Pam’s Hot Summer Reads

As an avid reader, I have been so excited to feature some book reviews here on my blog.  I would love to craft more detailed and frequent synopses; however, I need that time to read!  So, occasionally, I will post a list of my current reads with mini-reviews!  Please feel free to discuss any of the titles in my comment section; I LOVE talking and sharing about books!  If you have any good reads that you would like to recommend to me, based on my current selection, please drop me a line to let me know!  I hope you enjoy!

Already Finished:

Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews

The equivalent of a chick-flick.  If you like Nicholas Sparks, you will like Summer Rental.  It is the story of old friends, and one stranger who rent a house at the beach from a man going through his own life crises. A fun, but not uber-intellectual read; great for the beach!


The Love of My Youth  by Mary Gordon

 A very lovely story about two former lovers, now currently married to other people, who reconnect while traveling in Rome and take daily walks together. I won’t say much more for fear of a spoiler, but they unpack their past during this time together while learning about who they each have become in the interim.  This is a well-crafted and emotional piece that does not drown in sentimentality or detour down obvious paths.  I enjoyed it more than I expected that I would.


The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

This book made me cry.  And I was emotionally affected for a good half a day.  The Paris Wife is a fictional account of the marriage between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson.  It is told (primarily) from Hadley’s perspective and features appearances of other well-known literary figures of the time:  F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, among them.  This seemingly well-researched piece really takes you into the world of the Hemingways and gives one perspective on how his first marriage impacted his life and how his career impacted his marriage.  It is extremely moving and I was hooked.  So my next read is A Movable Feast, to learn more!

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Wow.  What an utterly depressing piece.  It is really interesting to explore the lives of women in the 1950’s through the eyes of Sylvia Plath’s fictional Esther.  She descends further into mental illness throughout the book, and given Plath’s history and ultimate demise, one wonders how much of the descriptions of that experience were faced by Plath herself.  There are many parallels, and you can almost feel Plath’s personal experiences leaking out of her and morphing into the character, Esther. I felt a tremendous empathy for Plath after reading this novel, and thought the forward by Frances McCullough informed my reading.

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson

Thompson is a National Book Award finalist, and it is clear why.  Her writing is tight, maybe even brilliant, her characters real, and her storyline is highly relatable.  But that does not mean I liked the book.  This book is not for escapist reading or those looking for happy ever after.  The Year We Left Home chronicles the lives of the Erickson family beginning in the 1970’s.  The characters have very ordinary experiences; you can easily identify with one or more of them or see them in your real-life community.  That was my problem with the book; it was way too much like a picture of an entire family’s real life.  Though it was well-written and not offensive, it just felt very emotionally weighty to me.  While I sometimes love that in a book, I felt a little oppressed by the stunted growth and/or struggles of many of the characters, which although it makes them more “real” also left me feeling some sadness, some resignation as I empathized with them.  A good book, but just not what I was looking to read at the moment.


Mothering Your Nursing Toddler by Norma Jane Bumgarner

We are approaching V’s second birthday, and I am re-reading this book to consider my options as we think about weaning.  I am a proponent of child-led weaning, but my particular child may need a nudge or two in that direction.  I think this book is really helpful support for mothers who choose to nurse their child into the toddler years, because as time goes on, support from family and friends tends to wane.  Nursing a toddler has many advantages, as Bumgarner clearly discusses, and it is reassuring to find support for extended nursing.

Currently Reading:


The Family Nutrition Book by Sears and Sears

I love the Sears and Sears parenting books!  I am a follower of attachment parenting, and believe the Sears’ methods promote a healthy, natural, common sense, child-oriented style of parenting grounded in their extensive backgrounds in medicine and raising about a bazillion kids! The Sears’ The Baby Book has been our go-to reference during V’s infancy and early toddler years, and has put our minds to rest over many parenting concerns.  The nutrition book is great, and reassuring as a parent who seeks to provide nutritious meals and snacks for my little one but struggles with toddler food fussiness (as many of us parents do!).  For more Sears parenting tips, visit

The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie

I’ve made it through about three of her short stories so far; they are well-crafted with interesting characters.  I don’t always walk away feeling that sense of awe that I sometimes get from really inspiring or engrossing works, but these are good, solid, smart short stories that I can read when I don’t have time for much else!  I’ll let you know if I become more dazzled with further reading. 

