11 Great Summer Reads, Hand-Picked by the Madison Public Library

By Shayna Mace

Summer is tailor-made for reading, whether it’s grabbing a few moments while waiting for a kid’s sports practice to end, or simply sitting out and enjoying the longer days. We asked our friends at the Madison Public Library who have their finger on the book world pulse for the books they’re most excited to read right now.

“Rodham: A Novel”

This ambitious new novel by Curtis Sittenfeld  imagines what Hillary Rodham’s life, both public and private, might have looked like if she hadn’t married Bill Clinton. Sittenfeld is a master at unraveling events and weaves a rich new story from the threads of history. (Random House, 5/19/20).

“A Burning”

In her debut, author Megha Majumdar brings an entire Indian neighborhood to life. One ill-considered social media post sets events in motion that cut across entrenched divisions of class, gender and politics. “A Burning” is the kind of book that shows us the world we know in ways we’ve never seen before. (Knopf, 6/2/20).

  • Conor Moran, director, Wisconsin Book Festival

“The Answer Is . . . Reflections on My Life”

I’m looking forward to reading this forthcoming memoir by Alex Trebek, the host of “Jeopardy!.” According to blurbs, he shares personal anecdotes and most asked questions by fans. (Simon & Schuster, 7/21/20).

“The Library Book”

This is the heartbreaking and heartwarming story of the fire at the downtown library in Los Angeles. Writer Susan Orlean not only explores the causes of the fire, but tells the history of the library and the librarians who made it the special place that it is. Since libraries and their staff are dear to my heart, I had to read this book.  It did not disappoint. (Simon & Schuster, 2019).

“The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After”

This memoir is the life journey of Julie Williams-Yip, a Chinese American lawyer who struggles with late-stage bowel cancer. What I liked most about it was her honesty and her sharing of the emotional and psychological costs to her whole family. (Random House, 2020).

  • Kathy Kube, librarian and adult nonfiction selector for Madison Public Library

“How to Be an Antiracist”

Ibram X. Kendi offers clear definitions of racism and anti-racism, along with lots of other intersectional terms, and teaches using personal examples from his own life. This is one of the best anti-racism books I’ve read, and great for sharing and discussing with friends. (One World, 2020).

“I’ll Be the One”

Skye has always wanted to become a K-pop star, but when she gets accepted to a reality TV competition looking for the next big star, she has to face the downsides that come with sudden fame. I loved this fun teenage romance by Lyla Lee, learning about the whirlwind life of reality TV, and the ways that Skye pushes back against fatphobia. (Katherine Tegen Books, 6/20/20).

  • Holly Storck-Post, youth services librarian for Madison Public Library 

“Take a Hint, Dani Brown”

When a botched fire drill clinch lands PhD student Dani and former rugby pro turned guard Zafir in a social media storm, the pair decide to play up their “romance” for the good of Zaf’s charity.  But Zaf has quietly been carrying a torch for the relationship-averse Dani, and sets out to convince her that they could last as a real couple. Will Dani get the hint? Author Talia Hibbert takes the fake relationship trope and breathes new life into it with sexy diverse leads, contemporary sensibilities and a great supporting cast. (Avon, 6/23/20).

  • Katie Hanson, librarian and adult fiction selector for Madison Public Library

“We Ride Upon Sticks”

Imagine John Hughes making a cross between “The Craft” and “The Mighty Ducks,” and you might come close to “We Ride Upon Sticks” —  but I’m sure author Quan Barry, professor of English at UW–Madison, tells the story better. In this wickedly smart, funny novel set in the 1980s, a field hockey team at a high school outside Salem, Ore., discover a way to harness the power of witchcraft to have the best season ever. It’s the perfect summer read — a joy of a book that is delightfully escapist yet thought-provoking, filled with complicated, fierce and unforgettable young women. (Pantheon, 2020).

  • Kylee Stoor, librarian and member of Madison Public Library’s collection management team 

“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning”

This is the young adult book version of “Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi. I appreciate coauthor Jason Reynolds so much for getting kids and adults reading and talking.  Understanding who we are as Americans and how to discuss our nation’s past and present in order to stamp out racism is tough and imperative. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020).

“This Is What America Looks Like:  My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman”

Representative Ihan Omar from Minnesota is the first African refugee, Somali-American, and one of the first Muslim women elected to congress. She authors this book and is young and dynamic, and the story of her journey from Somalia to a Kenyan refugee camp to America is riveting. I love reading about people and learning about Representative Omar’s days as a scrappy school kid and a mildly rebellious teen wanting hair like Beyonce’s, and how she grew into the leader she is today. The book was relatable and inspiring.  (Dey Street Books, 5/26/20).

  • Molly Warren, library collection manager for all nine Madison Public Library locations

Get the kiddos involved in summer reading too with Madison Public Library’s “We Read” program too! Details can be found here: madisonpubliclibrary.org/weread

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