Reading keeps from being a slightly less annoying Passenger-Seat Driver. If I’m reading a good book or enjoying the scenery, I’m less likely to freak out over my husband’s driving. You might say good books have saved my marriage! We read every evening, too, and this is the list that I read on my summer sojourn.


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. I learned a lot about plants and trees and the research process from this book. Just as important, I learned about the tremendous personal sacrifices scientists make in the pursuit of knowledge which benefits all mankind. What was really cool is that I could stand under the giant trees of the Northwest, even more amazed because I understood more about the nature of those sequoias, redwoods, spruce, fir, and hemlocks.

The Unbreakable Child by Kim Michele Richardson. A woman gets the courage to confront the Catholic Church concerning the nuns and priests who abused her when she was in an orphanage. The abuse was horrific and unforgivable. I can’t say I enjoyed reading this one, but I hope the Catholic Church finally changes its ways and stops trying to keep abuse secret.

Just Kids by Patti Smith. The rock ‘n’ roll star shares the story of her relationship with artist Robert Maplethorpe. I can’t imagine living the way these two did, and I’ve never been an admirer of Maplethorpe’s work. Still, the book is well-written, and it was fascinating to learn about all the famous creative people who passed through New York City while Patti was there.

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy by Kate Clifford Larson. Such a sad outcome for a lovely young woman who had the misfortune to be born when medical care left much to be desired, even for the wealthiest among us. We may not have advanced much in many ways as a civilization since Rosemary’s time, but we definitely treat those with disabilities better today, in part thanks to the efforts of Eunice Kennedy.

Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking by Adam Briggle. A philosophy professor reluctantly becomes an environment activist when fracking wells spring up all over Denton, Texas, neighborhoods. Good reading for anyone wanting to know how to organize a community and pass legislation that affects your life.


The Light between the Oceans by M. L. Steadman. Beautiful, heart-breaking love story about a lighthouse keeper on an uninhabited island off Australia. When I toured the Umpqua Lighthouse in Oregon, getting to see the freznel lens meant so much more to me because I had just finished this book.

The Cider House Rules by John Irving. Irving spins a good tale with a lovable orphan and good-hearted doctor and a love story that breaks your heart because there can be no happy ending for everyone involved. The book is clearly intended as Irving’s pro-choice treatise, laying out women’s stories that demonstrate why abortion should remain a personal choice, though a reluctant one.

Elizabeth Street by Laurie Faviano. Terrific story about Italian immigrants and the dangers and challenges they faced in America. And so much of the story is drawn from Faviano’s family! It’s hard to believe people could treat fellow immigrants so cruelly.

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie. I read this one in New Mexico, appropriate since I was visiting museums devoted to Native American culture. This novel looks at modern young Indians who want to escape the reservation by forming a rock band—and what they lose in the process.

Mozart’s Last Aria by Matt Rees. An interesting take on the mystery surrounding Mozart’s death. Entertaining read, well-researched.

Spilt Milk by Chico Buarque. The stream-of-consciousness in this one left me a bit confused because I know so little of Brazil’s history. The main character is in a nursing home and drifts between events happening to him in the present and those events of his past in no particular order. Moments of humor lightened the story. I’m hoping our book club will sharpen my understanding of this story.

The River’s Memory by Sandra Lambert. Well-written collection of stories, with the river as a force uniting the various characters through time and space.

Gloria by Keith Maillard. A fascinating examination of a wealthy West Virginia steel family in the 1950s. The novel asks if it is possible to be an authentic person rather than pretending to be the person we think society expects us to be. This novel is one of the truest examinations of the female psyche I have ever read. I just loved this story.