Here are three books that I have read this week on vacation. While I did not love them, they were all good and would be perfect for another reader. Mostly I felt like I was being held at arms length from the story, so while the books were themselves engaging, I did not find myself connecting with any of them. Perhaps you will. The first book, The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine, is a NYT Book Review Notable Book of the Year and it is a 21st century homage to Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility. Overall it's a fairly light and slyly playful account of an older woman and her two grown daughters who fall on hard times (only relative to their station, mind you) and decide to pool their resources by moving to a shabby cottage in Westport, CT, owned by their cousin. If you know Austen's novel, you will mostly know what to expect. While I didn't connect to this book personally, I found the ending to be quite good and satisfying. This book is available from Picador in paperback and I requested a comp copy from my sales rep expressly for this vacation.
The Bee-Loud Glade by Steve Himmer is a book I first heard about from Jason at Bookazine, through his wonderful blog, Three Guys One Book. It's the story of a man named Mr. Finch who is fired after years adrift in his cubicle because neither his boss nor he can figure out exactly what he does for the company. Enter a fabulously wealthy and eccentric man who offers Finch a job as a hermit on his grand estate--all he has to do is take a vow of silence and follow any random instructions (meditate at sunrise, learn to fish, make friends with this lion) he receives and he will earn $5,000,000/year for a seven year contract. The chapters alternate in time between Finch as an old man hermit and Finch just as he's getting started with hermitdom. Intriguing premise and full of absurdities, I definitely recommend this book even if I personally did not connect with it. It's available in paperback from Atticus books and I bought this copy for myself after reading Jason's review.
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman is another NYT Book Review Notable Book of the Year telling in discrete but interlinked stories from various characters' point of view the rise, fall, and demise of an international English-language newspaper based in Rome. We get the perspective of various editors, reporters, publishers, and in one case, even a reader of this paper, created in the 1950s and coming to its brutal end in 2007. It is the story of journalism itself, the very human side of it, with its foibles and glories showcased in equal measure, and it made this reader at least decry once more the age of internet news, where soundbytes have become more important than substance. NB: If you have even a slight sensitivity to animal abuse, please do yourself a favor and skip the last 4 pages of the final chapter, featuring Oliver Ott. You won't miss anything crucial to the story and you can pick up again to read the italicized afterword and skip a really sad & maddening scene where a beloved pet is made to pay for the sins of its owner. I do recommend this book, despite the caution about the ending. This book is available in paperback from Dial Press and I purchased a copy for myself expressly for my summer vacation.