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Summer Reads

Even though I haven’t been eligible to join the summer reading program at the library for many years, I always get an itch to do a lot of reading in the summer months. Perhaps it’s because it’s so hot outside. What’s better than sitting in a comfortable chair under a ceiling fan, reading the afternoon away?

And I’m not alone, at least not here at Dallas Heritage Village. Just about all of the staff are huge readers–probably an unofficial requirement to work in a museum. Here are a few things that we’ve been reading:

Gary Smith, Executive Director

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

Destiny of the Republic is about the assassination of President James Garfield, but more importantly, it is about the appalling (by modern standards) medical treatment that he received by his team of doctors. Even most historians don’t know that much about Garfield, and I found him to be far more impressive than I had realized. And I learned a lot about medical practice as it was performed in 1880, which was only about 25 years before my own grandfather began practicing medicine in rural Nebraska. A great book.

The Harry Bosch Novels by Michael Connelly

Many readers might know Michael Connelly from the book, and later movie, the Lincoln Lawyer. I had enjoyed that book and movie, and so began exploring other novels by Connelly. Harry Bosch, a brooding Los Angeles police detective, is actually the character Connelly has written the most books about, and he is the featured in this trio as well as a number of other Connelly novels. Bosch is not exactly the typical novel hero, and he is far more interesting. He is a Vietnam veteran who served as a “tunnel rat;’ struggles with long term family relationships; tends to be gruff even with people he is close to; and is far more cerebral than you would think a big city detective might be. Connelly’s books are very well written, providing just enough detail so that you feel like you are learning something, but he knows how to keep a narrative moving. This is great summer reading.

The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell

The Archer’s Tale is the first novel in The Grail Quest series by Cornwell, and it is set in mid fourteenth century Europe. The main character is Thomas, an archer from Dorset who crosses the English Channel to fight the French in Brittany at the beginning of what was known as the Hundred Years War. I have never read much about this time period, and thought it would be fun to delve in to. Similar to Connelly’s books, I find this interesting as a fun narrative tale with just enough (for me) unknown history so that I feel like I am learning something. I am only half way through this book, but am finding it fascinating. This is also good summer reading.

Jenn Delmar-Rollings, Membership and Guest Services Coordinator

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

This is the best book I’ve read in a long time. A story about a magical competition between two protégés; Celia and Marco. They have been trained since childhood to compete in a game which only one can survive. Erin Morgenstern’s prose is superb: I read this novel very slowly as I really didn’t want it to end.

The Tigress of Forlì: Renaissance Italy’s Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici by Elizabeth Lev

Wife, mother, leader, warrior. Caterina Riario Sforza was one of the most prominent women in Renaissance Italy—and one of the most vilified. In this glittering biography, Elizabeth Lev reexamines her extraordinary life and accomplishments.

I stumbled upon this book accidentally and am glad I did. A book about a very unique woman in a very interesting time in history.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting — he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

Patrick Ness was given the idea for this book from award-winning author Siobhan Dowd — whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. The story is both tragic and darkly funny at times. Not perhaps a happy story, but a very good one.

Evelyn Montgomery, Curator of Exhibits and Collections

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard

I am currently enjoying American Nations. It is a readable explanation of how different cultures and political ideas were established during the earliest settlement of eleven regions of North America and how they continue to influence us. The most surprising part is that North Texas is not grouped in with the south, or the west, or “El Norte,” the region of Spanish influence. It is in the western reaches of Appalachia, meaning we have more in common with West Virginia than Houston!

Delilah Dickinson books by Livia J. Washburn

For lighter reading, I just finished two mysteries by Livia J. Washburn about an Atlanta tour guide who takes people on literary, historical tours. In Frankly, My Dear, I’m Dead, Delilah Dickinson solves a mystery among Gone with the Wind re-enactors. In Huckleberry Finished, a less than appealing title, she is on a steamboat trip up the Mississippi to Hannibal, Missouri when murder strikes. Delilah is enchanted by a sexy Mark Twain impersonator. In both books I thought the mystery was going to be easy to figure out, but I was wrong, and quite surprised by the resolution.

Melissa Prycer, Director of Education

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Every summer, I tackle one really giant book. Usually, it’s a biography, but after a recent trip to Salinas, California (and the National Steinbeck Center), I knew I needed to read Steinbeck’s epic saga. It’s the story of two families in the Salinas Valley (still one of the richest agricultural areas in the United States) and their coming of age. It’s also a retelling of Cain and Abel. And so much more. I’m only about halfway through, but it’s a rich, deep, complicated novel.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The short description of this book may not inspire you to rush out and grab a copy: teens with cancer fall in love. Yep, that’s the premise of the book. And yes, you will probably cry. But you’ll also laugh. This book is about passion–for books and music and people and life. This book will take your breath away–in a good way.

The Maise Dobbs Series by Jacqueline Winspear

I’ve been reading these as they come out (Winspear published book #9 earlier this year), but I had fallen behind. In the last week, I’ve read both #7 and #8–and have been desperately craving a cuppa tea, even though it’s July in Texas. Maisie is a private detective in 1930s London–or rather, inquiry agent. She’s a self-made woman–she began life in service, and her employers realized she was intelligent, and sponsored her education. World War I got in the way of school, and she was a nurse on the front lines. Each book has some link to World War I–for instance, The Mapping of Love and Death is about the discovery of a cartographer’s body in a recently uncovered trench. Apparently, he hadn’t been killed by enemy fire. This is one of my favorite time periods, and Maisie is a delightful character.

Book on the library waiting list and the wait is killing me: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. All I know is that most of my friends on www.goodreads.com are raving about it. And it’s about spies and friendship and WWII. Can’t wait!

The Village Readers

By the way, did you know that DHV has a book club where we talk about books on a regular basis? And there’s time for you to grab July’s book and join us! We’ll be meeting on Tuesday, July 24 at the Lakewood Library. The book for this month is The Bowl is Already Broken by Mary Ann Zuravleff. To learn more about the book club (or see some of the other books we’ve discussed), click here: http://www.dallasheritagevillage.org/BookClub.aspx The theme this year is “Drama at the Museum”

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