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It’s Summer Reading Time

May '17

NPR is my favorite go-to on long drives when I’m not listening to an audio download. Last week, this habit was rewarded when I heard about PBS’s “19 summer books that will keep you up all night reading.” Of course I checked it out online the minute I got home.

These 19 books labeled “essential”, were selected by two authors who each own independent bookstores: Louise Erdrich with Birchbark Books in Minneapolis and Emma Straus with Books are Magic in Brooklyn.

As I scrolled through the choices of these two authors, I did a double take when I saw Louise Erdrich’s recommendation of The Donna Leon Mystery Series, because I was actually reading the first one, “Death at La Fenice.”

Erdrich and her bookstore staff noted, “There are actually 25 of these mysteries, and they are set in Venice. Venice itself becomes a character in these books. They center on Commissario Guido Brunetti, his entire family, and the people he works with. You become so wrapped up in these compelling characters that I think you could go through all 25 this summer. Each one is better than the last.”

I concur with Erdrich’s assessment; I also love Leon’s references to classical literature, and the wise statements she scatters throughout her books. An example of such wisdom in the latest mystery I’ve been reading can be found in a scene featuring Police Detective inspector Guido Burnetti and his wife Paola, a university professor. After Guido makes some derogatory comment about one of the folks who turns up in an investigation, she says to him, “Just because we’re smarter than people, doesn’t mean our emotions are finer, Guido.”

After this scene, Guido goes to read and pulls down Cicero’s book, “On the Good Life”; he turns to the section on moral duty that outlines the three divisions of moral goodness. According to Cicero, ‘the third is to behave considerately and understandingly in our associations with other people.’ And who doesn’t want more of that these days!

I think Erdrich might be right. By the end of the summer, I may have devoured all 25. So what about you? What are you reading, have read, or hope to read this summer that really speaks to you? I’d love to hear about your selection(s). Simply add it or them to the comment box below, or shoot me an email. As in past years, I’ll compile your contributions and publish them in next month’s newsletter, so all readers can benefit.

To a summer of great reading!

P.S. if you’re curious about my last driving-while-reading audio book, it was Michael Lewis’s, “The Uncertainty Project.” I found it to be a great road companion.

P.P.S. After writing this post, I saw both of the authors interviewed on the PBS Newshour about their choices – total delight!



  1. Maureen DiPiero said on May 31, 2017:

    Bonnie, I agree. Donna Leon is one of my favorite authors. I still have 5 to read.

  2. Ellen Maycock said on June 1, 2017:

    I have *consumed* Donna Leon’s books over the past year! I highly recommend them! So sad that I’m at the end of the series now, and am eagerly awaiting her next book.

    I’m now in the midst of the 4-book series by Elena Ferrante on a friendship of two women from Naples The first is “My Brilliant Friend.” Also highly recommended.

    For a delightful and fast-moving read, “Dancing with the Tiger,” by Lili Wright–a dear colleague from DePauw.

  3. Bonnie said on June 2, 2017:

    Good to hear from you, Maureen! I’m on my fifth book now: )

  4. Bonnie said on June 2, 2017:

    Ellen, thank you for these recommendations! I intend to put them all on my wanna read list.

  5. Anne Gothro said on June 28, 2017:

    1. Pirate Hunters by Kurson – Although it is a true story it reads like fiction, … such a wild and unlikely story! Includes major points of economic and Pirating history in the carribean, and suggests that some original democratic processes were present on pirate ships, which made it such an attractive “lifestyle choice”. Fantastic stuff.

    2. The Hate U Give by Thomas – Favorite audiobook of summer so far; both the story and performance are riveting.

    3. The Vanishing American Adult by Sasse – Junior senator (5-generation farmer and historian) from Nebraska makes a lot of rational, non-partisan sense when talking about raising his kids, adolescents, and the big issues that no one is talking about in our neighborhoods or in the senate.

  6. Bonnie said on June 29, 2017:

    Thanks, Anne! Especially appreciated the descriptions – Bonnie

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