The two-time Newbery Medal winner and the author of more than 20 young adult novels, Lois Lowry is no stranger to what makes a book entertaining and engaging. Her most well-known books, The Giver and Number the Stars, often appear on middle school reading lists and have become tenured classics.
All of her novels grapple with human connection, or as Lowry writes, "the vital need of people to be aware of their interdependence, not only with each other, but with the world and its environment."
In her most recent novel, On the Horizon, Lowry draws on her own childhood in Hawaii and Japan to tell the story of people whose lives were forever altered by the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.
This spring, we asked Lowry about her summer reading list, and like her own work, these books are centered on relationships and place.
Howards End by E. M. Forster
Once, visiting friends in San Francisco, a bookcase came loose from the wall and fell on me. Three people came running in from another room when they heard the crash and saw me sprawled on the floor beneath a mountain of books. Did they say, “Are you all right?” No. In unison, they all said, “Howards End!” That memory, and a recent PBS re-doing (even better than the excellent Merchant Ivory film) of Forster’s novel, have renewed my passion for this book. Its searing depiction of class differences, the wit of its dialogue, and the description of that vine-covered house—no wonder they fought over it!—go together to make this one of my favorites.
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
I loved Olive first time around, and I love her even more as she beats back increasing old age with sarcasm, rage, and a noble, unflinching honesty. I live in Maine, as Olive does. I’d give anything to hear her thoughts of the hoarding of toilet paper. I don’t think for a minute she’d welcome any overture of friendship from me, even in these tough times; still, I admire her for her caustic and courageous observations. I wanted this book to go on and on.
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
It’s overly glib to call a book a page-turner. But the fact is, I entered this one somewhat casually, with few expectations: widowed mother and spinster daughter fall on hard times and turn their house into a bed-sit? What else is new? What was new were the tenants who turned life upside down in startlingly erotic and terrifying ways. I could not put this one down. And in fact I would pick it up again in a heartbeat—even knowing what happens. It’s how it happens that grabs you and won’t let go.
Euphoria by Lily King
Lily King has a brand-new book just published, and it’s probably wonderful, and I’ll read it soon. But Euphoria is the one I’ll always go back to. This re-imagining of Margaret Mead in the midst of a jungle and a love triangle, both steamy, is almost Joseph Conrad-like in its explorations of the human heart and brain. Maybe not relaxing-in-the-hammock reading, unless the hammock is caught up in poisonous vines with a snake or two curling in wait, but this book does in fact grab and hold on to the reader.
Photo credit: Rania Matar
Lois Lowry shares the summer reads she can't put down.