Librarian Picks: 9 Delightful Books to Read Under the Summer Sky

June 29 2021
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Carol Ann Tack is the host of the popular podcast, Top Shelf at Merrick Library. She also hosts Top Shelf Live! on YouTube. Carol Ann is Head of Reader Services at Merrick Library. When she is not interviewing or editing, you can find her with a glass of cabernet and the latest horror, sci-fi, or thriller. Find out more here!

Are you relishing in these summer days? Let’s keep you reading away with a few of the books I’m bringing to the beach. Some come out later, some sooner, and some you can grab right now. Whatever you do, don’t forget the sunscreen!

Stay Up with Hugo Best
by Erin Somers

The perfect book for a lazy picnic or pool day is STAY UP WITH HUGO BEST by Erin Somers. June Bloom finds herself unemployed when her boss, talk show host Hugo Best, retires. Happenstance throws them back together over Memorial Day weekend in New York City in this archly observed debut novel from Somers. I'm mentioning this one again in case you missed it. And let's face it, the cover alone is perfect for your summer getaway. I was thrilled to host Erin Summers on the podcast. Listen to us talk about Hugo Best.

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Stay Up with Hugo Best
Erin Somers

One of Vogue’s Best Books of 2019

“Incisive, funny, and tinged with melancholy, the timely novel follows two lost but clever souls desperate for connection.” —Entertainment Weekly

June Bloom is twenty-nine, broke, and an aspiring comedy writer. Hugo Best is a beloved late-night TV icon and notorious womanizer who invites her to his mansion for Memorial Day weekend. This is the story of their four days together, a “zippy…magnificent…devilishly fun ride” (Vogue).

When June Bloom, an assistant on the late-night comedy show, Stay Up with Hugo Best, runs into Hugo himself at an open mic following his unexpected retirement, she finds herself fielding a surprising invitation: Hugo asks June to come to his mansion in Greenwich for the long Memorial Day weekend. “No funny business,” he insists. “Incisive, funny, and tinged with melancholy, this timely novel follows two lost but clever souls desperate for connection” (Entertainment Weekly).

June, in need of a job and money, but harboring the remains of a childhood crush on the charming older comedian and former role model, is confident she can handle herself. She accepts. As the weekend unfolds and the enigmatic Hugo gradually reveals appealingly vulnerable facets to his personality, their dynamic proves to be much more complicated and less predictable than June imagined.

“A witty and subtle commentary on sex, power, and social politics” (Refinery 29) and “an outstanding comedic debut” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), Stay Up with Hugo Best announces a gloriously irreverent, bold, and winning new voice in fiction.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Leaving Coy's Hill
by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

Nothing says beach reading better than immersive historical fiction and LEAVING COY’S HILL by Katherine A. Sherbrooke hits it right out of the park. Sherbrooke brings us the life of Lucy Stone, a little-known leader of the Women’s Rights Movement during the 1800s. Lucy Stone was an abolitionist, suffragette, and orator . . . all unthinkable achievements at the time. Sherbrooke takes readers through Stone’s inspiring, heartbreaking, and unforgettable life story and the remarkable Lucy Stone will stay with you long after you turn the last page. After reading the book, I just had to interview Katherine A. Sherbrooke for the Top Shelf Podcast and you can listen to that right here.

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Leaving Coy's Hill
Katherine A. Sherbrooke

An unforgettable story about the triumphs and travails of a woman unwilling to play by the rules, based on the the remarkable life of pioneering feminist and abolitionist Lucy Stone. 

Born on a farm in 1818, Lucy Stone dreamt of extraordinary things for a girl of her time, like continuing her education beyond the eighth grade and working for the abolitionist cause, and of ordinary things, such as raising a family of her own. But when she learns that the Constitution affords no rights to married women, she declares that she will never marry and dedicates her life to fighting for change.

At a time when it is considered promiscuous for women to speak in public, Lucy risks everything for the anti-slavery movement, her powerful oratory mesmerizing even her most ardent detractors as she rapidly becomes a household name. And when she begins to lecture on the “woman question,” she inspires a young Susan B. Anthony to join the movement. But life as a crusader is a lonely one. 

When Henry Blackwell, a dashing and forward-thinking man, proposes a marriage of equals, Lucy must reconcile her desire for love and children with her public persona and the legal perils of marriage she has long railed against. And when a wrenching controversy pits Stone and Anthony against each other, Lucy makes a decision that will impact her legacy forever.

