Summer Reading Picks

So many books so little time. Summer presents us with an opportunity to kick off our shoes, sip lemonade and most of all – read. With so many good books waiting to be discovered at the end of an academic year that’s been packed with required reading and other campus commitments, it can be a challenge as to know where to start. But several of us at the Library have been comparing notes about good reads and we thought to share.

chango's fire

Chango’s Fire by Ernesto Quinonez

. . . In his searing portrait of a community at the tipping point, Quinonez ably illuminates the sordid politics of gentrification and the unexpected places new immigrants turn to for social and spiritual support. His exploration of the often misunderstood Santeria–the title references the religion’s trickster god, Chango–proves especially fascinating.Frank Sennett, Booklist. Recommended by librarian Jennie Quinonez-Skinner.

the forgotten waltz

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

“This stunning novel by a Booker Prize winner . . . Offers up its brilliance by way of astonishingly effective storytelling.”Booklist, starred review. The book description calls The Forgotten Waltz a haunting story of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction and the irreparable slip into longing. It is a finalist for the 2012 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Recommended by librarian Christina Mayberry.

how to be a chicana role model

How to be a Chicana Role Model by Michele Serros

Serros’s work has been called “wonderfully comical and wise” (San Francisco Chronicle) and “pulsating with the exuberance of an unmistakably original poetic talent” (Entertainment Weekly). How to be a Chicana Role Model is the fiercely funny tale of a Chicana writer who’s trying to find a way to embrace two very different cultures–without losing touch with who she is.Book description. Recommended by librarian Jennie Quinonez-Skinner.

in the garden of beasts

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the bestselling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.Book description. “Erik Larson tackles this outstanding period of history as fully and compellingly as he portrayed the events in his bestseller, Devil in the White City. With each page, more horrors are revealed, making it impossible to put down. In the Garden of Beasts reads like the true thriller it is.” Recommended by librarian Lynn Lampert.


Kindred by Octavia Butler

“This powerful novel about a modern black woman transported back in time to a slave plantation in the antebellum South is the perfect introduction to Butler’s work and perspectives for those not usually enamored of science fiction . . . A harrowing, haunting story.”—John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Recommended by librarian Jennie Quinonez-Skinner.

little bee

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee will blow you away…. In restrained, diamond-hard prose, Cleave alternates between these two characters’ points of view as he pulls the threads of their dark — but often funny — story tight. What unfolds between them… is both surprising and inevitable, thoroughly satisfying if also heart-rending.”—Washington Post. Recommended by librarian Coleen Martin.

The Magic of Blood

The Magic of Blood by Dagoberto Gilb

Acclaimed Chicano writer Gilb’s collection of short stories set in the American Southwest won the PEN Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award. —Publishers Weekly. The book description calls The Magic of Blood . . . Fresh, funny, relentless, and beautifully crafted, his writing possesses that rare Chekhovian ability to perfectly capture the nuances of ordinary life and make it resonate with unexpected meaning. Recommended by librarian Jennie Quinonez-Skinner.


REAMDE: A Novel by Neal Stephenson

“Neal Stephenson has guts, a killer story, and—for the first time since Cryptonomicon—a thriller I can thoroughly recommend to any reader….With REAMDE we have a very smart page-turner—a global chess game expertly played.” —Mental_Floss. “[REAMDE] is, without a doubt, one of the smartest, fastest-moving, and most consistently enjoyable novels of the year, a book with the rare distinction of being one this reviewer wishes he had written.”—Irish Examiner. Recommended by librarian Laura Wimberley.

silver sparrow

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Its book description highlights the significance of the opening line, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” which unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the two teenage girls caught in the middle. “Populating this absorbing novel is a vivid cast of characters . . . Jones writes dialogue that is realistic and sparkling, with an intuitive sense of how much to reveal and when . . . One of literature’s most intriguing extended families.”—The Washington Post. Recommended by librarian Coleen Martin.

still alice

Still Alice: A Novel by Lisa Genova

Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman’s sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer’s disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph. D in neuroscience from Harvard University.—Book description. “This book is as important as it is impressive, and will grace the lives of those affected by this dread disease for generations to come.”—Phil Bolsta, author of Sixty Seconds. Recommended by librarian Marcia Henry.


Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

In this arresting memoir about growing up in—and ultimately escaping from—a strict Hasidic community, Feldman reveals what life is like trapped within a religious sect that values silence and suffering over individual freedoms.—Book description. “Eloquent, appealing, and just emotional enough . . . No doubt girls all over Brooklyn are buying this book, hiding it under their mattresses, reading it after lights out—and contemplating, perhaps for the first time, their own escape.”— Recommended by librarian Lynn Lampert.

Other summer reading recommendations can be found at the Oviatt’s Pinterest boards, librarian Jennie Quinonez-Skinner’s Pinterest board, L.A. Times Summer Reading Guide and some interesting nonfiction titles can be found at Zocolo Public Square. Perhaps you have a book you’d like to share. Feel free to let us know the latest title that’s drawn you in and why we all might want to read it.

-Coleen Martin

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