Our Collection

Summer Reading 2019

Along with the arrival of warm weather and longer days comes the hope that a slower summer pace will allow more time for getting lost in good books. Here are a few that Library staff have enjoyed or plan to enjoy this season. If you are looking for more to read there are many more staff recommendations on our website. To see this summer's publishing highlights take a look at this recent blog post.

Wish You Were Here; Emily, Alone; Henry, Himself | Stewart O’Nan 

Their summer cottage on Lake Chautauqua is the emotional center of Stewart O’Nan’s three books about the Maxwell family. Nothing earth-shattering happens, there are no dark family secrets revealed, and what plot there is closely follows the rhythms of daily life. Yet the accumulated impact of these funny, poignant, deeply honest human studies is impossible to ignore. O’Nan owes a debt to Evan S. Connell’s Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge, especially in the last novel, but ultimately, he is kinder about his characters’ flaws. Ration these books over the summer. You’ll be sorry when you turn the last page. —Diane Srebnick, Development Assistant

The Forty Rules of Love | Elif Shafak

Subtitled "A Novel of Rumi," this book should really be called "A Novel of Shams of Tabriz," since it’s Rumi’s mentor who drives its marvels and heartaches. It’s a ravishingly written visit to 13th-century Turkey, where a Muslim and multicultural society is broadening its mystical writings and practices, with one community gaining and losing through the changes. The story turns between the medieval setting and a contemporary woman’s surprising encounter with a modern Sufi author. Frankly, I preferred the time in Shams’ world, but I got caught up in the unfolding of both stories. The title refers to Shams’ personal guidelines, sprinkled through the text as advice of the heart and ironic commentary on a tale that’s both drunk on the divine and deeply human. PS: If you want to skip the middlenovel, Omid Safi’s Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition is a wonderful treasury. —Sara Holliday, Head of Events

I will essentially read anything, on any topic, if I like how it’s written. And I only have one personal rule for summer reading: if I leave New York City, no reading books about New York City. Here are some I am looking forward to checking out: Volcano by Garett Hongo, the 1995 memoir of a fourth-generation Japanese American who grew up in the shadow of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii; Furious Cool by David and Joe Henry, a biography of comedian Richard Pryor; A Squatter’s Tale by Ike Oguine, fiction about a young Nigerian financier who must flee Lagos after his company fails in 1990s NYC; Miami by Joan Didion, her 1987 book of essays on Cuban exiles; and Last Nights of Paris by outcast-Surrealist Philippe Soupault, translated by William Carlos Williams, and originally published in 1928. Phew! —Katie Fricas, Events Assistant

King Leopold’s Ghost | Adam Hochschild

Facing a long plane ride, I searched for a readable history – full of villains and heroes and tragedies and triumphs. I picked up King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild, a story of greed in the scramble for Africa and the forces that aligned to stop it. Our villain (one of many) is King Leopold II of Belgium, whose hunger for ever more riches allowed slave labor to thrive in the colony he established in the Congo for ostensibly humanitarian reasons. Joseph Conrad, believing the stories of the civilizing forces, would travel to the Congo to work on a merchant ship. He would soon realize his error and turn his experiences into The Heart of Darkness. Roger Casement, who met Conrad on board that ship, would bear witness to the atrocities that led the resistance that forced Leopold to relinquish his claim. It is among the first human rights victories of the 20th century, and a model still used by human rights workers.  At turns, difficult and thrilling, King Leopold's Ghost is well worth your time this summer. —Patrick Rayner, Acquisitions Assistant/Circulation Assistant

The Mountain Lion | Jean Stafford (also available as an ebook)

Stafford won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1970 for her Collected Stories, but her formidable talents as a writer have been unfairly overshadowed by marriages to Robert Lowell and A.J. Liebling. The Mountain Lion (1947) is a powerful coming-of-age tale about an unforgettable pair of misfit siblings, Ralph (ten) and Molly (eight), seemingly at odds with all that comes their way: their maddeningly conventional siblings and mother, foolish neighbors, and stifling suburban school days. Their lives change when they move from Los Angeles to their uncle’s ranch in Colorado for a summer and their tight pre-adolescent bonds begin to strain and splinter. This is a tragic and eerie book with a very subtle sense of foreboding and dread masterfully woven into in what seems at first a straightforward realist novel. It has some awkward, funny moments, too, usually via Molly's misanthropic eye.  Over the years, several have told me I must read Effi Briest  (1895) by Theodor Fontane, including two Library members in the last month. I think that summer 2019 is the time.  —Steven McGuirl, Head of Acquisitions

