Staff Picks for Summer Reading

Man reading on the beach of the Wisconsin River

What are you reading?

In the WHC office, this is one of our favorite things to talk about! We learn more about each other and add to our individual reading wish-lists.

Summer reading is a particular pleasure. This is what we are reading. And we’d love to hear from you!

Jessica Becker: I trust my husband when it comes to fiction. He reads voraciously, passing only his top picks down to me. Thanks to his suggestion, I kicked off my summer reading with Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. It has received all sorts of accolades, but I’d never heard of it. I was drawn in immediately by Walter’s accessible tone, the scenes set on the rocky coast of Italy in the 1960s, on the set of the famous film Cleopatra, and then in modern Hollywood. A collection of characters’ lives intertwine, the plot surprises, and the story is full of insight into the human condition. It’s a great novel, perfect for vacation reading.

Gail Kohl: I love this book, Shotgun Lovesongs, by Wisconsin author, Nickolas Butler. His beautiful prose about small town life strikes a cord on love and friendship from childhood to adult life. I didn’t want the story to end. This is Mr. Butler’s first novel but I’m confident we have not heard the last from him. Stay tuned….we have one more great Wisconsin author among us!

Michael Kean: At this stage in life, I’m most knowledgeable about books that interest young boys (specifically tweens or young teens). I read the entire Ranger’s Apprentice series, by John Flanagan, to my son and we both loved it. Think kingdoms, epic battles and heroes. The story follows the adventures of Will Treaty, mentored by Halt, the best Ranger in the service of the Kingdom of Araluen.

Dena Wortzel: My reading is primarily fiction but within that, is extremely eclectic. For the last two years I’ve been spending more time reading works in the literary canon that I really think I shouldn’t have missed. Luckily it’s not too late. This week I started The Bostonians by Henry James (which jumped out at me from the sale rack at Room of One’s Own, my favorite Madison bookstore). I’m loving it for the qualities I love in other works of James – most particularly the complexity of his characters, his extraordinary detailing of social relationships, his irony, and of course his glorious prose.  I was so consumed by it last night that I almost didn’t feel the gnats biting!

Mark Livengood: The few times a year I fly, in and out of Milwaukee, I take time to loaf around Renaissance Books, an excellent used bookstore inside the terminal.  The store’s wide selection of mountaineering books always comes as a surprise given the topography of southeast Wisconsin.  Last November there I found a signed hardback of Jules Tygiel’s Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, which I’ve been meaning to read for years.  Every summer I read a baseball book, and that’s the one on deck this summer.

Shawn Schey: I am reading Cartoon Marriage, Adventures in Love & Marriage written by two cartoonists for The New Yorker who fell for each other and got married. Having recently celebrated the 34th year of my own marriage, I am recognizing the myriad moments that make for comic situations, as depicted in these cartoons!

What are you reading?

Send a comment, post to facebook, let us know what you are reading this summer!

Our list is growing. The following suggestions were shared by WHC Board Members and friends of the WHC:

  • “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Eagen
  •  Neil Young’s semi-memoir “Waging Heavy Peace”
  • Charles Frazier’s novel “Thirteen Moons”
  • “Trafalgar,” a Captain Sharpe novel from Bernard Cornwell
  • A 50-year old text,”Satire: Critical Essays on Roman Literature,” and one published late last year, “Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing.” Both are about African American detective fiction.
  • Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s  collection of essays titled “The Amazing Thing About the Way it Goes.”
  • “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt
  • “All the light we cannot see” by Anthony Doers
  • “Banning DDT: How Citizen Activists in Wisconsin Led the Way” by Bill Berry
  • “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern
  • Bill Bryson’s “One Summer: America 1927”
  • Kim Thuy’s novel “Ru” 
  • “A Very Profitable War” by Didier Daeninckx and Sarah Martin
  • “Connecticut Yankee” by Mark Twain
  • Kate Atkinson’s books “Behind the Scenes at the Museum” and  “Life after Life”
  • Just finished Sue Monk Kidd’s “The invention of Wings”
  • “Swallows and Amazons” by Arthur Ransome
  • “Driftless” by David Rhodes
  • “The Art of Choosing” by Sheena Iyengar
  • “Caroline Bingley: A Continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice” by Jennifer Becton
  • “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safron Foer



Photo: Jessica’s husband reading on the beach of the Wisconsin River; photo taken by Jessica.


2 Responses

  1. Sharyn says:

    An historical fiction series by Diana Gabaldan, “Outlander”

  2. Ann Engelman says:

    I just finished a delightful read, “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion.

Leave a Reply