Tag Archives: summer reading

Summer Reading Picks Are Here!

All the Light We Cannot See Book CoverAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A novel to live in, learn from, and feel bereft over when the last page is turned, Doerr’s magnificently drawn story seems at once spacious and tightly composed. It rests, historically, during the occupation of France during WWII, but brief chapters told in alternating voices give the overall—and long—­narrative a swift movement through time and events. We have two main characters, each one on opposite sides in the conflagration that is destroying Europe. Marie-Louise is a sightless girl who lived with her father in Paris before the occupation; he was a master locksmith for the Museum of Natural History. When German forces necessitate abandonment of the city, Marie-Louise’s father, taking with him the museum’s greatest treasure, removes himself and his daughter and eventually arrives at his uncle’s house in the coastal city of Saint-Malo. Young German soldier Werner is sent to Saint-Malo to track Resistance activity there, and eventually, and inevitably, Marie-Louise’s and Werner’s paths cross. It is through their individual and intertwined tales that Doerr masterfully and knowledgeably re-creates the deprived civilian conditions of war-torn France and the strictly controlled lives of the military occupiers.High-Demand Backstory: A multipronged marketing campaign will make the author’s many fans aware of his newest book, and extensive review coverage is bound to enlist many new fans. – Brad Hooper, Booklist *Starred Review* – Recommended by librarian Lindsay Hansen. Location information: http://library.calstate.edu/northridge/books/record?id=b3312820

Brutal Youth Book CoverBrutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

The adage says it takes a village to raise a child, but what if the village is a dangerous place? Such is the case at St. Michael the Archangel High School, where even the best-intentioned adults wreak havoc in the lives of their students. It’s the fall of 1991, and bullying is a deeply ingrained tradition at the school. In-crowd students haze newcomers with fevered zeal, the parish priest delights in belittling the principal, and the teachers turn on one another and their students. Into this mix tumble Peter Davidek, Lorelei Paskal, and Noah Stein, each carrying wounds and seeking a place to belong. What they find instead is a maze of traps and betrayals. Like mythic heroes, they must journey through their own fears and leave in their wake broken bodies and exposed truths.
Verdict Debut author (and senior staff writer at Entertainment Weekly) Breznican captures a perfect balance of horror, heartbreak, and resilience and takes the high school novel into deeper places. Great for the beach but not just a summer read. Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC - Library Journal. - Recommended by librarian Susanna Eng-Ziskin. Location information: http://library.calstate.edu/northridge/books/record?id=b3256740

World War Z Book CoverWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

“The Crisis” nearly wiped out humanity. Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and author of The Zombie Survival Guide, 2003) has taken it upon himself to document the “first hand” experiences and testimonies of those lucky to survive 10 years after the fictitious zombie war. Like a horror fan’s version of Studs Terkel’s The Good War (1984), the “historical account” format gives Brooks room to explore the zombie plague from numerous different views and characters. In a deadpan voice, Brooks exhaustively details zombie incidents from isolated attacks to full-scale military combat: “what if the enemy can’t be shocked and awed? Not just won’t, but biologically can’t!” With the exception of a weak BAT-21 story in the second act, the “interviews” and personal accounts capture the universal fear of the collapse of society–a living nightmare in which anyone can become a mindless, insatiable predator at a moment’s notice. Alas, Brad Pitt’s production company has purchased the film rights to the book–while it does have a chronological element, it’s more similar to a collection of short stories: it would make for an excellent 24-style TV series or an animated serial. Regardless, horror fans won’t be disappointed: like George Romero’s Dead trilogy, World War Z is another milestone in the zombie mythos. – Carlos Orellana, Booklist – Recommended by librarian Susanna Eng-Ziskin. Location information: http://library.calstate.edu/northridge/books/record?id=b2648763

