
Evvie Drake Starts Over

We Cast A Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin. It’s a wild sort of speculative-fiction satire about race and wealth, and I just ate it up. It’s fantastic.

Amy Canfield is a Maine Woman Magazine editor who has a number of books stacked to enjoy this month.

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