Gini Dietrich

Summer Reading: Five Novels and One Business Book

By: Gini Dietrich | June 9, 2014 | 

Summer ReadingBy Gini Dietrich

Summer vacation has begun!

Kids are home from school. The grill is getting a serious workout. And your hammock calls your name in the middle of the day.

Therefore, it is time for our annual list of fiction for summer reading.

Summer Reading Choices

Following is a list of my favorite books that I’ve read in 2014. They are in no particular order. I have not included books I read, but didn’t like.

  1. The Dinner. This book is set through the course of one dinner, when two brothers and their wives meet to discuss the banality of work and the triviality of the holidays. We quickly learn, though, there is a bigger issue at play with their 15-year-old sons who seem to have participated in a horrific act that has triggered a police investigation and is going to test the sibling rivalry.
  2. The Husband’s Secret. When I read this, I joked that I had to get through it so I could figure out what secret Mr. D is keeping. I hope it’s not the one this husband keeps! In a drunken stupor the night their first child was born, a husband writes his wife a letter to be opened upon his death. Several years later, in the middle of raising three kids, she finds it long before his death and struggles with whether to open it or pretend she never saw it. She eventually opens and reads it and what she finds inside is astonishing.
  3. The Weight of Blood. This novel is the first for author Laura McHugh, whose husband went to college with Mr. D. Because of that, I felt obligated to read it and didn’t expect to like. I loved it! Written from a town in the Ozark Mountains, high school graduate, Lucy, learns a deep, dark secret about the mother she never knew; the mother who disappeared when she was a child. When a girl her own age goes missing and her body is displayed for all to see, Lucy grapples with losing her friend and losing her mother. What happened to both is shocking and disturbing.
  4. Once We Were Brothers. In Poland, a family takes in a boy the same age as their own son. As the boys grow up, they become more than just friends…they become brothers. When the war hits, though, the one boy stays with his family – who is Jewish – while the other goes off to serve in Hitler’s war. Fast forward to today when the Jewish man recognizes civic leader and philanthropist, Elliot Rosenzweig, as his old friend and soon-to-be enemy former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc. Of course, no one believes Rosenzweig could really be this horrible person and brushes off the claims as coming from a delusional old man.
  5. Orange is the New Black. It is baaaaack! The second season of the Netflix original is here. Though I read the book that started it all last summer (and have recommended it to many), it’s as good a time as any to read it. What I like about the book is it gives much more detail about what’s going on in prison…things the TV series misses. Did you know the prison was put on lockdown during the Martha Stewart trial because they didn’t want her jailed there? You learn in the book why this is and much more. In true nature, the book is better than the Netflix series.

And One to Grow On

  1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things. The guy who co-founded Bonobos recommended this to me. Because of his extreme success, I thought I should listen. It’s by Ben Horowitz and it talks about the things that make a great entrepreneur…and the things will surprise you. Things such as, “I didn’t quit” and “I learned how to pivot.” The biggest thing for me, as a sometimes struggling entrepreneur was when he talked about the differences between mediocre and great. The mediocre entrepreneurs always point to events as their biggest accomplishments – they sold for a gazillion dollars, they took the company they founded public…some big event. The great entrepreneurs, though, always say their biggest accomplishment was they didn’t quit. And, I’m telling you from experience, there are many, many, many times you want to quit. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

There you go! Get to the library, run to the bookstore, get on Amazon, or download on your Kindle. It’s time for summer reading to commence!

P.S. Leave me fiction recommendations in the comments. I’m taking a mini vacation on Monday and Tuesday of next week and need a few books to read!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • Love the summer reading posts. I am working on mine this week as well. I am glad you got around to reading The Dinner and it made the list! He has a new one that just came out I believe – Summer House with Swimming Pool. I plan on checking out.  I enjoyed The Husband’s Secret as well. She has a new one coming out in July called Big Little Lies.
    I finally  finished The Goldfinch and would definitely recommend it. Also I just finished The Rosie Project if you are looking for something cute and a fast read!

