This time of year always does it to you: you start seeing places to clean.
Any other time, there can be a whole warren of dust bunnies living with you, but that restless last part of summer? Nope, gotta clean — which leads you to this years’ big discovery: a Christmas bookstore gift certificate that you forgot but that you found.
So what to do with it? You could send it to me.
No, just kidding. Why not use it on any of these great reads:
A forced suicide, a powerful family, and a long-buried secret are at the heart of “What We Lost in the Dark” by Jacquelyn Mitchard. When a young woman with a devastating disease loses her best friend, she knows who forced the girl into suicide. She knows, but what can she do? What can you do but read the latest novel from this beloved author? You might also like “Dirty Copper” by Jim Northrup. It’s the story of a Native American Marine who returns to the Rez after a stint in Vietnam and becomes a lawman. Needless to say, that’s not exactly what his fellow citizens want…
If a little fantasy is to your liking, then try “Killer Frost” by Jennifer Estep. This latest installment of the Mythos Academy features a little bit of romance, a little bit of humor, and a lot of darkness – which will please current fans and make new ones. Yes, you can read this book all by itself, but you’ll be happier with at least one earlier one, to get you a bit more up to speed.
Mystery mavens might enjoy “Rivers to Blood” by Michael Lister. It’s a noir-ish whodunit featuring a unique sleuth with an equally unique tie to crime. Here, he desperately tries to find a maniacal escaped prisoner and a killer with a penchant for cruelty. This is the sixth book with this crime-solving character, so beware: it might propel you to find the other five in this series. And if you’re still looking for your next whodunit, look for “ Death Stalks Door County ” by Patricia Skalka. It’s a mystery set up North and it’ll keep you guessing, whether you’ve traveled there or not.
If you’re up for something a little different, try “The Newirth Mythology: the Invasion of Heaven by Michael B. Koep. It’s the story of a psychologist who falls from a cliff into the icy drink, and when he comes out of it, his life has changed. Nothing is the same, so he writes it all down for someone else to decipher. It’s part adventure, part fantasy, a bit of mystery, and all fun.
(OH) You know what payback is, right? Well, in “He PromisD Nvr 2 LeaV Me” by Mark Lowery, an old girlfriend calls in the marker that a wealthy doctor gave her years ago. Problem is, he decided long ago that that part of his life never happened…
(CA) So you’ve got a deposit on a sweet cabin for a last-minute vacation, and you can’t wait. Then you’ll want to read “Scribe” by Brian Russell first. In this novel, a film director and his wife lease a summer home in Scotland . Sounds nice, until you learn that someone was murdered there once, and a madman wants to re-create the scene. Chills? Yep. For sure.
Are you hooked on leaving your status? Can’t get enough of the memes your friends are posting? Then you’ll enjoy “Fakebook: A True Story. Based on Actual Lies” by Dave Cicirelli, a book about a Facebook experiment and what happens when a virtual life separates from the real one. And if that quirky book piques your interest, then you should also look for “A People’s History of the Peculiar” by Nick Belardes. It’s filled with quick-to-read entries about the weird, freaky, and unusual among us.
World War II buffs will surely want to read “Under the Eagle” by Samuel Holiday, Navajo Code Talker, and Robert S. McPherson. It’s the story of Holiday ’s life, his childhood, his culture, and his service in the War. This decorated veteran’s tale is one you won’t want to miss…
Are you a Michael Perry fan yet? You will be after you’ve read “From the Top: Brief Transmissions from Tent Show Radio” by Michael Perry. This is a book filled with essays on this and that, a bit about something else, and comments that may make you nod your head in agreement.
If you dream of a different life and are constantly searching for a way to have it, “Ancient Treasures” by Brian Haughton will help you dream. This fascinating book takes a look at riches found by treasure hunters, above ground, underwater, and under the sod. Take a look at this paperback and you’ll never look at a plot of land the same again. Readers who love treasure-hunting may also want to find “Defending Your Castle” by William Gurstelle. It’s about how you can make your own catapults, moats, bulletproof shields, and other things you might need to protect the treasure you’ll find…
History fans won’t want to miss “Tudor: The Family Story 1437-1603” by Leanda De Lisle. It’s a thick book about Henry and Louis, Thomas Cromwell, Mrs. Henry I through VIII, Elisabeth the first, and her sister Mary. It’s deliciously scandalous, wonderfully detailed, and irresistible, if you’re a British history buff. Along the same lines, Downton Abbey fans will want “Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times” by Lucy Lethbridge.
