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Summer books: Reader recommendations

  • May 30, 2014 - 3:25 PM

I’ve cleared my bedside table and repopulated it with Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” books in anticipation of summer and the premier of the Starz TV series. Romance! Passion! Adventure! Just right for the coming months.

Barb Zimmerman, Cologne, Minn.

 

I suggest “The Time in Between,” by Maria Dueñas (translated by Daniel Hahn), a novel about a young seamstress coming of age in Spain (with scenes in Portugal and Morocco) between the World Wars. It shows the shifting political sands as Franco comes to power after the Spanish Civil War and the German Reich seeks to draw the country in as an ally to Germany.

Betsy Cussler, Edina

 

I think everyone should read “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the most amazing true story and can only be described as a testament to the human spirit. The book is beautifully written, gets your attention from the first page and never lets up.

Maribeth Kelly, Apple Valley

 

“Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President,” by Candice Millard, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It explains in great detail the assassination of President James A. Garfield. I couldn’t put it down!

Brad Harju, Anoka

 

Nonfiction: “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed. Minnesota woman hikes from Southern California to Washington. Interesting information for hikers and exciting adventures.

Sci-fi: “The Devereaux Disaster,” by Steve McEllistrem. The second book in this trilogy has thrilling battles and addresses philosophical and social issues that are always relevant.

Self-help: “Bringing Up Bébé,” by Pamela Druckerman. Comparison of French parenting with American parenting (result: French kids are less spoiled).

Light romance: “The Overnight Socialite,” by Bridie Clark. Simple, fun and heartwarming.

Fiction: “Maine,” by J. Courtney Sullivan. Well-written story about a summer home in Maine and the relationship issues surrounding the owners. Also, “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn (everyone liked this mystery); “A Wanted Man,” by Lee Child (I could not put this book down), and “Zoo,” by James Patterson. A creative thriller that is a little bit scary.

Dick Croft, Minneapolis

 

Richard Powers’ “Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance” (1985, Beech Tree) first caught my attention because of the title. Prompted by a 1914 photograph by August Sander of three farmers along a muddy road in Germany, Powers creates a story of their dance, which turns out to be World War I, highlighted by the industrialization of the past century. Their story gets mixed with those of with Henry Ford, Sarah Bernhardt and a modern-day computer expert who is fascinated by the picture and becomes addicted to finding out more about it.

His quest takes the reader on a whirlwind ride through the three farmers’ stint in the military, Ford’s Peace Ship, Bernhardt’s connection to a mysterious redhead, the heir to Ford’s fortune and on into the late 20th century until one wishes one had made a scorecard in the beginning to keep it all straight.

I enjoyed the swirl of activities, the backwards and forwards of time until all time becomes the same. Not a lazy read. Powers’ mind is expansive and one must stay alert or be left behind very quickly. A challenge and a delight!

Patsy Ramberg, White Bear Lake

 

I give “Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of St. James” (by David Downie) a B+, and “Old Rail Fence Corners: The ABCs of Minnesota History” (edited by Lucy L. Morris) an A-. The latter is one of the most interesting first-person narratives of Minnesota history that I have read. Neither book is super “literary,” although they are both redeeming in their own ways.

Matt Dahl, St. Paul

 

“The Cruelty,” by S. Bergstrom. This thriller is an intriguing, brilliantly written page-turner. Gwendolyn Bloom is 17, independent, intelligent and has traveled the world with her diplomat father. Now, she must use her five languages, physical prowess and wit to find and rescue him from kidnapping mobsters.

“The Cruelty” is a first novel for Bergstrom, who grew up in Minnesota. Given the strength and quality of the writing, I’m sure we will see more.

Dorothy Sunne, Forest Lake

“Enjoy Papa: A Life Remembered,” by Phil Formo, a recently published book about a grandfather emigrating from Norway. It’s filled with immigrant challenges, a mysterious cause of death, the grief of losing two wives and yet the triumph of overcoming these challenges — a great read for a summer day, whether kept in by the rain or enjoying the summer sun.

Helen Gildseth, Duluth

 

Minnesota author P.S. Duffy’s book “The Cartographer of No Man’s Land,” which came to my attention from a review in your publication, tops my list for a great novel to read this summer. So beautifully written, but also not shirking the grim realities of war, the novel moves back and forth between the lives of a father and son during World War I, and the effect that this forced separation has on their physical and emotional beings. Definitely for lovers of historical fiction, but also for anyone who cares about the workings of the human heart.

Cheryl Kellen, Parkers Prairie

 

My recommendation for a great summer read is the e-book “Perceval’s Secret,” by C.C. Yager. In 2048 Vienna, Austria, an American conductor defects with a secret that will change his life as well as the world, and he hasn’t a clue about its power. It’s a fast-paced read blending espionage, thriller and mystery in the near future.

Gina Hunter, Minneapolis

 

What says summer more than Mexico? I’ve been bingeing on Mexican memoirs lately. I started with an oldie but goodie, “Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone,” by Mary Morris. This is Mary’s spiritual journey in San Miguel Allende, where she heads to heal from some bad relationships and develops a tender friendship with her neighbor Lupe, but it’s more about Mary’s inner journey of dreams and letting go of the myth that one needs a man, ha!

Next on my list is Barry Golson’s “Gringos in Paradise: An American Couple Builds Their Retirement Dream House in a Seaside Village in Mexico.” (Well, that’s a mouthful!) Golson has a dry sense of humor in this tale of building a house with the help of a Mexican architect, Beto. I love when Barry’s elderly father brings a ham from the States for Thanksgiving and is more concerned about refrigerating the ham than getting a ride from the airport to the new house.