  • And just like that, my wish list grew by 6 items! Thanks I think! Gotta say, Gini, these all sound pretty intense. Looking forward to checking some of them out. A book I read on my trip that I FLEW through (and we know it usually takes me forever to get through a book on paper) was “Fallen Beauty.” It’s fiction but historically based/researched, and focuses on Edna St. Vincent Millay who as it turns out led QUITE a juicy life. Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck (and, props to Erika Robuck — I sent her an email about the book as soon as I got home from the airport and she had responded within 8 hours. I love authors who interact. Kinda like the author of Spin Sucks — some of you in this community may know her 😉 ).

  • Awesome thank you! I’d not heard of any of those fiction books. I thought you usually only read book about murder in the summer… 

    I’ve been reading different forms of fantasy novels since last fall…so probably not of great interest to you (related- do enough searches for fan art maps of Joe Abercrombie novels and google changes your ad profile to ‘male’…). 

      I did read a memoir (not my usual, but stick with me…) from a British journalist who attempts to go into publishing in China…yeah I know- I couldn’t believe someone had already written it! It’s called China Cuckoo, and it is funny and touching and really, really well written. You don’t have to have vested interest in the industry to enjoy it. I believe you would enjoy it for the quality of the writing and the way he provides really thoughtful insight into Chinese culture. 

      I often try for some sort of ‘classic’ in the summer…if you never read Margaret Atwood’s Edible Woman, I believe you would connect with it. I feel I am ready for a re-read. It is SO well crafted…watch the tricksy narration perspective.

      Another Canadian must-read is Ondaatje’s In The Skin of a Lion. Don’t hold the fact he wrote English Patient against him!  His prose veritably drips off the page… top paragraph of page 17 is one of my favourite sentences of.all.time.

      I’ve not read a business book since Spin Sucks because I haven’t needed to. x

  • Once We Were Brothers has been on my list for a long time, I need to make that happen. You’ve already read my two suggestions of late (11-22-63 and Unbroken). I also recently read Patriot Games by Tom Clancy, which was ok, but not as good as other Clancy’s in my opinion. For those who haven’t already read it, Ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman. I’m currently reading No Country For Old Men, which I’m struggling to get into a bit, but I’ll let you all know.

  • oh and I read Fight Club, which is creep, creep, creeeeeeeepy in book form

  • LauraPetrolino I have just downloaded The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Love me some Gaiman. He is one of the two or three best short story writers on the planet. His collecting Smoke & Mirrors is top-notch.

  • I just finished devouring I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes. It was a Klout Perk (go ahead, roll your eyes) that I only accepted because he is the guy who wrote the movie Dead Calm (an awesome obscure flick that started Nicole Kidman’s career). It’s one of those crazy thriller page-turners, great for vacation reading.

  • ClayMorgan LauraPetrolino I totally agree! He is definitely in my top five list of favorite authors. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

  • LauraPetrolino I loved that one in book form! There are others by Chuck P (Portland writer! I mean, the other Portland) though that I literally could not stomach. Guts? Avoid it. Really. Don’t read it.

  • RebeccaTodd Ondaatje’s a fantastic writer! I loved The Cat’s Table.

  • Eleanor Pierce Oh great! I have not read that one! Thank you.

  • LauraPetrolino Oh yes Ocean was lovely! And I love Clancy- Without Remorse- amazing. No Country is a challenge- have you read other McCarthy’s? I read The Road in one terrifying sitting. He’s such a talent. You may also enjoy Elmore Leonard, Laura- your style I bet.

  • Eleanor Pierce LauraPetrolino Yeah, I tried Choke and couldn’t do it.

  • The last great fiction book I read was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson:

    She does crazy things with chronology that no author should be able to do and no reader should be able to follow and she absolutely masters it. I’m in awe of her skill, but its also a really absorbing story.
    Guilty pleasure-wise, I’m now reading Paul Stanley’s autobiography. So far the early chapters about his childhood are quite touching. But you may need to have been in the KISS Army to fully appreciate it …

  • Seriously 5 Harry Potter books? But you did that the last 3 years.