If you’re an animal lover – the wild kind or the wild-at-heart ones – you’ll enjoy “Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed” by Marc Bekoff. This anthology of quick-to-read chapters takes a look at the emotional lives, friendships, and intelligence that animals possess, and what you can do to observe and preserve it. For skeptics and believers alike, this is an eye-opening, thought-provoking book. Another interesting book by an author you won’t expect: “Myths of Love” by Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer and Jerome E. Singerman. It’s a book about ancient mythology and what it has to do with love and romance today.
Parents of school-age children might like reading “The Hybrid Tiger: Secrets of the Extraordinary Success of Asian-American Kids” by Quanyu Huang. Mixing parenting advice with anecdotes illustrating the difference in culture and attitude, this book may set your child on a path to success… or it might rile you. Now aren’t you intrigued? Also in the news: look at “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality” by Jo Becker. It’s a book about same-sex marriage in California and how that battle changed the way the nation looks at an institution.
I was quite fascinated by “Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men” by April Moore. In this book, you’ll read about despicable crimes, horrible murders, and the men who paid for their transgressions with the ultimate punishment. And even though most of these executions happened around 100 years ago, this book will still chill the true crime fan. And if that sounds like a juicy read to you, then look for “Passport to Hell” by Terry Daniels, who spent time in a prison in Spain – five years after being cleared of charges.
So your baby is heading for college in about a years’ time or so. That makes it a great time to check out “The Perfect Score Project” by Debbie Stier, a book about the SATs. How can you UP those numbers? Is there a right way to study for them? Find out by reading this book by a Mom who’s been there, done that. And for the student who’s going into sales after graduation (or even before!), “Ditch the Pitch” by Steve Yastrow is a book that might help him (or her). It’s about a new way of selling, which could be the start of an awesome career.
If you’re itching for hunting season to start (or you mourn that it’s over), then look for “Wingbeats and Heartbeats” by Dave Books. This is a meditation in short bits on life, prey, prayer, and dogs. It’s also a book you’ll want to remember for gift-giving in a few months, too. Still, if hunting season is too far away for your tastes, look for “Wheel Fever” by Jesse J. Gant & Nicholas J. Hoffman. It’s a history-type book about Wisconsin , biking, and our love of the two-wheeler.
If it looks like you’re going to be a caretaker this summer, then you may want to use your gift certificate to find “Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death” by Erica Brown. It’s a book about the end, how to lessen fears of it, and how to make life before it, grander. Another book for a beautiful you, outside, is “Ageless Beauty: The Ultimate Skincare & Makeup Book for Women & Teens of Color” by Alfred Fornay and Yvonne Rose. This book includes step-by-step ideas for using make-up correctly, how to cover flaws, and how to know which cosmetics are right for you. Bonus: it’s easy to use and includes quizzes.
Health care is another issue on the minds of a lot of people – and if you’re one of them, then find “The American Health Care Paradox” by Elizabeth H. Bradley and Lauren A. Taylor. It’s a book about why the cost of health care is going up but the outcome is, the authors profess, declining. There’s outrage in this book, but there’s hope, too, and that’s something every adult needs to know. Another book to look for – and this one is more for medical professionals – is “Taming Disruptive Behavior” by William “Marty” Martin, PsyD and Phillip Hemphill, PhD. It’s a book about making sure your patients follow along with their own protocol and treatment.
At the end of the day, rest is what you want and you’ll find it inside “Burning the Midnight Oil” by Phil Cousineau, a book of short essays and poems by night owls and lovers of lateness. And if that doesn’t do the trick, then look for “Yoga, Meditation and Spiritual Growth for the African American Community” by Daya Devi-Doolin. It’s a book that can teach you to do yoga (it has pictures!) and gain inner peace.
Of course, you want to take care of yourself this summer, so why not know what’s inside first? “Leonardo’s Foot” by Carol Ann Rinzler takes a look at those things at the end of your legs that help you perambulate. That’s walking, you know. Then, grab “Year of No Sugar” by Eve O. Schaub, a memoir about where sugar is, what it does, and one woman’s quest to see if she could live without it.
(PA) If you received some bad news this year, you know how important it is to have the support of your loved ones. “Don’t Write the Obituary Yet” by Susan Evans (with Thomas C. Krivak, M.D.) is about a woman’s fight against cancer, and the support she received from two men – one of them, her husband!
