Summer books: Reader recommendations

  • Updated: June 4, 2012 - 9:58 AM

From Charles Dickens to Nancy Drew, readers offer up their own suggestions.

My summer picks for this year are books that reflect the tricky dance of family: "The Year We Left Home," by Jean Thompson, a Land o' Goshen honest Iowa story; "Irma Voth" by Miriam Toews (an award-winning Canadian author) about a plucky Mennonite girl; "Mink River" by Brian Doyle -- an Oregon coastal town full of Irish immigrants and native Americans (Oregon book of the year). The best is "Some Assembly Required" by Annie Lamott -- hilarious story of her grandmotherhood. They all give us course correctives on life's path.

-- Pam Kearney, Edina

I'm going classic this summer. I want to re-read "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens, which I've always thought of as a love story. I want also to finish my edition of stories by Robert Louis Stevenson; I'm reading "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" presently. The juxtaposition of good and evil in people seemed to fascinate Stevenson, as it does me. Some classic poetry is in the works as well. I will process again the intricacies of Shakespeare's sonnets and the relevant works of Edna St. Vincent Millay. In August I hope to go more modern again and read John Grisham and Walter Mosley.

-- Lynne A. Day, Brooklyn Park

This summer, I'm reading Alexandre Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo." An unlikely beach book, but my brother, who is a passionate Dumas fan, convinced me that this post-Napleonic era adventure is perfect for summer: a dramatic tale of treason and imprisonment, filled with sword fights and attractive Frenchmen, and capped by a devastating romance. He bought me the Modern Library edition. I'll read it on the Lake Calhoun beaches, in Loring Park and -- for traveling -- alongside the iPad version (since 1,400-page hardcovers are terrible on airplanes).

-- Lacey N. Dunham, Minneapolis

Here are a couple of suggestions for summer reading: "The Book Thief," by Markus Zusak: The story of a young girl in Nazi Germany who loves to read banned books. Death is the narrator of the story. "The Glass Castle," by Jeannette Walls, the memoir of a young lady growing up in difficult times with unique parents where no day was ordinary. "The Zahir," by Paulo Coelho: I have enjoyed all his books, including "The Alchemist." Interesting story on love and relationships and the questions of life.

My wife gave me an iPad for Christmas. I enjoy reading e-books, but I still like the feel of print in my hands.

-- Wade Petrich, Hermantown, Minn.

Yikes! Just counted 18 unread books on my iPad. The one I'll be sure to read this summer is Chad Harbach's "The Art of Fielding." And Trollope. Am going back to his first Barchester novel, "The Warden."

-- Mary Feeney, Prior Lake

After just finishing Jodi Picoult's "Lone Wolf" and Jacquelyn Mitchard's "Second Nature," I need something less dire.

I plan to revisit the "Traveling Pants" girls in Ann Brashares' novel, "Sisterhood Everlasting," and see what they're doing as adults. I also want to re-read Sara Levine's "Treasure Island!!!" for its twisted comic delight. The premise is so unique -- a 25-year-old slacker quits her job to devote herself to the study of a children's classic in order to become bold and independent like Stevenson's main character.

Also on my list is "The Next Best Thing," by Jennifer Weiner. Reviews sound appealing -- a young woman moves to L.A. , makes it as a TV writer, and we get to see the inside politics of Hollywood.

-- Ann Pieri, Maple Grove

My summer reading list this year is topped by "The Orphan Master's Son," by Adam Johnson. It's at the top because I believe summer is the best time for epic novels, especially the kind that sweep you away to another country. I'm excited to dive in and get a snapshot of life in North Korea, a country I'll likely never travel to in person.

-- Shannon Neeser, St. Paul

Summer reading is no different (for me) than reading any other time of year with one exception: Summer, for some reason, draws me back to old favorites. This year it's Lawrence Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet," a steamy, multifaceted, multicultural romance that seems made for the season.

-- William Swanson, Minneapolis

Visit a vintage bookstore and find an old favorite book to read. Poetry anthologies, local university and writers workshop anthologies. Review old personal journal writing for an afternoon of memories.

