Blog Book Marks

June 2024 Book Marks

Summertime…where the livin’ is easy and my idea of heaven is a reclining chair, an iced tea with lemon, a bit of breeze and an engrossing book.  One thing is for certain, publishers unleash the floodgates this time of year with a poo-poo platter of choices for every taste.  So…grab your favorite landscape escape, sunscreen, a cold beverage, and dig in to some of these June offerings……


I’ve Tried Being Nice by Ann Leary

Ann Leary’s writing makes me laugh out loud.  She’s self-deprecating, sassy, vulnerable and convicted, and she knows how to describe universal experiences in relatable ways.  This wonderful collection of personal essays covers a range of relatable topics from parenting, sisters, friends, and tennis, to more serious topics such as addiction, marriage and of course, those pesky trespassing dog owners.  Leary gives us an inside look at how she keeps her marriage together with actor Denis Leary, whom she met when she was 20.  And if you haven’t read her novels, treat yourself.


Death in the Air by Ram Murali

If you were to set a thriller with “Agatha Christie meets White Lotus” vibes in a five-star Himalayan hotel, this book would be the result.  Ro Krishna is an Ivy league American lawyer, born to Indian parents, who has been forced out of his high-profile job under some murky circumstances.  He’s decided to nurse his wounds at Samsara, a world-class spa for the ultra-wealthy.  Ro finds himself in the midst of a diverse group of people, from a movie star to a wealthy childhood friend, a politician and many other characters.  When a guest turns up dead on the grounds, Ro is enlisted to help find the murderer. This hugely satisfying whodunit will keep you turning pages as the plot thickens and you begin to know more about each of the character. 


No Time to Panic by Matt Gutman

Anxiety is pervasive in America today. ABC’s Chief National Correspondent, Matt Gutman, has written an honest and engaging book about panic attacks and anxiety that grew out of his own personal experiences and drive to understand more about how and why they happen and if we can stop the cycle. While reporting on Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash, Gutman experienced his first on air panic attack, connected to his own father’s death in a plane crash when he was just 12. Gutman kept these attacks secret for years, but after his public melt-down, he decided to get to the bottom of it all, as only an intrepid reporter can. The result is an incredibly well-researched and written book, using lots of humor, science, neurology, evolution, psychedelics, therapy, pharma and wonderful personal stories. With the epidemic of anxiety sweeping the country, especially with our youth, this is an important book for everyone to read and Gutman’s information is something we can all use.


Still Me by Rebecca Chopp

Rebecca Chopp is an incredibly accomplished individual who, in addition to being the President of Colgate University, my alma mater, has held other prestigious positions in higher education, culminating with her role as the Chancellor of University of Denver.  When a baseline cognitive test during a routine physical turned up questions that led to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, she and her husband, Fred, were devastated.  The first two neurologists she met with gave her dire predictions, but it was the third doctor who told her to “live with joy.”  That simple edict set her on a journey to learn everything she could about how to stave off this dreaded disease that more than 7 million Americans and 11 million unpaid caregivers live with every single day.  This book is a memoir, as well as a blueprint, for how to make lifestyle changes around diet, exercise, stress, sleep, and community, to squeeze as much as possible out of life, despite knowing there is currently no cure. 


Long Island by Colm Toibin

As a follow-up to “Brooklyn,” Toibin, a master storyteller, takes us back to 1976 with Eilis Lacey, the complex Irish immigrant protagonist from his earlier novel, who falls in love with and marries Tony Fiorello.  They are now in their 40’s, living next to his family on Long Island, and the story begins with Eilis’s discovery that her husband has fathered a child with another woman, in whose home he worked as a plumber.  Eilis draws a line in the sand and flees to her hometown in Ireland, with her two teenaged children following soon after, under the ruse that her mother is turning 80.  This beautifully rendered story asks questions about love and longing, the complexity of marriage and the damage secrets can do.  I wanted more from the ending, but hopefully a third novel is in the works.


Tiananmen Square by Lai Wen

In 1988 I got married and immediately moved to Beijing, where my husband was teaching law.  During that year, the massacre on Tiananmen Square took place, and three students from our school were shot as the tanks rolled in.  Bearing witness to that historical event changed the trajectory of our lives, and my husband pursued journalism after that.  This coming of age novel about love and friendships leads up to the student protests, telling the story of Lai and her family from a working class Beijing neighborhood in the shadows of the Forbidden City.  Lai’s parents have been forever marked by the cultural revolution, but she gets a second chance when she wins a scholarship to Beijing University.  But Lai is swept up in the fervor of the dreamers and demonstrators crying for democracy and she must make her own decisions.  Drawn from the author’s own life experience, this real life story is cast as fiction for a good reason.  And returning from that year in China, I vowed I would never take my right to vote for granted.


Margo’s Got Money Troubles by Rufi Thorpe

It’s an age old story; the young heroine is seduced by the older, married professor, and when she ends up pregnant by accident, she is on her own.  Margo, a smart young woman with few resources and a nutty family, decides to keep the baby, although she doesn’t exactly have a plan.  Her mother was also a single mother, who had baby Margo out of wedlock with a married man, but is now wholly absorbed with her new, Evangelical husband.  With no money and no plan, Margo stumbles into a way to be able to stay home and support herself and child—Only Fans, the online site where people make money posting content, sometimes of a sexual nature.  Let’s just leave it there.  Margo’s professional  wrestler father comes back into her life, proving to be a sweet, loving grandfather who helps her care for her new baby, Bodhi.  And then things go a little sideways.  This is a GenZ, somewhat raunchy but surprisingly sweet story about a family of misfits you come to love.  The author’s voice is strong and allows you to really visualize the characters.


The Paris Widow by Kimberly Belle

When Stella met Adam, she thought she’d finally found a nice, normal guy, a welcome change from her previous boyfriend and his precarious jetsetter lifestyle.  In fact Adam deals in antiquities and is knowledgeable about so many different topics as well as loving and attentive.  But when Adam goes missing after an explosion in the city square, Stella’s secure world comes crashing down. Unable to reach him, she panics, and then certain clues begin to add up as she takes a deep dive into the antiquities black market and begins to discover the deaths associated with plundering and selling these treasures. As the French police investigate, Stella learns that Adam was on their radar, with a long roster of criminal clients. Reeling from this news, Stella is determined not to leave Paris until she has the full story. Was Adam a random victim or the target of the explosion? And why is someone following her through the streets of Paris?  A fast-paced read set in some of Europe’s most inviting locales, The Paris Widow takes a look at how the dark secrets of the past stay with us—no matter how far we travel.


How The Light Gets In by Joyce Maynard

Cam and Eleanor raised three children on their New Hampshire farm, and as their marriage ground to an end, they remained friends enough to watch their kids grow up, Al, married and living in Seattle, Ursula married in Vermont and then Toby, the baby who was brain injured as a small child and has lived at home ever since.   But Cam is diagnosed with cancer and, in an effort to do the right thing for the family, Eleanor moves back to the farm to nurse her husband to an inevitable end and care for her boy.  Maynard’s wonderfully taut and engrossing writing winds this family through three generations, going below the surface to uncover old patterns, anger, jealousy, resentment as the years roll by from 2009-2024 against a backdrop of America’s unrest and alienation as well as climate change.  It’s a uniquely American tale, told with love and insight and Maynard’s characters are wholly real, with stories that resonate. 

*These are books I genuinely love and am thrilled to recommend to my friends. These are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Alternately, if you prefer to check books out of your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!


Lee Woodruff     Speaker-Author-Executive Media Trainer