Frog Music Book CoverFrog Music by Emma Donoghue

Donoghue flawlessly combines literary eloquence and vigorous plotting in her first full-fledged mystery, a work as original and multifaceted as its young murder victim. During the scorching summer of 1876, Jenny Bonnet, an enigmatic cross-dressing bicyclist who traps frogs for San Francisco’s restaurants, meets her death in a railroad saloon on the city’s outskirts. Exotic dancer Blanche Beunon, a French immigrant living in Chinatown, thinks she knows who shot her friend and why, but has no leverage to prove it and doesn’t know if she herself was the intended target. A compulsive pleasure-seeker estranged from her “fancy man,” Blanche searches desperately for her missing son while pursuing justice for Jenny, but finds her two goals sit in conflict. In language spiced with musical interludes and raunchy French slang, Donoghue brings to teeming life the nasty, naughty side of this ethnically diverse metropolis, with its brothels, gaming halls, smallpox-infested boardinghouses, and rampant child abuse. Most of her seedy, damaged characters really lived, and she not only posits a clever solution to a historical crime that was never adequately solved but also crafts around Blanche and Jenny an engrossing and suspenseful tale about moral growth, unlikely friendship, and breaking free from the past. – Sarah Johnson, Booklist, *Starred Review* – Recommended by librarian Laurie Borchard. Location information: http://tinyurl.com/phbc8f6

The Weird Sisters Book CoverThe Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

You don’t have to have a sister or be a fan of the Bard to love Brown’s bright, literate debut, but it wouldn’t hurt. Sisters Rose (Rosalind; As You Like It), Bean (Bianca; The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia; King Lear)–the book-loving, Shakespeare-quoting, and wonderfully screwed-up spawn of Bard scholar Dr. James Andreas–end up under one roof again in Barnwell, Ohio, the college town where they were raised, to help their breast cancer–stricken mom. The real reasons they’ve trudged home, however, are far less straightforward: vagabond and youngest sib Cordy is pregnant with nowhere to go; man-eater Bean ran into big trouble in New York for embezzlement, and eldest sister Rose can’t venture beyond the “mental circle with Barnwell at the center of it.” For these pains-in-the-soul, the sisters have to learn to trust love–of themselves, of each other–to find their way home again. The supporting cast–removed, erudite dad; ailing mom; a crew of locals; Rose’s long-suffering fiancé–is a punchy delight, but the stage clearly belongs to the sisters; Macbeth’s witches would be proud of the toil and trouble they stir up. – Publishers Weekly, *Starred Review* – Recommended by librarian Susanna Eng-Ziskin. Location information: http://library.calstate.edu/northridge/books/record?id=b2777032

El Deafo Book CoverEl Deafo by Cece Bell

Gr 2–6—Cece loses her hearing from spinal meningitis, and takes readers through the arduous journey of learning to lip read and decipher the noise of her hearing aid, with the goal of finding a true friend. This warmly and humorously illustrated full-color graphic novel set in the suburban ’70s has all the gripping characters and inflated melodrama of late childhood: a crush on a neighborhood boy, the bossy friend, the too-sensitive-to-her-Deafness friend, and the perfect friend, scared away. The characters are all rabbits. The antics of her hearing aid connected to a FM unit (an amplifier the teacher wears) are spectacularly funny. When Cece’s teacher leaves the FM unit on, Cece hears everything: bathroom visits, even teacher lounge improprieties It is her superpower. She deems herself El Deafo! inspired in part by a bullied Deaf child featured in an Afterschool Special. Cece fearlessly fantasizes retaliations. Nevertheless, she rejects ASL because it makes visible what she is trying to hide. She ventures, “Who cares what everyone thinks!” But she does care. She loathes the designation “special,” and wants to pass for hearing. Bell tells it all: the joy of removing her hearing aid in summer, the troubles watching the TV when the actor turns his back, and the agony of slumber party chats in the dark. Included is an honest and revealing afterword, which addresses the author’s early decision not to learn ASL, her more mature appreciation for the language, and her adage that, “Our differences are our superpowers.”—Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City – Recommended by librarian Mara Houdyshell. Location information: http://library.calstate.edu/northridge/books/record?id=b3299159

