Staff Book Suggestions Summer 2023
I don’t know what kind of summer it’s going to be but I can tell you I am in my nostalgia era and I welcome you to join me down on Sesame Street!
Sunny Days: The Children’s Television Revolution That Changed America by David Kamp
(Library of Congress Classification PN1992.8.C46 K36 2020)
Kamp’s 2020 book tells the history of Sesame Street, as well as the other shows of the time: Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, The Electric Company, Schoolhouse Rock!. I’ve always enjoyed Kamp’s dependable and entertaining style. Whether he is talking about sun-dried tomatoes in The United States of Arugula, or in Sunny Days speaking to Marlo Thomas about Free to be You and Me, Kamp is never lacking for sources.
Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis
(Library of Congress Classification PN1992.77.S43 D38 2008)
HBO (AKA “Max”) released a documentary in 2021, Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, which like most great movies, starts with a book, Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis, published in 2008. It’s a beautiful creation story of what people can do and how impactful inclusivity can be for children and adults everywhere. I’m not just talking about in front of the camera when it comes to seeing people who look like you—which is extremely important—but also about the amount of time and effort provided by educators to create content that would engage children and then get feedback from the kids to see what worked and what didn’t.
While I recommend both these books, I would say the audio book of Street Gang is especially enjoyable because it is read by Caroll Spinney. Did you know that he modeled Oscar the Grouch’s voice after the NYC cab driver who took him to his audition? Okay, no more spoilers.
Now let’s all sing… “Who are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day.”
Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
(Library of Congress Classification PZ3 .B79 Te)
Why is Anne relegated to a footnote in the Brontë story? While I have long appreciated the works of her sisters, especially Charlotte’s Villette, I had assumed that Anne’s work was inferior to that of her siblings, given the relatively meager attention she receives. My assumption proved groundless. Devoid of the Gothic window dressing of the older Brontës, Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall offers a frank, uncompromising, and emotionally charged portrait of marital abuse and the corrosive effects of alcoholism, themes that are sadly contemporary. In Anne’s telling, this story could be written today and still ring true, if the formal manner of discourse were removed (Not that I’m suggesting such a measure! Revisiting nineteenth literature offers a reminder of how richly expressive the English language can be). Come out from the shadow of your sisters, Anne!
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
(Library of Congress Young Adult PZ7 .L6 Las 2021)
I don’t often dwell in YA territory. Being many years removed from that demographic and a bit world weary, a genre that I perceived to be teeming with disaffected teens, dystopian societies, and death offers little appeal. How surprising then to find a YA novel of historical fiction with an emotionally resonant story. Malinda Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club concerns Lily Hu, a Chinese-American teenager growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown of the 1950’s. Lily’s life is complicated by her sense of obligation to adhere to the suffocating code of conduct dictated by her tradition-bound family and a desire to partake in the alluring world that lies beyond the boundaries of Chinatown. Lily’s increasing self-awareness about her sexual identity adds to her internal conflict. This is one of the best works of queer literature I have read. Lo perfectly captures the emotional stew of giddy anticipation, fear, guilt, and desire that accompanies coming to terms with being a gay teen.
Moon Pops by Heena Baek
(Library of Congress Classification Children Picture Book + BAEK)
On a night so hot the moon melts from the sky, Granny Wolf catches the liquid melted moon, pops it in her fridge, and makes glowing moon-sicles for her neighbors. The story is loosely based on a Korean folktale and illustrated with striking photographs of lit three-dimensional collages. This quirky picture book is perfect for staying up past your bedtime on a magical summer night.
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
(Library of Congress Classification PZ3.J27 Su 2008)
A short and sweet series of vignettes that are simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking. And, as the title implies, it’s perfect for summer!
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
(Library of Congress Classification PZ4.W6835 Bla 2022)
Black Cake is a story about family, love, and sacrifice that is told from the perspective of multiple characters spanning decades. When Benny and Byron’s mother dies, the estranged siblings are left with just an audio recording from their mother and a black cake. As the siblings listen to the recording, they realize how little they know about their mother, and just how many secrets their family, and they themselves, harbor. Wilkerson takes the reader on a journey around the world with complex, deep, and intriguing characters who must make tough choices to protect themselves and the ones they love.
