If you’re ready to kick back, relax and dive into some must-read books this summer, librarians with the Forsyth County Public Library and staff at Bookmarks in Winston-Salem have some suggestions.
Each year, the Forsyth County Public Library hosts a summer reading program to give Forsyth County residents of all ages the chance to sign up and participate in the program, Brian Hart, library director of Forsyth County Public Library, said.
Participants gain entries into a prize drawing by either completing a Summer Reading Bingo Card that lists numerous activities or logging books read.
“It’s not just exclusive to reading, although, obviously, that is the focal point of it,” Hart said of the program. “We do believe that there is value in reading throughout the course of the summer, particularly for young minds and young children throughout Forsyth County. Reading certainly helps to ensure that they can retain a great deal of the information that they have learned or gained over the course of the traditional school year. Reading helps to keep the mind active.”
People are also reading…
He also said that there are advantages to adults participating in summer reading.
“During the summer, people typically plan vacations or have other moments of downtime that they may not have during the normal hustle and bustle of the other three seasons,” Hart said. “I like to think that the summer presents an opportunity for everyone to settle in with a good book and actively allow their minds to be wild and travel through reading. It’s also an opportunity for them as adults to explore different hobbies and different interests.”
Ashley Bryan, the young and schools manager for Bookmarks, said that numerous studies have shown that summer reading is an integral part of student success.
“It allows kids to seamlessly build upon what they are learning from one year to the next,” Bryan said. “But summer also presents a time for families and communities to play an active role in developing a lifelong reading habit. Summer reading is a way to engage with stories on a level that differs from the classroom reading — undiscovered readers may be drawn in by the activities associated with the program and begin to perceive reading as something more than just ‘schoolwork.’ It also provides an opportunity for all children to find their story.”
This year, Bookmarks veered from its standard summer reading program and created Book with Purpose, a community-wide reading program focused on the theme of anti-racism. The literary arts nonprofit organization and independent bookstore is working throughout the summer with various community partners on programs for children and adults.
“It is our hope that, with this initiative, we could engage readers of all ages and connect people from all walks of life in meaningful discussions through a variety of book club talks, author conversations, panel discussions and more,” Bryan said.
Forsyth County Library picks
“The Man Who Ate Too Much: the Life of James Beard” by John Birdsall. In the first portrait of James Beard in 25 years, John Birdsall looks beyond the public image of the “Dean of American Cookery” to give voice to the gourmet’s complex life. Informed by previously overlooked correspondence, years of archival research and a close reading of everything Beard wrote, this biography traces the emergence of personality in American food while reckoning with the outwardly gregarious Beard’s own need for love and connection.
“Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis” by Jeffrey H. Jackson. The first book to tell the history of an audacious anti-Nazi campaign undertaken by an unlikely pair: two French women, Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe, who drew on their skills as Parisian avant-garde artists to write and distribute “paper bullets” — wicked insults against Hitler, calls to rebel, and subversive fictional dialogues designed to demoralize Nazi troops occupying their adopted home on the British Channel Island of Jersey.
“Children of the Land: A Memoir” by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo. This unforgettable memoir from a prize-winning poet about growing up undocumented in the U.S. recounts the sorrows and joys of a family torn apart by draconian policies and chronicles one young man’s attempt to build a future in a nation that denies his existence.
“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019” edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain. Ninety extraordinary voices tell the epic story of the 400-year journey of African Americans from Jamestown’s first slaves in 1619 to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by some of the most vital voices of our present.
YOUNG ADULTS SELECTIONS:
“Dragon Hoops” by Gene Luen Yang. Gene understands stories, but he doesn’t get sports. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it’s all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. As Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page.
“Akata Warrior” by Nnedi Okorafor. Now stronger, feistier and a bit older, Sunny Nwazue, along with her friends from the Leopard Society, travel through worlds, both visible and invisible, to the mysterious town of Osisi, where they fight in a climactic battle to save humanity.
“The American Dream?: A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito” by Shing Yin Khor. An illustrated comic travelogue about an American immigrant driving alone through all that’s left of “The Mother Road,” Route 66.
“King of Scars” by Leigh Bardugo. When the dark magical force within him challenges his effort to forge new alliances and build a defense against a new threat, Nikolai Lantsov, the young king of Ravka, embarks on a journey to his country’s most magical places to vanquish it.
“Bad Dog” by Mike Boldt. A little girl is excited to have her birthday wish come true: owning her own dog. However, Rocky is a little bit different than most dogs. He doesn’t bark, play fetch or even respond when called. What makes the little girl’s “bad dog” unique is that Rocky is surprisingly not a dog. Rocky is a cat. Will the little girl be able to accept Rocky as a cat or just a “bad dog”?
“The Great Pet Escape” by Victoria Jamieson. George Washington (otherwise known as GW) is an unhappy classroom hamster. He is stuck in the prison cell of a cage and only wants to find a way out of his situation. He along with his classroom pet peers, Biter and Barry scheme up a plan to escape. Through some careful planning and creativity their plot leads them to an exciting adventure.
“Scary Stories for Young Foxes” by Christian McKay Heidicker. This spooky series of short stories follow two young foxes named Mia and Uly. Through unexpected circumstances, the two are separated from their family and travel through the Antler Woods in search of a safe home. On their journey to safety, they come across witches, ghosts, zombies and other scary creatures. Will they be able to survive a treacherous journey and find a place to call home?
“Fins” by Randy Wayne White. The shark population is dwindling because of fin hunting. In Florida, a man named Doc Ford recruits a group of kids named Luke, Maribel and Sabina to help protect these endangered species. Their goal is to tag sharks each day for the marine biologist’s research without getting caught by poachers. Through dangerous situations and close encounters, the team known as Shark Inc. is able to work together to protect these misunderstood creatures.