The Circle Book CoverThe Circle by Dave Eggers

Most of us imagine totalitarianism as something imposed upon us—but what if we’re complicit in our own oppression? That’s the scenario in Eggers’ ambitious, terrifying, and eerily plausible new novel. When Mae gets a job at the Circle, a Bay Area tech company that’s cornered the world market on social media and e-commerce, she’s elated, and not just because of the platinum health-care package. The gleaming campus is a wonder, and it seems as though there isn’t anything the company can’t do (and won’t try). But she soon learns that participation in social media is mandatory, not voluntary, and that could soon apply to the general population as well. For a monopoly, it’s a short step from sharing to surveillance, to a world without privacy. This isn’t a perfect book—the good guys lecture true-believer Mae, and a key metaphor is laboriously explained—but it’s brave and important and will draw comparisons to Brave New World and 1984. Eggers brilliantly depicts the Internet binges, torrents of information, and endless loops of feedback that increasingly characterize modern life. But perhaps most chilling of all is his notion that our ultimate undoing could be something so petty as our desperate desire for affirmation. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Eggers’ reputation as a novelist continues to grow. Expect this title to be talked about, as it has an announced first printing of 200,000 and the New York Times Magazine has first serial rights. – Keir Graff, Booklist, *Starred Review* – Recommended by librarian Susanna Eng-Ziskin. Location information: http://tinyurl.com/plg7g63

Girl at War Book CoverGirl at War by Sara Novic

Nović’s important debut brings painfully home the jarring fact that what happens in today’s headlines on a daily basis—the atrocities of wars in Africa and the Mideast—is neither new nor even particularly the worst that humankind can commit. Take it from ten-year-old Ana Jurić, conscripted into the Yugoslav civil war in the early 1990s by the bad luck of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. . . . . As Nović gradually reveals, you can take the girl out of the war zone, but you can’t take the war zone out of the girl. By the time Ana becomes a student at a New York university, all that violence has been bottled up inside her head for a decade. Thanks to Nović’s considerable skill, Ana’s return visit to her homeland and her past is nearly as cathartic for the reader as it is for Ana. – Booklist, *Starred Review* – Recommended by Interim Associate Dean, Lynn Lampert. Location information: http://tinyurl.com/nam6rt9

Ready Player One Book CoverReady Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One takes place in the not-so-distant future–the world has turned into a very bleak place, but luckily there is OASIS, a virtual reality world that is a vast online utopia. People can plug into OASIS to play, go to school, earn money, and even meet other people (or at least they can meet their avatars), and for protagonist Wade Watts it certainly beats passing the time in his grim, poverty-stricken real life. Along with millions of other world-wide citizens, Wade dreams of finding three keys left behind by James Halliday, the now-deceased creator of OASIS and the richest man to have ever lived. The keys are rumored to be hidden inside OASIS, and whoever finds them will inherit Halliday’s fortune. But Halliday has not made it easy. And there are real dangers in this virtual world. Stuffed to the gills with action, puzzles, nerdy romance, and 80s nostalgia, this high energy cyber-quest will make geeks everywhere feel like they were separated at birth from author Ernest Cline. - Chris Schluep, Amazon.com review – Recommended by librarian Susanna Eng-Ziskin. Location information: http://library.calstate.edu/northridge/books/record?id=b2724685