A Few Collectors by Pierre Le-Tan; translated from the French by Michael Z. Wise
(Library of Congress N5200 .L48 2022)
I truly enjoyed this little book. A wonderful way to discover artists, collectors, and designers that I had not heard about and Pierre Le-Tan’s drawings are a true delight.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
(Library of Congress PZ4 .M9739 Co 2018)
This is the story of Keiko, a woman who has worked in a convenience store for her entire adult life and is perfectly satisfied in what others see as a dead-end job. She is befuddled by her friends’ and family’s desire for her to be “normal.” Keiko’s frank narration delivers refreshingly sharp observations about conventional expectations and experiences outside of societal norms; this is a quick read that prompted me to consider my biases about the modern workforce and life’s trajectory.
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
(Library of Congress PZ4.G218 Ol 2006)
Jane Gardam is a novelist who deserves to be much better known in the US. Old Filth is the first novel of a trilogy where the same stories are explored from different perspectives. “Old Filth” is the nickname of a successful former judge returned to England from Hong Kong. The novel is highly readable and a terrific portrait of a fascinating character.
Revenge of the Librarians by Tom Gauld
(Library of Congress PN6737.G38 R48 2022)
This short book of cartoons is designed to appeal to all readers. You will laugh out loud as you peruse its pages.
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (through Network Effect)
(Available on cloudLibrary)
Network Effect by Martha Wells
(Library of Congress PZ4 .W4595 Ne 2020)
SecUnit is meant to be a mindless security bot whose every action is controlled by its owner corporation, but after “accidentally” becoming self aware and disabling its control module, it decides to assert its independence mainly by streaming intergalactic soap operas during mission downtime. SecUnit must balance a desire to avoid any and all earnest social interactions while hiding its illegal autonomy, and making sure none of the hapless humans under its protection are harmed by planetary threats or sinister plots.
The Cloisters by Katy Hays
(Library of Congress PZ4.H282 Cl 2022)
Set in NYC in the steaming heat of summer, The Cloisters follows Ann Stilwell, a young, would-be curatorial assistant who has moved to the city from middle America expecting a new start at the Met. Disaster seems imminent when she discovers her position is no longer available, but she is swept up instead into the gothic Met Cloisters. If you are in the mood for August in NYC, and deadly museum intrigue, this is the summer read for you.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
(Library of Congress Classification PZ4.F64875 Sh 2006)
I’m sure some folks are already familiar with this novel (or perhaps the fabulously done HBO miniseries based on it), but my summer reading rec is Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Reporter and unreliable narrator Camille returns to her tiny Missouri hometown in the hopes of a much-needed success story, covering a series of mysterious murders that cut much closer to home than she originally realizes. The slow-burn gravity and depth of the unfolding plot are as tangible as the summer mugginess and heat that stifle the narrator almost as much as her hypochondriac mother and the weight of her own past. This book kept me hooked through the shocking (sometimes graphic) discoveries and mundane humid porch moments alike; it’s balanced right on the precipice of imagination. My jaw hit the floor upon reaching the final plot twist of this novel, a twist that still makes me shudder. Whether you’ve seen the miniseries or cannot wait until after you’ve read the novel to do so, add Sharp Objects to your summer reading list!
Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, (translated by Michael Hofmann)
(Library of Congress Classification IN PROCESSING)
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the translation of Erpenbeck’s latest novel, and it appeared June 6. The author was born in East Germany and described the changes that occurred after the collapse of the Berlin wall as emigrating without packing a bag: her country moved rather than her. This novel begins in the mid-1908s when a 19-year-old meets an established, married, middle-aged author. Their romance is set against all that comes next. I have only started the book but recommend it unreservedly.
A Chateau Under Siege by Martin Walker
(Library of Congress Classification IN PROCESSING)
My second recommendation is one for the end of summer, because it will not be published until August 29. If you have not met Bruno Chief of Police—and if you enjoy mysteries fueled by eccentric characters and descriptions of good food—then you will want to start this series. Not everyone shares my need to read a series in order, but I strongly suggest you do for this one. Good thing you’ve got plenty of time before this appears on our shelves. I promise, I’ll give members first dibs.