I have high hopes for reading this summer. On my night table: classics such as “Les Misérables” and “Moby-Dick”; more current themes (dogs) with “Following Atticus,” by Tom Ryan, and “Dog Crazy,” by Meg Donahue, and (changing subjects) “H Is for Hawk,” by Helen Macdonald, “The Shoemaker’s Wife,” by Adriana Trigiani, and “Drums of Autumn,” by Diana Gabaldon.
April Uram, Minneapolis
John N. Maclean is a former editor and Washington correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and has written several books about wildfires and the men and women who fight them. His most recent, “The Esperanza Fire: Arson, Murder, and the Agony of Engine 57” (2013), details the start of the fire in Southern California, the response of firefighters and how they fared, the terrain of the area, how fire evolves and is affected by weather and geography, and how the arson is investigated and solved. You will never view forest- and wildfires or their management the same way after reading it.
Jill Larsen, Bloomington
I recommend “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I was initially hesitant about it because the story is told entirely through correspondence. I wasn’t very far into the book, though, before I was thoroughly entranced. The correspondence format makes it an easy book to pick up and put down as time allows; that is, until you’re hooked and have to keep reading to find out how it ends. This is one of the books I come back to every year or two to enjoy all over again.
Martha Vogel, Apple Valley
“The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown is a true story of the U.S. rowing team and its quest for gold in the 1936 Olympics. The University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team, composed of sons of loggers, shipyard workers and farmers, caught the world by surprise by defeating Adolf Hitler’s German rowing team. The book focuses on one young man in particular — Joe Rantz — whose father and stepmother left him at age 10 to fend for himself. At once an inspiring account of underdog achievement, an unforgettable coming-of-age story and history in the making, it is an incredible book that I could not put down.
Lynne Bryant, Independence
“The Red Balloon” by Susan Stark Hilt takes place near a lake on a perfect summer day when family and friends are celebrating a young girl’s birthday. What happens when Margaret sees a red balloon tied to the wrist of her youngest son hooks us immediately, and we find ourselves transported into the lives of two families, tied together by a lake and the thin string of a red balloon. You will find yourself in good hands with this talented author as she brings you into the emotional depths of a family as they encounter their deepest fears and learn how each member of the family must face the truth of their own weakness and strength.
Betty LaSorella, St. Paul
For spy novel aficionados, one can’t go wrong with any or all books by Charles Cumming and Olen Steinhauer. The reader will be happily engrossed for hours.
Joyce Johnson, Redwood Falls
These books are some of my recent favorites:
“The Nightingale,” by Kristin Hannah: a tale of two French sisters during the Nazi occupation. A very compelling novel that depicts how individuals survive war. Well-written and hard to put down.
“I Am Pilgrim,” by Terry Hayes: If you are in the mood for a tension-filled thriller about a top-notch American operative and his nemesis, read this book. It’s a sizable book but will keep you involved.
“Orphan Train,” by Christina Baker Kline: a novel based on reality. During the mid-19th century until the Depression, orphaned immigrant children were sent from the East Coast to the Midwest and often were taken into rural households as slave labor. Very touching and yet depicts the strength of the human spirit to survive.
Jan Bobrowske, St. Louis Park
I randomly picked up the book “Lit” by Mary Karr in a bookstore. I thought it was about literature. Well, it was, but so much more. It is a memoir about a college professor who comes to terms with her alcoholism, chaotic upbringing and so much more. Catholicism plays a part in her recovery, although she starts out a staunch atheist.
Written in 2009, it won many awards, including one of the “10 Best Books” by the New York Times Book Review.
Meri Santos, Richfield
Gina Sekelsky’s “Studio Yearbook One: A Year of Creative Adventures” is an inspiring and beautiful read for people who seek to feed their creative souls. The book delves into areas the author is passionate about, from lettering to hand-stitching to reading. I am inspired by the intention she brings to her artistic efforts and keep going back to reread sections that resonate with me.