Point of Direction Book CoverPoint of Direction: A Novel by Rachel Weaver

Hitchhiking her way through Alaska, a young woman named Anna is picked up by Kyle, a fisherman. Anna and Kyle quickly fall for each other, as they are both adventurous, fiercely independent, and in love with the raw beauty and solitude of Alaska. To cement their relationship, they agree to become caretakers of a remote lighthouse perched on a small rock in the middle of a deep channel—a place that has been uninhabited since the last caretaker mysteriously disappeared two decades ago. What seems the perfect adventure for these two quickly unravels, as closely-held secrets pull them apart, and the surrounding waters threaten uncertain danger. A psychological thriller set against the rugged landscape of coastal Alaska, Point of Direction is an exquisite literary debut. – ig Publishing – Recommended by librarian Marcia Henry. Location information: http://library.calstate.edu/northridge/books/record?id=b3313725

Geek Love Book CoverGeek Love by Katherine Dunn

Geek Love is the story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater- and paterfamilias set out–with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes–to breed their own exhibit of human oddities. There’s Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis Khan . . . Iphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twins . . . albino hunchback Oly, and the outwardly normal Chick, whose mysterious gifts make him the family’s most precious–and dangerous–asset.

As the Binewskis take their act across the backwaters of the U.S., inspiring fanatical devotion and murderous revulsion; as its members conduct their own Machiavellian version of sibling rivalry, Geek Love throws its sulfurous light on our notions of the freakish and the normal, the beautiful and the ugly, the holy and the obscene. Family values will never be the same. – Penguin Random House – Recommended by librarian Susanna Eng-Ziskin. Location information: http://library.calstate.edu/northridge/books/record?id=b1591191

Where'd You Go Bernadette Book CoverWhere’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world. – Little, Brown and Company – Recommended by librarian Susanna Eng-Ziskin. Location information: http://tinyurl.com/p8etrmy

Still Alice Book CoverStill Alice: A Novel by Lisa Genova

In Lisa Genova’s extraordinary New York Times bestselling novel, an accomplished woman slowly loses her thoughts and memories to Alzheimer’s disease—only to discover that each day brings a new way of living and loving. Now a major motion picture starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, and Kristen Stewart!

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring, and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what it’s like to literally lose your mind…

Reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind, Ordinary People, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Still Alice packs a powerful emotional punch and marks the arrival of a strong new voice in fiction. – Gallery Books – Recommended by librarian Susanna Eng-Ziskin. Location information: http://library.calstate.edu/northridge/books/record?id=b2701969

Summer Reading

There’s still time left this summer to enjoy some good reading. Whether you are looking for a true beach read that places you in the midst of the season and/or a moving story that is timeless we have several recommendations for you. The following are titles we recently enjoyed and thought to share.

the vacationers book coverThe Vacationers: A Novel by Emma Straub

Straub’s second novel (Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, 2012) is contained in the two-week vacation of the extended Post family: Franny and Jim, married over 30 years; their teen daughter, Sylvia; twentysomething son Bobby, his girlfriend, Carmen, in tow; and Franny’s best friend, Charles, and his husband, Lawrence. Trading one grand island for another, the mainly Manhattanites arrive in Mallorca with, of course, a few secrets tucked in their literal baggage—and so begin the games that occur above the plane of the Scrabble board. Jim has suddenly left his beloved magazine job, and not everyone knows the circumstances; Sylvia’s excitement to get to Brown might have more to do with leaving home; Carmen wishes Bobby would ask his parents for that favor already; and it’s more than work e-mails keeping Lawrence searching for a Wi-Fi signal. Straub masters a constantly changing flow of perspectives as readers wonder who will forgive and be forgiven in this sun-soaked, remote paradise. Spongy and dear, sharply observed and funny, Straub’s domestic-drama-goes-abroad is a delightful study of the complexities of family and love, and the many distractions from both. -Annie Bostrom, Booklist. Recommended by librarian Lindsay Hansen

