After long last, it finally feels like summer is here! Temperatures will reach the high eighties this week and will continue to soar. Time to get out the sunscreen, the wine spritzers, and the stack of good books that will accompany you to the beach, the pool, or the back porch under a shady umbrella.
Philly Happening has selected 10 excellent reads that promise to enlighten and entertain. All of our selections take place in Philadelphia and in many cases, are written by Philadelphia-based authors. Cheers to summer reading and supporting local stories, local writers, and the amazing city that we all love!
Three families have it all–or so it seems–until the walls come down between their homes and it becomes clear that there is no such thing as perfect. When the walls are down, the lines become blurred between friendship and family and relationships are put to the test. Pretty Little World is a modern and fun twist on communal living that takes place in a cozy neighborhood in downtown Philadelphia. The story mentions many beloved Philly spots, including The Franklin Institute, La Colombe, and Di Bruno Brothers. Written by two Philadelphia women, Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino, this book is an enjoyable read for anyone who has considered the meaning of family, friendship, and parenthood.
Lila Soto doesn’t know how she ended up in Philadelphia, but she does know that her husband is taking his job as a restaurant critic a little too seriously. To protect his professional credibility, he’s determined to remain anonymous–at a high cost! While Sam tries to limit his family’s contact with anyone who might have connections to the foodie world, Lila longs for adult conversation and a distraction from her job as a stay-at-home mom. As Sam becomes more and more fixated on keeping his identity secret, Lila begins to wonder if her own identity has completely disappeared—and what it will take to get it back!
The Restaurant Critic’s Wife is the debut adult novel from Philadelphia-resident Elizabeth LaBan, who teaches fiction writing at the University of Pennsylvania. The novel was included in People magazine’s Great New Fiction list when it debuted and was hailed as “thoroughly entertaining.” LaBan’s novel has some truth to life: she moved to Philadelphia from New Orleans when her restaurant-critic husband, Craig LaBan landed a new job as the food critic at The Inquirer.
In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner, a Philadelphia-based author, tells the story of a complicated relationship between two sisters and their grandmother. Rose, one of the main characters, lives in an apartment in Rittenhouse Square. The novel was made into a movie in 2005 starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, and Shirley MacLaine. You will fall in love with the Feller sisters and the evocative and compelling prose by Weiner that is heartbreaking and humorous all at the same time. Anyone who has a sister should read this book–you will understand the bickering, the frustrations, and most of all, the love.
Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, a Camden N.J.-based author, tells the story of a man with bi-polar disorder who is released from a psychiatric hospital and moves back home with his parents. The man forms a relationship with a recently widowed woman who offers to help him get his wife back if he enters a dance competition with her. In 2012, the novel was made into a wildly-successful film starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker, and Robert De Niro.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and graduated from Great Valley High School in Malvern, tells the story of a teenage girl, who after being raped and murdered in Norristown, watches from her personal heaven as her friends and family struggle to move on with their lives. The girl must also come to terms with her own death. The novel won critical-praise and in 2009 was made into a film starring Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, and Susan Sarandon.
In the Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert, the best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love, weaves a glorious fictional tale of botany, exploration and desire that begins in Philadelphia and ends in Europe, over the course of 19 years.
In the Legacy of Us, local author Kristin Contino takes readers from 1905 Italy to present-day Philadelphia. The Legacy of Us uncovers how the lives of three generations of women are changed by love, loss, and one little necklace.
In Fever of 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson tells the story of an epidemic fever that sweeps the streets of 1793 Philadelphia. The main character, Mattie Cook, must learn how to quickly survive in a city turned frantic with disease. This young adult/teen novel chronicles the real-life-yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia.
The Franklin Affair, by Jim Lehrer, is “a serious-minded yet breezy detective story…perfectly suited to beach reading and deep enough to raise lasting questions about life, liberty, and the pursuit of historical accuracy,” according to The Miami Herald. The novels tells the story of a man who arrives in Philadelphia for a funeral, only to discover a letter that is handwritten in a code commonly used by spies during The Revolutionary War. The letter reveals shocking charges against one of Philadelphia–and America’s great heroes– Benjamin Franklin. Did Franklin commit a heinous crime? As the mystery unfolds, vicious blackmail, career sabotage, and personal doubt threaten to overtake the protagonist as he struggles with the discovery that has the potential to unravel the fabric of American history.
Fans of Serial and Making a Murderer will want to read this true crime/law story about a shocking 1988 murder that took place in Philadelphia and the shoddy police investigation that followed. The author, Thomas Lowenstein, the founder of the New Orleans Journalism Project, takes readers through the convoluted twists and turns of this compelling case as few crime writers have the skill to do. The Trials of Walter Ogrod is not only a compelling read told with fascinating detail, it is an important work that exposes the lies behind the term “criminal justice.” “Innocuous terms like ‘police and prosecutorial misconduct’ take on a new and chilling meaning thanks to Lowenstein’s dogged pursuit and thoughtful analysis,” says reviewer, the author Mike Farrell.