Kristan Nalezny, Golden Valley
My recommended book for summer is Gene Luen Yang’s two-part series, “Boxers and Saints.” The books are graphic novels. Some people might dismiss these as “comic books,” but I want to wave a flag here and tell serious readers to check these out. The theme Yang takes on — China’s Boxer Rebellion through the eyes of traditional Chinese and Chinese Christian converts — is enormous, nuanced and rich. His storytelling is terrific. I won’t give away the ending, but “Saints” is simply like a punch to the gut. Yang’s stories grow more sophisticated with each effort. After you read “Boxers and Saints” you’ll want to look up all of his stuff. I love how he is developing his enormous talent and the genre of graphic novels.
Rachel Coyne, Lindstrom
“Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live,” wrote Goethe. I had to find my Self before I could follow Goethe’s advice. That journey has taken me through many books and much searching. Tim Burkett’s “Nothing Holy About It: The Zen of Being Just Who You Are” is a good anytime start on the self-discovery and acceptance journey. It can be easy and comfortable to stay stuck in the “habit” groove and strive for acceptance and recognition from others. Being authentic instead of a pleasing pretense has been a painful and exciting challenge for me. Burkett’s book has been helpful.
Andrew Solomon’s “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression” has been helpful also. I am not alone on that wrestling mat with depression. The mat is crowded, and others may find Solomon’s book helpful, as well.
A must-read, not only summer but any time, is “The Unquiet Dead,” by Ausma Zehanat Khan, a novel about the Bosnian genocide from 1991 to 1995. The chapter notes at the end are a history lesson. History repeats itself! Ethnic cleansing, rape camps, unimaginable suffering created by humans toward other humans. Why a summer read? Perhaps it takes a pleasant Minnesota summer to pause, breathe fresh air and appreciate a slowed-down here and now to grapple with these heavy issues that don’t go away just because it’s summer. “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” — Martin Buber
Read on! Journey on!
Carol Cochran, Minneapolis
Two gems from the Pacific Northwest: “The Plover,” by Brian Doyle, is a man’s quest for solitude, sailing on the Pacific Ocean, but instead brings him into the depths of other people’s lives and he is transformed. In “Gemini,” by Carol Cassella, a doctor tries not to lead with her heart as a mystery unfolds and characters struggle to follow their best instincts. Authentic and detailed in medical descriptions.
Then from “our neighbor to the North,” another Canadian gem from Miriam Toews: “All My Puny Sorrows,” equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. Are Mennonites really that funny?
Pam Kearney, Edina
I picked up “Terminal Rage,” by A.M. Khalifa, for free on Kindle in an Amazon promotion. I had no intention of really reading it — I love hoarding free books like that. I just glanced at the first few pages, then 48 hours later — delayed only by the inanities of eating, using the toilet and sleeping — I found I had devoured the book. It’s an international thriller, but don’t let that generic label misguide you that this book is anything short of breathtaking. Original, unexpected and powerful, it left me salivating for more.
Andre Rosso, Rochester
I highly recommend “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot. This is a deep, powerful read about racism, science and family.
Lisa M. Bolt Simons, Faribault
This summer I’m reading “Headin’ to the Cabin: Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota,” by Rob Bignell. The new book details more than 200 trails along the North Shore and the St. Croix River and in the Arrowhead. It includes hikes to several waterfalls, placid North Woods lakes, wildlife hot spots and great vistas. The book mostly will sit on my nightstand so I can review it for trail ideas; when not there, it’ll be in my backpack so it accompanies me on the hike.
Greg Peyton, River Falls, Wis.
All avid readers should make their way through Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” at some point in their lives. I did so in the dead of winter a couple of years ago. It took me about two months, but I felt a sense of accomplishment. I recommend it.
Two of my favorite books were written by Sue Monk Kidd. Most book lovers have probably read “The Secret Life of Bees” (and seen the movie), so be sure to read her newer book which may be even better, “The Invention of Wings.” (Don’t skip the epilogue!)
Renee Tyszko, Burnsville
Dan Epstein has written two excellent books about baseball during the 1970s. “Big Hair and Plastic Grass” is a year-by-year account of a decade that saw the introduction of World Series games played at night, polyester uniforms and free agency. “Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76” focuses only on the 1976 season, and it’s an entertaining snapshot of baseball and pop culture after the tumult of Vietnam and Watergate.
