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Our Summer Reads

Around here, most staff are always reading something. It’s now back to school time, so free time for reading may be in short supply for some of you. Nevertheless, here are a few things that staff members have been reading recently.

Elaina (Education Assistant)

Gulp by Mary Roach

Have you ever wondered exactly how your digestive system works in detail? After this book, you will wonder no more. Eventually you will find yourself spouting entertaining digestive facts to those around you. I highly recommend it.

The 19th Wife by David Ebbershoff

Those that know me know I have an interest in Mormon history, this book played right into that interest. David Ebbershoff does an excellent job of incorporating historical events with his own fictionalized modern mystery. Recommended for mystery and history fans alike.

The Drunken Botanist, Plants that Create the Worlds Great Drinks by Amy Stewart

Amy Stewart is to botany what Mary Roach is to biology. This book incorporates my love of plants and gardens as well as my love of cooking and history. It was my perfect summer book. The nice side benefit to working with plants rather than people is the ability to share recipes–which Amy Stewart provides for a variety of tasty beverages!

Helen (Director of Sales)

Sadly, my summer reading has been mostly limited to e-mails, cookbooks, instruction manuals & private school websites. But I am dying to read the new Isabel Allende called Maya’s Notebook… Allende is my all-time favorite author and usually writes historical fiction, although Maya’s Notebook is set in contemporary San Francisco. If anyone wants a great piece of historical fiction I suggest her previous novel, Island Beneath the Sea, which is a fascinating read that follows the main character from pre-revolution Haiti to early New Orleans and covers everything from slavery on the Haitian sugar plantations to descriptions of attending one of Jean Lafitte’s auctions outside of New Orleans. Isabel Allende was raised in Chile and has lived through enormous political and personal upheaval…her books are incredibly engaging and vivid and give the reader the benefit of all of her experiences: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I didn’t read Island Beneath the Sea this summer, but I’ve read it three times since it came out a couple years ago.

An interesting side note on Isabel Allende is she writes in Spanish and all her books are translated into English. Her translator was very ill recently and so the Maya’s Notebook English translation was delayed 18 months or so…I almost resorted to learning Spanish.

Kay (Volunteer Coordinator)

I read 2 very enjoyable, pure pleasure (no deep thinking) books this summer. Catherine Coulter’s Bomb Shell is a romance thriller book, and 17th in her FBI series. Julie Garwood’s Hotshot is also a romance thriller. These 2 ladies are very similar, and must reads for those who like to escape into a good book. Interestingly enough, they both wrote historical fiction romances, so there’s something for everyone–whether you want to get hooked momentarily in the past or stay in the present.

Gary (President)

Currently reading:

The Heretic’s Daughter: A Novel, by Kathleen Kent. I started reading this mainly because Ms. Kent, of Dallas, is going to be the speaker at our first Nancy Farina Lecture in October, and found I very much like this novel set in Salem Witchcraft-era Massachusetts. A dark and very compelling story.

Also this summer:

Crosshairs: A Lee Henry Oswald Mystery by Harry Hunsicker. I started reading this because Dallas author Mr. Hunsicker is going to join our Board of Trustees and be our featured guest at a Curator’s Circle reception in December. I really enjoyed this book, which is a fun read in part because the protagonist Lee Henry Oswald is an interesting (and smart alecky) guy, and because there are many details of familiar Dallas, Plano, and Ft. Worth roads, bars, and restaurants that crop up in the story.

Dark End of the Street, by Ace Atkins. This is a novel in the Nick Travers series by Mr. Atkins. If you are a fan of Mississippi Delta music, food, and culture, you will like this book.

Evelyn (Curator)

Taking a break from reading history, I have been working my way through the five massive books in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, the basis for the television show Game of Thrones. I am learning no historic facts, unless Europe once called itself Westeros and was invaded by kings on dragons, but Martin offers some valuable lessons for historians. People in power can carefully consider all the available facts, make a logical and considered choice, and still be completely wrong. History can be creatively phrased to justify whatever it is you want to do today, and lust of any type is a great motivator, as well as the downfall of many people. The books have less overt sex than the show, though the violence is harsh. Almost every character is a bit less noble in the books, and harder to like, but more compelling.

Johna (Family Programs Manager)

This summer my husband Mark brought home Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: The Original Scroll. Somehow I had missed reading On the Road so I picked up the scroll and began. Eventually I broke down and got the edited version. Later in the summer I discovered this illustrated version by artist Paul Rogers which I have thoroughly enjoyed!

Melissa (Interim Executive Director)

Though I read a lot of history and “grown-up” books too, my favorites from the last few months have all been young adult novels. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a funny, heartbreaking, and real book about first love and mix tapes. A friend loaned me an advanced readers’ copy of Rowell’s next book, Fangirl, which comes out this fall. I liked it even more–it perfectly captures that first year of college. And it’s funny.

Another highlight was Melissa Wiley’s The Prairie Thief. Some of you may be familiar with this author, as she wrote the prequels for the Little House books. This book is best described as a historical fantasy–set in the late 19th century, but with some delightful fairy tale elements. It was such a fun read–the characters were felt real, even though they were chatting with brownies.

Finally, a book that has been on my to-read list for longer than I care to say: Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children’s Literature. Marcus is the expert on the history of children’s literature in America, and this book is a wonderful, readable survey of how the genre has changed over time. It focuses more on the publishers than the authors, but I will say that I have far more respect for editors now. There is currently an exhibit at the New York Public Library, curated by Marcus, that sounds a lot like an exhibit version of this book. Sure would love to see it!


And a reminder that DHV has it’s own book club! For more info and reading lists, click here: BookClub

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