Based on true events, Leaving Coy’s Hill is a timeless story of women’s quest for personal and professional fulfillment within society’s stubborn constraints. And as an abolitionist and women’s rights activist fighting for the future of a deeply divided country, Lucy Stone’s quest to live a life on her own terms is as relevant as ever. In this “propulsive,” “astonishing,” and “powerful” story, Katherine Sherbrooke brings to life a true American heroine for a new generation.

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MENTIONED IN:

Librarian Picks: 9 Delightful Books to Read Under the Summer Sky

By Carol Ann Tack | June 29, 2021

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The Last Thing He Told Me
by Laura Dave

Relaxing on the beach with a book means different things to different people. Sometimes I relax right into an edge-of-my-seat thriller because I know if I put the book down, I’m still facing the sun! Which is why I'm starting off my list with THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME by Laura Dave. Dave’s sixth book is a nail-biter that asks the question: How well do we know the ones we love? “This is the thing about good and evil. They aren’t so far apart.” With sentences like that, this book will have you riveted.

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The Last Thing He Told Me
Laura Dave

From internationally bestselling author Laura Dave comes a riveting new suspense novel about a woman’s search for the truth about her husband’s disappearance—no matter the cost.

We all have stories we never tell.

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.

With its breakneck pacing, dazzling plot twists, and unforgettable characters, The Last Thing He Told Me is bestselling author Laura Dave’s finest novel yet, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn. This propulsive thriller with a heart is for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes.

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Falling
by T. J. Newman

You could go for a swim in between chapters, or you could just take the literal plunge with FALLING by T. J. Newman. Newman is a former flight attendant and knows whereof she speaks! That knowledge makes this a pulse-pounding debut and a serious action-packed flight. I won't say too much but I can tell you to please adjust your seats to their upright position and fasten those seatbelts. You’re about to embark on a flight with Captain Bill Hoffman that will make you happy your feet are planted firmly in the sand.

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Falling
T. J. Newman

“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.” —Don Winslow
Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.” —James Patterson
“Amazing...Intense suspense, shocks and scares...Chilling.” —Lee Child
“The perfect summer thriller. Relentlessly paced and unforgettable.” —Janet Evanovich

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
by Anthony Doerr

Speaking of trying to stay aloft, this will be easy with the wonderful and joyful new book by Anthony Doerr. You may recognize Anthony Doerr from a moderately successful book a while back, a little something called ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE (lol). Well, he’s back this September with CLOUD CUCKOO LAND. It’s a tour de force that soars back and forth over time from Constantinople to Idaho; the story evolves and expands yet connects in wonderful ways. Doerr had given us a book filled with love, joy, and hope. I won’t say a word more so you can discover the magic for yourselves. It hits shelves this September 2021.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
Anthony Doerr

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, perhaps the most bestselling and beloved literary fiction of our time, comes a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring novel about children on the cusp of adulthood in a broken world, who find resilience, hope, and story.

The heroes of Cloud Cuckoo Land are trying to figure out the world around them: Anna and Omeir, on opposite sides of the formidable city walls during the 1453 siege of Constantinople; teenage idealist Seymour in an attack on a public library in present day Idaho; and Konstance, on an interstellar ship bound for an exoplanet, decades from now. Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of peril.

An ancient text—the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky—provides solace and mystery to these unforgettable characters. Doerr has created a tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us and those who will be here after we’re gone.

Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” Cloud Cuckoo Land is a hauntingly beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship—of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.

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Keep Moving
by Maggie Smith

If you find it impossible to focus and just need something to help you through these tricky days, KEEP MOVING: NOTES ON LOSS, CREATIVITY, AND CHANGE by Maggie Smith is the answer. Mingled with some of her own life experiences, Smith reminds us in little parcels that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling and to take a breath. Honestly, this will help you get through the hour, the day, the month, the year.

