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5 Great Books to Pick Up as Summer Winds Down

By Pam Lamp August 29, 2021 Lifestyle

“If you learn one thing, it was worth your time.”

Many decades ago, a college professor repeated that mantra over and over during the semester. She preached to our class of seniors, all of whom thought we were ready to set the world on fire, that if we learned one new fact during a conversation or activity, then we had not wasted our time.

I know people who refuse to read fiction, assuming they have nothing to gain from imagined works. I don’t see it this way. Stories, true or not, teach us.

Thanks to the following books – all fiction – I discovered Bletchley Park and the men and women heroes who couldn’t admit their roles in the war. I learned a bit about opera singer Maria Callas, the legendary Mrs. Astor, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. And did you know some jets – on a long-haul flight – have sleeping berths for the cabin crew?

In this round-up, I hope you find a book to enjoy – and learn a few things too.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

I don’t want to oversell, but this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long while. It’s a commitment – more than 600 pages. But I couldn’t wait to hop in bed at night and return to Bletchley Park.

Can you imagine not telling anyone what you do for a living? Or how you spend your days? Living a perpetual lie?

Mab, Osla, and Beth work at England’s Bletchley Park and break German WWII military codes. With their razor-sharp minds and vastly different backgrounds, they struggle with the challenges of doing work they can discuss with no one. And, after a while, that plays with a person’s mind. 

This historical fiction novel is equal parts informative and mysterious – with a heavy dose of The Crown thrown in. From the author of The Huntress and The Alice Network, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

“The whole point of life was you couldn’t ever be sure what would happen next.”

This novel is a delightful read for book lovers and those who prowl bookshops.

After her father passes, Emilia returns to the Cotswolds to run the ailing family bookstore. And begin her life anew.

This breezy novel – one part romance, three parts fun – is the perfect book for the final few days of reading at the beach or pool.

The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abe

I love people stories, and I adored this historical fiction novel filled with exquisite descriptions and beautiful details of a prominent couple’s lavish lifestyle.

Colonel John Jacob “Jack” Astor is a gentleman, an inventor, a war hero, and one of the wealthiest men in America. He’s 30 years older than Madeleine Force, the teenage socialite who captures his attention.

Employing flashbacks and letters to her newborn son, Madeleine tells the bittersweet story of the couple’s controversial romance, engagement, and marriage. After their honeymoon overseas – a lengthy one where the press didn’t hound them – they set sail for New York on a luxurious ocean liner’s maiden voyage. What could go wrong with the Titanic?

This book is available on August 31, so reserve your copy at the library now!

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

Would you save the one person you love? Or 300 others you don’t?

I read most of this thriller on a plane, and I doubt I’ll view air travel the same way again.

Mina is a flight attendant on World Airways’ 20-hour (no thank you!) inaugural flight from London to Sydney. She faces a decision that will haunt her – either way she chooses.

A former police officer from North Wales, the author combines carefully researched details – jumbo jet configurations and environmental controversies and childhood trauma – to deliver a thought-provoking read. 

Yes, this page-turner involved some unrealistic scenes. But, with all the twists and turns until the final page, I have to believe we will watch this on the big screen someday.

Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul

After listening to a podcast interview with the London author, I raced out to buy this fictionalized account of two intriguing women. 

Jacqueline Kennedy is the wife of a U.S. president. Maria Callas is the world’s most outstanding soprano. Each has a tumultuous relationship with Aristotle Onassis, a shipping tycoon and collector of beautiful objects and people.

Against the backdrop of Italy, Greece, France, and New York, readers learn lives filled with every resource imaginable do not guarantee happiness.

Despite tremendous wealth and privilege, both women wallow in heartache, infidelity, and, often, self-pity. A delicious, jet-setting romp through history!

Be sure to read the book’s acknowledgments and interesting back-matter.

Do you read fiction, non-fiction, or a mix? What are you currently reading? Do any of these books sound appealing to you?

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The Author

It’s never too late to learn something new. At Who I Met Today – a blog and podcast – Pam Lamp interviews people from all walks of life. Through conversations about health, hobbies, books, food, and travel, she invites you to join her, explore new territory, and expand your horizons.

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