The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The cover shows the title and author's name against a background of brightly colored, wavy stripes in blues, greens, yellows, purples, oranges, and reds.

By Jean B.

The summer camp directories are out, and though summer will still be COVID-impacted, these camp listings have me thinking about the freedom and fun of summers past. Do you have any cherished (or miserable?!) summer camp memories? Do you think of s’mores or lakes or mosquitoes? While there are all kinds of camps and camp memories, one universal camp experience, it seems, is the intensity of friendships that form in that time-bounded space. When kids are briefly brought together from various places and situations and thrown into the intimate, shared life of a camp routine, something special happens.  

That powerful camp-created bond lies at the core of Meg Wolitzer’s engrossing novel, The Interestings. Six teenagers become friends at Spirit of the Woods camp in the summer of 1974, and the relationships they form with one another shape the rest of their lives. Spirit of the Woods is an arts camp, a place designed to foster talent and passion. Julie Jacobsen isn’t sure she belongs in this place but is thrilled when the self-named clique “The Interestings” enfolds her into their circle of specialness.

As the six kids grow, age, and build their lives and careers, Jules continues to measure her life against those of her camp friends and to use their experiences as a guide to what makes a life successful. Their diverse talents – so glittering in their camp days – play out in many ways in adulthood, and though the bonds of friendship provide a lifeline through crises, they also drive wedges as Jules’ and her friends’ fortunes diverge.  Through Jules’ eyes, readers can consider the question: what would you do for a friend?  

This beautifully written story made me think about my own friendships and how they’ve evolved over time. It swept me into the juicy world of these characters’ lives and relationships but also gave me lots to chew on – it’s both ice cream and salad, a perfect summer feast!  If you’re looking for something fun and, well, interesting, check out Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings.

 Available in print and audio CD, or as an ebook and eaudio on Libby/OverDrive.

Jean B. is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch and loves reading books for all ages when she isn’t enjoying the outdoors.

Book Theater

By Cherise T.

Nature setting in bluish tint. Trees, clouds, horizon.

If you’re like me, you really miss live theater. The Playbills. Waiting for the curtain to rise, the actors to appear. Entering another world. Audiobooks can offer a similar exhilarating trip. Recently, some audiobooks go beyond one or two readers. They offer a whole cast of performers who immerse you in the books’ texts like only a theatrical performance can. Publishers have started to invest in larger ensembles of characters. These audiobooks provide a different experience from the written word. 

Those of you who have listened to the Harry Potter series on audio are already familiar with Jim Dale, the award-winning British actor with the unique ability to create special voices for all of Rowling’s Hogwarts characters. Dale has talked about children recognizing his voice at McDonald’s and asking him to order a burger as Dumbledore. It’s the rare audiobook narrator who can convincingly perform multiple characters on his own, but Dale can. If you haven’t heard Harry on audio, I recommend giving the series a try. 

The largest audio cast to date belongs to the Lincoln in the Bardo recording. In his first novel, George Saunders, an acclaimed speculative short story writer, brings us an otherworldly vision of President Abraham Lincoln mourning the death of his 11-year-old son, Willie. We meet Willie’s fellow cemetery spirits who linger between death and rebirth. One of the protagonists is voiced by Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation fame and another by David Sedaris, the bestselling humor essayist. (Sedaris’s audiobooks are wonderful too as he reads his own works.) There are 166 performers in all. Although it’s fun to see how many voices you can recognize – Ben Stiller! Julianne Moore! – I recommend exploring the full cast list to enjoy the complete experience. 

Daisy Jones and the Six is a novel that takes the form of an oral history of a fictional 1970’s rock band. The members of The Six embody sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Author Taylor Jenkins Reid even pens lyrics for the group’s hit songs. Now, what if you could hear the oral history? You can, in the amazing audiobook. Jennifer Beals of Flashdance and The L Word fame is the voice of Daisy, a character loosely inspired by Stevie Nicks. There are 21 cast members on this audiobook, and they bring the chaotic world of recording, tours, and relationships to life. 

If you’ve not explored the joys of audiobooks, give them a try. On free book promotion sites such as Goodreads and Book Riot, you can find reviews specifically of audiobooks. The readers are as unique as the books themselves, so don’t hesitate to give different voices a try. 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.