The selection of books this summer is terrific. Unfortunately some of them are still in hardback or large paperbacks. But do consider your local bookshop before you order the e-book version!!
My absolute favourite is Emma Cline’s The Girls, probably the best debut I have read in years. The author is 27 and her prose is amazing. Don’t be put off by the story line which is a new, fictionalized take on the Charles Manson murders in California in 1969. Cline explores the human element of the various members of the Manson family, but rather than concentrating on the charisma of Charles, she examines the attraction young girls have for each other as they seek their peer group. Beautifully recounted, the book was an extra shock for me as I felt teleported back to my childhood in California – I could feel the sun, smell the L’Air du Temps perfume from my youth and revel in the freedom of those long, slow summers.
Just out is Annie Proulx’s long awaited new novel Barkskins, an epos spanning three centuries and covering two young Frenchmen who seek their fortune in 17th century New France. The stories of the two men who begin as barkskins or woodcutters are intertwined with the history or Canada and the early United States. Proulx draws a brutal picture of wilderness life, of the effects of the devastation of the vast forests of the new continent on the native Americans and on the ecology of the country. Billed as her greatest work, the author regales us with wild adventures anchored both in history and imagination.
In early August, Eowyn Ivey’s second book will be published and this is also a wilderness tale mixed with the magic realism of the Pacific Northwest. Located in Alaska, where Ivey’s acclaimed debut The Snow Child took place, To the Bright Edge of the World recounts the 1885 mission of Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester to navigate the Wolverine River in a move to open up the newly acquired territory of Alaska. Forrester’s adventurous young wife, Sophie, is left behind at the military barracks to carve out her own destiny during her husband’s year long absence. Written as letters and journal entries, this is one of the most moving accounts of life’s challenges I have every read. Ivey is well on her way to matching Proulx’s reputation as a genius of literature.
After postponing my reading of what some booksellers and critics call the best book of 2015, I finally picked up Hanya Yanagihara’s tome, A Little Life, and found myself drawn into its pages and hoping it would never end. Four friends who meet each other during university in New York City maintain a special friendship well into middle age. While its premise is tragic, this book is a moving testament to Yanigihara’s skill in detailing the lives, emotions and the tenderness of the bonds of this group of young men. Truly worth your time this summer – and I promise you, it will kidnap your heart.
Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, was a National Book Award finalist in 2015 and Obama phoned the author to tell her this was his favorite book. Reviews by the public are mixed depending on how much energy you are willing to put into a complex read. It is a brilliantly written and structured tale of a marriage, its joys, its secrets, and what a couple really shares with each other. The first half of the book shows the reader how the couple interacts – from the husband’s point of view; the second part reveals in brilliant twists just how complicated and remarkable the 24 year long marriage really is. Groff has been awarded many prizes over the years for the rich prose and creativity of her three novels.
If you are looking for a great psychological thriller that will have you guessing until the end, pick up Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse.
The Improbability of Love, Hannah Rothschild – A dusty painting discovered by the lovelorn Annie McDee turns out to have an amazing historical background. A thoroughly enjoyable summer read about art, food, and history – as well as daring to fall in love again.
For some real nitty gritty thinking about new strategies for approaching city planning and design, I can highly recommend the two books below, both written by Dutch authors who are working on the world scale.
A customer and old friend, Fred Bakker has just published The Smartest Places on Earth:Why Rustbelts are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation. (Dutch title: Hier wordt de toekomst gebouwd). Authored by Bakker, the former editor of Het Financieele Dagblad and Antoine Van Agtmael, who during his tenure at the World Bank in the 1980s coined the term “emerging markets,” the book argues that depleted industrial centres in the US and Europe are regenerating as “brainbelts” which will be capable of identifying strategies for addressing some of the world’s new issues. The book describes a recipe for turn-around – a sort of 266 page inspirational Ted talk for those pondering the future of cities. The bookstore would love to organize a reading or workshop on this topic if there is interest.
Last week I had the privilege of participating in a stimulating book discussion at Springhouse, home for Radical Innovators on the Ruijterkade in Amsterdam. Kees Dorst, Professor of Design Innovation at the University of Technology, Sydney, was visiting and discussed with a variety of design thinkers from around the world his new book, Frame Innovation: Create New Thinking by Design. Dorst describes a new, innovation-centered form of design thinking to tackle problem-solving in organizations. He maps solutions that include rethinking a store layout so retail spaces encourage purchasing rather than stealing, applying the frame of a music festival to understand late-night problems of crime and congestion in a club district, and creative ways to attract young employees to a temporary staffing agency. This frame creation provides an inspiring guide which will help practitioners determine their own (bottom-up) ways of innovating.