Friday, May 8, 2009

Summer reading happiness

Since it's the last week of the semester and finals are essentially over, I'll be loosening up a little bit today. I'm guessing most of you are pretty sick of the Library by now, judging from the sheer number of people we saw this week, so no Question of the Week.

Instead, I've gone around the first floor and asked everyone for their favorite books for summer reading. Some consist of pretty light fare, while others are bona fide reading projects. Still, all are good reads; we spend all our professional time around books, so you know we've got at least some taste!

Diana Gates
Talk Talk - After being falsely arrested for several crimes, a deaf woman and her boyfriend set out to find the real perpetrator.

Mischief - One of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books, this story sees the return of The Deaf Man, a mysterious criminal, with cryptic clues sent to the police department that hint at his upcoming nefarious plans. This book also covers several subplots including pro-life and pro-choice activism, graffiti, a series of Alzheimer's patients found on the streets, and a hostage crisis.

Congo - One of Michael Crichton's earliest books, this novel has a research team (accompanied by Amy, a gorilla who signs) investigating horrific attacks perpetrated by gorillas deep in the African jungle. Although the technology is dated (this book was written in 1980), the story is tense and superbly-written.

Jephte's Daughter - A young Jewish woman is married to an orthodox Talmudic scholar, but when their marriage becomes abusive, she escapes to London with their son and falls in love with a priest. (Available at George Washington University through CLS)

Laura Jacobi
The Great Man - With the death of a famous artist comes a whole passel of revelations about the man himself, his wife, his mistress, and his sister.

The Corrections - The story of an emotionally complicated family -- a sick father, a mother obsessed with Christmas, a successful chef daughter with romantic issues, and two sons, one of whom is a depressed banker and the other an insecure gadfly -- written with a comic voice and with an eye to cultural commentary.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom - Learn about the real Lawrence of Arabia from the man himself, and how he helped unify the Arabs against Turkish oppression in the Middle East after World War I.

Lonesome Dove - A group of cowboys go on a cattle drive, but this novel is so much more than that. Read this if you're into fascinating characterization and exploring relationships between people set in the beauty of the American West.

James McCarthy
Duma Key - Stephen King offers up a story much closer to the quality of his earlier work, about a one-armed man who develops a profoundly disturbing talent while in seclusion on an island just off of Sarasota, Florida.

The Known World - A black-owned slave plantation before the Civil War spins out of control following the death of its owner.

Wicked - A very unusual take on the Land of Oz, this book takes you through the life of Elphaba, the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West, and creates a very solid universe full of strange superstitions, political activism, and the problems of totalitarian government.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities - Although this book was written a few decades ago, its insights about cities and the nature of the urban environment are fascinating, especially in light of recent trends toward office "superblocks" in urban downtowns.

Patrick Oberholtzer
Great Plains - Learn about the Big Sky and how its colorful past blends into its present through an engaging commentary by Ian Frazier.

Manhunt - A young man with prospects for fame and fortune threw it all away because he was on the losing side of a war. This is the story of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, and his capture.

Native Tongue - One of the best comic authors to come out of South Florida, Carl Hiaasen spins a tale of murder and nutty environmentalists, investigated by a PR writer for a quintessentially cheesy theme park.

A Walk in the Woods - The Appalachian Trail is an epic path across the eastern United States through some of the most beautiful wilderness on this continent. Bill Bryson somehow combines hilarity and a sense of the majesty of these woods in his story of hiking the Trail.

Jane Rutherford
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Are YOU ready for the movie? Because we sure are!

My Sister's Keeper - The gripping tale of a young woman who was born as a transplant donor for her leukemia-stricken older sister, this novel explores questions about identity, selfhood, family, and love.

The Time Traveler's Wife - A young librarian and his wife must come to terms with his unusual condition -- involuntary time-travel -- and its effect on their past and their future.

Angels and Demons - In an earlier novel from the author of The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon must hunt down a secret society bent on destroying the Catholic Church -- and possibly a good chunk of the world besides.

Good grief. After looking through some of my colleagues' recommendations, my summer reading list just got a lot longer. I hope yours did, too!

Next week, we'll talk a little bit about some of the changes you may see in the Library when you return for the Fall semester -- unless you're graduating, in which case, you'll have to come visit us sometime!

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