mr. loverman book coverMr. Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo

Barrington Walker is a 74-year-old transplanted Antiguan living in Hackney, London, and wrestling with a late-life crisis. For more than 20 years, he has pondered leaving his profoundly unhappy wife, Carmel, for his lover and childhood friend, Morris de la Roux. Barry is a dapper dresser, lover of Shakespeare, wise investor, and shrewd observer of the human condition. But he is unable to reconcile his own inner conflicts and come to account for what his actions and inactions have cost his wife and his lover. Can he do it this time, with his daughters more than grown up? Carmel herself is obviously dissatisfied with the marriage, giving Barry an ultimatum as she journeys back to Antigua to see her dying father. She is fed up with his weekends of drinking and carousing with, she thinks, women. He is fed up with her clutch of churchy, judgmental friends so critical of him. In this vibrant novel, Evaristo draws wonderful character portraits of complex individuals as well as the West Indian immigrant culture in Britain. -Vanessa Bush, Booklist. Recommended by librarian Anna Fidgeon.

my real children book coverMy Real Children by Jo Walton

It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know — what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don’t seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War — those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history; each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. Jo Walton’s My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives… and of how every life means the entire world.​ – Publisher description. Recommended by librarian Anna Fidgeon.

boys in the boat book coverThe Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

If Jesse Owens is rightfully the most famous American athlete of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, repudiating Adolf Hitler’s notion of white supremacy by winning gold in four events, the gold-medal-winning effort by the eight-man rowing team from the University of Washington remains a remarkable story. It encompasses the convergence of transcendent British boatmaker George Pocock; the quiet yet deadly effective UW men’s varsity coach, Al Ulbrickson; and an unlikely gaggle of young rowers who would shine as freshmen, then grow up together, a rough-and-tumble bunch, writes Brown, not very worldly, but earnest and used to hard work. Brown (Under a Flaming Sky, 2006) takes enough time to profile the principals in this story while using the 1936 games and Hitler’s heavy financial and political investment in them to pull the narrative along. In doing so, he offers a vivid picture of the socioeconomic landscape of 1930s America (brutal), the relentlessly demanding effort required of an Olympic-level rower, the exquisite brainpower and materials that go into making a first-rate boat, and the wiles of a coach who somehow found a way to, first, beat archrival University of California, then conquer a national field of qualifiers, and finally, defeat the best rowing teams in the world. A book that informs as it inspires. –Alan Moores, Booklist. Recommended by librarian Lindsay Hansen

secret daughter book coverSecret Daughter: A Novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

In her engaging debut, Gowda weaves together two compelling stories. In India in 1984, destitute Kavita secretly carries her newborn daughter to an orphanage, knowing her husband, Jasu, would do away with the baby just as he had with their firstborn daughter. In their social stratum, girls are considered worthless because they can’t perform physical labor, and their dowries are exorbitant. That same year in San Francisco, two doctors, Somer and Krishnan, she from San Diego, he from Bombay, suffer their second miscarriage and consider adoption. They adopt Asha, a 10-month-old Indian girl from a Bombay orphanage. Yes, it’s Kavita’s daughter. In alternating chapters, Gowda traces Asha’s life in America—her struggle being a minority, despite living a charmed life, and Kavita and Jasu’s hardships, including several years spent in Dharavi, Bombay’s (now Mumbai’s) infamous slum, and the realization that their son has turned to drugs. Gowda writes with compassion and uncanny perception from the points of view of Kavita, Somer, and Asha, while portraying the vibrant traditions, sights, and sounds of modern India. -Deborah Donovan, Booklist. Recommended by librarian Coleen Martin.

empty mansions book coverEmpty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.

