Book Talk: Summer Reading Roundup

Kick off your vacation with a few good reads for Summer 2015. 

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(Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Summer is here, the few months when Washington takes a breather. It’s the time to catch up on all those books you’ve been meaning to read, and maybe discover a few new ones. For this list, we paid attention to nonfiction by mostly local authors on the subjects that matter to them —from drone warfare to wildlife filmmaking, these works provide insights into an array of topics that will make your beach reading anything but mindless.

CAPITAL DAMES
by Cokie Roberts
History buffs, this one’s for you. Washington journalist and famed political commentator Cokie Roberts follows up her New York Times bestselling books “Founding Mothers” and “Ladies of Liberty” with a study of the early “belles” of Washington society and their considerable influence in “Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868.” The stories of influential but oft-overlooked women like first ladies Harriet Lane and Mary Todd Lincoln and social activist and former slave Elizabeth Keckley are set amid the backdrop of important moments in U.S. history. (HarperCollins, $27.99)

CONFESSIONS OF A WILDLIFE FILMMAKER
by Chris Palmer

American University film professor, filmmaker and conservationist Chris Palmer uncovers the ugly truth behind beautifully shot wildlife productions in his memoir “Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker: The Challenges of Staying Honest in an Industry Where Ratings are King.” Palmer shares the highs and lows of his film career and the industry’s ethical standards. As Jane Goodall explains in her introduction, by confessing his own wrongdoings and criticizing his own behavior, Palmer “is in a strong position to challenge other film makers to follow the same rigorous guidelines. He is, in fact, striving to move the profession to a higher level.” After reading this tell-all expose, you’ll never see wildlife films and television the same way. (Bluefield Publishing, $23.04)

HOPE: A MEMOIR OF SURVIVAL IN CLEVELAND
by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, with Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan
If you haven’t read this #1 New York Times best seller yet, now is the time. Co-authored by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, this mesmerizing book combines first-person accounts with news reporting on the case of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, two of the three girls kidnapped and held captive for over ten years in Cleveland in a high-profile missing persons case. The authors worked with Berry and DeJesus to bring their story to life — with material taken largely from diaries Berry kept as a prisoner. The book spares no detail and at the same time shows that hope can be found in even the most horrifying of circumstances. The authors call it “a story of coping and hoping.” Buy it in hardcover, because all proceeds from book sales go to support the kidnapped girls and their families. (Penguin Random House, $28.95)

The Inn at Little Washington image (Illustration by Gordon Beall)

The Inn at Little Washington image (Illustration by Gordon Beall)

THE INN AT LITTLE WASHINGTON: A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION 
by Patrick O’Connell
The Washington area’s favorite weekend retreat now has a glossy coffee table book to commemorate it. The Inn at Little Washington, arguably America’s most famous restaurant-cum-country inn, was transformed from a rural garage into a jewel-like country house thanks to the vision of chef and owner Patrick O’Connell. “The Inn was finally ready for its ‘close up,’” he says, adding that it was time to let the world know that “we had evolved from a simple country restaurant into much more.” With beautiful photos illustrating an inspiring story, it’s a treat to flip through this gem on a languid summer day. When asked what he wants readers to take away from the book, O’Connell says “Hopefully it will inspire them to dream and to realize that with patience, hard work and sacrifice, dreams sometimes come true. This is an unlikely story of collaboration and transformation with a bit of magic mixed in.” (Rizzoli, $50)

MY ORGANIC LIFE: HOW A PIONEERING CHEF HELPED SHAPE THE WAY WE EAT TODAY
by Nora Pouillon, with Laura Fraser
Organic meals are in vogue, these days, but how did we begin paying close attention to where our food comes from? Washington chef Nora Pouillon, who founded the first ever certified organic food restaurant in the United States in 1979, delves into the origins of the movement in this fascinating memoir. (Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95)

IRREPRESSIBLE: THE JAZZ AGE LIFE OF HENRIETTA BINGHAM
by Emily Bingham
In the roaring ’20s Henrietta Bingham turned down a publishing empire and the lavish lifestyle of her prominent Southern family to live like the times, “intoxicating and intoxicated, selfish and shameless, seductive and brilliant, endearing and often terribly troubled.” Bingham’s grand-niece tells the story of an unconventional woman ahead of her time. After doctors tried to  “cure her queerness,” Bingham was outcast, leading to anxiety and addiction. Emily Bingham brings justice to her aunt’s memory, going beyond rumors and whispers to set the record straight. (Farar, Straus and Giroux, $28)

LEAVE YOUR MARK
by Aliza Licht
DKNY’s PR specialist teaches readers how to create a personal brand worth following in this book of social media secrets. Sharing her own (hilarious) experiences in the professional style world, Licht uses her failures and successes to give readers the opportunity to learn from them. Style expert and television personality Stacy London says “If you want the job of your dreams, read this book.” (Grand Central Publishing, $26)

A FULL LIFE: REFLECTIONS AT NINETY
by Jimmy Carter
View the world through the eyes of former president Jimmy Carter and experience a lifetime of his passion, service, tough choices and a few regrets. Carter gives readers an intimate account of his life and presidency, including personal poems and paintings. The 39th president also provides an honest perspective on issues like racism, war and the future of the country. (Simon & Schuster, $28)

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
by Elizabeth Alexander
You likely know her as one of only four poets to read at an American presidential inauguration—Alexander composed “Praise Song for the Day” on the occasion of President Obama’s inauguration, and now the renowned poet is extending her skills to nonfiction. Deeply personal and universal in its reach, her memoir chronicling the “existential crossroads” she faced after the sudden death of her husband is surely comparable to celebrated grief memoirs such as Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.” (Grand Central Publishing, $26)

THE GREAT WAR OF OUR TIME
by Michael Morell
Find out what keeps a CIA director up at night in former deputy director Michael Morell’s tell-all on the CIA’s fight against terrorism. He details his role in Benghazi; the Bin Laden raid; and the fight against ISIS, Al-Qaeda and more. Morell also illustrates what working with the commander in chief is like behind closed doors, comparing his time with presidents Bush and Obama. (Hachette Book Group, $28)

GO SET A WATCHMAN
by Harper Lee
Everyone’s favorite book from high school now has a “sequel” and odds are you’ve heard of it. Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” has been surrounded by controversy since it was announced alongside rumors that Lee herself never endorsed the publication. Her publisher and agent have refuted these claims, while the reclusive author has remained pretty quiet about it. Set to debut on July 14, the sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird” was 55 years in the making. (HarperCollins, $27.99)

Read the full story in the Summer 2015 issue of Washington Life.

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