Tag Archives: summer reading

The 5 Books I Plan to Read for Summer 2017

16 Jun

Nothing makes a librarian happier than recommending books to others, so I was delighted when my niece FaceTimed last week to ask for summer reading suggestions. She starts high school in the fall and is required to read a nonfiction book and a fiction book during the summer, which she will do while she is away at camp. This also inspired me to think about my own summer reading, so I will tell you about the books I suggested for my niece, and what I plan to read.

(Don’t forget that the Hoboken Public Library is here for all your summer reading needs, with print books, eBooks, audiobooks, and more. Our Summer Reading Programs for all ages kick off Thursday June 22, where what you read this summer puts you in the running for prizes! And of course, we will celebrate our reading successes once summer ends.)

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My niece: isn’t she a cutie? ❤

Recommendations for My Niece

My suggestion for nonfiction was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. (Click here to find this title in hardcover, paperback, audiobook, large print, and eBook.) This book about Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose still-growing HeLa cell line has been used in more than 60 years of scientific and medical progress, has been a sensation since it was first published. It is a hybrid of biography about Henrietta, her family, and where she grew up in rural Virginia; history of racist practices against poor blacks in medical settings (Henrietta’s cells were taken during a medical exam and used in research without her or her family’s knowledge and consent); and science writing that is accessible and makes the reader think. This book is absolutely brilliant, and ranks among the best nonfiction I have ever read.

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This book assigned in high school classes, and a friend that teaches high school science gave this book a thumbs-up for teens. I think it will be a challenging and educational read for my niece. However, she is forbidden from watching the recent HBO movie adaptation that stars Oprah instead of reading the text. (This Librarian always prefers the book to the movie.)

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For fiction she wanted straight YA. I first suggested The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which I am currently reading. Starr is a young African American woman straddling two worlds–her gritty urban neighborhood and her pedigreed suburban private school–whose childhood friend Kahlil is shot and killed while unarmed during a traffic stop by a police officer.

The heavy subject matter yielded a nose wrinkle from my niece, and I understand her feeling. Most people want to read light, fun books in the summer. (As you read further into this post, you will see that I am not one of these people!) This book is intense, and has moved me to tears a few times while reading, but The Hate U Give is an impressive debut by Angie Thomas.

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My next YA fiction suggestion was When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (available in print and as an eBook). I haven’t read this book, about two Indian-American teens whose parents are planning an eventual arranged marriage for them who meet in a summer program before college. Rebecca and Liberty from Book Riot’s All the Books podcast say that this book is adorable, and I plan to read it myself. My niece may like the romantic elements and the teen characters. 

I will be writing letters to my niece at camp to check in on her reading progress, and to talk about what she ultimately chose to read.

Next up are books I want to read this summer.

Inspired by the American Crime Story Anthology Series

I watched American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson last year and was riveted. Perhaps the series resonated because I remember the Bronco chase broadcast live on TV in 1994 (and was miffed that the chase interrupted ABC’s TGIF lineup) and the extensive trial coverage. 

In 2018 there where will be two more installments of the American Crime Story series, and I may change my cable cord-cutter status to watch them. The first is about the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace in August 1997 that was part of a killing spree by Andrew Cunanan. (Filming for this series is underway, and photos of Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan are online.) The source book is Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Manhunt in FBI History by Maureen Orth, which reports on Cunanan’s crimes leading up to his encounter with Versace. I love a good true crime story (click here to read my review of The Lost Girls by Robert Kolker) and want to read about this case before the show airs.

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The next American Crime Story will cover Hurricane Katrina. I have written about media inspired by this devastating storm, so I am very interested in this story. The source text is The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley. This is a well-researched, dense volume that will likely take me all summer to get through. I am reading the first chapter now, which discusses the establishment of New Orleans as a port city, its flooding history, and how the vulnerable Louisiana coastline has eroded over the past 200 years.

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In case you are wondering, the source for American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson was The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin.

A Wildcard Pick

My father will happily tell you that he has been exposing me to 1960s music since my early childhood. In the car, the radio was always tuned to 101.1 FM, which was New Yorks’ Oldies station. Now that he’s upgraded to satellite radio, he always listens to the 60s on 6 channel, and sometimes First Wave (the 1980s alternative channel, which is my influence on him).

This exposure has definitely fostered my appreciation of 1960s music. In particular, I am a fan of Otis Redding. This past spring Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life by Jonathan Gould was published. I want to read this well-reviewed biography to learn more about one of my favorite artists, who died in a plane crash before his signature song “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” was released in 1968 and became a hit.

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So, this is my summer reading list. I am also duty-bound to read the books for the Library’s Mile Square City Readers Book Club, the Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books, and the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge I’m following. So I have no shortage of books to read!

Tell me reader, what are you reading this summer?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Top 5 Books! Because It’s….August!