-- Marilyn Matthews, Apple Valley

Every summer I pull out my well worn copies and re-read "Gone With the Wind," by Margaret Mitchell; "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee, "In Cold Blood," by Truman Capote.

I explore so many different feelings and ideas re-reading "Gone With the Wind" as I concentrate on a different character and the issues: North and South, the Civil War, slavery, love, lust, power, death and destruction of a Southern nation.

Harper Lee reached perfection with "Mockingbird." To stand against all others, when no one else would, took courage. I became a lawyer because I read this book at the age of 10.

"In Cold Blood" -- I really think Harper Lee wrote most of this for Truman Capote. The first true-crime novel and each year my blood runs cold reading it and I am amazed that I am still riveted by each page.

As for new books each summer -- bios on Queen Elizabeth of England, Catherine the Great of Russia, anything on the Mitford Sisters or the "44 Scotland Street" series by Alexander McCall Smith. All interesting reading.

-- Mary T. Stratton, Minneapolis

I'd like to recommend "Glass Asylum" by JoAnn Bren Guernsey. The language is fresh and penetrating, and it offers a woman's view into male/female relationships that is always spot on.

-- Marion Dane Bauer, St. Paul

My daughter is 2 this year and I'm looking forward to introducing her to "Blueberries for Sal" by Robert McCloskey because it's sort of the quintessential summer kids' book.

I'm also anticipating digging into books by authors who will be holding local events (such as St. Paulite Matthew Batt's "Sugarhouse," ) but I'm also looking forward to some "fun" reading: Bonnie Jo Campbell's "Once Upon a River," Ben Lerner's "Leaving the Atocha Station" and "The Adderall Diaries," by Stephen Elliot.

My reading doesn't necessarily change with the seasons, but the location does. As much as I love reading in front of the fireplace, there's nothing like the endless summer reading locales: porch, back yard, cabin, beach, sidewalk cafe. I could go on, but Scott Wrobel's "Cul de Sac" and Dylan Hicks' "Boarded Windows" call.

-- Rhena Tantisunthorn Refsland, Minneapolis

After having owned Stephen King's novel "Under the Dome" since it came out in paperback (almost two years ago), I'm hoping that this is the year I'll finally have time to read it!

Every time I go to the bookstore (or read the Star Tribune books section, or browse in the library, or read BookPage or Entertainment Weekly), I find another book (or several) that I want to read. As I often tell friends and family, I'm likely to die in an avalanche of books someday, but what a wonderful way to go!

-- Lynda Tysdal, Bloomington

This summer I'm going to read Nancy Drew. I didn't as a child, and feel like I may have missed something. So I'm going to old-school sleuth all summer -- Nancy Drew, the Happy Hollisters, the Secret Seven and the Hardy Boys. I don't swim too deep in the summer, but I do like to get my feet wet.

-- Rachel Coyne, Lindstrom, Minn.

"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. Wow. Got my attention on the first page and I was spellbound! True story of WWII survivor Louis Zamperini, including a myriad of incredible situations.

-- Patty Cole, Marshall, Minn.

"A Sense of Wonder: Moments From an Ordinary Life," by Craig Nagel. Although this book refers to an "ordinary life," his words compel us to recognize the extraordinary world we live in -- its people and critters large and small. The short moments lend themselves to summer reading inspection and introspection. This is a bifocal vision of our world.

-- Carrie Hanson, Bloomington

If you have never made acquaintance with Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, you ain't seen nuthin' yet! Maj and Per, a Swedish couple, decided to write 10 mystery novels way back in the 1960s. Their protagonist, Martin Beck, has to be the forerunner to Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallandder. Martin and his compatriots, a fascinating and irritating group, pursue transgressors for 10 years as they also marry, divorce, die, kill, fall in love and solve intriguing crimes.

And although I am recommending an entire mystery series, hopefully someone will recommend one of Charles Dickens' books. I plan to read "Little Dorrit" and "Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe'" this year. It is his anniversary, after all.

-- Kathy Mattsson, Minnetonka

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