Staff picks for summer reading

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One of the best parts about summer is getting to read things you choose to read, rather than things that are assigned.  (Not that assigned readings are all bad, but choice is nice too!)  If you’re looking for ideas, here are some of our favorites:

Cover of 90 Minutes in Heaven90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper
Recommended by Denise Sneller

This is a moving story about a pastor who dies instantly in a car crash and goes to heaven. He is greeted by a welcoming committee of friends and loved ones who have already died and gone to heaven. The sights he sees, things he hears, and the experience of being in heaven is more wonderful than anything he has ever experienced.  It is an amazing account of the “outer gates” of heaven.

At the same time that the author is experiencing the glory of heaven, a man on earth is praying by his broken body, and at that moment, Don Piper is brought back to earth. For months, as he lies in a hospital bed wracked with pain, he wonders why God has not allowed him to stay in heaven, and why he must go through the agony of months in the hospital and a total of 34 surgeries. But he does return to be with his family, and God uses him to bless others.

This is a life-changing story and anyone who has doubts that God still speaks to people and performs modern-day miracles will emerge with a stronger faith. It’s also helpful for those who live in suffering, with daily chronic pain, or for those who wonder if there is hope for an afterlife. Don Piper’s story will encourage readers that life must continue beyond tragedy, and that the kingdom of heaven is real and is waiting for all believers.

Cover of The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Recommended by Greta Grond

The Glass Castle is a memoir about growing up in extreme poverty. The author’s father is often absent and an alcoholic, and her mother is incapable of meeting her children’s needs.  The four children, smart and resourceful, are left to take care of themselves, each other, and their parents.  The writing is clean and honest, and the author candidly discusses personal experiences that were humiliating and shameful.  Upon finishing, I found myself wondering about many of the book’s themes:  how we exercise the will to survive, how devastating addiction is, and how love grows even in the most dysfunctional of families.

Cover of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Recommended by Anne Mead

This debut novel recalls the German occupation of the Channel Islands and those living in London immediately after WWII. The book, told in the form of letters between the people on Guernsey Island and Juliet Ashton, a journalist in London, was very enjoyable. Their correspondence revealed stories of hardship, starvation and isolation under Nazi occupation as well as the formation of the literary society and the joys they had in sharing literature. For me, the greatest delight comes from the “quirky, loveable characters”, I wished I’d known them myself. I highly recommend this novel.

Cover of The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
Recommended by Heather Sas

In the historical fiction book The Help, Kathryn Stockett offers readers a glimpse of life in Mississippi during the early 1960s.  With believable characters, Stockett writes about human relationships amidst the Civil Rights Movement.  I loved how the story was written from the perspectives of three different women and enjoyed seeing the world through their eyes.  The beautifully descriptive writing drew me in and made me feel like I was right there.

Cover of The Master and MargaritaThe Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Recommended by Tim Schlak

Considered by many critics to be one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is a satirical tour de force that lambastes Stalinist Russia, its suffocating bureaucratization, and fervent atheism. Where the Soviet state and its guardians cannot permit God, they are forced to recognize Satan, who in the Russian tradition plays a decidedly different role from his Western counterparts as a force of evil that ultimately brings about good. Combining Stalin, Satan, Jesus, Pontius Pilate, a poet and his lover, demonic minions, various literati, bureaucrats and a big black cat, Bulgakov’s masterpiece weaves three threads—a love story between a poet (The Master) and his soul mate (Margarita), the misadventures of Satan’s retinue on a visit to Leningrad, and Christ’s crucifixion at the hands of Pontius Pilate—to form a seamless work of fiction, fantasy, satire, philosophy, history, and theology that is as deeply religious as it is entertaining and easy to read. An absolute must read!


Cover of The Story of Edgar SawtelleThe Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Recommended by Sherri Langton

A gripping plot, fascinating characters, rich and beautiful language.  All of these come together to tell the intriguing story of Edgar Sawtelle, a boy who was born mute.  The family, coping with intense grief and caustic envy, is torn as Edgar is forced to flee his own home.  Can he ever return?  Can he ever be safe again?


Cover of What the Dog SawWhat the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
Recommended by Anita Vogel

This book is an entertaining compilation of Gladwell’s nineteen brilliantly researched and provocative essays previously published in The New YorkerWhat the Dog Saw is filled with a variety of back stories about quirky subjects such as the secret of Heinz’s unbeatable ketchup and the history of women’s hair dye advertisements. Gladwell is a gifted writer with the ability to capture fascinating personalities while inviting the reader to think and think again. This is a perfect book for busy people-you can read one of his delightful essays in 15 minutes. Other books by Gladwell in our library collection are: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

Cover of ZeitounZeitoun by Dave Eggers
Recommended by Kalie VanderZyden

Dave Eggers interprets the events that occur to Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his family during and after Hurricane Katrina. The Zeitouns are a well-known and trusted family from New Orleans. As the threat of Hurricane Katrina looms, Zeitoun stays in New Orleans to protect their company and the rest of his family finds safety in another city. While helping his community during the aftermath, of the storm, he is arrested because they believe his devout Muslim Faith and Middle Eastern heritage to be a threat.  His faith, heart, and integrity are inspiring..  This book opens the readers eyes to little known events that occurred after Katrina and changes the way we view others.


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