    And RobBiesenbach has read all of those. You surely can’t give him the summer off.
    If you want a full boat for the summer read Sarah Douglass’s wayfarer redemption series. She is a pretty stellar fantasy writer.

  • Genene Murphy

    Gini, I’ve got three recommendations (or more) for you. Fiction: Consider “Sag Harbor,” by Colson Whitehead. It’s a coming-of-age wonder; I promise you’ll hear an Eighties soundtrack (old-school rap) when you read it. A delicious beach read … because it also takes place along one. You’ve read “This Is Where I Leave You,” by Jonathan Tropper, right? Moving on. Nonfiction: Two recent favorites include “Detroit: An American Autopsy,” by Charlie LeDuff, and surprisingly “10% Happier” by Dan Harris. I didn’t want to like the latter for obvious reasons of celebrity, however, it is one of the best unexpected reads I’m happy to recommend. (I bought the book and gave it to a friend who, like you, knows the industry and its crazy.)

  • Genene Murphy

    RobBiesenbach This is a big book … it reminds me of that Gwyneth Paltrow film “Sliding Doors.” If you choose this Gini, stick with it. At first it’s a bit confusing … but right around page 142, I got it. And loved it to the end.

  • Genene Murphy

    LSSocialEngage Loved this one, “The Goldfinch.” However, get past Vegas. When you read it, you’ll know why I say it. And if you’ve ever loved and missed someone, those last pages are golden, worth all the other paragraphs you needed to read to get to that point.

  • Eleanor Pierce LauraPetrolino there’s another Portland? I thought since Portland ME was inhabited by a Ninja, all other Portlands were eclipsed 😉

  • Genene Murphy LSSocialEngage I am currently reading The Goldfinch! And I’m “in Vegas” — I’m definitely drawn in enough to stay at this point. 🙂

  • biggreenpen OH NO YOU DIDN’T!
    Little known fact: LauraPetrolino and I both graduated high school in the same year in west-side suburbs of Portland, Oregon. So my Portland is really the OG #PetroPower city!

  • Here’s a few you should like: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, Mary Coin by Marisa Silver, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson and John LeCarre’s latest novel, A Delicate Truth. All great vacation reading!

  • DebPickett

    Great recommendations – thanks!  I’ve not read The Husband’s Secret or The Weight of Blood, so I’m adding those to my list. 

    And, since you asked for fiction suggestions, Gini, I’d love for you to check out my novel-writing debut: Reporting Lives.  It’s a peek into the complicated (and not altogether likable) psyche of a working reporter, something PR pros might find either interesting or horrifying.

    It’s available here:

  • AnneReuss

    I love a good thriller with a mind twist that you didn’t see coming. Read Gone Girl by GIllian Flynn or Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff. I’ve been dying for a book just like these two.

  • RebeccaTodd Eleanor Pierce LauraPetrolino I was listening to it on audiobook and had such a visceral reaction I nearly needed to pull over and throw up. I still get a little nauseated just thinking about it!

  • Genene Murphy You are right. The last pages are golden. I actually read them several times. Yes, so worth it to get to the end. biggreenpen it’s such a rich story – there is so much more good stuff. Enjoy!

  • Genene Murphy RobBiesenbach Thanks for this recommendation. I’ll have to check it out although I hope the “big book” part doesn’t deter me.

  • OH MY GOD I read The Dinner in Mexico! Amazing!! As you know, Gini, I’m obsessed with Scandinavian writers right now – Jo Nesbo has rocked my world – I’ve read every single one of his Harry Hole series (I now know his last name is pronounced “Hol-eh” – takes some of the fun out of it, doesn’t it? LOL Right now, I’m reading his latest piece of fiction, not part of the Harry series – called The Son. It’s an incredible story of family, redemption, and the drug world in Norway. Full of Nesbo’s classic twists and turns, and gory imagination! You must read it.

  • lpscribe1 LOVE Ian McEwan!!

