A local bookseller brings a personal touch to the reading process. Many, like Mary Jane Reed, owner of GJ Ford Bookshop, are avid readers themselves, and bring to the table extensive knowledge of which books to recommend, whether the person inquiring is a history buff looking to explore the past, or someone who’s seeking advice on which books to take to the beach.
Reed can answer those questions and more. Indie bookstores provide a personal touch that online services can’t come close to replicating. This is all-too-evident when sitting in Reed’s comfy shop, surrounded by the latest releases of the season.
Reed recommended Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel, “City of Girls,” right out of the gate. Set in the theater world of 1940s New York City, the story is told by one character, an older woman, who is reflecting on her life. Gilbert is probably best known for her best-selling memoir, and its subsequent film adaptation, “Eat, Pray, Love.”
“It is really fun,” said Reed.
“The Summer That I Met Jack” is another one of Reed’s favorite new releases. Written by Michelle Gable, the book tells the story of a Polish immigrant who allegedly had an affair with John F. Kennedy (prior to his presidency) that produced a child.
A darker recommendation includes “Cari Mora,” written by Thomas Harris, the author of both “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal Lecter.” The book is set in Miami Beach and features greed, evil and obsession as its themes.
“It’s a creepy thriller,” Reed said.
For a historical perspective, it’s hard to beat David McCullough. “Pioneers” is his latest work, and Reed says it recounts the adventures and struggles of settlers who brought the “American ideal” west to what was then considered the Northwest Territory of the U.S. — Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois — the states now considered part of the Midwest.
Others to consider include “The Woman in the White Kimono,” which tells the cross-cultural story of two women, one Japanese, one American, and some family secrets that connect them, and another saga of family secrets, “The Guest Book” by Sarah Blake.
“’The Guest Book’ is getting a lot of buzz,” said Reed. “It’s a story about family secrets across generations, and how they come out as (the family) summers on their island in Maine.”
Two more beach-themed novels are included on Reed’s list, including “Cape May” by Chip Cheek, about newlyweds from Georgia who spend their honeymoon in 1957 Cape May, N.J. Cheek has penned a psychological thriller, with themes of desire, and the social and sexual mores of 1950s America explored through the eyes of a couple from the South who become “corrupted” by New England sophisticates.
On a slightly lighter note, and also at the beach, is the long-awaited new novel from Mary Kay Andrews, “Sunset Beach.” Andrews tackles family drama head on, and with a healthy dose of humor, as the protagonist, as Reed says, “pursues justice against the odds.”
Of course, no summer reading list is complete without something written about, or by, Harper Lee.
“Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee” by Casey Cep, is the story of Alabama serial killer the Rev. Willie Maxwell, who was on the lam for years until he was shot dead at the funeral of his last victim. Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted – thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend. Harper Lee, with visions of writing her own version of “In Cold Blood,” which she had helped her friend, author Truman Capote, research, spent countless hours at the trial, traveling from her home in New York City, to a small Alabama town. Unfortunately, she never finished the book. Cep picks up where Lee left off, and writes a suspenseful account.
“It’s considered a memoir; it’s non-fiction,” said Reed.