Our Collection

Summer Reading 2016

Welcome to summer, when days grow longer and the pace of life includes getting lost in a good book. Here are a few that Library staff have enjoyed or plan to enjoy this season. Looking for more to read? There are many more staff recommendations here

My recommendations are all set in France, not because I’m going there this summer, but perhaps because I wish I was. I loved The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue du Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino (ebook also available), which is a wonderful slice of life on a street steeped in history and a great deal of character. Diane Johnson, Edmund White, David Sedaris, and other writers, well-known and not, pen humorous, insightful essays on the City of Light in Paris Was Ours, edited by Penelope Rowlands. And finally, for a classic, I highly recommend The Chateau by William Maxwell. In this beautiful novel, Maxwell’s perceptive comments on human nature are revealed as a young couple travels to France post-war, innocently misunderstanding their hosts and fellow travelers. —Carolyn Waters, Head Librarian

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (ebook also available) is full of dark humor and dark deeds. In this fast-moving  small volume, an older version of our heroine Eileen recounts a bleak Massachusetts winter in the 1960s that changed her life. As a young woman, her time is split between her work at a grim boy’s prison and her equally ugly home life with her alcoholic father. Along the way she indulges her unspoken, unrequited crush on a co-worker—mostly by stalking him—and fantasizes about leaving her small town and her father’s abusive and needy ways. Moshfegh manages to make Eileen likeable through the character’s pitch-black sense of humor and painful but accurate self-awareness, and the plot twists are unexpected and ugly but somehow satisfying. It’s a beach read for people who like Hitchcock or Highsmith, a quick, engaging and caustic story and one of my favorite books of the year. —Mia D’Avanza, Head of Circulation

I’ve rocked & rolled with Philip Norman’s books on the Beatles (Shout!), the Rolling Stones (The Stones), John Lennon, Mick Jagger, and—my pick for best—Buddy Holly (Rave On). So I’m looking forward to carrying around his brand-new hefty tome, Paul McCartney: The Life. Norman is the man for the job. He’s reusing all his index cards: in addition to his Beatlehood, McCartney owns the Buddy Holly catalog and hosted the essential documentary on him. But more importantly, Norman has the gift of writing about music and musicians for the right reasons—the artistry, the cultural importance, and especially in McCartney’s case, the fun—without getting hung up in scandals, drugs, and groupies. This is sure to become an essential book for everyone’s classic rock/pop shelf. For more about the Library’s collection on popular music, see my “Guitar and Pen” entry of Staff Book Recommendations on the website. —Sara Holliday, Events Coordinator/Head Librarian’s Assistant

Alfred Kubin’s The Other Side came to my attention when I read Roberto Calasso’s The Art of the Publisher. Calasso, a heroic reader and author of many acclaimed works, is also the chairman of influential publishing house Adelphi Edizioni. In The Art of the Publisher he elucidates the goal of finding and publishing singular books, and in his eyes the “most eloquent example” is Alfred Kubin’s 1908 novel, a “frightening hallucination” that he compares to Walser and Kafka—a description difficult to resist. Written during a “three month state of delirium,” Kubin’s book should be good company as the city grows hot and hazy this summer. I recently re-read Harry Crews’s brief memoir of the first six years of his life in rural Georgia, A Childhood, and was again moved by this “biography of a place, a way of life gone forever out of the world.” I recommend it as an ideal companion on a long summer’s day. —Steven McGuirl, Head of Acquisitions 

Lillian Faderman’s The Gay Revolution was just listed as one of the TimesNotable Books of 2015. This is the third appearance of a Faderman title on the annual list, and I’m recommending her excellent Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America  to our readers this summer. Faderman is a compassionate and compelling writer, and in learning about the lives of women who defied social norms by loving other women, I learned a lot about what twentieth-century America expected from straight women, too. Especially if you’ve been following news about the continuing struggles and triumphs of the LGBT community in America today, you won’t find a better introduction to the experience of the American lesbian than Faderman’s Odd Girls. —Erin Schreiner, Special Collections Librarian

I’m thrilled to recommend a couple of books by a favorite writer of mine, Graham Swift.  He’s just published a wonderful book called Mothering Sunday (ebook available), a deceptively simple account of one day in the life and the mind of a maid named Jane Fairchild.  To say anything else would be to give too much away.  I picked up the new one because Waterland (ebook available), a 1983 novel by Swift, is a stunner.  Either or both of these books would be a great addition to your summer.

