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  • Catharine Riggs

Summer Reading Highlights

I planned to write and post this article prior to summer turning to fall but was bogged down in the final edits of my latest thriller and couldn’t spare the time. So now that the leaves are turning and the air has chilled, I have a few moments to spare. Here is the list of my five favorite reads from Summer 2021.


The Beekeeper of Aleppo. Christy Lefteri. I finished this novel shortly before the US pullout from Afghanistan. Like many, I was distressed by the harrowing accounts of desperate people searching for any means of escape. The Beekeeper of Aleppo puts a fictional face to those heartrending events; a tragic tale of a family of Syrian refugees facing inconceivable loss and imminent peril as told by Nuri, a former businessman and beekeeper. A reminder that even in the most difficult and evil of circumstances, beauty and kindness can thrive.


The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood. I first read this novel as a college student in the 1980s and recall being swept away by the beauty and fierceness of what I then perceived as a distant dystopian tale. Decades have passed; a successful TV series has aired and I decided to give it another read. This time I found the pages unsettling - no longer a dystopian tale but a near-future reality. Atwood’s themes remain fresh; her writing superb. The Handmaid’s Tale is a modern-day classic worth a re-read.


Klara and The Sun. Kazuo Ishiguro. A few years ago, I fell in love with the peculiar beauty of the Nobel Laureate’s dystopian novel Never Let Me Go. I’ve re-read it several times since. Ishiguro’s latest tryst with a near-future world did not disappoint. Klara is a highly observant Artificial Friend (AF) that has been purchased to support a sickly teen. She is one of many such robots created to provide companionship for children. There is a simplicity and pureness to Klara that captivates despite her childish voice. Slow moving yet beautifully written, I cried when the novel came to an end.


Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. I first devoured this post-apocalyptic thriller in the winter of 2015. At the outset, humanity is upended by a virus many times deadlier than Covid-19. I decided to re-read the novel to see what Mandel had gotten right. I’d say she nailed human behavior in the face of a pandemic - the fear and the selfishness. The selflessness, too. Though the pages are steeped in terror and misery and society teeters on the brink of extinction, the novel offers hope that good can overcome evil and art can survive the worst.


Birdman. Mo Hayder. I met Clare Dunkel (aka Mo) the summer of 2019 when British author Margaret Murphy invited us to dine with Clare and her husband prior to the start of our 100-mile trek along Cornwall’s South West Coast Path. We had much to chat about including our shared passion for hiking, the ocean and all things books. In hindsight, I’m glad I knew little of Clare and her novels as I would have found myself starstruck in her presence. Not only was she a master of plotting and voice, Clare had an articulate beauty in her phrasing I both covet and admire. Tragically, Clare passed away in July at the too young age of 59 from a motor neuron disease. Her speculative thriller, The Book of Sand will be published in January of 2022 under the pseudonym Theo Clare.

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