  • KateNolan

    It’s a good thing I’ve already read two of these books, because then my list would be that much longer. Of course, I know the comments will contain three times the recommendations! Time for a reading sabbatical!

  • belllindsay lpscribe1 

    Have you read this one? It’s his most recent & very good. My other favorite of his is THE INNOCENT.

  • KateNolan

    belllindsay I’m too scared to read Nesbo. Seriously, I have a far too active imagination… *creak* WHAT WAS THAT??? *hides under covers*

  • belllindsay 

    Here’s a review I did of SWEET TOOTH you might find interesting:

  • Genene Murphy Great point, Genene — probably not a quick 1-2 day book. On the other hand, I found it was easier to follow when I didn’t put it down for days between.
    As for size, I found that’s one advantage to ebooks. After I finished it I saw it in the store and thought, there’s no way I ever would have picked that book up had I known how long it was!
    The good news is, it really picked up speed and I loved it.

  • Good morning, everyone! Interesting recommendations, Gini. I loved your synopsis of The Hard Thing… 

    I recently shared this quote on Facebook that echoes that message and a testimonial I often hear from writers who didn’t give up.

  • LauraPetrolino I loved Tom Clancy books, have read most of them. Mr. Clark rocks.

  • RobBiesenbach Our pastor, who looks like Nikki Sixx, recommended Stanley’s book. I’m buying it for my brother for his bday. Glad to hear you like it…

  • LauraPetrolino Unbroken has been sitting Unread in my book stack, ugh!

  • I just bought Pearl S. Buck in China, which I want to read b/c The Good Earth had a deep impact on me. Speaking of books by friends, I recently read When Others Shuddered by my longtime friend and a former Moody prof Jamie Janosz. Great insight into the lives of eight tough women who made a difference in Chicago’s early days.

  • shawnz

    I am almost done with The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. BEST book I’ve read in years! Highly recommended!

  • KateNolan He is amazing, but yeah, scary. Though the stories are so well written, and the character development so rich, I can’t put them down!

  • lpscribe1 Haven’t read Sweet Tooth yet – I’ll definitely check out your review! Thanks!

  • lpscribe1 My favourite for sure is Black Dogs, and The Comfort of Strangers. On Chesil Beach is *amazing* though – a short read – grab it if you haven’t read it yet!

  • Eleanor Pierce biggreenpen LauraPetrolino Truth. I will always have a love in my heart from West Coast Portland. One could say I’m a Portland-aholic, just can’t get enough!

  • RebeccaTodd Eleanor Pierce LauraPetrolino Well Fight Club was rough enough for me, so there is no way. He is an amazing writer, but oy!

  • RebeccaTodd LauraPetrolino I’m never read Elmore Leonard, I’ll look him up, Any suggestions of where to start with him. I feel like with No Country if I could just get into the midst of it I’d like it, but I’m stuck at the beginning with a bit of ADD

  • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes LauraPetrolino I have as well! Which are your favorites? Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger are tops on my list. Unlike RebeccaTodd , I wasn’t a huge fan of Without Remorse.

  • Word Ninja LauraPetrolino Just do it! That’s a command!

  • Word Ninja I’ll check both out. Thank you!

  • shawnz Really?! OK … I just added to my book list.

  • Word Ninja So. True.

  • KateNolan You have to give me more to read! We have the same taste.

  • belllindsay I’m halfway through The Snowman and I am disappointed to learn it’s Hol-eh. I feel betrayed.

  • AnneReuss I LOVED Gone Girl. I’ve read all of her books. Do you know she’s from Chicago?

  • lpscribe1 You never fail me. Thank you!

  • Genene Murphy Woo hoo! On my list. Thank you!

  • Howie Goldfarb Why do you always make fun of my beloved Harry Potter?

  • RobBiesenbach Night Circus was like that for me. I had to keep a notepad of the events in order so I keep it all straight. I’ll definitely check this out!

  • rosemaryoneill Man! Why don’t I ever get good Klout perks?!