If a memoir is more to your liking, try “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett. This book – heartfelt and genuine – gives readers a peek inside the life of a beloved novelist, her family, her thoughts, and her love.
I remember watching “The Great Santini” and then reading the book – or was it the other way around? Anyhow, you can guess how excited I was to see the true story that inspired it, “The Death of Santini” by Pat Conroy. It’s the true story of Conroy’s father, his mother, and the family dynamics that inspired Conroy’s novels (and the movies). Bring tissues. You’ve been warned. For a lighter biography, look for “Romance is My Day Job” by Patience Bloom, a book about editing books about romance, and finding the real thing.
Popular belief says that farms are bucolic and peaceful but that’s not always the case, as you’ll see in “One Hundred and Four Horses” by Mandy Retzlaff. This is the story of a ranch, horses, and the war that separated them all from the land they loved. Horse-lovers won’t be able to put this one down. And speaking of farms, I loved “Chickens in the Road” by Suzanne McMinn, which is the story of a city girl’s new life on a farm – complete with animals and the chores that come with them.
You got a gift certificate, which means you’re undoubtedly a book lover so you might enjoy “The World’s Strongest Librarian” by Josh Hanagarne, a book about an unusual librarian in Salt Lake City and his unusual life. And if this sounds great to you, you might also like “I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia” by Su Meck (with Daniel de Vise), which is a book about injury, coping, and ultimate triumph.
Readers who are interested in The Other Side will also be interested in reading “There’s More to Life Than This” by Theresa Caputo, also known as The Long Island Medium. This book is part memoir, part anecdotal, part new-agey, and every bit as much fun as Caputo’s show.
Your pugilist (or fan of the art) will love reading “Undisputed Truth” by Mike Tyson. This brick of a book is all about Tyson’s life as he sees it, his career, and the men (and women) he’s known. Excuse me for saying it, but this book packs a punch.
Sometimes, a good novel is what you need. And if that’s the case, then look for “Just Between Us” by J.H. Trumble. It’s the story of seventeen-year-old Luke who falls in love with his band tech, Curtis. But does true love ever run smoothly? Not when one of the boys is HIV positive and the other one won’t listen to reason…
A missing mother who harbors a surprise for her grown son is at the heart of “Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab” by Shani Mootoo. When writer Jonathan Lewis-Adey was just a boy, his mother disappeared. Later, he learns what happens but he doesn’t know the whole truth until much, much later. This book comes from a Canadian publisher; American readers may have to search a little extra for it, but you won’t be sorry.
If time is of the essence – and when isn’t it? – you’ll want to snag “Naming Ceremony” by Chip Livingston . This anthology of short stories and essays takes a look at what we call ourselves within our communities, and how that fits with the people we are and the people we want to be. And at under 200 pages, it won’t take much time to read, either. Pair it up with “In a New Century” by John D’Emilio, a book of essays on queer history and more.
Can you stand another memoir about a gay man who’s HIV-positive? If you can, then you’ll be rewarded by “The Nearness of Others” by David Caron. Caron is HIV-positive, and struggles with many aspects of it: when to reveal it, who to tell, what it’s like to live with it and how to deal with people who still fear it. And if you read Caron’s book, you’ll want to look at “Cured” by Nathalia Holt, a book by a molecular biologist who’s worked in research with HIV patients since the mid-90s.
Can religion mix with a gay lifestyle? Jeff Chu takes a look at that question in “Does Jesus Really Love Me?”, now in paperback. This is a nation-wide search for prayer, protest, and proselytizing; it’s got humor in it, spirituality, and sadness. How could you miss that?
(CA) What happens when you have four drag queens (one of them, a zombie), add a cataclysmic event and even more zombies? You’ve got “ Queens of the Apocalypse” by Rob Rosen. Uh huh. Oh, and you’ve got camp, humor, and adventure, too.
(WI) For the reader who wants a multi-layered story with a different kind of setting, look for “Her Life is Showing” by Alice Benson. It’s a novel of life in a women’s shelter and the counselors who work there – although some of them really shouldn’t.
(NY) Finally, if a memoir is what you want, then look for “Closets, Combat + Coming Out” by Rob Smith. It’s the story of a gay African American man who joins the Army during the DADT days. When war is declared on Iraq , you know who is among the first deployed…
CHILDREN’S BOOKS – Little Kids
For children who like to help others, “Ferry Tail” by Katharine Kenah, illustrated by Nicole Wong is a cute book about a dog who gets lost and an unlikely hero who helps him get home. Yes, it’s a little scary, but it has a happy ending.
