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Summer Reading: Some Titles to Help You Enjoy a Change of Pace

From Demian Katz

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novels are currently being aggressively marketed in association with a new HBO series, but don’t let all the grunge and swordplay of the television promos put you off: this is not a typical fantasy series. As a genre, fantasy has a bad habit of repeatedly presenting the same thinly-characterized archetypes engaged in a stereotypical confrontation of good vs. evil.  Martin avoids this trap through heavy doses of realism and ambiguity, portraying complex characters facing difficult decisions in a dangerous and unstable world. It is frequently difficult to decide who to root for, as few of the conflicts are entirely straightforward. This can make for a somewhat tense reading experience, and these books aren’t necessarily for the faint of heart. However, as long as you aren’t put off by the genre and subject matter, you should find this to be an engaging summer page-turner, and you probably won’t be able to stop after just the first book.


From Gerald Dierkes

Goin’ Across by Doug Landman

Could you quit your job, leave your home and family (temporarily) and otherwise put your life on hold for two months to pursue a lifelong dream? Delaware County resident Doug Landman did just that when he left his successful career to drive his bicycle, with a tent and little else, across the continental United States. Did he undertake this challenge to test himself against nature, against himself? The answers are unexpected and more complex than one might imagine. Rather than jet over neighborhoods or cruise past them on the interstate, he encountered communities and individuals on his solitary journey who challenged his perception of America. He also discovered hidden aspects of himself as he struggled with setbacks and self-doubt. The author did not intend to create a book about his trek. He did, however, carefully document the details of each day’s travels, which he would mail home from the next post office. A passionately delivered topic, vivid details and humorous anecdotes make Goin’ Across a captivating story and an ideal summer read.


From Bill Greene

Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer

Earth had made contact with extraterrestrials. The protagonist does not believe there is a God. But the extraterrestrials say that God definitely exists. And they can prove it!  Good writing, good science, excellent character development: Anything by this author is a good read.



From Laura Hutelmyer—

The Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

Poor Sam confuses fiction with fact and accidentally torches the Emily Dickinson House when he’s 18 years old. After serving time in prison he tries to rebuild his life but finds himself a prime suspect when other famous writers’ houses start going up in flames.




The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

It’s hard not to have sympathy for Golden Richards, husband to four wives and father of 28 children who hides in the laundry closet with his underwear-wearing dog to find some peace and quiet.


Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Sort of a story about the tight rope walk between the World Trade Center towers in the summer of 1974 – but really a story about the lives of certain people who were there and witnessed the walk in different ways. A fantastic read by one of the 2011 Literary Festival novelists.




A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

If for nothing else – read this book so you can experience reading a chapter written as a PowerPoint presentation. You will be amazed how it works!


Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Still reading this – but I can see myself sitting pit side on this Florida island watching alligator wrestler Hilola Bigtree dive into the pit of alligators and swim to shore.


From Mimi DiLenge—

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This first-person narrative (fiction) takes the reader from India to Ethiopia to New York City. The author is a doctor and the story includes a lot of medical detail, but it is beautifully written as it follows twin boys from their lives in utero to adulthood.





Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

I am currently reading Ken Follett’s book Fall of Giants. It’s over 1000 pages, but if you like historical fiction this book follows and intertwines five families before and during World War I. The first of a planned trilogy, it is a bit long for summer reading but I have not been able to put it down.


From Becky Whidden

Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival by Norman Ollestad

A gripping coming-of-age tale of survival, Ollestad chronicles his harrowing descent down the mountain where the plane carrying his father and him crashed. Managing to use his knowledge of the slopes and his strength from his athletic training, the then 11-year-old boy, an avid surfer and champion downhill skier, makes his way to help at the bottom. As much as a reflection of the events of that fateful day, this is an examination of the bond between a father and son and the influence a parent can have on a child. A page-turner at the least, this book will have you searching YouTube for news footage of the boy’s post-trauma interview.

I loved this book!


From Joe Lucia

For summer reading, I am going to recommend some books by Neal Stephenson — the books are both entertaining but also amazingly rich as literary works full of cultural and historical perspectives and information.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson review: “From the opening line of his breakthrough cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson plunges the reader into a not-too-distant future. It is a world where the Mafia controls pizza delivery, the United States exists as a patchwork of corporate-franchise city-states, and the Internet–incarnate as the Metaverse–looks something like last year’s hype would lead you to believe it should.”




The Diamond Age: or a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson

Library Journal summary: “. . . a Hugo Award-winning romp into a future nanotechnological revolution doesn’t lend itself to concise description. For what it’s worth, it explores what happens when an incredibly powerful interactive device falls into the hands of a street urchin, who uses it to reprogram the future of humanity. Got that?”


If these titles are not available in Falvey’s collection, try E-ZBorrow or interlibrary loan.

Enjoy! Do you have summer reading selections to share?


Compiled by Gerald Dierkes



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Last Modified: June 19, 2011

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