Summer reading: Plenty of options to beat the heat

Summer reading

Maybe you crane your neck at the coffee shop or subtly shuffle through a friend’s stack of books on the coffee table. Maybe you take note of what’s featured in the bookstore windows or scroll through lists created by Amazon’s algorithm.

However you try to find out what people are reading or what your next read should be, we’re here to help.

We asked Grand Junction-area bookstores and the Mesa County Public Library circuit which books their customers are picking up this summer and which they most recommend. Here’s what they said, from classics to “beach reads” to kids’ books to poetry. See what strikes you.

Charmed fiction

Lately, local booksellers and librarians are noticing their customers trend toward novels with magical, oddball or fantastical underpinnings. Fredrick Backman’s “A Man Called Ove” has been selling well all over town, and George Saunders’ strange and inventive “Lincoln in the Bardo” is popular, too.

“All the Light We Cannot See,” the spellbinding World War II tale by Anthony Doerr, is one of the most in-demand books at Mesa County Libraries — both in hardcopy and audiobook versions.

Already read all those books? Our booksellers and librarians have recommendations for you that are farther off the beaten track. Margie Wilson, owner of Grand Valley Books, recommends “The San Clemente Bait Shop and Telephony,” by Grand Junction resident Patti Hill, as the perfect book to take to the beach.

“It’s a beautiful read, and it’s a great summer read,” Wilson said.

At Out West Books, owner Marya Johnston and associate Constance Holland suggest Sarah Perry’s novel “The Essex Serpent,” set in London in 1893, and Amy Stewart’s “Girl Waits with Gun,” the debut book in an imaginative series about the first female deputy sheriffs in the U.S.

Also in historical fiction, Twice Upon A Time Bookstore associate Kayla Severson recommends Ken Follet’s “Eye of the Needle.”

“It’s tightly plotted, intense, and has good historical details,” Severson said.

Relevant classics

Some bookstores around town are noticing increased interest in literature with a political pith, like George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm,” Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” or various titles by Kurt Vonnegut.

You might assume school kids with required summer reading are picking up these books. But most of the buyers appear to be adults curious to revisit books from the past, said Wilson of her patrons.

If you’re looking for a classic to revisit, Wilson recommends Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.” Wednesday, July 12, marks Thoreau’s 200th birthday, and Grand Valley Books will host a reading from this seminal piece of individualist literature at 6:30 p.m. to celebrate.


Traveling with kids

Vacationing with little ones this summer? Consider packing a few books to entertain your youngsters during long car rides or rainy days.

Parents and grandparents with this idea in mind are searching local bookstores for old standards like Watty Piper’s “The Little Engine That Could” or “Misty of Chincoteague,” by Marguerite Henry.

Lithic Press in Fruita is seeing an interest in science books for kids — one of the store’s specialties. The “Big Book of Bugs,” by Yoval Zummer, and “This Book Thinks You’re A Scientist: Experiment, Imagine, Create,” by the London Science Museum, are especially popular, owner Danny Rosen said.

Rosen also said the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse has his customers especially keen on the children’s book “Eclipse Miracle: The Sun is the Same Size as the Moon in the Sky,” by Sand Sheff.

If the kids in your life prefer chapter books with strong story threads, Johnston at Out West Books recommends “Mary Anning’s Curiosity,” by Monical Kulling, based on the story of a real-life paleontologist, or Grace Lin’s When the Sea Turned to Silver,” a beautifully illustrated book interwoven with Chinese mythology.

Fun nonfic

Adventure, astonishment, peace of mind and humor are qualities behind the nonfiction books both selling and suggested around town this summer.

Perhaps not surprising in these high-strung times, folks around town are stopping into Crystal Books and Gifts and buying meditative books like “The Dalai Lama’s Big Book of Happiness” and “Pope Francis’ Little Book of Compassion.”

“It seems everyone wants to find peace,” store owner Cheryl Lucas said. “The political climate is hard on people.”

Adult coloring books have been very popular buys at Lucas’ shop, too.

Visitors to Grand Valley Books are buying “The Emerald Mile,” Kevin Fedarko’s story about his wild river trip through the Grand Canyon during the massive 1983 flood, and Al Franken’s hilarious “Giant of the Senate,” which Wilson said she’s had to reorder three times.

Also flying off the shelf at Wilson’s shop is Bill Haggerty’s thorough new guidebook, “Hiking Colorado’s Western Slope.” In that same vein, “Colorado Excursions with History, Hikes and Hops,” by Ed Sealover, has been a very popular check-out at Mesa County Libraries. Sealover suggests weekend-sized trips around Colorado that combine hiking, learning and imbibing.

Love an exciting true story? Local booksellers recommend “The Best Land Under Heaven,” a book about the infamous Donner Party, by Michael Wallis, and “Dispatches from Pluto,” in which author Richard Grant documents his impetuous move from New York City to the Mississippi Delta. They also recommend “The Animal Dialogues,” Craig Childs’ exploration of his encounters with wild animals.

Localized Poetry

It might have been a while since you paged through a book of poetry, but poems are small delights for every season.

Poetry abounds at Lithic Press, and local poetry tends to be especially popular with shop customers. “Amor Fati” by Jack Mueller, a renowned poet who died earlier this year after living for the past several years in Ridgway, is a favorite among shoppers looking for local writers, said shop owner Rosen, who highly recommends the collection.

“That’s the most important book in my world,” said Rosen, who published the book through his own press.

Other books people are buying at Lithic Press are Mary Oliver’s essay collection “Upstream” and a book of poetry called “Counting in Dog Years,” written by Colorado veterinarian Frank H. Coons.

Aside from “Amor Fati,” Rosen recommends a poetry anthology called “Verse and the Universe: Poems About Science and Mathematics,” edited by Kurt Brown. It’s a perfect choice for people who like poetry but don’t know much about science or those who like science but aren’t well acquainted with poetry, Rosen said.


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