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WKSU's Summer Favorites

Book and CD picks for the lazy days of summer
The summer heat in this area is excellent for tomatoes and corn - and for taking life a bit more slowly. As many folks stretch their weekends and take time off for family and vacations, it's the perfect time to sit down with an interesting book or to load something new into the CD changer. To help you find the perfect read or listen for your summer, read below for reading and music suggestions for the season from prominent members of the Northeast Ohio community.

Jian Ghomeshi
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden is a powerful seventeenth century historical fiction novel that explores the tale of Frenchman Christophe as he sets off into the wilderness in search of converts. When a Huron warrior named Bird takes him prisoner along with a young Iroquois girl, Snow Falls, the three characters are at odds as the Huron-Iroquois rivalry grows vicious. Bird understands that getting rid of both prisoners would resolve his issue, but he sees Christophe, however puzzling, as a potential emissary to those in New France, and Snow Falls as a replacement for the two daughters he had lost to the Iroquois. The Orenda traces a story of blood and hope, suspicion and trust, hatred and love, that comes to a head when Jesuit and Huron join together against the wrath of the Iroquois, when everything that any of them has ever known faces nothing less than eradication. Undoubtedly one of the most powerful books to come out in the past year. An epic and passionate tale of historical fiction involving indigenous peoples and their colonizers in North America.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi paints an unforgettable picture of daily life in Iran and of the vast contradictions between home life and public life. Satrapi's child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings and heroes of the revolution allows readers to learn as she does the history of Iran and of her own extraordinary family.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is an unforgettable story about finding a lost piece of yourself in someone else. Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us at the times that matter most. The novel follows its characters and the ramifications of their lives and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos. Riveting and beautifully told. As with The Kite Runner, Hosseini tells a compelling story while providing an education about Afghanistan and asking larger philosophical questions. I loved this book.

    Purchases through support WKSU.

David Giffels
University of Akron creative writing professor, author of The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt
Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler. I met Nickolas Butler at a publishing event in Chicago last fall, and we bonded over two things: beer, and the fact that we both had books with Midwestern themes coming out a week apart this spring. His is a debut novel about a set of friends from a small town in Wisconsin. It's gotten stellar reviews, and Butler is the kind of guy anyone would want to root for, Midwesterner or not. I have specific plans to read this on a Lake Michigan beach this summer.

The Golden Age of Glitter by Sweet Apple. I’ve really been looking forward to this second album by an oddball indie rock supergroup centered around the songwriting and general charisma of hyper-prolific Cleveland underground rock icon John Petkovic.

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart. The only question I have about this book is whether it can possibly be as entertaining as the book trailer (which you can check out on YouTube).

    Purchases through support WKSU.

Marvin Krislov
Oberlin College President
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier embarks readers on a powerful journey, brimming with color and drama. New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s vivid exploration of an iconic chapter in American history. This book is the story of a young woman, Honor Bright, who travels from England to Northeast Ohio in the nineteenth century, searching for, as so many did, a better life. As she adjusts to life in a new country, she becomes involved with the Underground Railroad. Well-researched, this book paints a nuanced portrait of an incredibly important time in this region's history.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride tells the story of Henry Shackleford, a slave who runs away to join abolitionist John Brown. McBride's writing style is every bit as graceful as it is hilarious; earning the comparisons to Mark Twain that he's garnered in the press.

    Purchases through support WKSU.

Gary Hanson
Executive Director, The Cleveland Orchestra
Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King unfolds the story of how a Renaissance genius bent men, materials, and the very forces of nature to build an architectural wonder we continue to marvel at today. The Florence "Duomo" is a marvel of architecture for any age, designed by Fillipo Brunelleschi in the fifteenth century for the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Constructed with a completely unorthodox plan. 70 million pounds of materials, using pre-Renaissance equipment, it is still the world's largest dome.

    Purchases through support WKSU.

Joan Arbogast
Children's book author, freelance writer
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann is a magical new series that parallels the worlds of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. The dystopian novel centers around twin boys Alex and Aaron, 13. Each year, the people of Quill are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination. Alex finds himself facing death as he prepares to be banished with the other Unwanteds until he discovers a world beyond his wildest imagination.

Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems will become a perennial favorite with preschoolers. Pigeon, like most children, is very particular about his bath. It can't be too hot. It can't be too cold. He simply avoids the task of taking a bath. Delightfully hilarious, Mo Willems does it again!

The Spirit Animals series by Brandon Mull is similar to 39 CLUES. Four children attend a ritual to discover their own Spirit Animal. This fantasy series has on-line components that make each book interactive and is written by famous authors like Brandon Mull and Maggie Stiefvater.