I think all kids - but particularly children who are differently abled – will love “Walking Eagle, the Little Comanche Boy” by Ana Eulate and Nivola Uya. It’s the story of an Indian Chief who is born with club feet and without the gift of speech. Still, he makes a big difference with his people – a story that will charm children and adults alike. I also liked “The Little Eskimo” by Davide Cali and Maurizio A.C. Quarello. It’s the story of a little boy likewise found a special gift.
The child who loves to pretend will also love “The Box of Holes” by Carmen Gil and Monica Carretero. When a little girl buys an empty box, her mother is not very happy. But is the box really empty? That’s up to kids to decide, especially if they’ve got great imaginations…Likewise, if “what if” is a game in your house, then “Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster” by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt is a must-have.
If you are a biography fanatic, then get your preschooler on the same path with “Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything” by Maira Kalman. This is a small-child-friendly introduction to our third President, his life, and his work. It also offers a basic introduction to the Declaration of Independence, too.
(WI) You know what it’s like when that favorite stuffed toy goes missing. In “Budaniel” by Susan Kapanke, illustrated by JP Roberts. a young boy loses his lion while staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Will his beloved Simba ever come home?
(FL) When you’re little, it’s hard to wait for big things and in “Waiting 4 Baby Y” by Sasha Hampton, two young brothers are told that Momma is going to have a baby. But it’s not going to happen any time soon, and they don’t want to wait!
CHILDREN”S BOOKS – Big Kids
“The Legend of the Jersey Devil” by Trinka Hakes Noble, illustrated by Gerald Kelley is surely in picture book form (like those you’d see for little kids), but I thought this tale of monsters and rumors would be better for older kids. I loved the illustrations, but I’m afraid they could be awfully scary for small children. For ages 8 and up, though… you’ll have a devil of a time getting this book away. And for slightly older girls, “Real Mermaids Don’t Sell Sea Shells” by Hélène Boudreau is a great whodunit that doesn’t have drama. Okay, yes it does.
Older kids who loved Waldo years ago might get a kick out of “Where’s the Zombie?” by Jen Wainwright, illustrated by Paul Moran. The Zombie Apocalypse is nigh and the undead are hiding amongst the people in one large town. It’s up to your 12-and-up reader to find them before the zombies make more zombies.
Teens who’ve ever thought of packing up and living someone else’s life will enjoy “The Ultimate Book of Impostors” by Ian Graham. This book is filled with stories of frauds, criminals, and folks who faked their lives – usually for nefarious purposes. It’s fun, funny, and very entertaining. Kids who like that may enjoy “Bad Girls” by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. U. Stemple, illustrated by Rebecca Guay. Part words, part graphic novel, this nonfiction book is about sassy, villainous women throughout history.
For the future astronaut, “Women in Space” by Karen Bush Gibson is a great spring treat. This book offers the stories of 23 women pioneers in flight and in science. Check out the heroic work of Elena Kondakova, Shannon Lucid, Mae Jemison and, of course, Sally Ride. As you can probably tell, this book is about women from around the world, which will put NASA fans over the moon. For another bit of history, look for “Zane and the Hurricane” by Rodman Philbrick. That’s a novelized story of a boy who lived through Hurricane Katrina – meant for kids ages 10-14.
Curious kids will find all kinds of answers in “Why? Answers to Everyday Scientific Questions” by Joel Levy. Why is there rain? Why does it appear that we’re running out of oil? Why do some things float (while others don’t)? Kids 10-and-up who want to know will want this book, too. I also really liked “Buried Beneath Us” by Anthony Aveni, illustrated by Katherine Roy. It’s a book for budding archaeologists and kids who just plain like to dig.
(WI) Teens the world over are the same. Don’t believe it? Then read “Out of the Pocket” by B.E. Stanfel. It’s the story of a high school football player who’s struggling with life while his father is in Iraq . When he starts an email relationship with a boy his father knows overseas, he finds support in an unlikely place….
And now, the fine print: some books may have to be ordered from your local bookstore or library. Titles are subject to change. If you need more information, ask your very favorite bookseller and you’ll get scads more information. Really, booksellers are somehow related to Superman. For sure, they Know All.
Happy Reading !