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What To Read This Summer? Ask A Bookseller

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(Eli Francis/Unsplash)

As part of our roundup of summer reading recommendations, we asked for suggestions from a few of our favorite local, independent booksellers. Their tips are below. (You can also check out WBUR's staff picks, as well as ideas from our readers.)

Newtonville Books

Mary Cotton: If you're like me and your idea of the perfect beach read is a big fat book like “Anna Karenina,” you'll want to delve into Rachel Kadish's “The Weight of Ink,” a beautiful and pleasingly hefty literary mystery about 300-year old letters, plague-ridden London and women too smart for their times.

The Gypsy Moth Summer” by Julia Fierro is a multi-character saga set over the course of a summer on Avalon Island, a fictional East Coast island that is a powder keg of class and racial and environmental tensions. Part coming-of-age story, part social commentary with a healthy dose of romance and family secrets, this is a novel to savor in the shade.

My colleague Doug Koziol recommends Don Lee’s latest novel, “Lonesome Lies Before Us.” Its protagonist, Yadin Park, writes songs described early on as "beautiful, mournful, anguished, devastatingly sad,” Doug notes. “The same can be said for the book itself, which, in following Park's efforts to self-release a farewell album, explores the social relations and economic forces that can stand in the way of following one's passions."

My colleague Brad Babendir calls “Broken River” by J. Robert Lennon “a delicious burrito of a novel, with the best elements of mystery, literary fiction and speculative fiction wrapped up inside.” It concerns the new owners of a house who, 12 years after a couple was murdered outside, try to figure out who did it and why. “All the while, the family faces struggles of their own and a bodyless observer watches,” Brad says. “It's great."

And we have a winsome debut novel from Newton North High School grad Annie Hartnett: “Rabbit Cake.” Elvis Babbitt, a young girl who has recently lost her mother, knows all about naked mole rats but doesn't yet know how to deal with her grief or her family's. And yet she's a natural storyteller and investigator, one you will follow to the ends of the earth.


Porter Square Books

Ellen Jarrett: Neil deGrasse Tyson’s accessible “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” just feels like something you could pick up, turn to any part, and learn something.

In “The Dinner Party,” Joshua Ferris writes very human stories about common misunderstandings between people that can change people’s lives.

Anyone who’s from the Boston area will recognize the bars, streets and intersections in “Since We Fell,” the latest fast-paced novel from Dorchester native Dennis Lehane. The book follows a former television journalist named Rachel Childs who lives as a recluse after having an on-air mental breakdown, until her life is turned upside down when she learns her husband isn’t who he says he is.

If you’re headed to the Cape this summer, take along “The Outer Beach.” Longtime naturalist and nature writer Robert Finch writes of the landscape, flora and fauna of the Cape, which he has studied over a lifetime.

My colleague Susannah Vazeghoo says “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate” is "an entertaining but highly informative memoir of this excellent raconteur’s political journey to the U.S. Senate. Providing an account of his excruciatingly drawn-out contested runoff election and a sneak peek into the inner workings of government, this funny man shows he is deadly serious about politics, Ted Cruz and Minnesota. Franken for 2020!"

The Wonder of Birds: What They Tell Us About Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future” by Jim Robbins strikes Dale Sczceblowski as "a thoroughly enjoyable, fascinating look at the new surprises science is now teaching us about birds, what marvelous adaptations they have made to so many different and extreme environments and what they teach us about our own physiology and behavior."

Here's one more, from David Sandberg: "Under former artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, London's Globe Theater embarked on an ambitious project of bringing 'Hamlet' to every country in the world, in honor of the Bard's 450th birthday (they made it to almost every one). In 'Hamlet Globe to Globe: Two Years, 190,000 Miles, 197 Countries, One Play,' Dromgoole offers not just a rich evocation of many of the high points of those travels, but a series of brilliant meditations about the play itself and its continuing relevance to today’s world."


Harvard Book Store

Rachel Schneck likes “Tender” by Sofia Samatar. "Some of these stories will break you and then put you back together with shining gold lacquer to better highlight your fault lines."

Melissa Lozada-Oliva recommends “The Lonely Hearts Hotel” by Heather O'Neill. "I want to say that this book is ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ meets ‘Amelie’ because it is all at once romantic, whimsical, magical and sad, but I don’t think that would do it justice. I finished this novel on my break with hot tears streaming down my face, a heart completely thawed out and a belief that love is just as real as the cruel world."

Of “Too Much and Not the Mood” by Durga Chew-Bose, Nathalie Kirsch says, "The energy of anticipation is in these pages. These essays conclude in a place that feels honest yet incomplete, perhaps necessarily so."

The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas features Starr, "a character that I wish I’d had growing up," says Read Davidson. "This book is hard, but it is also cathartic and full of love."

Hannah Jansen calls Daisy Johnson's “Fen," a story collection, "a sensual exploration of identity, landscape, and adolescence — that fluid, shifting space in which a body may grow and surprise and shock its owner, in which the world is slippery, restless, and strange."


For still more suggestions, check out our staff picks and these recommendations from ARTery readers. And please share yours, too, right here:

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