Feet out, toes wiggling by the water. A sweating glass of iced tea. The sounds of harmony all around. Ah, summer. If you have the wherewithal to enjoy it, do so abundantly. Readers usually manage to relax more with a stash of books saved for the sort of relaxation or mindfulness that isn’t as available during the busy part of the year.
To help anyone searching for the next great read—an August breather, or a book to bring to the Fall book club meeting—area librarians share their reading suggestions. Many are for a fun summer read, some are heftier. Pick your poison, folks.
“Discovery of Witches,” Deborah Harkness—Wendy Payette, director of East Brookfield Public Library, suggests this blend of “romance, intrigue, mystery, magic and paranormal, all wrapped into one series.” It’s a page-turner, she says. Book two of the “All Souls” trilogy, “Shadow of the Night,” was released July 10. Harkness also says, “Those who like mystery thrillers with a Boston setting should try “The Technologists” by Matthew Pearl.
"Shadow of Night," Deborah E. Harkness—Sharon Bernard, director of the Fitchburg Public Library, echoes Payette on these books. “They are about a witch and a vampire; their interactions and daily life seem to be pretty normal, but there is always a hint of magic or witchcraft going on,” she says.
“A Blaze of Glory: A Novel of the Battle of Shiloh,” Jeff Shaara—Bernard also suggests this book, by the well-known history writer, for nonfiction fans. “During this sesquicentennial year of the Battle of Shiloh, Shaara returns to writing about the Civil War and one of its bloodiest battles.”
“The Forgotten Garden,” Kate Morton—Edward Bergman, head of Adult Services at the Leominster Public Library, consulted with three colleagues. They couldn’t agree on one book but, coincidentally, each suggested one book with “garden” in the title. So go outside, sit in the garden and read Morton’s book, along with “Garden Spells” by Sarah Addison Allen and “The Garden of Happy Endings” by Barbara O’Neal. I’m mid-Morton right now, and enjoying its mystery and well-woven characters.
“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” Laura Hillenbrand—Kelly Collins, director of the Bolton Public Library, says many Bolton book groups have chosen this nonfiction selection. It’s the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who served in the Army Air Force. When their plane was shot down over the Pacific in 1943, he and several others drifted in a life raft before being captured by the Japanese. “Summer readers will enjoy the thrills, action, and romance of Zamperini’s story,” Collins says.
“Far From the Madding Crowd,” “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”—Princeton Library’s reading group decided to spend the summer reading works of Thomas Hardy or biographies of his life. Librarian Wendy Pape chose these two, saying she prefers “a little tragedy and passion for my beach reading.”
“Dandelion Summer,” Lisa Wingate—Members of Beaman Memorial Public Library’s book group in W. Boylston just read this novel, says Director Louise Howland. “This is a story featuring two engaging characters that, although very different from each other, share their stories and develop a meaningful friendship.” Themes, she says, are hope, redemption and the importance of family.
“The Tiger’s Wife,” Tea Obreht—This August selection by Beaman Library’s book group, takes place in the Balkans, after the Civil War, Howland says. “The author uses the voice of a young doctor, trying to find out what happened to her grandfather, to focus on the ways that people use stories to explain the unthinkable.”
“The Red Book,” Deborah Copaken Kogan—Nancy Hayes Clune, assistant director/adult services at Thayer Memorial Library in Lancaster, suggests Kogan’s novel. “Every five years, Harvard alumni are asked to fill out a form about the past half-decade for inclusion in a bound, crimson-colored volume known as the red book. This novel (Kogan’s second) is set at the 20th reunion of the class of 1989. The trajectory of their lives in the two decades after graduation makes for compulsive reading.” She calls it her “beachiest summer read (so far).”
“Gold: A Novel,” Chris Cleave—Jean Langley, Northborough Free Library director, has several suggestions, two of them new releases. She expects members of the library’s several book discussion groups to want this novel, by the author of “Little Bee.” Langley says “It’s going to be a hot one, about two women contending for an Olympic medal in the 2012 games.” Talk about timely! There are three library-sponsored book groups and others meet regularly at the library, so she is mindful of them as well. “The problem with new book titles, as you know, is that it’s hard to get a copy when everyone is reading it at the same time.” She’s preparing for the ones she expects to be in demand, including:
“Dog Stars,” Peter Heller—being released in August. “It’s one of those survivor stories, but with a twist,” said Langley. “A man loses everyone he knows and loves in a terrible flu pandemic, but he’s lucky enough to have his dog. They live in an airplane hangar, doing the best they can, until he picks up a radio signal distorted by static. He flies off in search of the goodness of his previous life, but with no guarantees.” Sounds intriguing.
“The Art of Fielding,” Chad Harbach—Langley recently finished Harbach’s novel, on “just about every ‘best book’ list. Yes, it’s about baseball, but as is often typical of fiction, it’s about a lot more. Great meat for discussion, such as fear of success, motivation of the actions of the characters, ethical dilemmas, choices made, etc.”
“Gone Missing,” Linda Castillo—Fran Pierce, Worcester Public Library recommends this recently published book about Amish-raised Police Chief Kate Burkholder’s encounter with evil, which, she says, “inspired me to read the first three titles in the series in three days. This book might tempt a variety of readers outside their comfort zone.”
“An American Tragedy,” Nancy Boucher, acquisitions librarian at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, digs deep into the past for this one, by Theodore Dreiser. Published in 1925, it’s always a great read. “A timeless, compelling story of love, passion, human frailty, and the ambitious thirst for social advantage—having what others have, at any cost. A classic worth reading, or rereading.”
Not a librarian, but—Head Butler blogger Jesse Kornbluth recommends “The Fault in Our Stars.” Says Kornbluth, whose blog focuses on recommendations for a life more exposed to what’s cool, novel, inviting and amazing: “The best book I’ve read this year, and I say that even though it’s a Young Adult novel about kids with cancer. Just do it, for God’s sake.”
Even a reader could not resist sending in recommendations: Ellen Grapensteter of Syracuse, N.Y., suggests “How it All Began,” by Penelope Lively and “Tender at the Bone,” by Ruth Reichl.
Ann Connery Frantz is a writer and editor blogging at www.readitandreeap.blogspot.com. She welcomes your suggestions, book club news and plans at firstname.lastname@example.org.