Each year we do a post on books we have enjoyed and suggest for summer reading. Items available in the ECC Library collection are noted.
*The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
When 15-year-old Maribel Rivera sustains a terrible injury, the family leaves behind a comfortable life in Mexico and risks everything to come to the U.S. so that Maribel can have the educational resources she needs. Henriquez’s novel focuses on a small community of immigrants from all over Latin America and their struggles, triumphs, and generosity in supporting each other as they build their lives here.–Mary Klemundt, Adjunct Technical Services Librarian
The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
This is the fascinating story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, an American of Yemeni descent. Alkhanshali was working a a doorman after his hopes of attending college were dashed by financial difficulties. When he learned that Yemen was once a premier coffee producer for the world, Alkhanshali became interested in the coffee industry, and thought there might be an opportunity for a business. Over time though, the quality of the methods for producing the coffee had deteriorated to the point where most growers in Yemen had switched to another, more lucrative crop. He decided to try to revive the coffee production business in Yemin. The story of how this non-connected, young entrepreneur started from nothing and built his business from sheer determination and will is interesting enough. But when Alhanshali visited Yemen right as civil war broke out, his story became one of survival against tremendous odds. The danger and perils of trying to get home with the precious coffee beans read like a suspense novel.–Julie Keating, Reference/Instruction Librarian
I read two classics by Nobel Literature winner Kazuo Ishiguro: * Buried Giant and * Never Let Me Go. If you haven’t read this author yet, you will be entranced by his use of language and his storytelling. —Maria Bagshaw, Reference/Instruction Librarian
Dark voyage : a novel by Alan Furst. One book in Furst’s series of spy novels set in World War II, the story follows the Dutch tramp freighter “Noordendam” as it takes on a false identity and attempts a dangerous, clandestine voyage to transport detection equipment that may help turn the tide of war in favor of Britain against the devastating U-boat attacks in 1941. The novel may be a bit frustrating for you if you need everything neatly tied up at the end, but it’s full of fascinating characters and great tension. ECC doesn’t have this one, but does have Furst’s *Spies of the Balkans.–Mary Klemundt, Adjunct Technical Services Librarian
Flesh and Blood (Frank Elder series #1) by John Harvey. Although this is an English detective series, this detective, Frank Elder, and the story are far from typical. Frank is slowly pulled out of retirement to deal with the unsolved disappearance of a sixteen year old girl. As he has a daughter of about the same age with whom he has a distant relationship, Frank follows his heart and gets drawn further and further into the case. This book is hard to put down! At the end, you’ll be seeking out the other two books in the series. Number two, *Ash and Bone, is owned by the ECC library. A fourth book is due out this fall. The author won the Sherlock Award for best detective created by a British author.–Barb Evans, Reference/Instruction Librarian
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. At the opening of this novel, the four Gold children visit a psychic, and one by one are told the date of their death. The rest of the novel focuses on the lives of each of the children, and how this knowledge affects their lives as they grow up and go out into the world. Each one is affected differently, and deals with this knowledge in their own way. The novel raises some interesting questions about how you would live if you knew when you were going to die.–Julie Keating, Reference/Instruction Librarian
*White Trash by Nancy Isenberg. Isenberg’s thesis is excellent and important: much as we like to think we’re the land of mobility and “everyone is equal”, the truth is class has been and is still kept track of in the U.S. Four hundred years of history is condensed into 330-ish pages, so be prepared for abrupt jumps in history and for periods in that history to be glossed over or absent all together. Still, a well-researched book that will teach readers a good amount.–Jennifer Schlau, Reference/Instruction Librarian
Fallout (V.I. Warshawski series #18) by Sara Paretsky. Don’t be put off by the #18. These mysteries can be read as stand-alones. Featuring a physically and mentally strong women detective, V.I. Warshawski, the setting is usually Chicago. However, in this latest book, the case leads V. I. to Kansas. She is pushed into the past as it holds the answers to help her solve the crimes of the present. This book is fast paced and will have you on the edge of your seat. The *ECC library owns 7 books in the series.-Barb Evans, Reference/Instruction Librarian
*Nobody’s Girl by Antonya Nelson. I was surprised by this book. The author’s gift for storytelling and description grabbed me and didn’t let me go until the end. The main character, Birdy, is very flawed which makes her very relatable. At some points in the book I felt frustrated with her decisions, especially when it seemed like she was giving up on herself, an experience very much like we can all have with friends and family in real life. The quality of the characterization and description in Nelson’s writing was so good that I went on to read two of her other books and some of her short stories.-Barb Evans, Reference/Instruction Librarian
