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  • Writer's pictureKarlene Kuhn

Four Books to Kick-off Your Summer Reading

Juneau Public Libraries has launched its summer reading challenge for youth and adults!

Adults can read books representing a number of prompts and enter to win great prizes including:

1st prize – $75 to an eating establishment of your choice

2nd prize – $50 to a movie theater of your choice

3rd prize – $25 to the Friends of the Library Bookstore

Check out these recommendations from the Friends of the Juneau Public Libraries Board:

1. A Book by a Journalist or about Journalism

Personal History by Katherine Graham

The captivating inside story of the woman who helmed the Washington Post during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of American media: the scandals of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate In this widely acclaimed memoir ("Riveting, moving...a wonderful book" The New York Times Book Review), Katharine Graham tells her story—one that is extraordinary both for the events it encompasses and for the courage, candor, and dignity of its telling. Here is the awkward child who grew up amid material wealth and emotional isolation; the young bride who watched her brilliant, charismatic husband—a confidant to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson—plunge into the mental illness that would culminate in his suicide. And here is the widow who shook off her grief and insecurity to take on a president and a pressman’s union as she entered the profane boys’ club of the newspaper business. As timely now as ever, Personal History is an exemplary record of our history and of the woman who played such a shaping role within them, discovering her own strength and sense of self as she confronted—and mastered—the personal and professional crises of her fascinating life.

Recommended by Board Member Betsy. Betsy says: I read this book some years ago, but much of it has stuck with me. [Katherine] inherited the Washington Post after the sudden death of her husband and had to get up to speed and manage it during a difficult time – Watergate and the Pentagon papers. [The author] not only describes the challenges of taking on a newspaper, but writes beautifully about getting older. As I enjoy my golden years, I have a vivid recollection of her description of the joys and challenges of getting older and frailer. This is a terrific book about journalism, becoming a professional woman, and aging.

2. A Book with Multiple Narrators

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Ghana, eighteenth century: two half-sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery. One of Oprah’s Best Books of the Year and a PEN/Hemingway award winner, Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.

Recommended by Board Member Eva. Eva says: The story starts three hundred years ago with two half-sisters born in Ghana. One sister is married off to an Englishman and the other is captured and put on a ship to be sold into slavery in America. The book traces the stories of their descendants through the centuries to the current day. The author was born in Ghana and grew up in Huntsville, Alabama.

3. A Book by or About Someone Who is Neurodiverse

The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone has Asperger's Syndrome, a condition similar to autism. He doesn't like to be touched or meet new people, he cannot make small talk, and he hates the colors brown and yellow. He is a math whiz with a very logical brain who loves solving puzzles that have definite answers.

One night, he observes that the neighbor's dog has been killed, since it is not moving and has a large garden fork stuck in its body. Christopher knows this is wrong. He has never left his street on his own before, but now he'll have to in order to find out who killed the dog. What he discovers will shake the very foundation of his perfectly ordered life.

Critically acclaimed author Mark Haddon, a two-time BAFTA winner, crafts a stunning masterpiece that is funny, honest, and incredibly moving.

Recommended by Board President Sandy. Sandy says this book is both a coming-of-age story and a classic who-done-it mystery. The narrator is a fifteen-year-old boy on the autism spectrum who wants to find out who killed his neighbor’s dog. In his search to discover what happened, he uncovers some unexpected and uncomfortable truths. He is able to incorporate these facts into his understanding of the outer world and accept the inconsistencies of human nature. I loved this book and was able to see the stage version in London years ago. I couldn’t understand how the book could be adapted to the stage, but it was brilliant! Lots of lines of light fashioned into graphs were in the setting and lots of linear, two-dimensional designs. Plus, of course, everything else. The author worked with kids on the spectrum in one of his non-writing jobs and seemed like an empathetic and keen observer. His other books haven’t moved me as this one did.

4. A book with a non-human narrator

The Bees by Laline Paull

The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut set in an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death.

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all—daring to challenge the Queen’s fertility—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society—and lead her to unthinkable deeds.

Thrilling, suspenseful and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees gives us a dazzling young heroine and will change forever the way you look at the world outside your window.

Recommended by Board Member Karlene. Karlene says: The Bees is a compelling drama exploring class, service, and sacrifice as told from the perspective of a worker bee. If you’re open to a unique expression of modern struggles you’ll enjoy this creative read.

Bonus: a book for readers of all ages!

A Book by a Local Author:

The Singer in the Stream: a story of American Dippers by Katherine Hocker and Mary Willson, illustrated by Katherine Hocker

American dippers are small gray birds that live their whole lives near (and in!) fast-moving mountain streams. Charming and unique in their habits, dippers were John Muir’s favorite bird (he called them 'water ouzels'). This nonfiction book — brimming with full-color illustrations, detailed sketches, lively verse, and light humor — takes readers to a rendezvous with a winged creature they might easily see on a stream-side ramble throughout western North America. Readers will discover what these curious little birds eat, how they find their food, where they nest, what their chicks are like, where they go in winter, and much more. A section at the end provides a wealth of additional information making this book a fantastic resource for junior naturalists, educators, bird enthusiasts, visitors to national parks, and anyone interested in how field biologists perform their work.

Recommended by Board Member Anne. Anne says: our neighbors tell us about and show us a bird that loves the water. American Dippers live near us, but are not flashy nor well-known. This is a book that helps satisfy our curiosity.

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