What goes on behind closed doors, especially when those doors are of the gilded variety, has fascinated novelists and journalists for centuries. The private lives of the rich and famous are so tantalizing that Robin Leach made a career out of showcasing them. One of the biggest eccentric, rich fishes out there was Huguette Clark. Deceased for more than two years, Clark, brought to life by investigator Dedman and Clark’s descendant, Newell, owned nouveau riche palaces in New York, Connecticut, and California. An heiress, Clark disappeared from public view in the 1920s. What happened to her and her vast wealth? Answering this question is the book’s mission. Based on records and the hearsay of relations and former employees, the book pieces together Clark’s life, that of a woman rumored to be institutionalized while her mansions stood empty, though immaculately maintained throughout her life. Clark left few clues about herself, but she willed vast sums to her caretakers and numerous charitable endeavors. Still, her absence acts as a shade to seeing her fully, hinting at possible financial malfeasance, all the while conspiring to produce a spellbinding mystery. – James Orbesen, Booklist. Recommended by librarian Lindsay Hansen.

raising my rainbow book coverRaising my Rainbow by Lori Duron

In her first book, Duron comes out of the mommy blog closet with an optimistic and delightful memoir of her family’s process of understanding, supporting, and celebrating their gender-creative son, C.J., who prefers Barbies to trucks and princesses to pirates. The story of the phenomenal growth that this mother exhibits as she tries to do what she thinks is best—steering C.J. toward gender-neutral toys, navigating ever-changing rules about what is okay for him to wear in public—is humorous and light, even when the issues involved are heavy. Duron employs a range of resources as she tries to understand her son and how best to parent him, including speaking to her gay brother and his transgendered friend, finding LGBTQ resources on the Internet, and discovering peers when she begins publishing a blog about C.J. (RaisingMyRainbow.com). In Duron’s story, parents will find support for a love them, not change them style of parenting, optimism about the outcomes for their gender-creative children, sympathy for the difficulties of parenting, and an affirmation of the appropriateness and necessity for fierce advocacy. Duron’s call for compassion should be heeded by educators, caregivers, and neighbors—an open heart, a desire to listen and learn, and a willingness to accommodate go a long way in doing well by someone who differs from your expectations. – Publishers Weekly. Recommended by librarian Anna Fidgeon.

unsweetined book coverUnsweetined by Jodie Sweetin

. . . In this deeply personal, utterly raw, and ultimately inspiring memoir, Jodie comes clean about the double life she led—the crippling identity crisis, the hidden anguish of juggling a regular childhood with her Hollywood life, and the vicious cycle of abuse and recovery that led to a relapse even as she wrote this book. Finally, becoming a mother gave her the determination and the courage to get sober. With resilience, charm, and humor, she writes candidly about taking each day at a time. Hers is not a story of success or defeat, but of facing your demons, finding yourself, and telling the whole truth—unSweetined. – Publisher description. Recommended by librarian Anna Fidgeon

stiff book coverStiff by Mary Roach

“Uproariously funny” doesn’t seem a likely description for a book on cadavers. However, Roach, a Salon and Reader’s Digest columnist, has done the nearly impossible and written a book as informative and respectful as it is irreverent and witty. From her opening lines (“The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back”), it is clear that she’s taking a unique approach to issues surrounding death. Roach delves into the many productive uses to which cadavers have been put, from medical experimentation to applications in transportation safety research (in a chapter archly called “Dead Man Driving”) to work by forensic scientists quantifying rates of decay under a wide array of bizarre circumstances. There are also chapters on cannibalism, including an aside on dumplings allegedly filled with human remains from a Chinese crematorium, methods of disposal (burial, cremation, composting) and “beating-heart” cadavers used in organ transplants. Roach has a fabulous eye and a wonderful voice as she describes such macabre situations as a plastic surgery seminar with doctors practicing face-lifts on decapitated human heads and her trip to China in search of the cannibalistic dumpling makers. Even Roach’s digressions and footnotes are captivating, helping to make the book impossible to put down. – Publishers Weekly. Recommended by librarian Anna Fidgeon.