Having recently read The Infatuations by Javier Marías, an author whose work was previously unknown to me, I plan on reading more contemporary literature in translation this summer.  I tend to read American and English authors out of habit, and summer seems a ripe time to try something new.  Maybe I’ll start with a couple of books on the 2016 longlist for the Man Booker International Prize, all of which are in the Library’s collection. —Patrick Rayner, Acquisitions Assistant/Circulation Assistant 

The circus appears from nowhere as though born out of a dream in Erin Morgenstern's fantasy romance novel The Night Circus. No fanfare or parade precedes it. The field stands empty one moment, but it is bustling with activity the next. Wonders never before seen fill the black and white tents, acrobats and magicians wander the sawdust covered streets. Le Cirque des Rêves has arrived. But a secret hides behind the canvas. Celia and Marco have been trained since childhood by their mercurial instructors solely to take part in an ancient competition with only one victor possible. Unaware of the danger, Celia and Marco fall in love,  setting off ripples throughout their world. Their choices will inevitably change the rules of the game and leave everything they know hanging by athread. —Liam Delaney, Circulation Assistant 

Summer picnics are all the more blissful after a languorous day filled with Debussy. Whether picking out the familiar tune to "Clair de lune" for the first time or revisiting his singular dissonance trés expressif, Joseph Prostakoff’s selections (and translations of performing directions) in Selected Works For the Piano provide a delectable Debussy spread of unedited pieces in their original form.  Bonus: cool, cavernous churches often let you play their piano for free in summer when the city experiences mass exodus. —Sharon Kim, Circulation Page


It’s summer in 1930s Monroeville, Alabama, and I’m looking forward to traveling back in time as I dive into Tru & Nelle by G. Neri, a story about two eccentric and unlikely friends making the most of summer vacation together, complete with a treehouse, mischief, and mysteries in need of solving. This novel should have wide appeal to adventure, mystery and historical fiction fans ages 9-99. A bonus for readers familiar with the works of Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee: this imagined and imaginative tale is based on the real-life friendship of the two notable authors. —Randi Levy, Head of the Children’s Library

Wes & Corey love to hate. And they hate everything, but they’re teenagers, so it’s normal (and also pretty darn funny). They meet Ash, a girl at jazz camp, and the three musicians flee that trap, hit the road, and head south on an impromptu band tour. Truths are revealed and hilarity ensues during this road trip featuring a strong dose of sex, drugs, and…their unique style of music. In The Haters, Jesse Andrews delivers another winner in his rollicking tale of a week of love, hate, and much laughter. After enjoying his debut novel, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, and the movie he penned from it, I have high hopes that we’ll also see this one translated to the silver screen. I may just spend the rest of the summer dreaming up my perfect cast…that is, when I’m not delving into the next great YA read.  —Susan Vincent Molinaro, Children’s Librarian

Hiding in our new Young Adult section on stack 9, Rainbow Rowell’s gem of a novel, Eleanor & Park, is waiting to be read. It’s about two teenagers who meet on the bus on the way to school and fall in love. Reading about their budding romance made my heart sing and reminded me of how sweet new love is. In the background of their relationship, both Eleanor and Park contend with different, but important, problems at home which force them to discover themselves and fight for one another. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves the music of the 80s, reading about teens finding themselves, and sighing loudly with longing when they finish their books.  —Danielle Gregori, Children’s Librarian