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The Grey Matters

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Summer Reading Sunday {2}

(and it’s not midnight yet in New Mexico, so it still counts as Sunday)

Today is special because not only am I in NYC…

but because today’s reading list will be given to you by the letter W.

Yes, the 3 Williams siblings will be sharing a book they love with YOU and giving you some info as to why they love it.

{I know last week I said I wanted to read one book a week, but this week is the one exception. I mean… I’m in New York City. I have only made it half way through Her Fearful Symmetry. Will report back next week :) }

Here goes nothing.

{Also, along with traveling, and NOT having a smartphone, there are often technical difficulties. The way I usually upload photos from my camera is not working, therefore, the photos with the books won’t be up until I get home. This will have to do! Below is a reminder of what these beautiful people in my life look like.}

writer, short stories, go pokes, author

Melissy, me, Greg, and Chris

Melissa’s Pick:

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

This is one of my all-time favorite books because I love music and I love New York. It’s a story of two Cuban brothers who become moderately famous musicians and is set in a neighborhood just south of where I live near Columbia University. The story weaves its way through the memories of Cesar Castillo as he reminisces and reflects upon his life and he poignantly takes the reader on a journey through his experiences at each stage: self-assured and hopeful ideals of youth, the longing for greater meaning and purpose, the desire for a mate vs. sexual freedom, self-doubt in middle age after experiencing success,  insecurity upon the realization that age has set in, and finally the questioning of the worth of ones accomplishments in the final days. This book will make you intensely feel love, desire, passion, doubt, pain, and longing but it ultimately makes you stop and reflect about the meaning and value of your hopes and dreams.

Chris’s Pick:

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

I select Bridsong by Sebastian Faulks in part because it is an outlier among books I love.  


My favorite novels tend to either engage social or political ideas (American Pastoral by Philip Roth) or enable me to vicarelously experience another emotional life, and deepen my feeling of empathy with human beings at large (The Tenth of December by George Saunders). 


Birdsong stands apart from this in its pure visceral intensity.  It is the story of Stephen Wraysford, an English Boy sent to France to learn industrial management techniques in 1910, and returns again in 1917 in WWI because of the French he learned in his first stay.  The bulk of the novel is devoted to Wrayford’s time in the trenches, with prominent subplots devoted to a love which is subsequently lost.


The novel comes as close as I can imagine of experiencing the terror of mine warfare, where mining units try to tunnel under enemy lines and destroy the opposing trenches from below.   These units also face off against opposing minors, each side seeking out and blowing up the others’ tunnels, and often burying each other alive.  This was an aspect of the war I had not known existed and can’t imagine the courage required to descend into.   It makes for a powerful reading experience. 

Greg’s Pick:

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

This book is one of my favorites of the last year. It tells, in a series of intimate journals, the story of Logan Mountstuart-writer, lover, art dealer, spy- as he makes his often precarious way through the twentieth century. The book quickly sweeps through Logan’s earliest years growing up in Montevideo, Uraguay, to his years attending public school and Oxford where he is studying to become a writer. Mountstuart strikes quick and easy success giving him newly discovered financial capabilities to travel thoughout 1930’s Europe in hopes to find a inspiration for his second book. Logan is soon thrown through a whirl wind of a journey succeeded by 50 years of personal and professional mediocrity, disappointments, and setbacks.  I would recommend this book to anyone who finds fascination with European travel, WWII, and what it may be like to live and write amongst the classic writers and poets of our time.

Sounds good, eh? I know I have three more books to read this summer.

Love, Lou


Summer Reading Just Got Better

Summer reading- it isn’t just for school.

Remember when you signed up for your first honors English class and suddenly regretted it because there was a summer reading list?

I do.

Back in high school, I didn’t come close to finishing all of the assigned books, whether it was summertime or not. I wasn’t as much of a reader as I am now. (Thank God that has changed!)

I had a request (so exiting!) here on HeyLouWrites to give out a suggested summer reading list to YOU… from LOU. Of course, I was game.


each week I’ll tell you which books to read, why you should read them, and give you just enough of a scoop about them to give you a hint as to whether or not you’re interested. Personally, I think you should give every book a try.

Because why not?

After all, I won’t be grading you on this. There is no deadline. No weekly quiz, no final exam. And you won’t be called on to read out loud.

How much more could you want? :)

Every Sunday this summer I’ll give you two reading suggestions, as well as the book I’m currently reading. My own personal goal is to read at least one book a week. YAY

Ready? Okay. Let’s get reading. 

summer reading, books, writing, reading



Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk 

“A girl calls and asks, “Does it hurt very much to die?”
“Well, sweetheart,” I tell her, “yes, but it hurts a lot more to keep living.”

This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s crude, sexual, violent, rude, inappropriate…but most importantly… awesome.

Yes, this offensive book is a page turner from page 1. (Or should I say… page 289?)

Tender Branson grew up in a cult. He knows he’s ugly, and he is terrified of sex. Terrified. He urges people to end their lives, something he has contemplated doing a lot lately.

“…the only difference between suicide and martyrdom is press coverage.”

In true Palahniuk style, which, to be honest, I can’t handle every time, this book will outrage you and surprise you. But I guarantee you will like something about good ol’ Tender.


The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery 

“The real ordeal is not leaving those you love but learning to live without those who don’t love you.”

Someone once told me they couldn’t finish this book because the main character was too pretentious.

I said that was precisely why I couldn’t put it down.

When I bought the book, the guy at the book store said, “Okay, it’s amazing. Just be prepared to face the fact that you will never be as smart as the main character. Like ever.” I took his word for it and started reading in my car. (while it was parked- I get sick if I read in a moving vehicle. which is a total bummer.)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog does something I love … it shows the growth and change of a person, all within a few hundred pages. Renee is a simple concierge in a fancy hotel. People treat her like crap all day long because she must answer when they call. But in reality? She is way smarter. She knows more about everything, and she often finds grammar mistakes in the snobby notes the rich people leave her.

For anyone who loves grammar, this book will make you laugh out loud.

And for anyone with a heart, this book will make you bawl your eyes out.

I didn’t think I would. Sure, I liked Renee and the other protagonist, Paloma (a young girl who wants to burn her apartment complex down), by the end, but I wasn’t aware of how attached I’d grown until the last page.

Find out who you are, what you believe in, how well your grammar skills truly are, and why your family is probably normal, compared to most.

“Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty.”

You will soon understand how a hedgehog could be elegant.


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I LOVED The Time Traveler’s Wife. I can’t wait to get this book and read it. Niffenegger won’t let me down, I can already tell. I mean, look at that amazing title! Isn’t it just lovely?

Next week I’ll tell you how it was.

Now get reading!!! Let me know if you pick up any of these books this week, if you’ve already read them, and then, of course, what you think once you’ve read them.

Can’t wait!

Love, Lou