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Keep Moving
Maggie Smith

USA TODAY BESTSELLER

“A meditation on kindness and hope, and how to move forward through grief.” —NPR

“A shining reminder to learn all we can from this moment, rebuilding ourselves in the darkness so that we may come out wiser, kinder, and stronger on the other side.” —The Boston Globe

“Powerful essays on loss, endurance, and renewal.”People

Cosmopolitan’s “Best Nonfiction Books of 2020”
Marie Claire’s “2020 Books You Should Pre-Order Now”
Parade’s “25 Self-Help Books To Get Your 2020 Off On The Right Foot”
The Washington Post’s “What to Read in 2020 Based on the Books You Loved in 2019”

For fans of Anne Lamott and Cleo Wade, a collection of quotes and essays on facing life’s challenges with creativity, courage, and resilience.

When Maggie Smith, the award-winning author of the viral poem “Good Bones,” started writing inspirational daily Twitter posts in the wake of her divorce, they unexpectedly caught fire. In this deeply moving book of quotes and essays, Maggie writes about new beginnings as opportunities for transformation. Like kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics with gold, Keep Moving celebrates the beauty and strength on the other side of loss. This is a book for anyone who has gone through a difficult time and is wondering: What comes next?

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The Fortnight in September
by R.C. Sherriff

THE FORTNIGHT IN SEPTEMBER by R. C. Sherriff is a delightful beach read. It's the 1930s and the Stevens family of five take a two-week holiday to the English seaside. Sheriff gives voice to each family member in such a way that you become quickly invested in them during their time at the beach. Not much happens to this very ordinary family, but the quiet and beautiful musings will find you thinking of them long after the last page. R. C. Sherriff is no longer with us, so to have this book back on shelves this September leaves me feeling all sun-shiny indeed.

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The Fortnight in September
R.C. Sherriff

This charming, timeless classic about a family of five setting out on their annual seaside vacation is “the most uplifting, life-affirming novel I can think of...the beautiful dignity to be found in everyday living has rarely been captured more delicately” (Kazuo Ishiguro).

Meet the Stevens family, as they prepare to embark on their yearly holiday to the coast of England. Mr. and Mrs. Stevens first made the trip to Bognor Regis on their honeymoon, and the tradition has continued ever since. They stay in the same guest house and follow the same carefully honed schedule—now accompanied by their three children, twenty-year-old Mary, seventeen-year-old Dick, and little brother Ernie.

Arriving in Bognor they head to Seaview, the guesthouse where they stay every year. It’s a bit shabbier than it once was—the landlord has died and his wife is struggling as the number of guests dwindles every year. But the family finds bliss in booking a slightly bigger cabana, with a balcony, and in their rediscovery of the familiar places they visit every year.

Mr. Stevens goes on his annual walk across the downs, reflecting on his life, his worries and disappointments, and returns refreshed. Mrs. Stevens treasures an hour spent sitting alone with her medicinal glass of port. Mary has her first small taste of romance. And Dick pulls himself out of the malaise he’s sunk into since graduation, resolving to work towards a new career. The Stevenses savor every moment of their holiday, aware that things may not be the same next year.

Delightfully nostalgic and soothing, The Fortnight in September is an extraordinary novel about ordinary people enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

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All Together Now
by Matthew Norman

While we're traveling, how about hitting up Fenwick Island, Delaware? That's where Matthew Norman brings us in ALL TOGETHER NOW. Billionaire Robby gathers his closest friends for a beach retreat that will change each of their lives dramatically, including his own. This novel of friendship, family, and fraternity will kick off your summer reading perfectly. I can’t thank Matthew Norman joining me for Episode 65, listen to our interview right here. 

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All Together Now
Matthew Norman

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MENTIONED IN:

Librarian Picks: 9 Delightful Books to Read Under the Summer Sky

By Carol Ann Tack | June 29, 2021

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The Guncle
by Steven Rowley

Let's head to Palm Springs, California for our next summer read. Gay Uncle Patrick, or GUP, steps in after a family tragedy to help his young niece and nephew in Steven Rowley's latest, THE GUNCLE. At the behest of his brother, Patrick brings Maisie and Grant to his home in Palm Springs and I'll leave it up to the reader to predict who helps whom. The layers of this delightful story unfold like the finest of caftans as Rowley tackles modern day family issues with love and humor. For Episode 62, I sat down with Steven Rowley to talk about his love for libraries, the character of Patrick, and so much more. Listen here!

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The Guncle
Steven Rowley

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MENTIONED IN:

Librarian Picks: 9 Delightful Books to Read Under the Summer Sky

By Carol Ann Tack | June 29, 2021

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Photo credit: iStock / Mike_Sheridan

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