Bluffton by Matt Phelan is an historical fiction graphic novel about a boy named Henry who is spending his summer in Muskegon, Michigan, in 1908 with his family’s vaudeville troop. During the summer he meets the young Buster Keaton who eventually grows up to become a famous silent film star. Fans of historic fiction will enjoy peeking into the early 20th century and learning about the lost art of vaudeville shows.

Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell is a graphic novel about a monster that lost his desire to scare. But his friends need his help to stop a much scarier monster from wreaking havoc on the town. And that forces him to get his “scare” back. Fans of How to Train Your Dragon will love this book!

    Purchases through support WKSU.

Doug Katz
Owner, chef, fire food & drink
Restaurant Man by Joe Bastianich is a compelling rags-to-riches chronicle that foodies, businessmen, and aspiring restauranteurs alike will enjoy. Restaurant Man explores how an Italian boy from Queens turns his passion for food and wine into an empire, charting a remarkable journey that first began in his parents' neighborhood eatery. I am excited to read this book by one of the most successful restauranteurs in America. I was lucky enough to cook with his mom, Lidia, in Cleveland when I was 16 years old.

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney. In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses 24 hours to animate the intricate friendship and culinary composition in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Readers can explore all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food. As a chef and owner of a few restaurants, I am excited to read this account of the back of house experience told by one who knows. The sous chef is the most prized and yet most unknown in successful kitchens.

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan explores his own kitchen, discovering the power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious eats and drinks. Michael Pollan is a huge mentor for me. His theories and knowledge have taught me so much about food and the big picture. He has given me a true passion for promoting my food values.

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas Mcnamee takes readers on an adventurous journey, charting the origins of the local "market cooking" culture that we all savor today. When Francophile Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971, few Americans were familiar with goat cheese, cappuccino, or mesclun. But it wasn't long before Waters found the means to inspire a new culinary standard that incorporated ethics, politics, and the conviction that the best-grown food is also the tastiest. I have always appreciated Alice Waters and her importance in the American dining scene. I was lucky enough to meet her at a food conference in Torino, Italy.

Lucky Peach Magazine, a quarterly journal of food and writing under the direction of editor Chris Ying provides colorful info graphics, artwork and writing that focus on one theme at a time. This is a great publication that offers fun articles and stories about our world food culture. It includes authentic recipes too!

    Purchases through support WKSU.

Pat Carney
Drummer, The Black Keys
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut centers on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany. Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know. Classic Vonnegut with a deep anti-war message through a detailed portrayal of war.

    Purchases through support WKSU.

Valerie Mayen
Owner, designer of Yellowcake
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger explores the world through native New Yorker Holden Caulfield's eyes. The troubled 16-year-old abruptly leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. Transcending his own language, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, Holden issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure.

Pablo Neruda's Book of Love Poems is a beautiful and sensual gift to readers. Charged with sensuality and passion, Pablo Neruda's love poems are the most celebrated of the Nobel Prize winner's work, captivating readers with earthbound images and reveling in a fiery recreation of the world.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Elliot offers an engaging collection of humorous cat poems. These verses, originally composed to amuse Eliot’s close friends, have proven irresistible to cat lovers, lovers of nonsense, and admirers of Eliot throughout the English-speaking world.

    Purchases through support WKSU.

Jim Carney
Military affairs, Akron Beacon Journal
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is a war novel that tells the story of a young man, Paul Baumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. Despite what they have learned, the men begin to break down under the first bombardment in the trenches. As the horrors of war plod on year after year, Baumer holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principles of hate that meaninglessly pits young men against each other.

    Purchases through support WKSU.

Katie Byard
Reporter/business news, Akron Beacon Journal
Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales by Marta McDowell explores how Beatrix Potter fell in love with gardening and plants and show how this passion came to be reflected in her work. The book begins with the gardener’s biography, highlighting the paramount moments that shaped her abilities, including her Hill Top Farm home in England's Lake District.

    Purchases through support WKSU.

Courtney Little
Songwriter, Nashville
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, is a unique story about a 13-year-old New Yorker, Theo Decker, who survives an accident that killed his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Theo struggles to adapt to his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother. Theo clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into art.

    Purchases through support WKSU.

Bob Ethington
Manager, Culture & AV, Akron Summit County Public Library
American Masters: The Short Stories of Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and John Updike. This is my summer of tortured suburban white men named John. Three American masters of the short story - Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and John Updike, brought together for the first time in one deluxe audio collection. Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver, The Stories of John Cheever and Selected Stories by John Updike are intriguing short fiction stories populated by characters living in an unforgivable world, suffering the burdens of displacement, divorce, despair.

    Purchases through support WKSU.

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