The hot days of summer are when a lot of us catch up on our reading. Whether lounging by the pool or hibernating inside with the air conditioning, books are a must-have. Reading is a wonderful way to escape temporarily the constant barrage of the world’s bad news and relax for a few minutes. Choose one of the following books and unplug!
The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight / Martha Ackmann
Ever wondered why women weren’t included in the United States’ astronaut program from the start? This book explains why in detail and introduces you to the dedicated group of people who were lobbying to change that beginning in 1961. Some of you may have watched the excellent Netflix documentary, Mercury 13, about the same topic but the book gives a much deeper background. The Mercury 13 were thirteen women who, in secret, went through two of the three same phases of testing as the men who would become the Mercury 7, America’s first astronauts, and excelled. Despite the USSR launching a female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, into space in 1963 a Congressional committee halted the program and U.S. women would have to wait over twenty years to see their dream realized.
The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea / Jack E. Davis
The winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for History is a must-read. At just over 600 pages it is not for the faint-of-heart reader, but anyone who picks it up will be rewarded with a vivid and comprehensive history of the Gulf of Mexico and its impact on America. Davis, an environmental historian and professor, covers the beauty and tragedy of the region, from its marshy shorelines teeming with unique flora and fauna to the effects of oil spills and climate change.
The Prisoner in the Castle / Susan Elia MacNeal
Maggie Hope’s tribe of readers cannot wait for the eighth installment in the series to be released on August 7th. This book finds American-born spy and code-breaker, Maggie, on an isolated Scottish island with other British SOE agents. Murders ensue and Maggie must work to solve them before she becomes a victim herself. Author Susan Elia MacNeal writes in such a way that you feel as if you are in the midst of the story helping Maggie solve the mystery. MacNeal’s extensive research on the location and time period is obvious and appreciated. For The Prisoner in the Castle she traveled to the Isle of Rum off the west coast of Scotland!
My Family and Other Animals / Gerald Durrell
If you need a good laugh and want to escape to a beautiful, Greek island then this is the book for you. The first of three memoirs it reads more like a novel. Gerald Durrell and his family – widowed mother, two brothers, and one sister – moved from England to the Greek isle of Corfu in 1935. A naturalist at heart (Gerald would grow up to found the Jersey Zoological Park – now the Durrell Wildlife Park), the readers goes from traveling through the olive groves with Gerry and his trusty dog, Roger, to larger-than-life scenes with his eccentric and entertaining family and friends. Originally published in 1956 it was turned into a wonderful television series by the British network ITV in 2016. It airs in the U.S. on PBS but be sure to read the book first!
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted / Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
You’re gonna make it after all! Can anyone else sing The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song from memory? Mary Tyler Moore and her groundbreaking, Emmy Award-winning series graced America’s televisions from 1970 to 1977. For the first time the lead character was a single, 30-year-old woman stepping out on her own, moving to the big city of Minneapolis, and pursuing a career at a television news station. Thanks to the show’s star and creators, James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, they handled difficult topics with humor, grace, and a dose of reality. The show was not only ground-breaking on screen but also behind the scenes. Brooks and Burns brought on many talented, female writers because they believed that not only could they gave insight into Mary’s character that men could not but that women also deserved a place at the writers’ table.
Joanna is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.