Six More Recommendations from Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Summer’s not over yet! There’s still time to discover your favorite summer read.

Adult Summer Challenge 2017 participants recommend the following:

Cherrie W. (Central Library) on Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn: I’m still reeling from reading this book[…] […]I am amazed at how well it describes growing up in poverty in the Caribbean. To read about the generational neglect and pain of the three protagonists – Delores, Margot, and Thandi and their life experiences amid the colonialism, classism, and colorism that existed in Jamaica at that time, in addition to the challenges of living in a country that relies on tourism dollars, was painful and yet poignant. Excellent read!

Monty P. (Central Library) on American Eclipse by David Baron: David Baron shows us a fascinating glimpse of 1878 America as several scientists and adventurers travel into the West to chronicle the first major solar eclipse in our nation’s history.  Pioneering scientists James Craig Watson, astronomer Maria Mitchell, Thomas Edison, and many more braved early railroad travel, stagecoach and numerous hazards to bring us out of a barbarous Gilded Age and onto the world scientific stage by recording a remarkable celestial event.  This book reminds me of some of Bill Bryson’s work, with multiple facets of interest and wonderful details.  This is a good book-group choice in this year when we are anticipating another total solar eclipse.

Anne M. (Govans Branch) on A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin: This is the story of a family that falls to pieces under the pressure of living with an abundantly gifted tyrant.  Milo Andret is a mathematician whose way of living in the world is painful, both for his family, colleagues and lastly, himself.  He had an unwillingness to ease anyone’s pain; or rather, a complete ‘inability’ to ease it.  His or anyone else’s.

Mona P. (Light Street Branch) on A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler: Baltimore author has written a sweet story of a single dad who struggles to be a good person, father, son, worker, and friend.

Lucie F. (Staff) on The Muse by Jessie Burton: I was happily caught up in Jessie Burton’s beautiful words and in the entwining stories of the two heroines in two different eras, as a mysterious painting of St. Rufina is created, then discovered. At first Odelle and Olive seem very different: one is a Trinidadian immigrant and writer trying to find her place in 1960’s London, the other a wealthy British daughter on vacation in Civil-War-era Spain, who paints in secret. The painting’s backstory connects them plot-wise, but as the novel progresses, Burton explores their connection more deeply in terms of what it means to create, to put your creation out in the world, and the way it affects relationships.

Emily  A. (Washington Village Branch) on Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly: The extensive research done for this story combines with the former journalist author’s talent to provide an extensive view of society on two continents from the beginning of Germany’s invasion of Poland in World War Two and throughout the war, to the late-twentieth-century aftermaths of the three main characters. Well done!

For a chance to win fabulous prizes, submit an entry to the Adult Summer Challenge here. The program ends August 16.

Eight Page-Turners: More Adult Summer Challenge Reviews

We’re still receiving terrific reviews from our 2017 Adult Summer Challenge participants. Take these, for example:

Tracy G. (Canton Branch) on A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab: Read this riveting fantasy novel on my honeymoon and it swept me away to another world, just as I had hoped! Great for teens and adults alike.

Alexandra P. (Central Library) on Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay: Gay’s writing is always brave, bold, and powerful but never more than in Hunger. Her honesty and vulnerability make the reader want to be more honest and vulnerable themselves.

 Jamie P. (Edmondson Avenue Branch) on The Sellout by Paul Beatty: I don’t usually read social satire, but this book is an amazing rip through race in America — hard to find a more complex and important subject to spend time with… to spend time laughing with and at (and at yourself)… because some things are so tangled and fraught that you have to get out a good laugh before you get your back up to working on making it better.

Bob M. (Govans Branch) on Trajectory by Richard Russo: Russo’s best writing since Nobody’s Fool. This book contains four short stories (really novellas) that reflect upon life in middle age. One of our best living American male writers, writing at his highest level. Very funny and poignant, highly recommended.

Terry S. (Light Street Branch) on Route 66 A.D. by Tony Perrottet: A witty and wonderful trip with the author and his pregnant wife as they retrace the steps of ancient Roman tourists around the Mediterranean, while comparing notes from the ancients’ writing with modern experience.  (Spoiler alert: Little has changed.)

