Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive. We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months. Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well! As our public services desk model has changed, you’ll note the headings on our recommendations has changed, as well. Please feel free to speak with any Library staff member about finding a book to brighten your summer.
From the Public Service Desk:
The Cabinet of Curiosities: If you’re looking for a series with legs, then look no further than this series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, featuring the utterly unique FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast. In this series installment, a construction project in Manhattan unearths a mass grave beneath a crumbling building. As the quest to discover more about these bodies heats up, Pendergast steps in, ready to bend whatever rules necessary in order to get access to the site. Before anyone can learn why, murders begin to take place across New York that mirror those of the bodies in the cellar–exactly. Signs begin to point to a 19th-century scientist who was determined to find the elixir of life by any means necessary. Did he succeed? What is his final goal? And what does all this have to do with Pendergast? Although this is the third book in this series, this is the first book that truly focused on Pendergast himself, and is therefore accepted as the real launch to this series, which is still going strong.
From our staff: I read this series every summer (which is getting to be quite a feat!). I love the first two books in this series, but for chilling revelations and intriguing characters, you cannot miss this book (and you can definitely enjoy it even if you’ve never read anything else by Preston and Child). I hope someone reads this so I have someone to talk to about it soon!
Signs for Lost Children: Sarah Moss’ fascinatingly unique historical fiction deals with real-life cultural and social ills of its time, but also shows the hope that two intrepid people can create, even in the darkest and most unlikely places. Ally Moberly, a recently qualified doctor, never expected to marry until she met Tom Cavendish. Only weeks into their marriage, Tom sets out for Japan, leaving Ally as she begins work at the Truro Asylum in Cornwall. Horrified by the brutal attitudes of male doctors and nurses toward their female patients, Ally plunges into the institutional politics of women’s mental health at a time when madness is only just being imagined as treatable. She has to contend with a longstanding tradition of permanently institutionalizing women who are deemed difficult, all the while fighting to to be taken seriously as a rare woman in a profession dominated by men. Tom, an architect, has been employed to oversee the building of Japanese lighthouses. He also has a commission from a wealthy collector to bring back embroideries and woodwork. As he travels Japan in search of these enchanting objects, he begins to question the value of the life he left in England. As Ally becomes increasingly absorbed in the moral importance of her work, and Tom pursues his intellectual interests on the other side of the world, they will return to each other as different people.
From the Upstairs Offices:
A Man Called Ove: There is little doubt that Fredrik Backman’s beloved novel is at the top of a lot of people’s “top picks” list, so we’d be very remiss if we left it off of ours! Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time. Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations. A Swedish blogger-turned-author, Fredrik Backman’s beautifully human, humane, and heart-warming tale is a perfect choice for anyone looking for an honest-to-goodness smile in their summer.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Another modern-day classic, Rebecca Skloot’s revelation about the truth behind some of the most profound tools in modern science’s arsenal has been hailed as a landmark achievement, and a critically important work for understanding the history of race, gender, and privilege in American society. Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer, from whom doctor’s took a sample of cancerous tissue without her knowledge or consent, as was the custom then. These cells ultimately provided one of the holy grails of mid-century biology: human cells that could survive–even thrive–in the lab. These cells gave scientists a building block for countless breakthroughs, beginning with the cure for polio, as well as cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This book took over a decade for Skloot to research and write, and her hard work pays off in spades. It’s not an easy read, but it’s a vitally important one.
Happy Summer Reading, Beloved Patrons!