July 15, 2002
Choice summer reads
by Deborah Stone
I've been a voracious reader since I was a young child. Reading, for me, is a wonderful escape that allows me to travel many places, acquire information regarding numerous subjects, gain understanding about various cultures around the world and experience a wide range of emotions.
Best of all, it's free (provided one utilizes his/her friendly, neighborhood library) and requires no advance reservations or preparation. The physical act of reading comforts me and also provides me with a self-involved form of entertainment that doesn't rely on social interactions. I can read most anywhere, but my ideal place is simply at home, curled up in my bed, on my couch, sitting on my deck or stretched out on a nearby hammock.
Of course, it's optimal if the environment is peaceful and quiet, although I have been known to effectively shut out all forms of external stimulation, including raucous children, annoying pets, loud music and the telephone. Over the years, I have read a multitude of books; many have been excellent and memorable, others just mediocre and forgettable. I rarely, however, discontinue a book, even if I find it dull or not well written. My mantra has been to finish what I start and give it a complete read because one never knows if or when a book may change course and develop into something exciting or thought-provoking. There have been times when this has occurred halfway through the book and I would have been sorely disappointed had I not followed through to see this happen.
I mainly prefer fiction, but occasionally, I will be lured toward a biography or nonfiction book and find it to be a wonderful foray into other types of literature. To find out about good reads, I peruse bookstores and libraries, read book reviews in various publications and depend on informal word-of-mouth recommendations.
With summer here, many of us have more down time to pursue hobbies and outdoor activities, as well as hit the hammock for some quality reading. To help with book selection, I talked with the staff at the Woodinville Library, who put together a list of summer reading recommendations.
For mystery lovers, "The Grand Complication," by Allen Kurzweil, is high on their list of favorites. It tells the story of a New York reference librarian (perhaps that's why it's one of their favorites!), Andrew Short, who finds his life caught up in minutiae until an eccentric hires him after hours to discover the mystery of an empty compartment in an antique cabinet of curiosities. "The Ice Curtain," by Robin White, is a mystery-thriller that mixes diamond mines in Siberia with murder, conspiracy and plenty of action. "Straight Man," by Richard Russo, is a snapshot of life in small-town academia. Author Russo takes his readers into the turmoil of Professor "Hank" Deveraux, age 50, dead-ended as chair of English at West Central Pennsylvania University, who fears an impending layoff. "Saucer: an adventure," is the latest of a long string of thrillers by well known author Steven Coonts. An ancient flying saucer is discovered in the Sahara desert and everyone wants a piece of it, including the US Air Force, thugs from an Australian mogul and the Libyan army.
Nonfiction choices from the library's staff include, "Nickel and Dimed: on (not) getting by in America," by Barbara Ehrenreich ( a fascinating look at America's "working poor" through author Ehrenreich's experiences as a waitress, a hotel maid and a Wal-Mart sales clerk); "A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East," by Tiziano Terzani (the journey of jet-hopping journalist Terzani, who upon being told by a Hong Kong fortuneteller that he would die in 1993 if he flew that year, decides to stay earthbound and travel 13,000 miles around Asia); "Faster: the acceleration of just about everything," by Games Gleick (a look at how humans see themselves as a quick-reflexed, multitasking, channel-flipping and fast-forwarding species and the reality of actually saving time) and "E-mc2," by David Bodanis (a biography of the world's most famous equation that pays tribute to some of the unique personalities that led to Einstein's famous discovery).
Children can get into summer reading, too, with King County Library System's Summer Reading 2002 program, "The Summer Adventures of Super Reader." Kids set a summer reading goal, list each book they read, reach their goal and collect a reward from their local library. Along the way, they can attend free family programs throughout the summer at various King County libraries.
Woodinville Library offers a variety of fun programs on animal heroes, American heroes and super heroes.
Adult readers can participate in the Kingsgate/Woodinville Libraries' book discussion group, held on the last Saturday morning of each month, alternating locations between the two libraries.
Over at the Woodinville Barnes and Noble, a search of recommended books led to the bookstore's list of new writers and their offerings. Among them are Manil Suri's "The Death of Vishnu," a comic debut novel detailing the lives of the inhabitants of an apartment building in Bombay (this year's Discover Award for Fiction); the suspenseful love story, "Leaving Katya," by Paul Greenberg; Paulette Jiles' "Enemy Women, the timeless story of a memorable heroine who perseveres against all odds;" Marcus Stevens' "The Curve of the World," a dramatically told story of a New York businessman who struggles to escape the jungles of the Congo; Miles Keaton Andrew's "Final Arrangements," a quirky tale of a young man who apprentices as a mortician, Nicole Stansbury's "Places to Look for a Mother," a delightful, yet poignant exploration of mother-daughter relationships; and Andy Behrman's "Electroboy," a candid memoir detailing the sufferings of manic depression.
Add to this list a few of my more recent personal favorites: "Seabiscuit," by Laura Hillenbrand (the true story of an unlikely champion racing horse, who became an American legend); "Personal History," the remarkable autobiography of Katharine Graham; "The Soloist," an engrossing tale of a talented cellist whose gifts desert him, by masterful storyteller Mark Salzman; Anita Shreve's latest novel, "Sea Glass," a beautifully written period piece, and the romance saga, "Ahab's Wife," by Sena Jeter Naslund.
And now, while the sun is out, I'm off to my hammock to catch a few pages. Happy reading!