  • LauraPetrolino Read it! Read it! You’ll love it.

  • Word Ninja I couldn’t get through Unbroken. I tried three times.

  • RebeccaTodd Um, these all have some sort of murder plot line in them. Sigh. I LOVE Margaret Atwood. I may have to revisit some of her classics.

  • biggreenpen What’s the Ashley Judd one you were reading?

  • LSSocialEngage Two for The Goldfinch so that’s next!

  • LauraPetrolino RebeccaTodd  Without Remorse is amazing. I liked Cardinal in the Kremlin quite a bit too.
    All the Cold War stuff was fun.

  • ginidietrich LMAO! They finally released the VERY first Harry Hol-eh novel in english – I guess now that Nesbo’s a superstar, they figured it was worth the money for the translation  – it was an interesting read, you could tell it was the first book – tied up some loose ends, like the name! LOL

  • KateNolan

    belllindsay KateNolan I actually have Harry Hole #1, but haven’t read it yet. I’m guessing you’ll know when I do by an increase in late night facebook posts. 🙂

  • KateNolan

    belllindsay ginidietrich Does this mean I need to read The Snowman before I  start Harry Hole? (And everytime I say that name I go completely 12 year old and think “YOU’RE a Harry Hole!”)

  • KateNolan

    belllindsay ginidietrich Never mind. Google gave me the answer!

  • Perfect timing. I’ve just finished two books and am looking for what’s next (my eBook apps have plenty of options but I’m always looking for recommendations.) I enjoyed This is Where I Leave you It’s about of a quirky, dysfunctional family and how the members cope when the patriarch dies. Yes, it’s a light comedy, seriously. The movie version is due in September.

    I read The Husband’s Secret and was wondering about OINTB since I’m a fan of the show. Maybe I’ll download it tonight.

  • ginidietrich shawnz I read about a quarter and need to get back into it again. At least that’s what everyone says. 🙂

  • KateNolan belllindsay ginidietrich I’ve got Headhunter on my Kindle app because of Lindsay’s Jo Nesbo recommendation months ago. Should I read another one first?

  • ginidietrich AnneReuss Loved Gone Girl and read Sharp Objects last December but didn’t like it as much.

  • EdenSpodek I liked OITNB because it fills in some holes.

  • I’m always afraid to click on these posts Gini, because I know my reading list will increase exponentially… Once We Were Brothers sounds fascinating, esp. since I’m a sucker for WWII related historical fiction.
    I just finished reading a touching book – normally I’m not much for YA fiction but this one was written so gracefully/beautifully and with a gravitas that even adults can dig that I pretty much couldn’t put it down (interestingly, written by a classmate of mine from H.S. who’s apparently a great writer).

  • If anyone’s interested in superb non-fiction, I recommend Guns at Last Light, the third in Rick Atkinson’s masterly history of World War II. This one’s about the D-Day invasion (so it’s topical, too!) & he does an outstanding job of making the last year of the war come vividly to life. Great command of the material and an unerring talent for choosing eyewitness accounts that make everything come to life.

  • Word Ninja Pearl S. Buck is so, so good.

  • KateNolan Seriously. Sometimes I bookmark the posts where Gini recommends things, and then am afraid to look at them for weeks.

  • belllindsay The Son sounds cool – did you ever watch that Showtime series Lillyhammer about the mob boss who sneaks out to live under the radar in Norway? I loved that.

  • Awesome, thank you Gini! You always give good recommendations. I’ve got one to pick up tomorrow and the rest on my list. 🙂

  • EdenSpodek ginidietrich AnneReuss Because of Gini, I’ve read all of hers. They are darker than what I usually like to read but I’ve liked them all for a change! 🙂

  • JoeCardillo Sounds intriguing. I actually love YA, although I usually read more YA fantasy. Funny what you find out later about your HS classmates. 🙂

  • belllindsay This made me laugh out loud. Oh, I mean LOL.