Even though he was banned from baseball more than 25 years ago, Pete Rose still makes headlines as baseball’s most famous pariah. Michael Sokolove’s excellent 1990 book, “Hustle: The Myth, Life, and Lies of Pete Rose,” is a fascinating look at a deeply talented baseball player and a deeply flawed man.
Mark Taylor, St. Paul
“Language Arts,” by Stephanie Kallos. A solid, funny, painful novel about raising a child “on the spectrum,” divorce, teaching, Seattle weather, old age dementia, penmanship and the difficulty of trying to connect when “language arts” fail us and all we have is unarticulated love and empathy.
Bruce Jacobs, Milwaukee
I live in Georgia, but grew up in the Midwest and still am a die-hard Vikings fan! I keep up with the area by the Star Tribune online. My recommendation for summer reading is “Esme Dooley,” a story set in the Midwest, by Jane Donovan and Rosie McTozy. It’s a very entertaining story to read with or to your kids, and it teaches them the importance of perseverance. It has many short chapters, so you could stretch the book out for a long road trip.
Kathy Hoff, Dalton, Ga.
I recommend two new titles: “He Must Be Dead or in St. Paul,” by D.B. Moon — it’s a fast-paced, hard-boiled crime novel — and “Mudge,” by Frederic Blanche, sort of a fictionalized memoir, told in vernacular.
Lee Henschel Jr., Minneapolis
I suggest “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics,” by Daniel James Brown. This true story about incredible motivation and perseverance despite very difficult challenges is fascinating and a rewarding read. It covers not only the back story about some of the athletes, but includes great insight into what life was like in the United States during the Dust Bowl Years and Germany before World War II. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
Joy Goff, Edina
How about “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the wake of the recent Harper Lee literary news? It’s a fairly quick read, always timely, and exceptionally worthy.
Paul Waytz, Minneapolis
It’s time to revisit John Fowles again; it’s been years. The mystery of “The Magus,” the very English of “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” and, finally, “Daniel Martin,” which portrays the nature of Englishness. My husband was British, so “Daniel Martin” really spoke to me.
Becky Glister, Mound
I am going to be reading “Flight of Gold” by Kevin A. McGregor for the third time — it’s that good. It is the story of an Northwest Airlines plane crash in Alaska in 1948. McGregor and another pilot spent years researching and investigating the crash site and their discoveries. It’s one of those books you don’t want to put down … plus the crew of the flight was from Minneapolis. I will also reread “Dead Wake” by Erik Larson, another book I could not put down (about the sinking of the Lusitania). The research and expert telling of these stories make for compelling reading.
Pat Olson, Edina
Summer reading does not always have to be soft and fluffy, suitable for a beach or hammock. It also can be a shout-out to wake up and take badly needed action to try to save humanity from itself. Except for the always present danger of nuclear war, nothing is more important in my opinion than combating life-threatening global warming and climate change. So my recommendations are “Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed — And What It Means to Our Future” by Dale Jamieson, and two books by North Dakota-born, Minnesota-educated Prof. Robert Jensen, who teaches at the University of Texas in Austin: “We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibility of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting and Speaking Out” and “Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialog.” Recommended especially to deniers of global warming and climate change, whatever their motivations.
Willard B. Shapira, Roseville
Just finished a medical thriller, “Nerve Damage,” by Tom Combs of Plymouth. Even if you have no medical background, this book grabs you from the start and never lets go. A tremendous, well-written book by this new author. I’d recommend it to all your readers.
Judy Randall, Maple Grove
One of my favorite books of all time is “Last Days of Summer,” by Steve Kluger. It is the fictional story of Joey Margolis, a 12-year-old Jewish boy growing up in New York City at the beginning of World War II. Through persistent written correspondence, he befriends Charlie Banks, a ballplayer for the New York Giants. This book makes me laugh, and it makes me cry. The characters will become your best friends. I have read this book three or four times and have recommended it to everyone! It is one of those books that I return to year after year.
Susan Steel, Anoka