Great Summer Reads

UC librarians do the hard work of finding good books so you don't have to. Here, they share some of their top recommendations for the summer.


Published Jul 9, 2008 11:21 AM

Summer is a perfect time for catching up on reading. Librarians throughout the UC system were asked to make recommendations for good books the rest of us can pick up from the library or bookstore this summer. Below are suggestions from librarians who responded to the task.

A Night to Remember by Walter Lord (Holt, 1955). Recommended by Megan Hahn Fraser, UCLA associate librarian, special collections:

"A true story more enthralling than fiction, this definitive book on the Titanic is also a pioneering masterpiece in the eyewitness history genre."

The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer (Scribner, 1997). Recommended by Marta Brunner, UCLA Librarian for English and American Literature and Comparative Literature:

"How would a philosopher rob a bank? Is bank robbery a viable alternative for failed academics? Fischer’s "verbal hijinks" keep readers slightly off balance and laughing out loud."

Staggerford by Jon Hassler (Antheneum, 1977). Recommended by Alison Armstrong, UCLA director of Undergraduate Initiatives & Head of College Library:

Editor note: The story of a high school teacher in a small Minnesota town.

Bad Girls by Alex McAulay (MTV Books, 2005). Recommended by Elizabeth 'Lisa' McAulay, UCLA librarian for Digital Collection Development:

"This book takes Lord of the Flies and re-interprets it in the present day with a cast of teenage girls. The book is informed by current research into young women and their psychological development especially relating to aggression. It’s an action-adventure thriller and is a fast read. (Conflict of Interest notice – this is my husband’s novel.)"

Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen by Larry McMurtry (Simon & Schuster, 2001 paperback). Recommended by Vicki Bloom, UC Riverside head of Reference, Rivera Library.

"Aficionados of the American West, book lovers of all types, and passionate readers will appreciate these thoughtful, plain-speaking and reflective essays from one of America’s great writers and storytellers."

The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2008). Recommended by Ken Furuta, UC Riverside reference/Information technology librarian, Rivera Library.

"One day, Steve Lopez, an LA Times columnist, stumbled across Nathaniel Ayers playing beautiful music on a violin missing two strings. Ayers, a former Juilliard student, has schizophrenia, was homeless, and lived on LA's Skid Row. This is his story."

Notes on a Life by Eleanor Coppola (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2008) Recommended by Melissa Conway, UC Riverside head of Special Collections & Archives:

"Eleanor Coppola’s beautifully rendered musings on life, love, loss, art and the artists she married and reared. A must for enthusiasts of the Godfather films. (And isn't that everyone?)"

The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine (Knopf, April 2008). Recommended by John Bloomberg-Rissman, humanities bibliographer, UC Riverside:

"Narratives nested within narratives nested within narratives, making up the narrative of an extended family living within contemporary not-quite-and-maybe-never postwar Lebanon. For narratives I could have written stories; for stories I could have written tales; for tales I could have written the food our common humanity needs in order to stay alive."

The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest by Barbara Guest (Wesleyan University Press, release date in 2008). Recommended by John Bloomberg-Rissman, humanities bibliographer, UC Riverside:

"The life work of the only female member of the fabled four first-generation New York School poets (the others being John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch), and the last to have her work gathered in a major collection. They are simply great poets, among the best in U.S. history. And Guest is not the least of them."

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason (UCSF medical school alumnus) (Knopf 2002). Recommended by Karen Butter, university librarian and assistant vice chancellor, UC San Francisco:

"This is the story of Edgar Drake, who was commissioned by the British War office to travel to Burma to repair a piano. It’s a long journey to locate the rare piano, and Edgar faces many conflicts along the way. The author weaves in history and geography to make an enjoyable story."

The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq by Rory Stewart (Harvest Books, paperback 2007). Recommended by Julia Kochi, director of digital library and collections, UC San Francisco:

Editor note: The author, a British diplomat, at age 30 was appointed deputy governor of a province in occupied Iraq.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (Vintage, paperback 2007). Recommended by Julia Kochi, director of digital library and collections, UC San Francisco:

"A lyrical unfinished novel about World War II."

How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table by Russ Parsons (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Recommended by Julia Kochi, director of digital library and collections, UC San Francisco:

"A wonderful look at the produce we eat. Includes information on how to choose, store and prepare each item."

A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz, translated by Nicolas de Lange (Harcourt, 2004, Harvest Books, 2005) Recommended by Lee Jaffe, librarian UC Santa Cruz:

"This is a remarkably beautiful memoir, both deeply personal and at the same time a privileged glimpse of life at one of the crossroads of history."

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story (also published under the title Glenkill) by Leonie Swann, (Doubleday/Flying Dolphin Press, 2006). Recommended by Lorelei Tanji, collections librarian, UC Irvine:

"A flock of Irish sheep (Miss Maple and others) take it upon themselves to solve the mystery of their murdered shepherd. A humorous and entertaining detective story told completely from the viewpoint of the sheep."

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl, (Penguin Press, 2005). Recommended by Jessica Brobst, reference librarian, UC Irvine:

Editor note: Author reflects on her career as an undercover food critic for the New York Times.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (and all others in the series) by Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor Books, 2003). Recommended by Jessica Brobst, reference librarian, UC Irvine:

Editor note: Book series centers on the adventures of the only lady private detective in Botswana.

In the Wind by Barbara Fister (St. Martin's Minotaur, 2008). Recommended by Kari Lucas, UC San Diego Center for Library & Instructional Computing Services:

"Draws parallels between counter intelligence practices during Vietnam era and current information gathering initiatives with the story making the political very personal for the characters."



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