From mystery to history: summer reading suggestions

What is more refreshing on a warm summer afternoon than a good book! We recently polled some of our writers for suggestions on great reads and their favorite sources for books in these tough economic times. Here are their suggestions:

My favorite bedside book at the moment is Eduardo Galeano’s “Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone.” Mirrors is filled with dozens of very short stories, so it is possible to read just one or two before going to sleep, but let me issue a word of warning: Galeano’s historical insights and radical perspectives are so delightful it is hard to put the book down. In Mirrors, Galeano tackles everything from the origins of fire to soccer legends, and along the way pays homage to Communist leaders like Lenin, Fidel and H Chí Minh.

 – Dennis Laumann

Now that I am in my 70s, I find myself wanting to reread favorites from my childhood. Sometimes I don’t remember title or author, but I have discovered a website forum (part of called “Booksleuth” where you can describe the plot and approximate date of the book you are looking for, and volunteers from all over the world try to find it for you. I’ve used some of my own expertise as a former children’s librarian to help others on this site.

I recently read “Ella Minnow Pea: a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable” by Mark Dunn.

This short book is an allegory about resistance to tyranny. Both humorous and serious, it is about a fictional place where the use of certain letters in the alphabet is forbidden, on pain of imprisonment, whipping and exile. Read the main title aloud!

 – Gail Ryall

If I see a review of a book that appeals to me, I write it down and order it online from my public library for pickup at my local branch. How convenient is that!

I recently read and liked:

“The Age of Wonder” by Richard Homes about science and culture in the 1700-1800s age of enlightenment – fascinating, deals with astronomy, balloons, mesmerism, Frankenstein, and the miner’s safety lamp.

“I Will Bear Witness” by Victor Klemperer, 2 volumes, couldn’t put it down – diary of daily life for Jews in Hitler Germany. Complex, quirky and contradictory, I found it compelling and very informative.

“At Weddings and Wakes” by Alice McDermott – family, memory, sadness, life.

 – Susan Webb

I joined about two months ago. It is free, one of several “book swap” websites. Once you have some credits (easy to get), you can order books sent to you free. You, in turn, pay the postage on books you send out to fill requests.

When I have time, I busily post books that I will send out (I have way too many at home), and in turn get other books that I would like to read, or peruse at least, most of which I will re-post to swap, a few I might give away.

There is something satisfying in sending a book to someone who actually asked for it. Some have been sent to large cities, but a large proportion of the members live in small towns, rural areas, etc. where libraries may well be hard to come by, as well as cash for new books.

 – Betty Smith

I am a reading addict (it’s my self-medication of choice). I use the New York public library’s online catalog to find a book I want, order it online, have it delivered to any branch, and return it to any branch. Can’t beat that with a stick.

Occasionally, I am SO desperate for a book (after library hours, or something in particular I just NEED) that I’ll buy it. I got the latest Denise Mina, “Still Midnight,” at 50% off, yay! She is a wonderful writer, can’t wait until she writes another.

Looking forward to getting Elizabeth’s George’s latest, which I resisted buying because it’s outrageously expensive, but I am DYING to read it!

 – Elena Mora

Gerald Horne has written tons of interesting stuff: “The Color of Fascism: Lawrence Dennis, Racial Passing, and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the United States,” “The End of Empires: African Americans and India,” “W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography.” Then there’s Michael Parenti. He just wrote “God and His Demons.

I’m way behind, still reading Horne’s 2006 book, “The Final Victim of the Blacklist: John Howard Lawson, Dean of the Hollywood Ten.

 – Bill Meyer

I’m looking forward to reading “Hitch-22,” Christopher Hitchens’ memoir, very humanizing for someone known for being quite private. He is one of the few public intellectuals who is at home anywhere. An atheist, or as he says, an “antitheist,” when he went on a book tour for “god is not Great,” he made a point of going to smaller towns, to Christian universities in the South, saying that he wanted to actually engage people and their ideas.

 – Dan Margolis

I’m a big fan of Donna Leone’s series of crime novels about police commissioner Guido Brunetti. They’re for the escapist in all of us. The mysteries take place in Venice and, as with all good detective novels, bring in political, social and economic issues affecting Italy today.

 – Teresa Albano




Barbara Russum
Barbara Russum

Barbara Russum is a longtime reader and supporter of People's World who worked in production and program support from 2003 to 2021. She is particularly impressed by the new, young writers who submit stories from their union organizing, campus work, and neighborhood actions. "I encourage everyone to read People's World, share articles on social media, and donate to support the work."