England, 1976: Heatwave

If you spend enough time around books – reading books, reading reviews, shelving books – you start to notice trends, and sometimes they’re very specific. (For example in the first half of 2019, there were at least two books with main characters in comas reassessing their lives: The Inbetween Days and The Book of Dreams). Sometimes, of course, an event is so significant that it resonates through the stories people tell for years afterward. But it doesn’t have to be something world-changing, like World War II or the current COVID-19 pandemic. It can be something smaller that nonetheless reverberates. In that vein, I bring you three books that all take place in England during the summer of 1976, a year there was such an epic heatwave it continues to be evoked in fiction.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
In a small English town during the sweltering summer of 1976, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly entertain themselves wandering the neighborhood as the adults take refuge inside homes with curtains shut against the sun. When kind Mrs. Creasy disappears, Grace and Tilly go in search of clues as to what may have happened to her. As long-held secrets come to light, Grace and Tilly discover a history of deception which they grapple to understand. In their starred review, Booklist called it an “understated, somewhat quirky debut novel … remarkable for its structure, characterizations, pitch-perfect prose, touches of humor, and humanity.” Continue reading “England, 1976: Heatwave”

Book Bingo: Cookbooks and food memoirs

Join The Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures for our second annual Summer Book Bingo for adults! Follow us throughout the summer for reading suggestions based on each category. Today, suggestions for your “Read a Cookbook or a Food Memoir” square:

cookbook squareA cookbook might seem like an odd choice for summer reading, but nowadays chefs are including more narrative next to recipes and sumptuous photos of mouthwatering food.  You’ll find funny restaurant anecdotes, culinary manifestoes, personal histories and more in between the covers of the cookbooks below. Bonus: all are from the Pacific Northwest, so you might consider one of these titles for your local author square if you’ve already got cookbooks covered.

Continue reading “Book Bingo: Cookbooks and food memoirs”

Romantic Wednesdays: warming up to summer

It’s almost summertime! In anticipation of the languid, warm days ahead, check out these great beach reads.

Summer he Came Home cover imageThe Summer He Came Home by Juliana Stone

After spending 10 years on the road to rock star fame, bad boy Cain’s circumstances bring him back home to Crystal Lake – and in the path of cautious single mother, Maggie. Is she enough to keep him from the lure of the open road? Book one of a new series. Continue reading “Romantic Wednesdays: warming up to summer”

Summer reading: Reviews from readers at our Southwest branch

Feed by Mira Grant
Loved it!!! Couldn’t put it down. The zombies are here to stay. Bloggers saved the day and are here to stay also. A sci-fi with drama and action. ~ Trudy

The Half-stitched Amish Quilting Club by Wanda E. Brunstetter
This book really brings together an odd assortment of characters. You are reminded not to judge a book by its cover. It made me laugh and cry. ~ Darcie

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
There is a story here if you can get by the really juvenile writing. I just couldn’t love this book but was willing to see if it could get better. ~ Sarah

War Beneath the Waves: A True Story of Courage and Leadership Aboard a World War II Submarine by Don Keith
This is the story of the Billfish submarine in combat with an incompetent captain who almost killed the crew. A young lieutenant took over and led the crew to safety. ~ Marty

The Girl in Blue by P.G. Wodehouse
Love Jeeves and Wooster? The author brings the same sense of humor to a new set of characters. Find out who gets the girl in blue. ~ Wendy

What are you reading this summer? Sign up online for our summer reading program for adults — or drop by a branch and fill out a quick review form. For each three books you read and review, we’ll enter you in a drawing for a Kindle. We have 20 Kindles to give away to teen and adult readers this summer!

A Dream of Summer

A Dream of Summer, because we are all dreaming of summer…

Here we are in the heady rush of summer, where busy summer plans are making themselves felt regardless of the on-again, off-again weather. In the midst of all the hurry, I find myself longing for quiet dreaming reads – the ones that speak of nostalgia for simpler ways of life, the kinds of adventures that don’t require a car and the sort of long hot summer days that we just haven’t seen here in a while. These books remind me to take a breath, take a walk, eat ice cream on the sidewalk and lie around on the grass. They remind me to slow down and enjoy every late twilight and sunny afternoon that comes my way.

P.S. While many of these books feature young protagonists, they are entirely suitable for adults as well, especially if you are looking for sophisticated language and evocative settings.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Meet Douglas Spaulding, 12 years old in 1928 and able to turn on lights with the power of his imagination. His story is the wonderful, lyrical one of a boy in summer, with all the ordinary magic of small towns and baseball and the sharp, sudden awareness of growing up. Sure, Ray Bradbury is known as a father of science fiction and as a man with radical, challenging ideas, but you can meet him here as a writer who paints the summer into memory with extraordinarily deft imagery and singing language.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce, plucky 11-year-old adventurer and amateur chemist (read: poisoner) bicycles around her small British town and investigates every mystery. She lives in a dilapidated Georgian manor house with two unfeeling elder sisters and a philatelic-obsessed father. As it happens, this summer, there’s a murder. Flavia – hilarious, determined and overly precocious – will get to the bottom of it. In the mean time we’ll sidle along with her and enjoy the eccentric rural life of British village in the 1950s.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

What better book to convince you of the glory of messing about in boats? These animals shun the wide world and all its repugnant responsibilities, and spend their time instead on the pleasures of the moment and the seduction of the river. We may lack somewhat in immediate rivers, but there is certainly no dearth of boats, so take a copy along when you rent a canoe from the UW and spend some time relaxing.


The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat

I will always have a soft spot for Mutt, a dog who out-dogs every Marley, Shiloh, Old Yeller or Enzo. Perhaps his remarkable charm comes from his general refusal to believe that he is a dog, or perhaps from the well-told madcap escapades of the boy he pals around with. Farley Mowat is known for unflinching portrayals of Canada’s last wild spaces and traditional populations, but his gift for storytelling goes far deeper than that. Picture Mutt and Farley, growing up together on the Saskatchewan prairies with ever more laugh-out-loud adventures, and you won’t want to pass this tale by.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

And finally, a book from the iconic South, where summer is a personality in its own right and night gardening is the only sensible option. Set in a small town called Bascom, North Carolina, this is the story of the Waverly sisters and their magic apple tree. It’s a story about coming home, family and really good cooking. There’s a little backyard romance, and an interesting child. This book is like a firefly, a bright flare of ordinary enchantment on a hot summer’s night.