Tracy D. (Staff) on Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place by Scott McClanahan: This book will make you feel every person you’ve ever known, those ghosts you loved that have never left. I felt really sad, because fate, but really hopeful, because reflection, while reading this book. Though home follows you, you can never go back. “I felt darkness because I had been deep in the hollers, and I knew glory because I had stood on top of the beautiful mountaintops. More mountaintops please. More mountaintops.”

Dominic F. (Central Library) on Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge: A must-read for anyone approaching 50 or retirement, especially men. How to exercise and the science of why it’s necessary are explained in fun and interesting style. This book could change your life. Sounds hokey, but it could.

Lu Ann M. (Washington Village Branch) on Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich: Evanovich never fails to deliver–Stephanie Plum, a bond-enforcement agent in New Jersey, and her cohorts serve up adventure and humor.  I try to read these at home, because people tend to look at you like you’re crazy when you are by yourself and laughing out loud.  Can’t wait until #23.

For a chance to win fabulous prizes, submit an entry to the Adult Summer Challenge here.


Five Rave Reviews from 2017 Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Check out five reading recommendations from our 2017 Adult Summer Challenge participants.

Gregory B. (Central Library) on The Pale King by David Foster Wallace: The unfinished, and perhaps unfinishable, novel of the great master of late-20th-century fiction. Taking as its subjects the themes of boredom and dread, this selection of posthumously arranged chapters recount the experiences of a set of characters employed in a fictionalized IRS office in the mid-1980’s, in which the rise of computerized mechanization threatens the established order. Combining the meta-fictional commentary of 18th-century English novels with the minutely observed realism of 19th-century Russian fiction, Wallace creates a deeply imagined world of entwined narratives that gesture toward a grand plot without ever fully coalescing.

Pearl K. (Forest Park Branch) on White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson: This book is an eye-opener on the historical tension between blacks and whites from slavery to current day. The painful truth stirs many emotions. The author captures and highlights the many obstacles that African Americans have fought and overcome to rise to their current level.  It is a book to be read by all. Dr. Anderson provides well-researched documentation on the historical policies and laws that propagated the divide. Her insight causes her to wonder what could have been, had justice been handled differently by courts and the laws that caused many restrictions.

Laurel B. (Govans Branch)  on Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: The need for love and family and the repulsion from the realities of day-to-day family life are at the heart of the tragedy of Commonwealth. Two families, brought together by an affair, divorce and remarriage, must take on new identities and carry the burdens of old pain. Through the life stories of parents and children, the hybrid question of “who must change/who can change?” is posed and posed again as the common wealth of their experiences threatens to overwhelm at every turn. When a famous author discovers the family’s story and takes more than his share of it, the people who lived through it must examine it with fresh eyes. A tale of many times and many places, Commonwealth leads you on a journey that surprises even as it feels like home.

Cornelia B. (Light Street Branch) on We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby: This hysterical and poignant essay collection is the most entertaining book I’ve read all year. Put on your stretch pants, pop a multivitamin, and enjoy Irby’s book about living in Chicago, premature aging, and her mischievous cat.

Michael T. (Roland Park Branch) on Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson: Wow is this a good book. It violates so many “rules” of writing that I’ve learned and flaunts them delightfully. I never knew which way a story was going or why it went that way and I couldn’t have been happier. I’m going to have to avoid copying the style in my own writing, at least for a while.

For a chance to win fabulous prizes, submit an entry to the Adult Summer Challenge here.

Eight Great Reviews from 2017 Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Our 2017 Adult Summer Challenge participants have discovered some fantastic summer reads. Here are some:

Latanya C. (Central Library) on Fun Home : A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel: This was the first time I ever read a graphic novel.  It was really fun and interesting.  The story was amazing.  To live with someone all your life and not know that they are living a secret life is mind-blowing.  I saw a lot of me in the author.  Even though the story was a comedy, you could feel her pain.  I recommend this book to everyone.

