THE WEEKLY - Take a summer reading trip

Local bibliophiles offer their picks for vacation reading.


By the backyard pool, along a river, on the beach or riding in a car or airplane heading to someplace else, a solid summer companion to bring along is a book. Or maybe two or three or more.

And even if you don't plan to physically travel someplace while on vacation, an engrossing read can take your mind to places you otherwise might never have gone.

Bibliophiles in Walla Walla offer a plethora of sure-fire reads for summer at the library and local bookstores. Here's a sampler:

For Stieg Larsson mystery fans (The Millennium trilogy), David Cosby of Earthlight Books "highly" recommends Norwegian thriller writer Jo Nesbo's engrossing series of mystery novels featuring Oslo policeman Inspector Harry Hole.

"Beautifully written and with more twists and turns than Scenic Loop Road, Nesbo's Scandinavian thrillers grab you by the throat and don't let go until the final page, Cosby says.

Six Harry Hole novels have been translated into English and are best read in chronological order. Unfortunately, the first two, "The Bat Man" and "Cockroaches" have yet to be translated into English. So unless you're fluent in Norwegian, Cosby says, start with "The Redbreast" and then continue with "Nemesis," "Devil's Star," "The Redeemer," "The Snowman" and "The Leopard."

If non-fiction is more your cup of tea (or beach umbrella drink, as it were), give Patti Smith's National Book Award-winning memoir "Just Kids" a try. The story of her early years with Robert Mapplethorpe, "Just Kids" is a hauntingly beautiful account of young love and artistic trials, tribulations, and dreams in New York City during the late sixties and seventies he says.

Jannelle Bruns, of Book and Game, has a long list of page-turners.

"Divergent" is debut author Veronica Roth's first book in a series of the same name. In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.

"This is my number one pick for teens this summer," says Bruns. "I finished it in one sitting -- I didn't even stop to eat dinner!"

Stanley Gordon West's "Blind your Ponies," is set in the hard-luck town of Willow Creek, Mont., where hope is hard to come by. But Sam Pickett and five young men are about to change that.

As the coach of the hapless high school basketball team (0 wins, 93 losses), Sam can't help but be moved by the bravery he sees in everyday lives of people -- including his own young players -- bearing their sorrows and broken dreams. How do they carry on, believing in a future that seems to be based on the flimsiest of promises? Drawing on the strength of the boys on the team, sharing the hope they display despite insurmountable odds, Sam finally begins to see a future worth living.

"The Event Group Series," by David Lynn Goleman, is another on Bruns' list. The group is the most secret organization in the United States, comprised of the nation's most brilliant individuals in science, philosophy and the military. Led by valiant Maj. Jack Collins, they are dedicated to uncovering the hidden truths behind the myths and legends propagated throughout world history -- from underground agencies and conspiracy theories to extraterrestrial life and UFOs.

Titles in the series include "Event," "Legend," "Ancients," "Leviathan" and, the most recent, "Primeval," which delves into the Pacific Northwest's legend of Bigfoot.

For something on the lighter, more uplifting side, Bruns recommends W. Bruce Cameron's "A Dog's Purpose," now in paperback. It's not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog's many lives, she says, but also a dog's-eye view commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend.

"This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches that love never dies, that true friends are always here, and that every creature on Earth is born with a purpose," Bruns says.

For a trip back in time, and across the Atlantic Ocean, there's Lynn Cullen's "The Creation of Eve." Bruns describes it as a "riveting novel" based on the true but little- known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female artist of the Renaissance. After Sofi's flight from Rome, her family eagerly accepts an invitation from fearsome King Felipe II of Spain for her to become lady-in-waiting and painting instructor to his young bride. The Spanish court is a nest of intrigue and gossip, where a whiff of impropriety can bring ruin.

Hopelessly bound by the rules and restrictions of her position, Sofi yearns only to paint. And yet the young Queen needs Sofi's help in other matters. Inexperienced as she is, the Queen not only fails to catch the King's eye, but she fails to give him an heir, both of which are crimes that could result in her banishment. Sofi guides her in how best to win the heart of the King, but the Queen is too young, and too romantic, to be satisfied. Soon, Sofi becomes embroiled in a love triangle involving the Queen, the King, and the King's illegitimate half-brother, Don Juan.

Combining art, drama and history from the Golden Age of Spain, "The Creation of Eve" is an expansive, original, and addictively entertaining novel that asks the question: Can one ever truly know another person's heart?

Beth Hudson, Walla Walla Public Library interim director, starts her summer reading list with a Middle East memoir, Tamara Chalabi's "Late for Tea at the Deer Palace."

For those who love a family saga with a rich history, plenty of action and a realistic setting, Chalabi delivers, says Hudson. She tells the story of her Iraqi family, from her great grandfather who was the minister of education in the 1920s to her father, Ahmed, who dared to oppose Saddam Hussein in the 1990s. Not only is this the story of her family's exile and eventual return to Iraq, but it is the tale of her own return to Iraq as an adult after the fall of Saddam.

"For those who desire a better understanding of Iraq and its recent history and for those who like their history to read like a novel," says Hudson, "this memoir will fit the bill."

In the time-travel genre there's "To Say Nothing of the Dog," by Connie Willis. It's a witty tale in which the reader travels with Ned Henry, who works for the Oxford University time travel research project in 2057 and who suffers from advanced time lag fatigue. Ned travels back to Victorian England in search of something called the bishop's bird stump, a true Victorian tchotchke, but it's not a simple assignment when you must confront the "slippage" and the incongruities created by moving about in time.

"A novel which includes chaos theory, romance, mystery, and a lot of humor is one which begs to be taken to the beach or to the backyard for an entertaining summer read," says Hudson.

"Caleb's Crossing," by Geraldine Brooks, delves into the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Native American graduate of Harvard College. Brooks, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has taken the thin thread of historical data and created a novel full of passion, magic and adventure. The voice of the story belongs to Bethia Mayfield, a member of pioneering English Puritans. As this young woman forges a bond of friendship with Caleb, the issues of strict Calvinism, human rights, educational opportunities and cultural divides come into play.

And what summer reading list is complete without a murder mystery.

Hudson's pick for that is "The Holy Thief," by William Ryan. Set in Moscow in 1936, Stalin's Great Terror is beginning and Capt. Alexei Korolev of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Militia is asked to investigate a gruesome murder. As his investigation gets underway, he encounters the Moscow's underworld. Knowing that he is under intense scrutiny and that one false move could send him to the frozen camps of the far north, he presses on only to uncover more bodies and increasing pressure to solve the crime.

And if that doesn't round out your reading list, says Hudson, don't miss anything by Jhumpa Lahiri, Rohinton Mistry, Stephen White, Mark Salzman, Louise Erdrich, Richard Russo or Elizabeth Strout.


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