The Book Club Cheerleader’s Top 10 Summer Reads 2015, Part 2

[Continued from the June 26, 2015 post]

Marsha Toy EngstromWritten by Marsha Toy Engstrom

Here are five more winners for your beach tote …

More Memories of New York 

5) Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion by Kristina McMorris et al (Berkley; July 2014.)

Imagine yourself on a polished wooden bench waiting for your train at New York City’s Grand Central Station in September of 1945. This is the premise with which ten talented authors began to write a short story. This illustrious group includes such perennial favorites as Melanie Benjamin, Jenna Blum, and Sarah McCoy. But just as each author’s story greatly differs from the others, they all have this magical sense of place that ties them loosely together—perhaps it’s the ceiling of stars which seem to shine over them all. These stories are so cleverly linked that the resulting collection pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until the last page of the last story—perhaps my favorite—by Karen White

Vacation on the Water 

The Boys in the Boat4) The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown  (Viking; June, 2013.)

This richly researched narrative non-fiction is reminiscent of Laura Hillenbrand and David McCullough. The author focuses on the “boys” in the boat, as much as the 3-year lead up to the Olympics in Berlin, making  it read more like a human interest story, than a how-to on building a world-class team. It’s “just a book about rowing” in the same way that Seabiscuit is “just a horse book.” Run (it need not be at an Olympic pace)—don’t walk—to your nearest bookstore or library and learn why the ‘boys on the boat’ were all so special.

3) The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (Scribner; December, 2014.)

Compared to two of Ms. D’s previous best sellers, The Red Tent and Day After Night, this book reads much quieter on the surface—with an intense current running deep. An evocative immigrant story, Addie Baum shows herself to be practical and reliable, and yet develops into a continuous learner, risk-taker, and pioneer for women’s rights. The book is so understated that until I prepared for our library book club discussion, I’d forgotten we’d read about such heady topics as family angst, spousal abuse, suicide, suffragettes, women first entering both higher education and the work place, and the importance of female friendships. It’s a testament to the author’s skills that she can write with such a different tone, and yet create such a fascinating story.

2) Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (Crown; March, 2015.)


Erik Larson wrote a compelling story of the sinking of the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland in 1915—just in time for the centennial anniversary of the doomed vessel’s demise. As has become his signature literary technique, Larson weaves together two stories: one of the captain and various passengers aboard the Lusitania, the other of the captain of the U-20—the German submarine who sunk her. I was surprised to find a conspiracy theory lurking underneath the story line—as menacing as the German U-boats. A great story of intrigue on the high seas!

Summer in the South 

while_we_were_watching_downton_abbey-192x3001) While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax (Berkley, April, 2013.)

I promised you a really “fun” read—and have saved it for last. For those of you who cannot wait until January for the final season of Downton Abbey, here’s a real treat. But first true confessions: I was expecting something light and fluffy when I picked up this book—but it turned out to be quite smart—and an enjoyable read. First I was struck by the similarities of women bonding over a TV show, and the relationships that are built by reading and discussing books together. (Anything related to book clubs is a winner for me…) The three main characters not only support one another through some trying times, but also grow individually. (Unlike, some of the characters on Downton Abbey…)

Hope you pick a few new books for your summer reading—and let us know what YOU’VE been recommending as beach blanket books!


WNBA SF Book Reviews

Marsha Toy Engstrom is the editor of


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