Must Reads for Summer 2014


There are good and bad things about working in a library. The good: all of the great books that you discover and get to read. The bad: all of the great books that you don’t have time to read. We all have excuses and these are mine: full-time work and a toddler who just turned two years old and a baby who is ten months old. Oh yeah, and a house and garden and that guy I married 33 years ago. So, I often feel like that funny old bird the pelican whose beak holds more than his belly can. I have a beak full of great reads these days which may interest you if you’re participating in the summer reading program at the Everett Public Library or if you’re lucky enough to be planning a vacation and need a good book to take along. This list has a little bit of everything so there may be just the right book for you. Let’s start with non-fiction.

indexCA1ADCTLFlash Boys: a Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis is on my list since I read Boomerang and I thought that it was the bomb. This guy also wrote Moneyball and The Blind Side and other excellent books. It reads like a John Grisham novel, but it’s a true story about stock exchanges, high frequency traders, and dark pools. The author is great at explaining complicated technical subjects and telling a good story around them. I want to read it!

indexCA63IMS4Leonardo and the Last Supper has been by my bedside for a few weeks now. It’s excellent! I was an art history major in college and I’ve learned so much more from this book about the creation of this Renaissance masterpiece. Mr. King has managed to focus on a particular theme and give the reader as much information as needed to really understand it. Another of his earlier books accomplished the same thing, Brunelleschi’s Dome, which I can also recommend.

indexCAAEEVC8The President and the Assassin: McKinley, terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century is a great book (obvious from the first chapter) by Seattle author, Scott Miller. He creates a portrait of turn of the century America going back and forth between an under-appreciated president, William McKinley and his anarchist assassin, Leon Czolgosz. This was a time when the powerful were growing more powerful and desperate men turned to terrorism. Sound familiar?

And now for some fiction:

index (16)I have to read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie because my daughter heard her give a talk recently in Copenhagen and apparently it’s wonderful. The author takes on immigration, race, and what it means to leave home and to return, all wrapped up in a love story. Adichie has also written Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus. The first chapter alone is marvelous. Let’s all get with it and read this one.

indexCAZNZBA7The Care of Wooden Floors by Will WIles was recommended to me by two co-workers so I checked it out and my husband read it while we were on vacation. Even though I couldn’t read it, he confirmed that it is funny and interesting and a good book.  It’s an odd couple story of a fellow who house sits for a composer friend. He accidentally spills wine on the apartment’s priceless wooden floor and endures a disastrous week of perfectionist repair and maintenance.

index (1)Delicious! is by Ruth Reichl. I’ve read all of her memoirs from Garlic and Sapphires to Tender at the Bone. This is her first attempt at fiction and she certainly writes about what she knows: the heroine is a woman who works for a venerable food magazine that suddenly ceases publication. It looks like a pretty fun and fast read, and if you’re looking for a souffle-type novel, you could do worse! Plus, the cover is lovely.

indexBroken Harbor is Tana French’s new ‘Dublin Murder Squad’ crime novel and it’s supposed to be every bit as brilliant as her three earlier books featuring that tough cop, Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy. This is a murder story which seems easy to solve at first until the details don’t add up. Read this one to get the atmosphere of an Ireland hit hard by the recession, an idea of police procedure and to become engrossed in a well written who dunnit.

index (1)The Possibilities is written by Kaui Hart Hemmings who also wrote The Descendants. You’ll remember that movie with George Clooney. This new book follows a similar theme of family and loss and is set in the paradise of Breckenridge, Colorado. A single mom is grieving the loss of her son, Cully, in an avalanche when a strange girl shows up with a secret from Cully’s past.

indexThe Vacationers by Emma Straub  will take you all the way to the beaches of Spain, where a family’s dramas are set against the beautiful background of a lush vacation. It will leave you feeling like you were just on a family trip — laughing, exhausted and filled with love.

So, check out one of these books to take on your next vacation or simply read one for a great ‘staycation’. Either way, enjoy!

Makeover My Budget

Are you looking for some quick and easy ways to save money? Try the helpful tips in these books and trim some costs without sacrificing your lifestyle.

Savvy Chic: The Art of More for Less by Anna Johnson has become my go-to resource for staying trendy without blowing the budget. This book is packed with money-saving tips for clothing, housing, food, travel and entertainment, as well as ways to stretch your income and love what you do. I especially love the chapter on making and buying gifts and making them special without spending a lot of money.

Shop Smart, Save More by Teri Gault is the book I recommend to all my foodie friends. Beyond selecting the best grocery store and tips for buying groceries, this book has some great recipes, like blintz soufflé, that aren’t that expensive to prepare but are still scrumptious. There’s also a great timeline and checklist for planning an impressive dinner party, as well as couponing tips and food storage ideas.

Bitches on a Budget: Sage Advice for Surviving Tough Times in Style by Rosalyn Hoffman has some fabulous ideas for stretching a budget while staying fashion-forward. This “girlfriend’s advice” style book has plenty to offer: buying a car, decluttering your home, entertaining, traveling and more.

Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Your Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet by Elizabeth Rogers and Colleen Howell shows you how to adjust your habits in order to save money and reduce your impact on the environment. Learn how to grow an edible garden, pack a waste-free lunch, fully power down your electronics, and host a clothing swap party. Who says being green needs to cost a lot of money?

I should mention that most money-saving books describe the library as a great value and resource for free entertainment and services like author events. I have to say I agree.


It Was the Economy Stupid!

No offense.

My subject line is the first chapter of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street while Mugging Main Street, by celebrated LA Times journalist Robert Scheer. This recently published book begins, “They did it. Yes, there is a ‘they’: the captains of finance, their lobbyists, and allies among leading politicians of both parties, who together destroyed an American regulatory system that had been functioning splendidly for most of the six decades since it was enacted in the 1930s.” Intriguing premise, right?

Right. Except…I will admit, I knew little-to-nothing about global economic principles before reading this book. However, almost certainly like most of you, the Wall Street financial crash of 2008 and subsequent global recession has impacted me personally and recently, professionally. I couldn’t ignore the facts any longer; I was compelled to learn “why?” This book gave me answers. But I was also stunned to read about dangerous banking practices and greedy policy makers who continue to thrive in the Obama administration.

This is a story largely forgotten or overlooked by the mainstream media, explained in precise but understandable detail. Rather than going where other journalists have gone in search of this hidden story – the board rooms and trading floors of huge Wall Street firms – Scheer looks to Washington DC, a “veritable crime scene.” A warning though…my hope is that reading this book will at the very least change your perception of the economic crisis. At best you will be compelled to act on it!

For further reading and answers about this intriguing subject, also read:

The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America—and Spawned a Global Crisis by Michael Hudson

Meltdown: a Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse by Thomas E. Woods

Too Big to Fail: the Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis—and Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin

A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: the Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers, by Lawrence G. McDonald

Crisis Economics: a Crash Course in the Future of Finance, by Nouriel Roubini