Looking For a Summer Read? We've Got You Covered

May 24, 2016

As the weather warms up and school lets out it is time to start making your summer reading list. This hour on Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with Jan Weismiller and Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City and Judy Stafford of The Book People in Sioux City about what should be on your reading list this summer.

Paul’s list:

The Dig by John Preston

Till My Baby Comes Home by Jean Ross Justice

Canary by Duane Swierczynski

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Shelter by Jung Yun

This is about a Korean family, an older family that came over from Korea, and a younger family that is the next generation. It just starts out so sadly. The old guy is rich, and he’s got the greatest house in the world, and the young guy has never been able to get things going. In the first scene he’s trying to sell the house. The characters all are very powerfully done.

A Hero of France by Alan Furst

Another one of his absolutely incredible Alfred Hitchcock like books. It’s set in France during WWII, and people are in the underground. They are mainly trying to save the lives of American and English pilots who get shot down. And they try to get them back over the line, so that they can come back and shoot down more Nazi’s.

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

This is a novel. It’s about a woman who is Norwegian and was named by her Norwegian parents “Veblen.” The Portable Veblen is one of the most commonly used textbooks about economics, but this novel is about a couple that is going to get married and have an old money/new money problem. The reader is not so sure that the couple is really that fond of each other.

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

This will be coming out in July. Miss Jane is a story about one of Brad Watson’s relatives. It’s a novel, but it’s based on a true story. Miss Jane was born with physical defects that affect reproduction, and her life might as well be one of the worst lives in the world, but she is lively and interesting. This book is set in the early 20th century in Mississippi, and there is a doctor in town who is trying to help her. It’s a great Southern book.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

He is an African American writer with great satirical touch. There is a lunatic father who was an academic but a crazy academic, and the son was very bitter about him. He makes the decision he is going to do something special, but I’m not going to tell you what it is. But it is so funny.

Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

She became really obsessed with these animals. She would reach into the water, and she would grab her. It’s such a good natural history kind of book.

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are by Frans de Wall

My favorite little story in this is an Aesop’s fable. It’s about a crow who is dying of thirst, and finds a pitcher of water, but he can’t reach it, so he starts dropping stones to raise the water level. It turns out that Aesop noticed it and so did Frans de Wall. It’s a fascinating book, and it’s not just dolphins on bonobos.

Judy’s list:

Last Mile  By David Baldacci

Door To Door Edward Humes

Dark Money By Jane Mayer

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

Man Called Ove Fredrik Backman

Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

I just love this book. It is one of the funniest books I’ve read. There’s also a lot of tender and tragic moments in the book, but much of it is so humorously written. The premise is its 1991, and the flood girls references the softball team of this woman’s bar that she owns. She has a softball team full of absolute characters. It’s a fabulous debut novel.

The Meaning of Names by Karen Gettert-Shoemaker

Karen is a professor at the University of Nebraska, and it happens to be Nebraska’s read this year. I just happened upon this book, and I absolutely loved it. This is set in 1918 in farm country. It’s the story of a pretty ordinary woman who is trying to raise her family during some pretty extraordinary times. She’s confronting violence and prejudice against the Germans. It really reminded me of Bottomland, except this one happens to be set in Nebraska.

The Readers of Broken Wheel by Katarina Bivald

This book is about a Swedish bookseller. A young woman has a pen pal relationship with a woman named Amy Harris in Iowa. The name of the town in Iowa is Broken Wheel, and they have been pen pals coupled by their love of books. She comes to visit Amy Harris in Iowa, and gets to town on the day of Amy’s funeral. With help from the community in this small town, she moves into Amy’s house. It’s a fun read, and it’s been a really popular book club book.

LaRose by Louise Erdrich’s

This is a brand new release. This is a story of a tragedy of a Ojibwe hunter who accidentally shot and killed the 5 year old song of a friend, a very close friend.

At The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

The setting is 1838. James and Sadie settle where their wagon got stuck in the muddy stagnant swamps of Northwest Ohio. It’s a tough time. They created an orchard there, and they bought the tree saplings from a local tree man named Johnny Appleseed. So, it’s a story of trying to make it. It’s a tough read in some ways, but it’s well worth the read.

Stoned: Jewelry Obsession and How Desire Shakes the World by Aja Raden

This book is about questions about things like ‘what is the diamond on your finger have to do with the GI Bill?’ This is an account of how eight jewels shaped the course of history. The author is a jeweler and a scientist, and writes about how our lust for beautiful things has shaped the world as we know it.

Jan’s list:

 Imagine Me Gone  by Adam Haslett

The Sympathizer  by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Allegheny Front  by Matthew Null

Eligible  by Curtis Sittenfeld

This light fun read is a knock off of Pride and Prejudice. It tells the story of two sisters who go home to discover that the parents are not doing as well as they thought.

Till My Baby Comes Home  by Jean Ross Justice

A young mother and her teenage daughter work in a factory in North Carolina during World War Two, some soldiers come to this town on maneuvers and get to know the family. Justice switches back and forth from the perspective of the mother and the daughter seamlessly while showing the changes that World War two brought to America in terms of the work force and marriage.

The Inseparables  by Stuart Nadler  (forthcoming in July)

The book is about three generations of women in a family. The grandmother had been a strong second wave feminist and a professor at Columbia. She wrote a book about women’s sexual liberation, which was taken poorly on both sides so she fled Columbia with a man and opened up a restaurant. As the book starts her husband has died and she discovers she is in a lot of debt so she is forced to re-release her book. Her daughter, who is tired of her marriage, sends her daughter to a boarding school. The granddaughter gets involved in a relationship with a man and gets in trouble. The grandmother is able to understand her granddaughter’s experience through her book.

The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton 

It’s set in an apple orchard that has been handed down jointly to two brothers. One of the brothers had actually gone to college and decided not to run the orchard. But after getting married he came back to run the orchard, but the other brothers is not very happy about it. It is told from point of view of the funny teenage daughter of the college educated family who is in love with the orchard.

Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent

The Gene:  An Intimate History  Siddhartha Mukherjee

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space  by Janna Levin

Chasing the Last Laugh:  Mark Twain’s Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour by Richard Zacks

Ted Hughes:  The Unauthorized Life  by Jonathan Bate

A Sugar Creek Chronicle  by Cornelia Mutel

Mutel is an ecological engineer who is observing climate change from a Midwestern woodland. She kept a journal in 2012 of what she saw happening on her own property and in her book she reflects on climate change and the little things we can all do.

Michelle Obama:  A Life  by Peter Slevin

This is a wonderful read about an inspiring women. When Michelle Obama brought Barack home her brother, who is a basketball coach at the University of Oregon, took Barack out to play basketball and get to know him, the brother approved right away.

Lab Girl  by Hope Jahren

Hope Jarhren is a scientist who studies fossils. She grew up in Minnesota in a family that rarely talked to each other. The book is about her dedication to science and some of the really difficult experience she has in terms of gender bias, but she’s funny and she’s very good at focusing back on the fossils.