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State Tastemakers Share Their Summer Reading Lists

We asked the state librarian what he's reading, among other prominent figures in Connecticut.

Whether this is your first summer with a Kindle in the beach bag or you're a traditionalist with a big stack of hardcovers next to the bed, it's always worth hearing those summer reading suggestions.

Patch decided to ask some of the state's arbiters of taste what they were reading for the summer, or what they'd recommend to others. 

JACQUES LAMARRE, Director of Communication and Special Projects for the Mark Twain House

I always have several books going at once.  Currently, I’m on a jag of learning more about Buddhism.  As such, I’m reading Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s book “The Joy of Living” and listening to his book “Joyful Wisdom” in the car.

 I’m also reading a book called “Turtle Feet” by Nikolai Grozni.  It’s a memoir about a piano prodigy who gives up his Western life to become a Buddhist monk in India.  My bathroom read is “Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents” by Cormac O’Brien, a very funny take on the foibles of the Presidents. 

Finally, for The Mark Twain House & Museum/Harriet Beecher Stowe Center’s Nook Farm Book Talks, I am reading Steve Courtney’s book “Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain’s Closest Friend.”

KENDALL WIGGIN, State Librarian since 1998

I have several – none new. 

  •  Jill LePore’s "New York Burning" and "The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity"
  • Elizabeth Strout’s "Olive Kitteridge"
  • Whatever I haven’t read by Donna Leon
  • And I’m going to start on a new author to me, Cynthia Riggs, whose mysteries take place on Martha’s Vineyard.

ANNE GREEN, director of the Wesleyan Writers Conference

For fiction readers, I’d recommend:

  • Daniyal Mueenuddin’s stories, "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders"
  • Paolo Giordano, "The Solitude of Prime Numbers"
  • Alexi Zentner, "Touch"
  • Dinaw Mengestu, "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears"
  • A re-read of "Anna Karenina" in the Pevear translation

In nonfiction:

  • Isabel Wilkerson, "The Warmth of Other Sons"
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee, "The Emperor of All Maladies"
  • Marjane Satrapi, "Persepolis"

  DIANE SMITH, president of Diane Smith Media

My top book of the summer is "Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You're Worth" by Mika Brzezinski, who hosts “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. Mika is a good friend, and I agree with her that women need to know how to negotiate and not undersell ourselves or accept less than our male colleagues.

 I like to read a lot of fiction in the summer, and try to read at least two books a week. If I actually go on vacation I read a book a day.

  I just finished "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain. Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley narrates the novel that intertwines their lives with other ex-pats like F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. Makes me want to see the Woody Allen movie "Midnight in Paris."

I am reading "Dreams of Joy" by Lisa See the sequel to "Shanghai Girls." In this book the daughter of the Shanghai sisters runs away to Communist China in search of her birth father.

Just starting "Caleb’s Crossing" by Geraldine Brooks. She won the Pulitzer Prize for "March," which I loved. I always like reading books in the summer about summertime locales and this one takes place in part on Martha’s Vineyard in 1665, and incorporates the story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.

I just participated in a 24 hour long reading of "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe in honor of her 200th birthday and now I plan to re-read it cover to cover.

Recently I spoke at the first Connecticut Book Festival and discovered New Haven author Alice Mattison. I am looking forward to reading two of her books that I picked up there: "Nothing is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn" and "The Book Borrower."

In non-fiction I am reading "Poisoned, The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak."  Jeff Benedict, who formerly lived in Connecticut, is a great investigative journalist who wrote "Without Reservation" and "Little Pink House."

I hope to finally get around to "Life" by Keith Richards which has been perched on my nightstand for months.  Also on that pile is "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz and "The Senator from Central Casting" about Tom Dodd, written by David Koskoff.

To keep track of your own summer reading, try summerreading.org, which allows you or your kids to create an avatar, earn badges and share summer reading ideas.

Cornelius (Neil) Lynch July 05, 2011 at 04:15 PM
For non-fiction, I'd recommend Figgs' "The Crimean War," a forgotten war but hardly an insignificant one with remarkably current parallels. For fiction, I'd go with Barbara Vine's "The Chimney Sweeper's Son," but be prepared for a shocking revelation at the end.

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