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Staff Picks

We recognize that each patron has different reading tastes and our staff is no exception. Below is a listing of some titles that our staff found interesting/enjoyable. All titles on this list are available in the library, or through Overdrive. Be sure to follow the library on Pinterest to find these and other great book suggestions.

Cathy's Picks
Stacy's Picks
Cindy's Picks
Julie's Picks
Hilary's Picks
Cathy's Vacation Picks
Friday Fiction

Cathy's Picks

We hope you saw the library’s Summer Newsletter which had a lot of reading suggestions. Here are a couple of non-fiction titles that are each based on a very unique premise. Silence and darkness, two scare commondities.

ONE SQUARE INCH OF SILENCE: ONE MAN’S QUEST TO PRESERVE QUIET by Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann: Noise bothers me. I love the quiet, but, as this book points out, there is really no silent place left in our country. Is there a place you can be without hearing a motor of some kind; a plane flying overhead, a snowmobile, a jet ski, a mower, a leaf blower, blaring music, beeps, ringtones….the list goes on and on. Who knew that we would have to think about noise pollution? Hempton, who studies noise pollution, visited remote places around the country and recorded the noise pollution that is ruining our experiences of nature. However, there is one place, the Hoh Rain Forest in the Olympic National Forest, that has an area with a no fly zone and no extraneous noise allowed. The experience of true silence must be profound. This is an interesting take on the environmental problem of noise pollution. If you enjoy nature writers such as John McPhee, Peter Matthiessen, or Farley Mowet, you might like to try this book.

LEARNING TO WALK IN THE DARK by Barbara Brown Taylor. I love taking walks in the dark (of course, for me, being a morning person, the dark is early dawn not late at night!) I’ve never been afraid of the dark because my dad always told me that there is nothing that could hurt me in the dark that wasn’t there in the daytime. It seems that people in our culture don’t experience darkness because of being tuned into devices, light pollution, fear, and the idea that darkness symbolizes loss or evil. Darkness seems to be associated with bad.
This book is spiritually based with the premise that there is much holiness to experience and appreciate in the dark. Like finding silence in our culture, where can one find complete darkness? This book is interesting and makes you think, not only about the meaning of darkness, but about another environmental problem, light pollution.

Since the beginning of young adult literature genre one of the main themes has been the feeling of being an outcast, or at least of being different. Several really, really good young adult books that have been written in recent years deal with the theme of being an outcast but in that situation finding a friend, who in some cases, turns out to be a romantic liaison. Teen age fiction is full of the angst of growing up, so these books do not always have a ‘happily ever after’ ending that adult romantic novels have. They all share the common thread of young people growing into who they need to be. These authors have a gift of humor and are good writers, so although there is heartbreak in each one, there are a lot of laughs. The stories are about first love and how it is doomed, but what a change it makes in each of the characters’ lives.

STONER & SPAZ by Ron Koertge: Ben, who has cerebral palsy, and Colleen, who is often stoned, become friends and allies. They become less lonely and more compassionate people. They learn to accept themselves as who they are.
LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green: Miles is a loner who has studied the last words of famous people. He thinks that if he goes to boarding school his life will change. And does it ever! His roommate immediately befriends him and includes him in all sorts of schemes. Miles meets a volatile, brilliant classmate, Alaska, with whom he falls in love. Heartbreak and the search for meaning are told with humor.
STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli: In most young adult novels the outcast is not an outcast by choice but rather by circumstances, personality or the hierarchy of high school cliques. Stargirl is an outcast by choice. Leo is main stream popular because that is where he fits without thinking. His friendship with Stargirl changes everything for him.
THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING by Robyn Schneider: Ezra was a golden boy at high school who became a misfit because of an accident. When he was no longer a star athlete, he lost his identity. Cassidy is smart, funny, and challenges Ezra to be different and totally mystifies him.
ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell: Eleanor is truly a misfit. Everything is stacked against her and she is living under constant threat because of her home situation. Park is accepted at school and has a great family although he thinks his dad doesn’t love him. Their friendship is difficult but they persevere because they recognize what it means to each of them.

