Library staff picks for summer reading at its best
Like some lazy summer library staff reading recommendations? Spend August under a tree with a glass of lemonade and a good book!
Barb — Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly was both history and mystery. Written in the form of a novel, the historical facts were given in a way that the book moved along depicting the events that happened in the time just before President Lincoln was shot. It also carries the reader along on the hunt for John Wilkes Booth.
Knitting mystery series, by Maggie Sefton, (10 books as of this summer), takes place in Ft. Connor, Colo., and involves a group of friends that meet at the yarn shop, Lambspun. A light read for summer for those who enjoy knitting; there is also a knitting pattern in each book.
Kurt — For light summer reading let me recommend J. Maarten Troost’s Sex Lives of Cannibals. The author describes the two years he and his wife spent on the tiny Pacific island of Tarawa, especially the times when Western culture crossed paths with island life. He’s funny! Expecting a tropical paradise, he and his wife go down to the beach to watch the sunset only to realize that the locals use it as their latrine: “like negotiating a mine field.” He’s also thoughtful, his chapters alternating between his own dealings with island life and the history and problems of the island nation of Kiribati and its people. A very entertaining book.
I would also like you to consider any book in our collection by Craig Childs. Childs could be called a regional writer, covering the deserts of the Four Corners. He is also an adventurer, amateur archaeologist, amateur biologist and philosopher. His writing is a wonderful blend of personal description of his surroundings — when he is running down a slot canyon ahead of a flash flood or staring down a mountain lion at a waterhole, he puts you there with him. I especially enjoyed Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession, where Childs asks the question: To whom does the past belong? Concerning finding artifacts in the wild, Childs writes, “If anyone tells you there is only one answer to the conundrum of archaeology, he is trying to sell you something. At this point, considering all that has been removed, it is worth leaving the last pieces where they lie.”
Joanie — Work Song by Ivan Doig is set in Butte, Montana in the early 1900’s. Anaconda ran the booming mining town. The main character of this novel worked at the library (no wonder I liked it!) and was involved with people from the Union. Throw in a romance developing at a snail’s pace, some rough and tumble Welsh miners, some Chicago thugs and one of the very best American writers of our time, and you have fascinating historical fiction.
Yolanda — Books by Luis Alberto Urrea: Into The Beautiful North is a fictional and affectionate, humorous look at the idea of “Unailtes” (USA) among northern Mexicans. A group of young Mexicans are given the task of going to America to bring back what their diminishing town needs. Through their story, the author presents realities most of us have heard about, but will never have to experience. The non-fiction work by Urrea is Across the Wire. A moving account of the author’s work across the border in Tijuana, the book presents some uncomfortable realities. Urrea serves with an American church and works in the communities living in the dumps. The author’s family and personal history add to the reader’s understanding of hard-to-imagine situations.
Margaret — Set in freezing, cold Lake Superior’s Upper Peninsula, Steve Hamilton is my newest find in the mystery field. Alex McKnight is a man just trying to get his life back in order. He has found the great small town of Paradise and lives in the woods where the winters reign supreme. Hamilton has some great reoccurring characters that you enjoy meeting, and the Glasgow Inn gets my vote as the place I’d like most to sit back while a blizzard fueled by the Great Lakes brews outside. McKnight’s adventures showcase the hardy individuals who populate the U.S./Canadian border and an interesting crew they are!
Historical fiction is a particular favorite of mine and C.J. Sansom has written a series of historical thrillers set during the Tudor reign of the dissolute Henry VIII. Matthew Shardlake is the humpbacked lawyer navigating the treacherous waters of the Protestant Reformation during the 1500’s. The monasteries were being shut down, their hospitals closed and alms-giving stopped, leaving many people homeless, starving and sick. Taking the wrong side, either politically or religiously, could result in heinous death. In this brew of uncertainly, Matthew finds his way through a fascinating era in English history.
Lavon — I do not listen to many books on CD except when traveling, and the best I have ever listened to is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the biography of Louis Zamperini, an American runner in the 1938 Berlin Olympics. Some time later he went into the military, and was serving during World War II when he crashed in the Pacific. This is his story of survival at sea in a small raft and as a P.O.W. in a brutal Japanese camp. It really is a story of tragedy and triumph over extreme circumstances. It was a fascinating book, and I think I gained some new insight about the Second World War and the brave Americans who fought in the Pacific during that time.
Scorpions for Breakfast by Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer was a very enlightening book as to the plight that state has had to face. Most of us have heard of Brian Terry, the border patrol officer that was killed, and Robert Krentz, an Arizona rancher killed on his property along the border, but most of us have no idea what other types of problems Arizona residents have had because of a poorly protected border. She brings to light many of the situations that people outside of Arizona may have never heard about, and she does it with humor and frankness that I found very refreshing in our very “politically correct” society!
Susie — One of my favorite reads this year takes place in Hitler’s Germany. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and An American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson, reads like a political thriller and tells the story of the first years of Hitler’s reign through the eyes of William E. Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s regime and his daughter, Martha.
Sally Jo — My sister and I trade book recommendations and one of her latest suggestions was a winner. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is an incredibly imaginative adventure centered around two young illusionists and a magical circus. The narrative of this adult fairy tale is so visually inspiring, you will not want to put it down, even after the last page!
Kathy — The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is narrated by Death and reveals the story of how the Nazi devastation greatly effected the German people who loved their country but did not love the politics of hate and destruction. Nine year old Liesel Meminger is the book thief, a foster daughter of a gentle man and a stern mother. She has befriended the mayor’s wife from whom she steals most of her books and has a warm relationship with a Jewish refugee hidden in their basement who becomes her mentor. Then there’s Rudy, her contemporary and her partner in crime. I’ll say no more!
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is a love story that will stay with you for a long time. Hazel and Augustus meet at a cancer support group for kids only. They talk like kids, and act like kids even though they carry this heavy burden of the knowledge that their lives will be cut short. There is no time for games and dishonesty. But there is time for shocking honesty! It’s a fast read and very enjoyable, and even though it may sound totally depressing, it isn’t. I loved it so much, I read it a second time.
Laura — 33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival and Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners by Jonathan Franklin, was a fascinating read about the miners in Chile who became trapped in a mining accident about two years ago. They survived underground for 69 days. The author gained access to the scene and the key players (rescuers, volunteers, politicians and family members) as this drama unfolded on the world stage. Mainly it’s a testament to the miner’s resilience and their mental toughness. If this doesn’t give you claustrophobia, nothing will.
Love in the Time of Cholera by the Nobel prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez is my next pick. This is a funky novel about missed opportunities, familial loyalty and unrequited love. You almost ache for the main character, Florentino Ariza, as he pines away for his lost lady love, Fermina Daza. Fermina’s father forbade the two to court and she eventually married a doctor who offered her security. As Fermina begins raising a family, Florentino begins a life of loneliness, waiting, and meaningless romantic liaisons. In old age, after fifty-one years, nine months, and four days, Florentino and Fermina reunite after Fermina’s husband dies. Irony is evidenced in the book’s title. Dr. Urbino pledged to practice modern medicine and help eradicate cholera. When Florentino and Fermina reunite they are on a river boat. Fermina is afraid to dock because of small town mores. Florentino has the captain raise the yellow flag of cholera. Nobody will allow the boat to dock and Florentino and Fermina are left in a world of their own making.
Joanie Howland is director of the Cortez Public Library, 202 N. Park St. She can be reached at 565-8117.