  • ginidietrich RobBiesenbach Wow, Gini, I just heard about night circus this weekend. Met an artist that makes jewelry out of junk he finds; biz is called Recyclopath. That has nothing to do with the subject, but that fact that a man who makes rings out of Barbie heads recommended the book made it a little more intriguing.

  • ginidietrich ACK!

  • Word Ninja Ha! That must be disconcerting. I actually want to get the Motley Crue book, too, but the ebook isn’t out yet — coming out in July around the 10th anniversary of publication. Anyway, it’s supposed to be really good.

  • shawnz reading it now! (audio)

  • Word Ninja I loved The Good Earth!

  • shawnz

    EdenSpodek ginidietrich shawnz It’s taking me forever to read…but now I’m sad it’s almost over!

  • ginidietrich I downloaded it tonight. Lots of interesting suggestions here for those of us with eclectic tastes. Thanks.

  • shawnz ginidietrich I’ll get back to it soon when I regain patience for a longer novel.

  • KateNolan When you start reading it, let me know, I’ll send you my number in case you need counselling sessions. LOL

  • JoeCardillo No, haven’t heard about that one! I’ll have to google it!

  • JoeCardillo I think you’ll like Once We Were Brothers. It tells a really interesting story about the war and how it divided not just brothers, but entire families.

    And I’ll totally read Love Letters to the Dead. Thank you!

  • lpscribe1 Cool! I”ll buy that for Mr. D.

  • LauriRottmayer Which one are you picking up?

  • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes LauraPetrolino RebeccaTodd It’s ALL about Mr Clark.

  • LauraPetrolino RebeccaTodd Yeah, you have to get into the rhythm of McCarthy. Leonard…the first I read was Pagan Babies. I think you’d love that. But Out Of Sight may be my top pick- you get to meet Mr Jack Foley. Nod to Killshot for being in Toronto. And I dig his westerns, too. The man could really write dialogue. Oh! And Maximum Bob was all about Florida. Basically- whatever the used bookstore has!

  • ginidietrich Once We Were Brothers is on the shelf at my branch library. The others are all checked out.

  • JoeCardillo Adding this to my list too! I just KNEW reading the comments here would cause my reading wish list to explode. It’s all good though!

  • Genene Murphy These are right up my alley too. Added them!

  • To add to the YA Fiction reading list, I really enjoyed If I Stay. I just saw that it’s being made into a movie as well, so read it first. The books are always better!

  • KateNolan

    JoeCardillo Right? All I want to do now is hunker down with a stack of books!

  • ginidietrich JoeCardillo That sounds fascinating, I’ve read a lot of war history and I’m always curious about what’s beyond the easy black & white, good v. bad interpretations.

  • TaraGeissinger JoeCardillo It is really good. She’s working on her next novel and I suspect she was basically born to be a writer. You’ll have to tell me what you think when you get a chance to read it = )

  • Word Ninja JoeCardillo Right? I haven’t talked to her in years, but this book really blew me away. Inspired me in my writing as well.

  • belllindsay JoeCardillo I think it’s right up your alley, super irreverent and funny.

  • My wife is reading The Husband’s Secret so of course she wanted to know what mine were; other than being internet famous which she obviously knows nothing about I just piled on and said I killed someone too. Nice to keep it simple. 

    I have heard about Once We Were Brothers; will definitely check it out.

  • bdorman264 LOL! 🙂

  • Whoa! ginidietrich that’s not my last blogpost. LOL! It’s a photo I took a million years ago. I had to stop and think. 😉

  • profkrg

    This is a great list, Gini. I read Nos. 1, 2 and 5. I didn’t like The Dinner, but the concept was interesting. I added No. 3 to my reading list. I love that you’re doing this. People always are looking for something to read.

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  • I just picked up, and blew through, Once We Were Brothers. What a GREAT book. Thanks, Gini! 🙂

  • NancyCawleyJean

    I knew you’d love Once We Were Brothers, and The Dinner was pretty amazing too! Now I’ll pick up the other 3. Can’t wait for The Husband’s Secret!!! 😉

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