Currently, I’m rereading “On Mexican Time, a New Life in San Miguel,” by Tony Cohan, also about the charms of being an expatriate in Mexico.

I have never been to Mexico, but this is where my soul resides. It may be a place I visit only in books and dreams. Next on my list are the following from Golson’s recommendations at the end of his book: “The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico,” by Octavio Paz; “The People’s Guide to Mexico,” by Carl Franz, and “Insider’s Guide to San Miguel,” by Archie Dean.

Brenda Sazama, New Brighton

 

It is difficult to limit the summer reading to just a few books — so many and so little time! Here are a few I enjoyed while being imprisoned in the Minnesota winter:

“Longbourn,” by Jo Baker: “Pride and Prejudice” from the servants’ viewpoint makes for a fun look at the underside of Jane Austen’s not-so-nice Bennett family.

“The Husband’s Secret,” by Liane Moriarty: a mystery with a twist.

“Natchez Burning,” by Greg Iles: first of a trilogy — very exciting writing.

“The Secret of Raven Point,” by Jennifer Vanderbes: The descriptions of an Army field hospital will make you realize the stupidity of war.

“The Secrets of Mary Bowser,” by Lois Leveen: based on the true story of a freed slave in Richmond, Va., who becomes a spy.

If anyone has not read Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” now is the time!

Joan Palmer, Minneapolis

 

I recommend “Tiny Beautiful Things” for summer reading.

This collection of advice columns by Minnesota native Cheryl Strayed, the bestselling author of “Wild,” truly shines. Her answers are complex, at times painfully honest, but always brimming with hard-earned wisdom.

Far from a frothy beach read, I recommend this for summer reading because later, when you are out on your bike, tending to your garden or fishing at your favorite spot, Strayed’s words will resonate in your head and you’ll find yourself mulling over her advice, thirsty for more.

Renee Brown, Minnetonka

 

I recommend “So Long, Betty and Veronica” by Lou Ferreri. His memoir is thoroughly engaging, captivating, funny and poignant. He has a remarkable gift for merging deep reflection and keen perception with humor and wisdom. Ferreri blends the innocence and adventurousness of a boy coming of age with the wisdom and affection of a man in his 60s, looking back at an era that has long passed. This book makes for a great summer read.

Lynn Leibowitz, New York, N.Y.

 

I would like to recommend “One Good Dog,” by Susan Wilson.

Vicki Anthofer, Northfield

 

This summer, I want to read the Sherlock Holmes stories in preparation for the new “Sherlock” season next year. I love what they’ve done with the various stories so far, and I think it would help to have a reminder of the original stories. They are spinning them in interesting ways.

I also want to read some of the big tomes that I haven’t been able to get to yet: “Bring Up the Bodies,” by Hilary Mantel (I know, not exactly a beach read); the rest of the “Divergent” series (have read only book one), and “The Luminaries,” by Eleanor Catton.

If a book is really good, there’s nothing like sitting on the deck reading on a nice day.

Linda White, St. Paul

 

I recommend “Prospice” by Karen Kelly. Great summer read, nicely paced for relaxing by the lake. A well-written love story with descriptive settings. The characters are relatable, even though the story takes place more than 60 years ago. You will love this book.

Margie Sandor, Stillwater

 

This summer I’m going Up North to the cabin — my imaginary cabin that looks more like a south Minneapolis front porch with a second-story roof above, hanging plants, wind chime and a large wooden rocking chair. At 76, I pulled out Mary Ann Mattoon’s “Jung and the Human Psyche” to help me understand what I’ve been through and Bart Astor’s “Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life” to help me get through more, maybe better. “The Wind Blows, the Ice Breaks: Poems of Loss and Renewal by Minnesota Poets” will be a good start. I hope to get cabin cozy with “Up at Butternut Lake” by Mary McNear and while there, to keep me on my toes and add some mystery, take on William Kent Krueger’s “Windigo Island,” a Cork O’Connor mystery, and Ellen Hart’s “The Old Deep and Dark,” a Jane Lawless mystery. Who needs a cabin? I’ve got imagination and good books.

Carol Cochran, Minneapolis

 

In our highly politicized society and in this election year, I recommend “Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialog” by Robert Jensen, www.citylights.com. It will help you analyze key issues, shape your arguments and understand others’.

Willard B. Shapira, Roseville

 

“Grayson,” by Lynn Cox. I read this book every summer. It is a little book with a huge message of persistence and triumph, one that touches my soul every time I read it. By far, my favorite read! I think your readers would love it, too.

Linda Spyhalski, Elk River

 

“The Weight of Blood” by Laura McHugh. A great “rural noir” written by a young mid-Missouri writer. It’s her debut novel and making waves.

Marcia Krech, Jefferson City, Mo.

 

While I was teaching high school English, I had little time to read anything other than student papers. However, I looked for something “delicious” to read in the summer. My favorite was probably A.S. Byatt’s “Possession.” Now retired, I am continuing this practice and have purchased Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” for summer. It’s been on the bestseller list for months (and won the Pulitzer Prize). Num, num!

Sonja Anderson, Eden Prairie

 

Peter Swanson, “The Girl With a Clock for a Heart.” The book’s cover announces a “ twisty, sexy, electric thrill ride” and does not disappoint — a different mystery/con artists story.

Emily Giffin, “Love the One You’re With.” A chance encounter with a past lover challenges Ellen to examine her marriage, friends and career. This book addresses the fate of many successful couples. Whose career is more important? Who should be expected to roll with changes in that life?

Gail Maifeld, Burnsville

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