A great plot device in fiction is giving the main character amnesia. One book I love, WHAT ALICE FORGOT by Liane Moriarty, is the story of a woman who is about to turn 40, is married and has three children. One day she falls off the treadmill at her gym. When she wakes up she thinks it is ten years earlier, that she is pregnant and that her life is totally different than it actually is. She is given the gift of insight into her life and the opportunity to make some different choices. It is well worth reading.

Lucie, the main character in LOVE WATER MEMORY by Jennnie Shortridge, develops amnesia. Like Alice, she is turning 40 but her amnesia is brought on my emotional stress not an accident. She lives and works in Seattle, is about to get married but ‘comes to’ standing in San Francisco Bay in designer clothes with no idea who she is or how she got there. As she explores her own life and tries to figure out who she is as a person and what is important, she evolves into someone who understands what is important in life.

A mystery series that is based on the main character’s amnesia is Anne Perry’s William Monk series. The first book, FACE OF A STRANGER, revolves around the complexity of being a detective in London in the 1850s with no memory. Monk doesn’t know who his friends are in the force or who are his enemies. He has no idea, on the street, who is trying to kill him and who is to be trusted. If you like historic mysteries, this is a really good one.

RETURN TO OAKPINE by Ron Carlson is a book I never would have picked up but because I read some favorable reviews, I decided to try it. Although I am glad I read it, I found the style and the plot a bit troubling. Four old friends part right after high school. One goes to New York and returns 30 years later to die. One goes to Denver and returns at the same time to examine his life. One goes to war and returns after. One stays. They reunite and, as the story unfolds, the past is explained. I think the most interesting thing about it, is that is a this story of male friendships. There are many, many books based on the friendship of women, but not so many about men. It is the story of friendship, loss and hope.

Attention Mystery Lovers! For those of you who like a good historical mystery such as those by Tasha Alexander, Jacqueline Winspear or Anne Perry, may like to try Fiona Buckley. The main character in the Ursula Blanchard series is Ursula, illegitimate half-sister of Queen Elizabeth I. She is a servant to the queen, but her main job is to spy and solve mysteries for Elizabeth. Being at the Queen’s beck and call is a bit trying for Ursula. The books are intriguing, not violent and make a good winter read.

I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET by Adrian McKinty is the second mystery featuring Detective Sean Duffy. Both this one and the first one, COLD, COLD GROUND are set in Ireland during the Troubles. Sean is a complex, compelling, dark, violent police officer. He is a bit of a mystery to everyone who knows him. He is a Catholic in Northern Ireland, but is a detective in the predominately Protestant police force. No one knows what to think of him and no one knows if he is trustworthy. The books are full of action, great characters, good writing and ethical dilemmas as Sean takes justice into his own hands. There is a level of violence, but it is in context of an embattled Northern Ireland.

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by the Italian author Elena Ferrante is such an interesting story and setting. It is set in Naples, Italy in the 1950s and is the story of two girls who are best friends. Both are smart, but one is really smart. There neighborhood is tough and poor. Elena is timid and does well in school. Her teacher convinces her parents to allow her to continue her education after elementary school. Lila is fearless and brilliant, but no amount of begging can convince her parents to allow her to get an education. She finds a way to escape that is more like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The is the first in a trilogy. It is beautifully written.

I love Young Adult books. In fact Young Adult books are great favorites with the library staff. The most recent one I read is ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell. It is a wonderful story for young adults and adults. Eleanor and Park meet on the school bus. They live in a rough neighborhood and Eleanor's family is quite awful, abusive and extremely poor. Both are smart, do well in school and once they warm up to each other, discover that they have so very much in common and end up falling, first, "in like" then in love. They grow, learn about friendship and survival. They also learn about trust and love. It is well written and hard to put down.