26 Aug

What to call this entry? Well, it’s still summer, but the phrase “Summer Reading” calls up doleful memories of schoolwork intruding into free time. “Beach Reading” sounds great in theory, but the actual beach experience–heat, glare, sand, seawater–is not ideal for either e-books or books on paper (especially library books!).

I ruin my own reading experience quite fine by myself–getting up every few minutes from a book to Google an unfamiliar concept or bit of history I come across. That works fine for Trivia Night, but would leave any self-respecting storyteller grinding their teeth. So when The World’s Worst Reader™ actually finishes a book, it’s cause for celebration, no matter what you call it. So here are five books that TWWR™ has found truly worthwhile and would happily push upon any innocent bystander. (All items mentioned are available in the BCCLS system.)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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A thoughtful apocalyptic dystopia with an emotional tug. It opens on stage, with an actor collapsing while playing King Lear. Soon the Georgia Flu has wiped out virtually all humanity. Some time later we catch up with a small band of players roaming a deserted America, entertaining pockets of survivors for shelter and food. There’s an intriguing use of an airport–that symbol of transit and ephemerality–re-purposed as a poignant museum of permanence, featuring a precious few things saved from the wreck of mankind. This early sentence, describing an impromptu tribute to the dead actor, hooked me and many other readers: “Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city.”

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

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This is a first novel, but Hayes, a veteran screenwriter, clearly has nothing to learn about craft, plotting, pace, or characterization. A diabolical and terrifyingly plausible scheme to destroy the United States, carried out by a radical Islamic mastermind who nonetheless stands as a fully-formed character. And the only person who can stop it is Pilgrim, a single flawed but brave government agent pulled out of retirement for one last case. Yes, we’ve been here before, but never so inventively and with such care at building both character and suspense.

Hayes seems to consider it a sin to release narrative tension for a second, and the string remains taut as we venture from a tenement hotel in the East Village, to a beheading in Saudi Arabia, to a suspicious shooting in a lavish mansion in Turkey on the shore of the Aegean Sea. We follow in rapt fascination as the cat-and-mouse game draws the two men together, the terror scheme followed through with deadly patience, skill, and single-minded ruthlessness, with Pilgrim equally creative and inspired in pursuit. Each seemingly random occurrence is part of a complex, many-sided puzzle box, every piece sliding into place with a satisfying click by the end. A bravura performance, with not an inch of fat in its 600-plus pages.

The Wreck of the River of Stars by Michael Flynn

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For want of a nail….We’re on board The River of Stars, a once majestic, now-obsolete space vessel, on its last sail when a catastrophic engine failure puts the trip in jeopardy. But no reason to fret: There is expertise and material aplenty on board, and time enough to solve the problem…if not for all the attendant perils flesh is heir to and which no technological advancement has eclipsed: Pride, stubbornness, lust for glory. The space-faring odyssey unfolds with Shakespearean inevitability–the end is right there in the title. But though the actual misfortune is telegraphed, the two-column roster of the survivors and the doomed is sorted with the scary randomness of real life. No heroes or villains are on board, just a human-sized story against a vast backdrop of space. Naysayers found it a trifle slow going and overly crammed with technological detail, but I found it powerful in its purposeful, doomed majesty.

John Dies at the End by David Wong

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Speaking of giving away the ending. In this oft-hilarious monster rally of a horror novel, John and Dave are a Clerks-style buddy act getting by in a Midwest town whose name remains undisclosed for the readers’ protection–a town under the sway of Soy Sauce, a street drug that opens up doors of perception leading into a nightmarish alternate dimension oozing with hideous creatures and sickening gore. It’s pitch-black macabre comedy with a truly sincere feeling of doom. If you found clowns creepy before….

Y: The Last Man by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra

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In this dystopian action saga, a comic series published 2002-2008, Vaughan imaginatively thinks out the ramifications–political, societal, and sexual–of a world where every single male mammal has mysteriously perished save one, underachieving escape artist Yorick Brown, now a wanted man in every sense.

The “Y” in the title is a nod both to the Y chromosome that makes Yorick a He, and to the story’s core question–why did all the others males die, and why did this one survive? Even more impressive than the world-spanning plot is Vaughan’s world-building, how deeply he’s thought about how different a world composed solely of women would be. Just one detail: Female Democratic members of Congress are confronted with an armed band of widows of former male Republican congressmen, demanding the seats of their deceased spouses in a battle to balance the institution left leaning to the left by the disappearance of men. (Editor’s note: This series was recommended last year by another staff member!)

Shameless Plug:

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Death in the Eye, my self-published murder mystery in the cozy Agatha Christie tradition, is available as a Kindle book and a paperback, and through the Hoboken Public Library’s Technology Lending program.

-Written by Clay Waters, Library Assistant

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