Summer reading recommendations from our staff

It’s officially summer in the northern hemisphere! Looking for a good vacation read? Our staff have you covered with a bunch of great recommendations. We hope you’ll pick up one of these books (or a few!) from your local indie bookstore.

Kristen Twardowski, Library Sales Manager, recommends Made for Love by Alissa Nutting, a “hysterical summer read about technology, surveillance, and escaping your megalomaniac billionaire husband who may or may not want to upload your brain to a computer chip. You’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, you’ll throw your iPhone into the sea, and you’ll wonder if you should move into a senior living community before age 40. Just the prescription for 2021.”

“An underground cabal of white men (and some women) secretly controlling events at and around a university in North Carolina?! Obviously this is the premise for a work of fantasy: Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn, about a Black girl who comes to an early college program at UNC only to get swept up into a history of magic and secret societies,” says Editor Elizabeth Ault. “Deonn weaves together a wonderful sense of place—the book begins at one of my favorite Durham summer spots, the Eno River Quarry—and braids together Arthurian and Black Southern magical traditions in a moving and absorbing way that manages to be genuinely surprising. The worst part about this book is that it’s clearly the setup for a series; book 2 can’t come fast enough!”

Chris Robinson, Senior Copywriter, recommends Greg Bear’s The Forge of God. “It’s a first contact with aliens book that is unlike all the others I’ve read (any more will spoil the ending) where the alien visitors send all kinds of mixed messages upon arrival. There are a lot of strands running through it: religion, politics, physics, and more developed characters (geologists, oceanographers, White House officials, everyday regular folks who just get caught up in it) than a lot of sci-fi books.”

The Silence of Bones by June Hur is Exhibits Manager Jes Malitoris’s pick: a “murder mystery set in 19th-century Korea, from the perspective of a young woman who serves as an indentured servant to the capital city police; a great page-turner with an ending that surprised me. It is a young adult book (and you can definitely feel it at times in the characterization), but even as an adult reader this was a really enjoyable, complex mystery.”

Project Editor Annie Lubinsky endorses Jeeves and the King of Clubs by Ben Schott. “The author, a lifelong fan of P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories, has created a new adventure for the two characters. Jeeves has been called upon to help the British secret service, and the organization pulls in Bertie Wooster as well. The world will be very familiar to Wodehouse fans, and the antics Bertie gets up to are laugh-out-loud funny. (The book is fully authorized by the Wodehouse Estate, and it’s easy to see why!)”

“Mick Herron’s Slough House series of novels are my idea of perfect vacation reads,” says Charles Brower, Senior Project Editor. “There are seven so far, starting with Slow Horses and including this year’s Slough House, about a group of British intelligence agents stuck in a dead-end London posting because they screwed up or have addiction or anger issues or got on the wrong side of powerful people. Their struggles with their demons mirror Britain’s struggles with Brexit and the ghosts of colonialism and the Cold War. The novels are cleverly plotted and hilarious, and I’ve developed great affection for these very flawed heroes.”

“I love steampunk, fantasy, and magic, so A Master of Djinn was a great book for me,” says Erica Woods Tucker, Production Coordinator. “P. Djèlí Clark does a great job intertwining lots of elements into a book that you can’t put down. The main character, Fatma el-Sha’arawi, is a badass. She knows martial arts, is brilliant, and can do the impossible; her partners are women who are also badass and could have several books of their own. I sailed through this book in a few days. I can’t wait until the next book comes out (there are two small prequels you can check out that are in the same universe). It feels like Fatma has a lot more stories.”

“My favorite vacation read is always a sprawling historical novel, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls fits that description,” says Laura Sell, Publicity and Advertising Manager. “It’s the story of Vivian Morris, who drops out of Vassar in 1940 and moves to New York City to live above a crumbling vaudeville theater that her eccentric aunt owns. Over 500 pages we follow Vivian as she immerses herself in the world of theater and nightlife, makes friends and mistakes, and ultimately learns what she wants from life and love. The book is so richly imagined you can smell the greasepaint, taste the martinis, and hear the jazz as you read.”

“My brother sent me a copy of singer Rickie Lee Jones’s memoir Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour. Jones spent her formative years in the same part of Phoenix that my brother and I grew up in, and she knew some people we knew, so the section about her youth was particularly poignant for me. This memoir is honest and compelling; Jones’s writing, like her singing voice, is quirky, distinctive, and insightful,” says Patty Chase, Digital Content Manager.

Lastly, Project Editor Lisa Lawley recommends two nonfiction books: The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women’s Rights by Dorothy Wickenden and Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America by Nicole Eustace. “I like when my reads have synergy and both of these books have a lot to say about community. The Agitators follows a group of friends who, despite different temperaments and priorities, pull mostly together to effect abolition in the U.S. and eventually win the vote for women. Insights into the wartime activities of Harriet Tubman, the dynamics of upper-class marriage in the nineteenth century, and a fraught political climate discomfitingly like our own are a bonus. Covered with Night juxtaposes the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee’s concept of reparative justice and the harsh punitive system of colonial America that continues today as members of both communities work to resolve the 1722 murder in Pennsylvania of a Seneca man, Sawantaeny, by two fur traders disgruntled about a trade. The resulting Treaty of 1722, the oldest continuously operating agreement still in our country’s history, was constructed through dialogue between Taquatarensaely—‘Captain Civility’—and other Native leaders with frightened representatives of the colony, who expected harsh reprisal instead of an invitation and path to forgiveness alongside continued inclusion in the Nations’ circles of community.”

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