Posted August 11, 2014 by in Book Lists

Summer Reading 2014: Beat the Heat

Today, as I walked from my car to the school building, I felt perspiration collecting along my hairline, nose, lips, fingers, toes, foot, and back. Maybe I should mention that the entire parking lot is maybe ten feet wide. Yep, it’s that hot. This week seems to be that special kind of heat that is mixed with a double helping of humidity. It’s the kind of weather that makes breathing normal air seem like you’re inhaling warm, creamy milk. It’s truly awful.

All of my labored breathing and excessive sweating made me realize that I need to take a break from the heat. I can’t move. Nope, that’s not going to happen. It’s too late for me to spring for a vacation. My summer break is over!

I’ve decided to escape into books that remind me of a better world—one of ice, snow, and goosebumps. Soon enough, I’ll be complaining that it’s too cold, but until then, I’ll dive inside these cool, calming worlds, and I invite you to join me:


Where’d You Go, Bernadette


Maria Semple’s 2013 epistolary, comic romp, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, is awesome for many reasons. First of all, the story takes place in Seattle, and the Emerald City is one of those cities that is just awesome. It’s cold and rainy (why can’t I live there?), and the residents are known for their natural sense of elitism. Semple really plays up the latter. To add to the wonderful setting, Semple builds a memorable cast. Bernadette Fox is a character for the ages. She’s the mother at the center of Semple’s novel. The basic premise is that Bee, Bernadette’s daughter, does well in school and decides that she wants to go Antarctica as her reward, which her mother promised could and would happen. Well, Bernadette disappears when it’s time to bid adieu. Bee puts together letters and documents to solve the case of her missing mom. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a fun, cool novel in which you can escape. Also, it’s light, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.




Oh, how I love big, literary graphic novels. And Craig Thompson’s Blankets is definitely big and undoubtedly literary. Thompson draws with colors that are calm and cool—using black, white, and light blues. The scenery looks very much like you’ve awoken to a massive snowstorm. Thompson sets his story in isolated Wisconsin. The novel is about brothers and their coming-of-age struggles.  Blankets tackles adolescent themes of puberty, sex, and self, but also hits on the broader topic of religion.  This is one of the greatest graphic novels of our time. Read it and enjoy!




Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is similar to Twilight, but better. Shiver is the first in Stiefvater’s The Wolves of Mercy Falls series. This one introduces Grace, the protagonist. She sits back and watches wolves in her yard. One catches her eye, and she can’t seem to shake it. Sam is the other half of Shiver. He’s the boy-wolf who struggles to survive and adjust to his dual life. The story revolves around the cold and remote feeling of winter. The imagery is especially rich in this YA title that seems to be growing in popularity, although that level is already fairly high. Read it before you see those inevitable previews at the box office.


The Snow Child


There is no better way to get lost in the cold than to read about an isolated family in Alaska’s wilderness who enjoy building snow children. It sounds odd, but Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child is a wonderful literary novel; in fact, it was a recent surprise Pulitzer Prize for Fiction nominee. Ivey’s novel reads very much like a fairy tale. Jack and Mabel are a childless couple who aren’t entirely happy. They are missing something that they think they need: a child. They dream of having children, but it doesn’t happen until a hint of magical realism enters the picture. Suddenly, a girl shows up in their yard. She has many similarities to the snow child that they created together. Can it be? Are their problems solved? Ivey’s novel keeps you guessing up until the end, and it’s a quiet, haunting read.


So, go ahead and get lost in the cold. It’s the best way to beat this summer’s scorching heat.




The Snow Child: A Novel (Paperback)

By (author): Eowyn Ivey

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart-he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone-but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
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Bradley Sides

Bradley Sides is a graduate of the M. A. in English program from the University of North Alabama. His fiction appears in Belle Rêve Literary Journal, Birmingham Arts Journal, Boston Literary Magazine, Freedom Fiction Journal, Inwood Indiana, and Used Gravitrons. He is a contributor to Bookkaholic. He resides in Florence, Alabama, with his wife, and he is actively seeking representation for his debut middle-grade novel.