“The Guncle” by Steven Rowley. When his college best friend/sister-in-law dies, Patrick unexpectedly finds himself in the position of caring for his niece and nephew for the summer. GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick as the children call him) quickly realizes he’s providing more than food and shelter; he is also serving as a guide to help these wise-beyond-their-years children navigate the most difficult thing they’ve ever experienced. Tasked with this self-assigned mission gives Patrick new purpose and allows him to process unresolved grief in his own life, breathing new energy into his stagnant career as a Hollywood actor and also his relationship as brother and uncle. “The Guncle” is a heartbreakingly beautiful story about loss and acceptance, love and hope, and the power of being together.
“Seven Days in June” by Tia Williams. Eva and Shane are writers who reconnect 20 years after their initial meeting. It’s a perfect balance of a story with just the right amount of background, past vs. present narrative, ups and downs, romance and family. Readers will love all the book industry references, the close examination of mothers and daughters as well as the exploration of self. How much of your present “you” is tied up in the you that was created from a past love or trauma? This is a captivating and compulsive read.
“While We Were Dating” by Jasmine Guillory. Guillory delivers another charming and thoughtful romance! Even if you’re not usually drawn to romances featuring celebrities, you will fall in love with Anna, an actress, and Ben, who meets her when she acts in a commercial he’s directing. You will get to know Anna as a human behind closed doors along with Ben rather than see her actress persona first. And Ben will surprise you. He is a model of kindness and consideration in a smooth-talking and attractive package. This one comes out on July 13, and it’s fine to start with this book as your first book by Jasmine Guillory.
“The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu” by Tom Lin. Bold, brash and uniquely unforgettable, the vivid wild West of Lin’s “The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu” is a reading experience you won’t want to miss. Ming Tsu is on a quest for revenge, tearing his way across the wilderness of the old West — and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Through colorful characters, hints of the magical, beautiful writing and entrancing violence, Lin reimagines what the mythology of the American West can mean. With echoes of Cormac McCarthy and C. Pam Zhang’s “How Much of These Hills is Gold” but with a voice all its own, “The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu” is one of the best debut novels of the year.
YOUNG ADULT SELECTIONS:
“Instructions for Dancing” by Nicola Yoon. In “Instructions for Dancing,” Evie receives a dubious superpower and sees the love lives of couples — how they met, how they grew together, and, prophetically, the tragic breakups that haven’t happened yet but will. That, coupled with her parents’ ugly divorce and not being allowed to tell her younger sister that her dad had an affair, make her hesitant to engage in a relationship. But she accepts a challenge that “not everybody can dance good, but everybody can dance,” and ends up paired with X, who lives by a “just say yes” philosophy, and things change in ways she never expected.
“The Box in the Woods” by Maureen Johnson. Even if you haven’t read the Truly Devious trilogy, you can still read this spin-off standalone mystery about a summer camp murder that has gone unsolved for four decades — that is, until Stevie and her friends arrive at camp. For readers who love a good Agatha Christie-style murder mystery and a summer camp story, this book is sure to be the perfect summer read.
“It Ends in Fire” by Andrew Shvarts. This is a dark and gothic standalone YA. The main character is a rightfully angry queer wizard and she wants nothing more than to burn down the school that churns out the best of the best wizards that do nothing but oppress non-wizards. So, of course, she fakes her identity and attends herself! This book is recommended to readers who loved “Sorcery of Thorns” and “Ash Princess.”
“Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet” by Laekan Zea Kemp. Kemp’s “Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet” is the perfect YA novel. It delicately and expertly approaches issues of turbulent family relationships, undocumented immigration and what it means to follow your heart. Kemp intricately crafted characters and communities you won’t want to leave, and extensively detailed food that will make your mouth drool. Pen and Xander’s relationship is tangible and sincere as they fall in love while simultaneously coming to terms with their demons, both physical and psychological.
“Milo Imagines the World” by Matt De La Pena. This picture book is a Bookmarks favorite. While riding on a subway, Milo sketches the lives of the passengers around him — as he imagines them to be. This book is a beautiful and uplifting reminder of the importance of looking past first impressions and of the endless ways in which we can view the world.
“Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom” by Sangu Mandanna. Full of adventure, humor and friendship, Kiki’s story will have you hooked from start to finish. You may laugh, cry and gasp as the story unfolds through the lens of her vivid imagination. Great for fans of “Aru Shah,” “Inkheart” or anything by Rick Riordan, “Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom” is not to be missed.
“The Shape of Thunder” by Jasmine Warga. Cora and Quinn’s lives both changed on the day their friendship ended, the day that Cora’s sister died in a school shooting at the hands of Quinn’s brother. Then, on Cora’s 12th birthday, Quinn leaves a package on Cora’s door — a package that shares her belief that the girls can find a wormhole to the past that will let them undo the terrible event that fractured their lives. “The Shape of Thunder” is a heartbreakingly beautiful book about the power of grief and healing, hope and reconciliation, and everlasting friendship.
“Temple Alley Summer” by Sachiko Kashiwaba. A strange mysterious ghost girl, a young boy discovering the hidden secrets of his neighborhood and a tale about the power and importance of stories are in “Temple Alley Summer.” This is an excellent middle grade novel with charm and heart to spare. Readers will love the unraveling mystery that Kashiwaba slowly reveals, the amazing story-within-a-story element, and the beautiful illustrations of Satake throughout. A truly special and unique book recommended to readers young and old.