AMAZING PEACE, A CHRISTMAS POEM by Maya Angelou is a very small book that has the poem she read at the 2005 lighting of the National Christmas Tree. Her poems and books are full of beauty. This particular one contains a line that I think summaries the holiday spirit.

"It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time."

She is a great believer in peace and never gives up hope for humanity. A poem that will speak to many.

TEN YEARS IN THE TUB, A DECADE OF SOAKING IN GREAT BOOKS by Nick Hornby is an insightful, hilarious collection of ten years of his columns written for the believer. Every chapter starts with a list of the books he bought that month and a list of the books he actually read. His intelligent and perceptive comments are fun and unique. This book would make a great gift for any reader.

READER’S BOOK OF DAYS by Tom Nissley. For every day of the year, there are several events described from the lives of an incredible number and variety of authors both historic and current. It’s a book that is different and interesting.

STONE’S FALL by Iain Pears. One would be hard-pressed to find a more interesting, intricate historical mystery than STONE’S FALL. As the mystery unfolds, the “truth” is difficult to discover because there are so many layers to the characters and events. The story begins in 1909, but goes back to events that happened in the 1890s and are told from Matthew Braddock’s point of view. The second half of the book is told from Henry Cort’s viewpoint and takes place in 1867. The person at the heart of the book, Elizabeth, is a mysterious, complicated beautiful woman. This is a must read for those who enjoy historical mysteries.

Maybe a quiet, late fall evening is the perfect time to read Mary Oliver’s collection of poetry, DOG SONGS, which celebrate our special friendships with our beloved dogs. Books about dogs are extremely popular. Hopefully, the dog lovers and the poetry lovers will find this book.

POETRY IN MICHIGAN IN POETRY edited by William Olsen and Jack Ridl is a lovely collection of poetry about Michigan by Michigan poets. Needless to say, several of the poems have winter or cold as their subject!!! This collection also includes photographs and paintings. Both DOG SONGS and POETRY IN MICHIGAN IN POETRY are great books to give as gifts.

GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jojo Moyes. I was so happy I had read Moyes’ wonderful book, ME BEFORE YOU so that I was on the lookout for her new book. This is the story of a painting and what it means to two women in two time periods. The painting called The Girl You Left Behind was a portrait of Sophia painted by her husband, who was a famous artist, just before he left for WWI. Sophia loves the painting more than anything, but war happens and her fate is sealed when the German commandant becomes obsessed with the painting. Nearly 100 years later a young couple on their honeymoon purchase the painting and it becomes Liv’s most loved possession especially after her husband dies too young. This is a story of love, courage, justice and, ultimately, joy. It is a lovely book full of stories within stories.

LET HIM GO by Larry Watson. You know from page one that there is no way for this story to end well. Margaret has convinced her husband, George, to go with her to find their grandson. After their son's death, their grandson, Jimmy, and Lorna, the boy’s mother, had been living with them. Then she married a drifter and took off with Jimmy. Margaret wants him back. Although George is a former sheriff and knows what they are about to do is not legal, he loves Margaret and has never been able to dissuade her from anything.
Unfortunately, they do find Jimmy, Lorna, her new husband living in the midst of Donnie’s extremely violent clan. So, here is a story about good people coming up against ruthlessness and cruelty and of what we will do for love.
Larry Watson is an author who can tell a great story in a short book. His use of language is evocative and he has a beautiful turn of phrase. In describing footsteps George hears as Margaret walks away…”It’s a sound he didn’t hear when she approached, but then the human ear is tuned differently for departures than arrivals, as anyone who listens to train whistles knows.” At one point George and Margaret are eating with some friends. “The meal set out is by and for people whose only confident judgment about food is based on its quantity.” If you found Watson's MONTANA, 1948 compelling,you will love this book.

