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What to read this summer

Andria
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Summer books

It's summer – time for kids to run outside and grown-ups to find a good book. Read on for a good start. (Illustration: behance.net/runamokstudios)

It’s been five years since our inaugural Buzz summer reading roundup. And in those five years, we’ve cited recommendations from men, women, teenagers, children and even authors. What haven’t we included? Recommendations from a couple. Until now.

Meet Samantha and Gil Melman, two of the most voracious readers I know, who happen to be married, and whose book endorsements never disappoint. If Gil tells me to read a book, I read it. And generally it becomes my favorite book for some time after.  How the two of them – parents to three children in elementary, middle and high schools, he a lawyer – manage to read as much as they do is baffling. But lucky for us they do, and they’re happy to share what they like.

“My favorite book of the year,” Gil says, “is Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff. “I didn’t like it at first,” Samantha says. “It was kind of serious. But it snuck up on me. It’s heavy-handed, reminded me of Donna Tartt (author of Goldfinch). Very highbrow. But I kept reading and was awed by the prose.” The story of a marriage, told through the husband’s perspective and then the wife’s, Fates and Furies is about secrets and what happens when truths come to light. The New York Times Book Review says, “Groff is a writer of rare gifts…[she] delivers with comedy, tragedy, well-deployed erudition and unmistakable glimmers of brilliance.” Amazon editors picked Fates and Furies as the No. 1 book of 2015, and its award list is extensive.

Gil says Fifteen Dogs, by André Alexis, is “the most unique thing I’ve read in a long time. Easy to absorb and get through.” Samantha had just started this book when we wrote this story, but she said she was going through it quickly and enjoying it. “A Canadian author writes about 15 dogs who are given the ability to think like humans,” Gil says. “The book…is way more interesting than it sounds. Think Animal Farm meets Kerouac’s On the Road.” Kirkus Reviews called this short, 160-page novel an “inventive romp through the nature of humanity.”

The Orphan Master’s Son: A Novel, by Adam Johnson, was named one of the best books of 2012 by numerous publications. Gil says, “This one is great, but it’s a hard read.” Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the story explores the intimate and human side of hidden, inner North Korea. “Yeah, Gil wants me to read that one,” Samantha says. “I guess I’ll be reading it. He’s just so good – he knows exactly what to read. He read this one before it was awarded the Pulitzer.”

Samantha calls The Girl On the Train, by Paula Hawkins, “excellent, excellent. It’s good and easy, and from the very first page I could tell I liked it.” Gil calls it a “poor man’s Gone Girl, but a page turner nonetheless.” USA Today named the mystery – a story of a routine commute into London gone awry – its Book of the Year.

Author Anthony Doerr won the Pulitzer Prize for All the Light We Cannot See, his story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose lives intersect during World War II. “One of the better books of this decade,” according to Gil, the book is “kind of cool because it touches on the Holocaust but it’s not about the Holocaust,” Samantha says. “You see a different perspective of World War II, which is interesting. It tells the regular French people’s perspective, not necessarily those who were collaborative with the Nazis. And it’s beautifully written.”

For something “ridiculous and kind of stupid but funny and fun,” Samantha recommends Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan. It’s the story of an American woman who travels with her boyfriend to his hometown of Singapore, only to learn that he might possibly be the country’s most eligible bachelor. “True garbage,” Gil says. “But hey, maybe that’s what you need in the summer. Title says it all.”

“I read a lot of what I’m hearing in pop culture,” Samantha says. “When I hear people commenting about something, I have to read it so I can be part of the conversation. A lot of times Gil thinks it’s too lowbrow. But if everybody is reading it and it’s a thing, there must be something to it. He’s snobbier than I. To that I just roll my eyes.”

But Gil is confident in his choices: “I should be a book reviewer,” he said, following our interview. “That was the most fun 10 minutes I’ve had all week.”

Looking for more books to add to your summer reading list?

See Buzz residents’ book recommendations from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

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