Cool TCC Books for a Warm Summer

Postcards from campHoping to quench your thirst for some great summer reading? You can find terrific books in the Library’s Teacher Curriculum Center’s (TCC) literature collection. It’s the place for readers of all ages. For the younger set, check out titles such as, A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee, Mosquitoes are Ruining My Summer, and Froggy Learns to Swim. “Off-to-camp-ers” will enjoy, Postcards from Camp, Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (parents – and grandparents may fondly remember the latter), and Cheesie Mack is Cool in a Duel. Young adults will surely warm to titles such as, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation and The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls. As always, the friendly TCC staff is here to help you find what you’re looking for — or even make reading recommendations to suit your interests. So, let your flip-flops do the walking and set you on the path to great summer reading adventures. We look forward to “sea-ing” you in the TCC, so dive on in! 

- Mara Houdyshell

Beach Reads

Book on Beach

Beach Reads http://www.flickr.com/photos/frostis/8081062616/

Looking for something fun to read this summer?  Browse the Bestsellers Collection and the Reading Room on the second floor!  Here are some top picks to keep you blissfully transported on vacation.

DivergentIf you liked The Hunger Games, you will love Divergent by Veronica Roth. Tough-as-nails heroine Tris learns who she is and what she’s made of in a dystopian future Chicago.  The fast-paced cinematic action continues in the sequel, Insurgent – but you’ll have to wait until October for Allegiant, the final book in the trilogy. In the Bestsellers collection on Oviatt’s second floor, call numbers PZ7.R7375 Di 2011 and PZ7.R7375 Ins 2012

Private BerlinThe latest mystery from the always-popular James Patterson is Private Berlin, a grisly thriller.  In the Bestsellers collection on Oviatt’s second floor, call number PS3566.A822 P763 2013

The RookIf you’re looking for both a mystery and a heroine in an alternate world, try The Rook by Daniel O’Malley.  Publishers Weekly says, “Dry wit, surprising reversals of fortune, and a clever if offbeat plot make this a winner. Dr. Who fans will find a lot to like.” In the Bestsellers collection on Oviatt’s second floor, call number PR9619.4.O52 R66 2012

Sophie KinsellaFor a summer read that’s light as chiffon, try the latest from Sophie Kinsella (author of Confessions of a Shopaholic).  I’ve Got Your Number  starts with a lost engagement ring and a cell phone mix up, telling much of the story in text messages and footnoted quips.  A fine romance, perfect for a lazy day of sunbathing.  In the Bestsellers collection on Oviatt’s second floor, call number PR6073.I246 I93 2012

 – Laura Wimberley

It’s Summertime and the Reading is– at the TCC!

Summer is here and some of the best reading can be found in the Oviatt Library’s Teacher Curriculum Center (TCC).  What’s better than buying a book?  Checking one out for free!  It doesn’t get much better than that. 

Book trio

You can re-visit classics of yore (“A Wrinkle in Time,” “The Little Prince”), or catch up on some contemporary “must reads” (“Twilight,” “The Hunger Games”).  Perhaps a childhood favorite?  We even have some graphic novels. TCC’s collection has something for everyone, including a wide variety of picture books perfect for the younger set or even for you.  Stop in and check out, “Pete the Cat,” the “Elephant & Piggie” series, or even “Officer Buckle and Gloria” – books so entertaining that you’ll want to read them again and again (and enjoy their playful artwork).  We also have a great selection of books on CD to keep you entertained on those long, cross country drives.  Imagine having the complete “Harry Potter” series read to you as you navigate the highways and byways!

Silly or serious, fact or fiction, we’ve got your number and it’s unlimited.  What could be finer than sitting poolside or seaside, sipping cool lemonade, wearing shorts, shades and flip flops while taking in the antics of “Huckleberry Finn” or “Ramona the Pest”?  And don’t forget about, “Al Capone Does my Shirts” (we thought you’d be intrigued).  If you have a current CSUN ID card, you hold the passport to a myriad of destinations.

Let reading transport you.  For fun, excitement, adventure, or just a mental scenic getaway, you don’t have to go very far, come to the TCC – it’s the start of any great vacation.

- Mara Houdyshell

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.”BookReporter.com. 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.”—HuffingtonPost.com. 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