FIN AND LADY by Cathleen Schine. Fin is orphaned and is raised by his half sister, Lady in Greenwich Village in the sixties. Even by the standards of the sixties, Fin's upbringing is so unconventional that it borders on the bizarre. However, there is genuine love and fierce loyalty between the two siblings. This is an appealing, but not particularly deep, read. This is a book that redefines the concept of 'family.' It is worth reading." -Cathy

WHISTLING SEASON by Ivan Doig. Imagine a single father in Montana in the early 1900s who hires a house keeper based on a newspaper ad that says, “Can’t cook, but doesn’t bite.” When the housekeeper arrives her brother, who becomes the school teacher of the local one-room school house, arrives with her. The story is funny, poignant and the characters are interesting. Ivan Doig’s superb writing evokes a time and place long vanished. After you read this book, there are two more in the trilogy.

ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes. Louise is interesting. She dresses outrageously, is observant and is insightful. She is hired by Will’s mother to be a companion to Will. Will is a quadriplegic who participated in extreme sports and was a mover and shaker in the business world. The evolution of their relationship and the way both characters grew in the story is beautiful. In the hands of a less gifted story teller this could have been maudlin. Moyes tells a story so personal and moving that you can’t stop reading it. A perfect book. Cathy

SWEET THUNDER by Ivan Doig. If you have read the library’s newsletter over the years (available online) or have asked for book suggestions, you know that I love Ivan Doig. ENGLISH CREEK is one of my favorite books. His most recent trilogy starts with WHISTLING SEASON, about a new teacher who comes into a lonely family’s life. The second is WHISTLING SEASON, which tells the story of mining in Butte. The most recent is SWEET THUNDER which is again about the mining industry in Butte. Doig’s writing is funny and poignant and his characters are all so unique. If you just want a really good story that is well-written without being pretentious, Ivan Doig is the author for you.

PAINTED GIRLS by Cathy Buchanan. How surprised I was to like this book! The reviews sounded good, but I thought the story might be too sad. It is a really interesting story of the ballet girls during the start of the impressionist movement. The story follows three, impoverished sisters and their struggles through the world of the ballet. It is loosely based on a real family and historical personages and events are included. It ties the works of Degas to the dancers he paints.

THE GOOGLIZATION OF EVERYTHING: (AND WHY WE SHOULD WORRY) by Siva Vaidhyanathan is a very interesting book on the pervasiveness and power of Google. The author examines the cultural and knowledge-based impact Google has on society and the world. One point is that Google actually filters and tailors information to fit each individual. On the other hand, librarians search for information within a local and personal context. Google, according to the author, is not providing services, but is using individuals as products. This book is thought-provoking. Still, when I search for something on the Internet, I am most likely to start with Google….but now I THINK about it!

THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD: AND HOW THEY GOT THAT WAY by Amanda Ripley is a provocative, intriguing look at education in countries where the educational systems seem to be outstanding. The author gives us hope that providing the best education for every child in this country is possible.

THE ART OF TRAVEL by Alain De Botton is a philosophical approach to why we travel. It is full of splendid, original observations. He talks about the anticipation and expectations before a trip and the reality of the destination. There is a chapter on Alexander von Humboldt, who was an extraordinarily observant, scientific traveler and Xavier De Maistre who wrote a book about the journey he took around his bedroom. When you read THE ART OF TRAVEL, you will want to have a paper and pencil handy to write down the many intuitive things the author has to say.

MONUMENT’S MEN by Robert Edsel. In light of the recent discovery in Germany of an apartment full of art that the Nazis had stolen from Jewish families during WWII, this books is a must read. Several art historians, museum people and other men who were not traditional soldiers were recruited to go with the troops in the European War to try to locate and save as much of the stolen art work. This is a real page turner. In the midst of war zones, they are trying to recover art before it is destroyed by German troops or moved to places it will never be found. They faced danger, imprisonment and death but every single one of them was totally devoted to his mission. This is a book that opens up a whole new aspect of WWII.


Stacy's Picks

AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker. This book imagines the coming-of-age story of young Julia, whose world is thrown into upheaval when it is discovered that the Earth's rotation has suddenly begun to slow, posing a catastrophic threat to all life.

READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

WONDER by RJ Palacio


Cindy's Picks

WORLDS STRONGEST LIBRARIAN by Josh Harnagan is a great bio of extreme case of Tourette Syndrome Mormon man finding innumerable ways to live with his affliction. Great reader, librarian, weight trainer, husband, son, dad. Crazy. Wonderful description of libraries p. 204-217, including on p. 209 “At its loftiest, a library’s goal is to keep as many minds as possible in the game, past and present, playful and in play.

OH, PIONEERS! By Willa Cather. Great narration, very fine classic book. Story of Swedish immigrant family in Nebraska at turn of 20th century. 1st in Prairie trilogy- then Song of the lark, and My Antonia. This title is avaiable in print, or MP3 audiobook through the library's Overdrive collection.



FLIGHT BEHAVIOR by Barbara Kingsolver

JUST ONE EVIL ACT by Elizabeth George. This is perhaps too complicated and drawn out, but quite worth reading for a fan of her Inspector Lynley series (this one focusing especially on DS Barbara Havers).

PETERSON REFERENCE GUIDE TO SEAWATCHING: Eastern Waterbirds in Flight by Ken Behrens and Cameron Cox. Seawatching is the act of identifying waterbirds in flight, and this includes those of the great lake. Very detailed information and wonderful photographs for identifying or just enjoying.


Julie's Picks

I just read Louise Penny's HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN (9th in the Three Pines series). Once again, I was carried away to Quebec and the little village of Three Pines--with the quirky characters I've grown to love... Inspector Armand Gamache, most especially! I've never been to Montreal and surrounds, but Penny has made it incredibly appealing.

A couple of new children's titles about trains are worth a look-see: HOW TO TRAIN A TRAIN by Eaton and TRAIN by Cooper. Eaton's book is beautifully illustrated by John Rocco, and is a humorous story featuring the choosing of a train as a 'pet.' Cooper's TRAIN is also a visual delight, with passengers boarding a Commuter Train in the East, switching to a Passenger Train in the midwest, a freight train to cross the mountains and a high speed train racing to the West Coast. All aboard!

TURNING PRO by Steven Pressfield is a little 'kick in the pants' book for those who feel compelled to be creative and make the shift from amateur to professional. If you have an impulse to write, paint, start a business or just put everything you have into the life you're already living--check this little bit of a book out and Go Pro!


Hilary's Picks

HOROLOGICON: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language by Mark Forsyth
This book is so much fun! It reminds me of playing the "Dictionary Game" when I was growing up although the words the author features are far more obscure than any that I remember finding. This is a nice read if you enjoy words and, secondly, if you're looking for something that you can read little bits of at a time.

IT'S NOT LOVE, IT'S JUST PARIS by Patricia Engel is about Lita del Cielo whose parents have given her a year to study in Paris after college before returning to the States to work in the family business. While in Paris, Lita meets Cato and falls in love. Of course, nothing is simple and complications arise. Each character in the novel is unique and Lita, as the protagonist, speaks from a perspective of a level headed and a keen observer of those around her. Engel's writing is descriptive and thought provoking, and certain passages reminded my of Milan Kundera's writing. For example, "...and Tarentina theorized that monolingual English-speakers are thus long-winded and corny due to their verbal confinement because people can only experience emotions for which their language already has a name." This book contains a nice balance of beautiful and descriptive writing and an engaging story.

THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS by R.L. LaFevers. My 11 year-old daughter and I have read a lot of book series together and this one is among the top 3 - up there with the "Harry Potter Series" and the "Penderwicks Series". Theodosia Throckmorton is an 11 year-old girl living in London in the early 1900's. Her parents run a museum which contains numerous artifacts that her mother "digs up" in Egypt. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to her mother and father many of the artifacts she brings back are cursed. In this particular story, one of the items must be returned to Egypt or chaos will ensue threatening all of the British Empire. Theodosia is so smart and so funny. This is a wonderful book to read out-loud together. The elements of suspense and danger, paired with Theodosia's wit and bravery make for a completely endearing book.