Catherine H. (Govans Branch) on Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: A great read with a fascinating lead character, this story explores what happens when a woman accustomed to a life of isolation begins to make meaningful connections with others. Both funny and heartbreaking at times, Honeyman manages to strike a balance that keeps Eleanor from being too quirky or too sad.  By the end, you’ll be cheering for Eleanor and reveling in her transformation.

Mark C. (Govans Branch) on Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: An incredible memoir of the Daily Show host growing up in Apartheid and post-Apartheid South Africa. What a life! Easy to read and very engaging, filled with a mix of humor, poignancy, critique of Apartheid, history, and celebration of his mother.

Jenna H. (Hampden Branch) on A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: A good read to help you think deeply about people and how to make a positive change in the lives of others.

Michael D. (Light Street Branch) on A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914-1918 by G. J. Meyer: Consider this book as a beautifully researched update of Tuchman’s Guns of August. And then the history goes on for many readable pages, emphasizing European events on the battlefields of the Great Powers as well as some lesser events on the ground, giving general coverage to events at sea and in the colonies of the warring power through the end of 1917.  The author clearly benefited from the five decades of more released information since Tuchman. He will cover the impact of America’s entry into the war in the next volume…which I look forward to.

Nicole M. (Orleans Street Branch) on And Then There Was Me by Sadeqa Johnson: Great book! All women can relate with family, children, friendship, marriage, and infidelities.

Holly T. (Staff) on Dying To Be Me by Anita Moorjani: Anita Moorjani’s Near-Death Experience and complete recovery from stage 4 cancer is amazing and wondrous! It’s also hard to believe. But it’s a beautiful story. “I want to believe” as Fox Mulder’s UFO poster says.

Yvonne M. (Walbrook Branch) on The Shack by William P. Young: What a great read. The Shack makes you contemplate everything you’ve been taught about religion.

For a chance to win fabulous prizes, submit an entry to the Adult Summer Challenge here.

Seven Selections: Reviews from the 2017 Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Check out these reading recommendations from participants in the Adult Summer Challenge:

Bobbi O. (Central Library) on Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple: Mothers in particular will relate to this book—or any woman who has experienced loss or just tries her best to look, feel, and be her best self. Witty, funny, poignant.

Melina T. (Govans Branch) on Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: This is Ms. Gyasi’s first novel and it has so much to offer. The story follows two half sisters from Ghana and eight generations of each sister, one who remains in Africa and the other who is sold into slavery. I really like how Ms. Gyasi structures the book, with stories from each sister and then each successive generation. The sections dealing with West Africa are so lovely, lyrical, and painful. The second half of the book, in America, does not have as developed characters or insights, but still such an awesome first book and I know Yaa Gyasi will be an important voice in the future!

Robert B. (Light Street Branch) on Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth by Holger Hoock: So, here we are with another book discussing those familiar times and resonant with the names of America’s founders — Franklin, Washington, Hamilton, et al. You might wonder what could possibly be said that hasn’t been said before. This is where Hoock’s Scars of Independence distinguishes itself. Most of us believe that the American Revolution was a reasonably moral and ethical one with no resemblance whatsoever to some of the truly bloody upheavals that followed thereafter, such as the French Revolution. Hoock’s exhaustive research proves that our revolution is replete with examples of violence and cruelty, on the part of both Patriots and Loyalists, Americans and British. If you enjoy reading history, you won’t want to miss this one!


Jeannette T. (Pennsylvania Avenue Branch) on Bahama Love by Khara Campbell: Breathtaking! Full of fire and desire. […]It was good to the very end and kept you on the edge. It had a beautiful ending. Read the book!!! You won’t be disappointed.

Yvette J. (Reisterstown Road Branch) on All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou: A biography woven together with rich history, humor, colorful imagery and emotion.

Rob G. (Southeast Anchor Library) on Night Film by Marisha Pessl: So exciting I finished it in one day!

Lisa G. (Staff) on Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: Abraham Lincoln, Buddhism, and ghosts: what more could you want from a novel?  I loved this!

For a chance to win fabulous prizes, submit an entry to the Adult Summer Challenge here.