Two Summer Reads You Won’t Want to Put Down

By David Brown & Alain StephensJune 20, 2014 6:56 pm

Summer reading season is here. So what are you taking (metaphorically or not) to the beach?

Fear not: In this edition of Kirkus on the Standard, David Brown speaks withKirkus Reviews editor Clay Smith about a couple reading recommendations to get you through the heat.

First up: “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: A Novel” by Tom Rachman. While the title may sound closer to a textbook, Rachman’s novel is very much nestled in the realm of fiction.

“It’s about a woman named Tooly Zylberberg,” Smith says. “The novel begins at a small, sorta nerdy bookstore in Wales. All of a sudden Tooly is contacted by an ex who thinks that he has found out something about someone who was close to her earlier in her life – a lot of awful things have been done to her that she has not remembered. So she becomes this detective of her own life.”

“It’s something that has a lot of heart … an adventurous big hearted read,” Smith says. He also singles out Rachman for praise in avoiding the dreaded “sophomore slump,” praising prior book “The Imperfectionists: A Novel.”

As for nonfiction, Smith recommends “Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter” by Maria Venegas.

“[Venegas] is a Latina writer who is very well acquainted with violence as well as violence south of the border…. her father was a killer, a drunk, and really not a great guy. He abandoned Maria and her family when she was three.” The book goes on to explore how Maria questions her father and his decisions 14 years later. Venegas eloquently avoids convicting her father, while at the same time commenting about the state of affairs south of the border.