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We all deserve some “me time” as we decompress from our busy schedules. There is nothing better than grabbing a book to read, escape and relax. Plus, there are so many great places to chill in any season with a book at your home or your lake house. Whether it’s the beach, the patio, the porch or your living room with the fireplace roaring, you can all find the perfect place to read for relaxation! The trick is to not doze off! The best solution for not napping is a great page turner that you can’t put down.
The six books mentioned below are worth adding to your read for relaxation list. While each highlighted book is fiction, there’s something to be learned from each of these excellent titles. Check out the story summaries and read my personal comments. I am sure you will find one or more of these books an unforgettable gem.
Here are 6 of our very favorite fiction books to read for relaxation:
1.) Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate)
This suspenseful novel is based on the true story of a Tennessee adoption scheme where wealthy couples adopted children who became available for adoption through nefarious means. Georgia Tann, a child trafficker, operated an unethical adoption scheme from approximately 1923 to 1950 before investigators shut down her operation. Small children were snatched from poor families and newborns were unethically taken from hospitals and given to Tann who was assisted by Judge Camille Kelley. The story moves back and forth in time as we meet May, one of the snatched children who now lives in a nursing home. May’s disturbing contact with a politician’s daughter, Avery Stafford, sets Avery on an investigation on how her grandmother and May, a total stranger, are potentially connected. The chilling discoveries are tender and heartbreaking.
My note: It was interesting to learn about Georgie Tann’s horrific adoption scheme. Wingate flips between the children’s stories, which are gut wrenching, and Avery’s efforts to piece the mysterious relationships together. The book will grab you from the moment you meet Rill and the emotions you feel are visceral.
**FUN FACT! Lisa Wingate recently came out with a NEW Best Seller— so if you read and loved Before We Were Yours, you might also enjoy Drenched in Light to read for relaxation:
2.) Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)
This novel patterns itself after a true hostage crisis that occurred in the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru in 1996. In the story, terrorists hold hostage the guests who have come to the Embassy for a birthday celebration feting a visiting Japanese business magnate who is an opera lover. A highly acclaimed American opera singer has been invited to perform at the party. The book explores the intriguing and unexpected relationships that formed between the hostages and their captors through months of political negotiations. It has wonderful twists and turns which are punctuated with a surprise ending that will please any reader.
My note: I really loved this book, and the ending is totally unexpected! The phrase bel canto means “beautiful singing” in Italian and music lovers will appreciate how the power of music unites the characters in the story. This is one of Ann Patchett’s best works!
3. ) Life after Life (Kate Atkinson)
This book is a rich and widely historically accurate World War II novel with a fantasy twist. The story’s premise is that the main character, Ursula Todd, dies and is re-born numerous times so she might change the course of WW II. In her various lives Ursula gets ever closer to Adolf Hitler. Each life has different personal outcomes for Ursula. Based in both Great Britain and Germany, this book portrays living conditions during the war with vivid precision.
My note: This novel grabbed me in many ways. First, Atkinson’s narratives on the ravages of World War II are jarring. I was also drawn in the story with the concept of Ursula’s multiple and highly different reincarnations. All the characters are rich and believable, but a few less lives for Ursula would not have detracted from the story. This novel is a touch too long but is well worth the time.
4.) A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles)
This expansive book is a fun read with the premise that an outspoken, aristocratic Russian Count is placed under permanent house arrest in 1922 in a high-end Moscow hotel during the Bolsheviks’ rise to power. Count Rostov spends 32 years ‘in captivity’ at the Metropol Hotel where he creates an unusual life for himself among the staff and guests. His charm, wit and wisdom draw the reader into his web. Surprises abound and the detailed descriptions of the Count’s hotel life make this book a rich experience.
My note: I loved the fantasy concept that wily Count Rostov is held captive in Moscow’s grand dame Hotel. Towles’ ample visuals of the hotel spaces makes you feel like you are walking through the Metropol. The surreal idea of being locked down in a hotel contrasted with authentic details about the Russian Revolution is compelling. I also felt the basic story was enjoyable and worthwhile if the historical detail bogs you down! You can skim the history and still love the book.
**FUN FACT! Amor Towles recently came out with a NEW Best Seller— so if you read and loved A Gentleman in Moscow, you might also enjoy The Lincoln Highway to read for relaxation:
5.) The Last Painting of Sara DeVos (Dominic Smith)
This novel moves smoothly through 350 years and follows a 1637 painting created by a female Dutch artist through the centuries. The painting, At the Edge of a Wood, is mysteriously replaced with a forgery in 1970 during set-up for a party in the owner’s residence. When both the real painting and forgery turn up at a 2003 Australian Art Exhibition, the forger’s identity and career are at risk. The novel moves through time as the lives of the Dutch painter, Sara DeVos, the painting’s current owner, Marty DeGroot, and the copyist/forger, Ellie Shipley, are introduced, and their lives explored. Tracing the path of At the Edge of a Wood through the centuries and across continents will draw in any reader. Smith “artfully” links multiple complex themes together!
My note: This novel is ‘mind candy’ for art lovers and is a captivating whodunit for anyone as the book straddles the genres of mystery and historical fiction. It covers the Dutch tulip bulb mania and the life of a female Dutch painter in the male dominated Art Guild. The explanation of how a current day art forger expertly makes a forgery is very well done and entertaining.
6.) To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
A famous classic, published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird is based in Alabama during the Depression and is a great read for everyone. The dialog is rich and Jem, Scout, Dill, Atticus and the ever-mysterious Boo are all fascinating characters. The book deals with timeless themes including racial inequities, gender, social and legal injustices, class struggle and more. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel remains one of America’s favorite books.
My note: Every time I go back and read To Kill a Mockingbird, I am struck by how relevant the story’s themes still are today. For more insight into the book, I picked up Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman currently believed to be an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. You might enjoy reading both books and forming your own comparisons and reactions.
I am confident that one or more of these suggestions sounds appealing for your personal time to read for relaxation. Give yourself permission to unwind and carve out some well-deserved ‘me time’ at the Lake or anywhere to read!
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