In the House in the Dark of the Woods | Laird Hunt

This is a small book that contains a big story. It’s a fairy tale in the vein of the Brothers Grimm or Neil Gaiman, ostensibly about a woman known only as Goody who loses her way picking berries in the woods for her family. If you like an immersive little book and don’t mind some dark surprises along with a soothing tone, I recommend picking this one up. —Mia D’Avanza, Head of Circulation

A Small Place | Jamaica Kincaid

Here is an ideal summer read. Kincaid serves as a tour guide for the reader to her native Antigua. Prized by the West as a beautiful beachy paradise where it never rains, Kincaid instead introduces the reader/ tourist to the Antigua she knows. This Antigua is one of dilapidated roads, long-shuttered libraries, and corrupt politicians. The result is an intimate history that pulls back the usual “polite” language of the colonizers and brings the tourist face-to-face with themselves. As Kincaid explains it: “The thing you have always suspected about yourself the minute you become a tourist is true: A tourist is an ugly human being.” This pointed little book won’t weigh down your bag and has always left me with much to ponder about on the beach. —lae sway, Circulation Assistant

The Sheltering Sky | Paul Bowles (also available as ebook and audiobook)

Paul Bowles’ cult classic novel of 1949 concerns the ennui of three American travelers as they meander the desert of post-WWII North Africa. In a misbegotten, increasingly feverish quest for existential realizations in foreign lands, the trio find their relationships, sanity, and lives at risk. Bowles, himself an American expatriate who lived in Morocco, expressively uses the imposing desert landscape to tell a story that deliberately plays with narrative conventions to surprise and frustrate in the best of ways. Consider this a cautionary tale about what not to do as a tourist during your summer adventures! —Scott Carlton, Bibliographic Assistant 



This summer I’m looking forward to catching up on some terrific titles we’ve added to the children’s collection recently. How do I know they’re terrific before I’ve read them, you ask? We children’s librarians spend quite a bit of time carefully selecting additions to our crowded shelves, beginning with reading book reviews. Here are a few of the books I’ll read this summer, and why the reviews captured my attention:

  • The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pits by Avi (e-audio also available): “…an ingeniously plotted Dickensian story filled with suspense, surprises, and ultimately satisfaction. It reminds us … why reading is such high entertainment and pleasure.” —Booklist Online
  • Silver Meadows Summer by Emma Otheguy: “A warm depiction of family and of standing up for what you believe in.” —Kirkus Reviews
  • Nightbooks by J.A. White: “A spine-tingling dark fantasy about the power of facing down fears and choosing your own fate.” SLJ

Randi Levy, Head of the Children's Library


On the Come Up | Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Bri is a footnote on the legacy of her rap legend father, who was killed before reaching his time. A talented rapper herself, she dreams of making it big, getting out of Garden Heights and away from the constant thrum of gang culture. But the neighborhood has a way of sucking people back down. When her mom loses her job, bills begin to pile up, and homelessness looms, making it is no longer just a dream—it’s a necessity. On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s second novel, serving as a follow up to her explosive debut, The Hate U Give. Set in the same neighborhood this coming-of-age story makes clear observations on systemic racism and the cycle of poverty. Though never shying away from the realities of living in Garden Heights, Thomas writes a warm cast of characters with depth and humor. A compelling and sobering summer read featuring powerful rap lyrics—Thomas was a rapper before an author—this novel will appeal to adults as well as teens. —Morgan Boyle,   Assistant Children's & Young Adult Librarian

Internment | Samira Ahmed & The First Rule of Punk | Celia C. Pérez  
Kids and teens aren’t typically thrilled with summer reading assignments, but when given the freedom to select the books, there’s a better chance of acceptance and possibly even excitement. Such is the case with a few books on my own summer reading list. For our July read, my YA book club selected Samira Ahmed’s Internment. Set in a terrifying near-future, it chronicles the plight of Layla, an American citizen whose family has been relocated to an internment camp because they are Muslim. I anticipate that our book discussion will be an enthusiastic, if harrowing, one. In the next month, I have also volunteered to write questions for a Battle of the Books competition. The titles were pre-selected, but I was thrilled to find Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk included. I have wanted to read Malú’s story of surviving middle school with her own ingrained punk sensibilities since we added it to our shelves. These are two books I’m happy to push to the top of my TBR pile! —Susan Vincent Molinaro, Children's and Young Adult Librarian