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

So far, I’m liking it.  National Book Award finalist, Goodman writes about two very different sisters who have grown up in the shadow of the loss of their mother and are facing a bend in the road in terms of their careers and relationships.  Lots of techie references as the eldest sister, Emily is a Silicon Valley CEO with a company going public.  This is a read with very smart characters and I’m really enjoying it!  (Update:  Finished this:  worth the read!)

How to Read a Poem and Fall In Love With Poetry  by Edward Hirsch

I  had the privilege of listening to a lecture on poetry by Ed Hirsch during his time at the Shepherd University Sotto Voce Poetry Festival in 2010.  His approach to writing and reading poetry really resonated, and so I’m on page 3 (just picked up a copy from the discount sale at our soon to be closed Borders) and excited to savor what this amazing poet has to say about reading other amazing poets.

Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford

A friend and former Borders co-worker turned me on to the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and I am so glad that she did.  Wanting to learn more about the person behind the poems, I am 140 pages into this 509 page biography and I’m just leaving her high school years.  “Vincent” as she was called, certainly had a dramatic early childhood to draw from, as she was largely left to her own caretaking as her single working mother was frequently away on nursing cases.  I find it fascinating to see how her early childhood influences and her relationship with her mother influenced some of her work, and I hope to understand more as I wade through this massive work.

The Best American Poetry 2007 Guest Editor, Heather McHugh; Series Editor, David Lehman

I purchased this for a few dollars in the Borders’ bargain bin, and I know that I truly got the bargain.  Wonderful, accomplished poets present their words in this work and I delve in for a poem or two in between my other reads.  It will likely take me a while to finish, as I never read an anthology straight through.  I visit one like a well-loved sanctuary, taking a brief respite in the words of another, then return to my business, intellectually and frequently emotionally charged.  Good poetry always gives me a rush!

Waiting On My Nightstand:

 A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

The Rights of the People  by David K. Shipler


7 responses to “Pam’s Hot Summer Reads

  • Kristin @ What She Said

    The Love of My Youth sounds intriguing. Probably because I can relate to your description of it. I’m friends with several of my ex-boyfriends who, like me, went on to marry others and raise families of their own. And not all of these relationships ended prettily. We’ve just reconnected over time and found that we’re much better off as friends and genuinely happy for each others’ happiness. But I wonder what we would say to each other and how we’d go about it if given the chance to really dissect our relationships. Would we laugh them off as immaturity or naivete, or would we do some real soul-searching?

    May have to check that one out.

  • Juliana

    Wow, thanks for all the reviews! Looks like you’ve been reading some really interesting books. I too am drawn to the The Love of my Youth – will definitely have to check that one out. The Paris Wife also sounds like something I would really enjoy. Thanks for the recommendations!

    I love Anita Shreve and am currently reading her newest novel, “Rescue.” So far it’s OK, but not great. I’m about halfway through. I would recommend some of her other books before this one.

    • pmlevitt

      I think you’ll like it Jules. I really like Anita Shreve also, especially Sea Glass and The Pilot’s Wife. I have to be in a certain mood to read her writing though, because it is often very emotionally tasking! Let me know what you think of Rescue when you finish, so I know whether to check it out!

  • Juliana

    I put holds on both of them at our Library. They are both new, so it might take a bit, but I can’t wait until they come in. Love the Library!

  • Shell

    I think I would like Summer Rental. I like fluff. 🙂

    I read The Bell Jar when I was an overly dramatic teenager.

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