*Living on the wind : across the hemisphere with migratory birds by Scott Weidensaul. A very readable look at the amazing phenomenon of bird migration. The threats facing migrating birds have only increased in the years since the book was published, which will only increase your awe and wonder at the feats accomplished by creatures weighing only a couple of ounces.–Mary Klemundt, Adjunct Technical Services Librarian
*Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. From the book summary: Are trees social beings? This book makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. The author draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers.–Barb Evans, Reference/Instruction Librarian
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice
by Bill Browder. Bill Browder was once one of the richest men on earth, having started an investment fund in Russia after the Soviet collapse. As Browder became part of the Russian business world, it was hard for him to overlook the corruption in business, and after he exposed the corruption he saw, he was expelled from the country. After his business was raided by law enforcement, he and his attorney Sergei Magnitsky began to investigate. Magnitsky was subsequently arrested and died in prison, from injuries stemming from terrible treatment by the government, ending in a brutal beating that killed him. Browder has devoted the rest of his life to see justice served for Sergei Magnitsky, and seeing that the people behind the corruption are punished financially for their actions. Browder was successful in persuading governments to get behind the Magnisky Act, an act that freezes the assets of Russian oligarachs that profited from these actions. By crossing the Kremlin in this way, Browder’s life is in peril from retaliation by the Russian government. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in international politics, human rights issues, financial dealings, and current events..–Julie Keating, Reference/Instruction Librarian
If you are looking for dystopian literature, try *Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (reviewed by former ECC librarian Karen Klein) or End of the World Running Club by Adrian Walker. Although tragic in theme, both have somewhat hopeful endings and really make you think about what would happen if circumstances beyond our control disrupt our societal norms.–Maria Bagshaw, Reference/Instruction Librarian
*Prisoners of geography : ten maps that explain everything about the world by Tim Marshall. An insightful, sometimes eye-opening, look at how geography drives politics, even in an age of sophisticated technology and globalization.–Mary Klemundt, Adjunct Technical Services Librarian
My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith. We all sweat when we have to rent a car. The details of the rental agreement may not be crystal clear and once we sign we hope we’ve understood all of the implications. For Paul Stuart, a Scottish food writer visiting Tuscany to write his latest book, his expectations of receiving the car his editor reserved soon evaporate. The reservation is lost and there are no cars to be had due to the upcoming holiday weekend. After an altercation with the rental agency clerk, Paul spends a brief stint in jail. He’s saved by a local magistrate and taken to an equipment rental agency to rent a van. As you can tell from the title of the book, Paul does not end up with a van. The bulldozer that Paul does end up driving to Tuscany is just the beginning of his adventures in Italy. Paul’s romantic life becomes complicated when an attractive art historian he meets in Tuscany, Anna, his ex-partner, Becky and his long suffering editor, Gloria all end up in town at the same time. At one point, the bulldozer is stolen. It’s put to good use and ends up helping to solve some local parking, zoning and land dispute issues. As many of the Italian characters in the book quip, “it’s Italy”. This is a light hearted, warm and very fun escapade and would make a great summer read on the beach, on the patio or on an adventure in Italy! The ECC library owns *many titles by this prolific author.—Barb Evans, Reference/Instruction Librarian.
Thick as thieves by Megan Whalen Turner. From the book description: “Kamet is a slave poised to become one of the most powerful men in the Mede Empire thanks to his master’s close relationship with the Emperor. While he knows the limitations of his life as a secretary and slave, Kamet is ambitious and eager for the chance to help shape the Empire and wield his influence until one whispered conversation changes everything. No longer safe, Kamet embarks on a journey that will take him farther than he once thought possible. Traveling away from the seat of the Mede Empire, Kamet finds an unlikely ally in an Attolian soldier far from home and realizes that sometimes choice and freedom can be much more important than power or influence.” Simultaneously billed as the 5th book in Turner’s “Queen’s Thief” fantasy series and as a stand-alone novel, it actually works as both. If you haven’t read any of the others, you can read this one and, without knowing the background, still the enjoy the adventure and the characters. Hopefully, you will be interested enough to go back and start the series with The Thief (2005). If you are already a fan, you will have fun fitting the details and information in this story into the whole world of the “Queen’s Thief” books.--Mary Klemundt, Adjunct Technical Services Librarian
*Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susan Cahalan. This is an incredible book about a rare inflammation of the brain (Anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis) in a young woman and her fight to regain her former self. An accessible discussion of physical and mental illness and how the brain works. Another good book that discusses how the brain works and describes brain science in an engaging way is *Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman. –Maria Bagshaw, Reference/Instruction Librarian.