We hear from our booksellers on some of the best books for summer reading this year, from pure beach reading to literary fiction, plus serious and not-so-serious nonfiction. There's a new Harry Potter book from J.K. Rowling plus new releases from Stephen King, Louise Erdrich and Annie Proulx.
This program was originally broadcast on June 27, 2016.
- Dan Chartrand, owner of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter
- Michael Herrmann, owner of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord
- The Girls by Emma Cline - a lot of buzz around this dark debut novel about girls attracted to a Charles Manson-type character in the 60s. Michael Herrman calls the prose "spectacular."
- LaRose by Louise Erdrich - a novel that asks can a person do the worst thing possible and still be loved? The bookseller at Gibson's said "I'm not one to use the word stunning, but this one absolutely is." Highly recommended by both panelists. "...her prose is so spectacular. She's a great storyteller, she's a real natural." Michael Herrman recommending The Girls
- Barkskins by Annie Proulx - the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist's latest epic novel about the taking down of the world's forests through vivid characters from the 17th century and travels across the globe.
- White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. A history of the class system in America, extending from colonial times to the present, uncovering our early leaders not only as principled men but also as vagrants, rebels and convicts.
- Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, depicting a United States where slavery still exists in four states. Coming out July 5.
- The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith. A landscape by a female artist in Amsterdam 1631, and a forgery by an art history student collide in the present.
- Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, a caller said it changed his life.
- Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank, recommended by a listener who said it stands out among political books this summer.
The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver. Dan Chartrand says it's a wonderful book while at the same time being utterly frightening; how each family member navigates a new reality as an inheritance turns to ash.
- Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave. A WWII love story featuring the children not evacuated during the blitz recommended by a librarian from Campton. She also recommended I Let You Go by Claire McIntosh, which caused her to gasp out loud at a plot twist.
- Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore. An intriguing read about a legendary NYC homeless figure supposedly working on an oral history of the US. Illuminates NYC during the 30s, 40s and 50s. This discussion also brought up Up In the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell.
- A caller asked about books for 10-14-year old boys, and Dan Chartrand recommended The Wild Robot by Peter Brown, saying it combined nature, fantasy and technology. Michael Hermann recommended the sci-fi fantasy The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy, the first in a series. "It feels like a combination of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, the movie Wall-e, and the animal parts of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe thrown in" Dan Chartrand describing The Wild Robot for young readers
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II by J.K. Rowling. The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later, and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. Both booksellers noted lots of interest in a new narrative thread for the oft-reread series.
- A emailer recommended the historical time-travel series Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
- Nation of Nations by NPR's Tom Gjelton was recommended by an emailer praising it for its perspective in shifts in immigration in U.S. history. In addition to his Exchange appearance, listen to his thoughts on NHPR's 10-Minute Writer's Workshop.
- The Little Red Chairs by Edna O'Brien. Our caller noted that "we read books to meet people" and was reminded of a book of Saul Bellow. Michael Herrmann noted that Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King might be a good to re-read this summer.
- Voyager: Travel Writings by Russell Banks was recommended by both booksellers, calling it "a journey of exploration wonderful to encounter." He was featured in conversation on Word of Mouth earlier this summer.
- An emailer recommended a series of novels by WWII journalist David Downing, starting with Zoo Station, as an excellent read.
- The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee. From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies -what becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information? Michael Herrman recommended it due to the quality of writing even if you're not interested in science.
- Laura Knoy was enthusiastic about But What If We’re Wrong, by Chuck Klosterman, which challenged assumptions about things we take for granted, like gravity. Klosterman's book was featured on Word Of Mouth recently.
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh was recommended by an emailer as a classic featuring an independent strong young girl for young readers. Dan Chartrand noted the Great Stone Face awards as a good source of excellent books for kids.
- Other books recommended by email included The One Hundred Year Old Man by Jonas Jonasson; The Long Weekend by Andrew Tinniswood for Downton Abbey fans; Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon; and Heretic: Why Islam Needs A Reformation Now. And for kids, the vintage Edward Eager Magic by the Lake and other books in the series were recommended as well as a magic series about the Merlin saga (pre-dating Harry Potter) by T.A. Barron.
- The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner for middle readers was recommended with the theme of heroin addiction gently handled, although it has garnered some controversy.
Michael Herrman gave his top four books to read now:
Before The Fall by Noah Hawley. When a private plane plunges into the ocean off Martha's Vineyard, the media and the government want answers. He says it's "perfect" for summer with a great opening.
Redemption Road by John Hart. Elizabeth Black is a hero. She is a cop who single-handedly rescued a young girl from a locked cellar and shot two brutal kidnappers dead. But she's also a cop with a history, a woman with a secret.
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth.
Dodgers by Bill Beverly. He calls it "The Wire goes to the Midwest."
Dan Chartrand rounded up his top four summer reads, mostly history:
- Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick. Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation.
- Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence by George C. Daughan.
- The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-Boats By William Geroux.
- The Fireman: A Novel by Joe Hill is partly set in N.H. and a "great apocalyptic novel." Hill is featured in a 10-Minute Writer's Workshop earlier this Spring. a cracking good read!
Both booksellers heralded Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi as an important book, noting author Ta-Nehisi Coates called it "an inspiration" and one of their readers called it "an honor to read." It' tells the story of two half-sisters in 18th-century Ghana and the lives of their many generations of descendants in America spanning three centuries.
More recommendations from Dan Chartrand, not heard on the show:
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Here Comes the Sun: A Novel by Nicole Dennis-Benn
One of Us Lost: Selected Poems by Robert Dunn
We Waking Up White, And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
Are As Gods: Back To The Land in the 1970s on the Quest for a New America by Kate Daloz
American Luthier: Carleen Hutchins – The Art & Science of the Violin by Quincy Whitney
The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams
Some more of Michael Herrman’s top books for Summer, not heard on the show:
You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott (coming July 26)
Hamilton, by Ron Chernow (Hamilton: the Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda)
Grunt, by Mary Roach
Mosquito Rain, by Dan Szczesny (local author)
Books by Raina Telgemeier – like Smile and Sisters
Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke
New in paperback, June/July:
Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal
Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain
Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
Looking forward to in the fall :
The Nix, by Nathan Hill
Mischling, by Affinity Konar
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
Nutshell, by Ian McEwan
Other listener recommendations include Us by David Nicholls, Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, books by Donna Leon featuring detective Guido Brunetti, The Longmire series by Craig Johnson, Archer Mayor's Joe Gunther series, and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.