Cathy's Vacation Picks Cathy’s Vacation Reads

This February, when I took my “read in the sun” vacation, I read so many good books. It was heaven. Following are the books I’d like to share with you. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

I may have read CROSSING TO SAFETY before, but I think I was too young to appreciate it. I decided to read it now because of the END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB. The author says that when he asks people who own bookstores or teach English what their favorite book is, the majority say their favorite book is CROSSING TO SAFETY. So, I thought, whoa, I better read this.

Wallace Stegner is an exceptionally fine writer. This story is about friendship, love, marriage and loyalty. I would say that in essence the message we take away from this book is that we never know what goes on in relationships. Maybe we don’t understand a person, a friendship or marriage from the outside, but love, commitment, and relationships are, perhaps, not transparent, simple, or easy to fathom. One of my favorite parts of the books is that when Charity, who is very privileged, learns that her friend is suffering, she drops everything. She takes leave of her young children, her husband and her projects to help heal her friend. Friendship is key to the story, but mostly it is about the mystery of marriage.

Another aspect of this book that will speak to a lot of people is the idea of their summer place as a sanctuary. It is the place where the most significant things in the characters’ lives happened.

Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

This mystery was originally published in 1950. The writing is so good and the story is very fun. It evokes a time, class and life style that were an anomaly. If you like Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, you must read Josephine Tey. A family fortune is left to a younger son because the eldest is thought to be dead. Just before the fortune is disbursed, the eldest brother appears. But is it really him or an imposter? It is a hoot to read a mystery set in a time before DNA testing and cell phones. A lot of unraveling was necessary to solve crimes.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan MacNeal

If you like Winspear, Liss, Perry or other historical mystery writers, you will enjoy the Maggie Hope series. This series is very well-researched. The premise is intriguing and historically accurate. I have read only the first one but have the sense that they get better and better. The character development is not as sophisticated as in the Maisie Dobbs series, but it’s a good story. In MR. CHURCHILL’S SECRETARY a young woman who is a mathematician becomes a secretary to Winston Churchill during WWII. There are lots of interesting historical tidbits and subplots.

Arabella by Georgette Heyer

Vacation, to me, always includes reading a Georgette Heyer regency romance. Arabella, heroine of this story, told one fib which changes everything in her life. On her way to London, her coach broke down. She and her companion took refuge in a nearby home, which happened to be the hunting lodge of Mr. Beaumaris. He is handsome and wealthy and a much sought after bachelor. After she overheard a remark he made about her poverty she pretended to be extremely wealthy. He pretended to believe her and convinces all of London society that she was an heiress. In reality her father is a county clergyman. A definite must for Heyer fans.

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

One of my favorite books is Quindlen’s biography LOTS OF CANDLES, PLENTY OF CAKE, which I have read twice. I am predisposed to like her fiction. In this story a sixty year old woman artist, who was famous and married, is now divorced , an artistic has-been and broke. She sees an ad for a rundown cottage in the woods and sublets her beautiful NCY apartment for a year.

Rebecca Winter, the main character, has quite an adjustment from the City to the backwoods; from wealth to poverty; from married to single; from artist to nobody. However, through rich experiences, tribulations, artistic awakening, friendship and love things evolve, not always in an expected or easy way, but in a way that makes for a satisfying read.

Anna Quindlen has good insights into small town life and aging. Quindlen’s books are a gold mine for anyone who collects quotations. She has a way of saying things that resonate.

Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasques

How interesting this story is! Many familiar Latin American authors write magical realism. THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING is realistic fiction with no magic and no mysticism. This takes place in Columbia during the time that Columbian society changed from a traditional culture to a society steeped in drugs and violence.

