If you’re looking for something good to read, there’s no one better to ask than a librarian. Think about it: They live their lives surrounded by books. So we asked eight librarians from Hennepin and Ramsey counties what they plan to read this summer, and what they recommend for others. They responded with a stack of books so big it threatens to topple and crush us. Life is good.
Here are their recommendations:
Saad Samatar, Hennepin County Library
As you’re heading to the cabin this summer and celebrating the natural beauty of Minnesota wilderness, “The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” by Michael Finkel is a fascinating read about the true story of a man who left modern life for the woods of central Maine.
Muslim refugees escaping from civil wars, poverty and religious fanaticism in the Middle East and Africa have made Europe their home. “Journey Into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity” is a fascinating and well-researched book by scholar and writer of Islam Ahmed Akabar. The author captures the historical significance of Islam in Europe and describes contemporary Islamic identities. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the dynamics and relationship between the Europeans and Muslim communities.
Anna Haynes, Shoreview
I’ve been compelled by the recent explosion of publications (finally) by people of color to help expand my understanding of experience outside my own. Fiction is my first love, so I am very much looking forward to reading “There There,” by Tommy Orange, a Cheyenne Arapaho who grew up in Oakland, Calif. I just finished reading the memoir “Heart Berries” by Terese Marie Mailhot.
Two nonfiction books sound both terrifying and un-put-downable to me. The first, “Goodbye, Sweet Girl,” by Kelly Sundberg tells the story of her 10-year marriage and the savage beatings she endured through all of it in the name of love, security, and maintaining the relationship between her son and his father. The second, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” by Michelle McNamara, is the story of a serial rapist and murderer in California who was only recently caught.
Finally, “Bearskin,” by James A. McLaughlin sounds like a mash-up of Ron Rash, Daniel Woodrell, and the TV series “Ozark.” A thriller set in the Virginia Appalachian Mountains about a biologist caretaker being pursued by a Mexican drug cartel, it sounds intriguing enough to keep me reading through any summer distractions.
Ray Lockman, Minneapolis Central
Nonfiction doesn’t get enough credit as page-turning beach-read fare. For me, a compelling memoir or fast-moving and taut collection can feel like as much of a treat as a teen dystopia (and for the record, I adore teen dystopias). As the warmer weather unfreezes my brain, I also feel nimble enough to process subtle arguments and challenging cultural commentaries.
“This Will Be My Undoing,” Morgan Jerkins’ new essay collection sharing her take on black feminism, landed on my virtual nightstand not only because she’s exploring a topic I love to read about, but also because Roxane Gay endorsed it. Enough said.
I’m eager to read Samantha Irby’s “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life” because I am an unabashed sucker for funny queer authors, especially those who can tackle brutal subjects in quirky ways. Our current opioid crisis has me ready to crack open “The Recovering” to see how Leslie Jamison melds her personal sobriety story with research-based narrative.
After being disappointed by J.D. Vance’s ridiculously popular “Hillbilly Elegy” last year, I’m going to try a different lens on the topic with Elizabeth Catte’s “What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia.”
Tamara L. Lee, New Brighton
As a children’s librarian I am required (and want) to read books that are oriented toward my little patrons. My big push in preparation for summer book clubs and other kid-related book activities is usually January through May, but once June hits, it’s all about what I want to read. That said, I do have a few kid books that I’m looking forward to reading this summer: “The Parker Inheritance,” by Varian Johnson; “Ghost Boys,” by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and the Track series (“Ghost,” “Patina,” “Sunny”) by Jason Reynolds.
Adult titles that I’m looking forward to are: “An American Marriage,” by Tayari Jones; “Eloquent Rage,” by Brittney Cooper; “Destroyer,” by Victor Lavalle.
And one highly recommended read that I recently finished: “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo. Whether you are starting out on the journey of dismantling racism and white supremacy, or have been on the path for a while, Oluo’s book is packed with great advice, facts and personal anecdotes that will educate and encourage everyone taking part in this complex conversation.
Kia Vang, Wayzata
I love books that stay with me long after I have finished them. When I read children and young adult books, I see the innocence and resiliency of youth reflected in the characters, and it gives me hope. An Na’s “A Step From Heaven” was the first young adult book I read as a grownup, in which I could see myself in some of the experiences of the young protagonist.
Most recently Michelle Cuevas’ book “The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole,” about a young girl dealing with grief over the loss of her father, has broken my heart and mended it at the same time while also making me laugh in between. I also highly recommend the picture book “The Heart and the Bottle” by Oliver Jeffers for the remarkable artwork and moving, original story.
This summer, I look forward to reading “Girls Made of Snow and Glass” by Melissa Bashardoust, a novel that draws inspiration from “Snow White” and “The Snow Queen.”
Marcus Lowry, Mounds View
One of the joys of working in a library is being able to share new titles that I love. The graphic novel “Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World,” written and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu, is filled with all kinds of amazing women to be inspired by — great for young adults and adults alike. A new book by Helen Dewitt should always be the cause of a national holiday, and “Some Trick: Thirteen Stories” is no exception. Erudite, slyly humorous and filled with gorgeous writing, I would recommend this for intellectually curious readers.
And finally, “The Overstory” by Richard Powers is a vital, interlocking story of trees, ecological activism and hope.
Erica Redden, Maplewood Library
I love reading young adult/teen books because not only are they fun, they also are often much more interesting than standard fiction. Most YA books are powerful coming-of age stories. Many of them give me a lot of insight about the issues that teens are facing as they grow up, and helps us understand them better.
For this summer, I’m recommending: “The Belles,” by Dhonielle Clayton, a dark fantasy novel about beauty and the dangers of getting what we want. “Dread Nation,” by Justina Ireland, an alternate history of the aftermath of the Civil War, where zombies are ravaging the country. “The Astonishing Color of After,” by Emily X.R. Pan, a story of a grieving girl who travels to Taiwan to meet her deceased mother’s parents for the first time. Jen Wang’s “The Prince and the Dressmaker,” a graphic novel about a prince who seeks out an unusual dressmaker to help him realize his dreams. “Monday’s Not Coming,” by Tiffany Jackson, a mystery of a girl searching for her best friend, and unearthing twisted and dark things in the process.
Holly M. Pierson, Ramsey County Library
I like a mix of feel-good stories and new content that challenges me to consider new perspectives. First on my list is “Anna and the French Kiss,” by Stephanie Perkins. It reads like a fun romantic comedy: a little predictability mixed with lots of international boarding school escapades.
Next would be the four novels in “The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyer: “Cinder,” “Scarlet,” “Cress” and “Winter.” These quick-read novels are reimagined fairy tales set far into the future with surprising twists and turns. “The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance,” by Elna Baker, will follow for a good laugh.
When I’m ready for something with more depth, I’ll reach first for “The Poisonwood Bible,” by Barbara Kingsolver. “Fascism: A Warning,” by Madeleine Albright, is on hold for me at the library and I can’t wait to delve into her insight about today’s world leaders. Finally, I hope to read “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, which has been touted as one of the most timely reads about race, power and identity in the United States today.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune books editor.