Shelfies with Skylight Books: Summer Adventures with a Coming-of-Age Twist

Ah, summer.

There’s just something about the warmer days that invoke feelings of love and adventure. It’s a season that makes us all feel young again; with that wistful, melancholy irony, we look back at our developing years during the carefree days of summer. We all wish we’d had wisdom beyond our years, the foresight to appreciate those days as they were happening. “If only I could go back…” we dreamily inform the waves.

But at your side are several books that take you away and perhaps, take you back. That’s because Skylight Books has graciously provided you with three brand new, wonderfully inspired titles that will keep the pages turning while the sun rises high over a picturesque beach. And speaking of picturesque, if you’re ever in Los Angeles, you should visit one of the best independent bookstores in the nation. Skylight is “located in the shadow of Griffith Park and its iconic Observatory, and surrounded by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, R.M. Schindler, and Richard Neutra.”

They’ve got a diverse clientele and some of the best works in literary fiction, LA regional culture and history, and books on music, art, film and theater. Why not spend some time and peruse their shelves? Now, the weekly Shelfie picks, selected by Skylight General Manager Mary Williams:

1. Ana of California by Andi Teran (Penguin Books, June 30, 2015)

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For those with a soft spot for classic coming-of-age stories, they should check out this debut novel from Andi Teran. 15-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has trouble with foster families, so it’s off to a group home unless she agrees to enter a farm trainee program in Northern California. Can this troubled girl find where she belongs? New York Times bestselling author Emma Straub calls it “vivid and fully realized, an entire universe expertly condensed into the pages you hold in your hands.” Added Williams:

“This is a charming reinterpretation of the classic coming-of-age novel Anne of Green Gables, with a vibrant and lovably imperfect protagonist. It’s written for adults but appropriate for older teens, and especially fun for readers who will recognize the many references to the original L.M. Montgomery books.”

2. Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas by Christian Kracht (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (July 14, 2015)

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Want something a little different? How’s about a novel that’s “an outrageous, fantastical, uncategorizable novel of obsession, adventure, and coconuts”? Back in 1902, a radical vegetarian and nudist set sail from Nuremberg for the island of Kabakon to establish a colony based on worship of the sun and coconuts. They find August Engelhardt’s malnourished body on a beach 17 years later. Author Christian Kracht uses this bizarre tale to tell a story about the allure of extremism and its fundamental flaws. Said Williams:

“Based on a true story (from the annals of stranger-than-fiction history), this novel takes the tropes of island adventure novels like Robinson Crusoe and turns them on their heads. With an unreliable narrator and a twisting, turning plot, the author keeps you guessing (and turning the pages).”

3. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (Penguin Press, July 21, 2015)

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What is surfing? A fun hobby you try to indulge in a few times a year? Not to those enchanted by the waves, those who have determined to live their lives around those waves. Enter a deeply personal memoir by William Finnegan, who chased waves all over the world, from the South Pacific to Africa and Asia. Although a bookish lad, he grew into a hugely adventurous young man and eventually became a distinguished writer and war reporter.  And through it all, Finnegan maintained his close ties with surfing and the friends he made out there on the water. Added Williams:

“This is a beach read that will make you want to grab a board and paddle out into the waves. The author, a long-time writer for The New Yorker, writes with style about surfing on five continents and the on-shore experiences he had along the way, including the inequalities he saw that made him decide to become a journalist.”

Many thanks again to Mary Williams and Skylight Books! And if you’ve still got a hankering for more summery reads, check out our Beach Bums guide and some romance-based Shelfies.

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figured it all out too late. He got his degree in Psychology and realized years later that he wanted to write for a living. He now has 16+ years of digital and print journalism experience and currently entertains an ongoing love affair with the greatest literary classics (he savored every page of "War and Peace" and thought it could've been longer, and he will finish Proust's "In Search of Lost Time"). He also loves crossword puzzles, tennis, the outdoors, and working on numerous novels. One of these days, one will get picked up...and when it does, the world will make a little more sense.