The main character, like his entire generation, spends his childhood in a place that was safe. People were basically happy. They could take walks, go to school, sit in the park and lead normal lives. Once the drug trade became prevalent and the cartels ruled everything, Colombia became a place where no one was safe, ever. The book evokes the feeling of historical accuracy. Mainly it is the story of the impact of drugs, violence and lawlessness on individuals and society and the impact of decisions both on the decision maker and those affected by the decision. It is a good book.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I am a consummate Jane Austen fan and have read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE mulitple times and PERSUASION a few. To me, it is as good as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I love Anne Elliot. She is funny, perceptive, nice and understands true love. When she was quite young, she fell in love with someone who didn’t have enough money to measure up to her family’s demands and they forbid her to marry him. She obeys, but then refuses to even consider marriage to anyone else. The course of true love certainly does not run smooth in this book, but trust Jane Austen, it will. It will.

Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

There were years when I would read the Man Booker Prize winning book and those short-listed because I could count on them being wonderfully written, thought provoking books. There were some bad choices, I thought, in recent years, so I got out of the habit. When I read the reviews of LUMINARIES I was intrigued, in part because the author won the Man Booker prize at 28. I must say I was skeptical but it is actually an absolutely wonderful, complicated, fun book.

The characters are so interesting that they haunt you long after you finish. This is not a book you can pick up and put down. It is long and is worth reading when you can spend some time on it.

Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

THE STORY OF A NEW NAME is the second book in a trilogy about two best friends who grew up in Naples, Italy in the 1950s and 1960s. In MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, the first book, Elena and Lila are best friends, brilliant students and very, very poor. Elena’s parents, unwillingly, let her continue with her education after grade school. Lila, who is exceptionally gifted, is forced by her family to quit school. The story of how the two girls grow up is captivating. One of the most interesting things about the books is that in the middle of 20th century in Europe their neighborhood could be so bleak, unenlightened and violent. The girls and women were discouraged from getting an education and were mistreated with impunity. Criminal gangs ruled the neighborhood and the poverty was relentless. The author writes beautifully.

Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL enthralled me as a teenager, so I decided to see if I still loved it. And I did. It is, no doubt, politically incorrect, sexist and classist. It is a product of its time and such a fun story of misunderstandings and star crossed lovers so it is not offensive. During the French Revolution, an English aristocrat and a band of dedicated other British nobles, disguised themselves in a variety of ways and smuggled French aristocrats out of France saving them from the guillotine. I didn’t realize it, but this is actually one of a series of books about the Scarlet Pimpernel. Highly recommended for anyone who is hopelessly romantic.

Rivers Run Dry by Sibella Giorello

THE STONES CRY OUT, set in Virginia, is the first in the excellent Raleigh Harmon mystery series. In this second mystery, RIVERS RUN DRY, FBI agent Raleigh has been transferred from her beloved Virginia to Seattle where it rains all the time and where she is completely unwelcome at the FBI headquarters. She is trying to solve a missing person crime, but hits road blocks at every turn. Raleigh is a complex and smart character. The plots are good and the subplots add to the mystery without distraction. The secondary characters are interesting. All and all this is a very good series.

How I chose books for my vacation reading.

Because I am time limited in real life…as is everyone….what I read on vacation is really important to me. Vacations mean that I get to spend some uninterrupted hours every day reading. So, I load up my kindle (and even take my old one as back up) with every title I have been saving. Although I read every day, vacation reading is different because I can savor the books and read for long stretches. A vacation without books is not a vacation to me. I decide what to read on vacation before I even think about packing. I choose books by keeping lots of lists. I read the reviews and look at all of the new books that arrive in the library. I keep lists of classics I am saving for when I have time to invest in them. I keep lists of books I want to re-read. I listen to suggestions by people who love books. And I am a serendipitous reader. Something may just strike my fancy, so I will add it to my reading stack. I am lucky because I get to have many conversations every day about books….with patrons, friends, staff and family. Always there are conversations about books. I cannot tell you the number of wonderful books I have read because someone told me about them. Reading is a great joy that I never take for granted.

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