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Summer reading: Feeds your soul, sparks a laugh, or maybe tears
By Sarah Long | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 6/7/2009 12:01 AM

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Just the words "summer reading" take me to a relaxing other world where I am warm and comfortable with hours of unstructured time, mine for the taking. In today's world, such escape is becoming increasingly elusive. But I urge you to fit in some summer reading that feeds your soul or at least gives you a laugh, an escape or a view of another world.

The book I have most enjoyed recently is "The Spellman Files: A Novel" by Lisa Lutz. The Spellmans are a family of private investigators: father, mother, son, and two daughters. The book is written in the voice of Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, age 28, who is quite the wit. Being the middle child, Izzy has issues with her older brother, who has actually escaped the family business to become a successful attorney. He is perfect in every way - looks, manners, brains, etc. - and eschews the other family members' penchant for investigating everything, especially each other. You might say he aspires to be normal and middle class. Izzy feels protective of her younger sister, Rae, age 14. But Rae is a force to contend with because of her proclivity for "recreational tailing" or following people just for kicks. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and best of all, it's the first of four with another one on the way early in 2010. If you liked, "Harriet the Spy" as a kid, you'll love Izzy Spellman.

I asked other librarians of my acquaintance about their reading. Stephanie Sarnoff, executive director of the Schaumburg Township District Library said she had recently enjoyed "The Sunday Philosophy Club" by Alexander McCall-Smith.

"It's the first of several novels set in contemporary Edinburgh, featuring philosopher Isabel Dalhousie," she said. "I found it to be a charming departure from the author of "The #1 Ladies Detective Agency' series."

Cynthia Fuerst, executive director of the Vernon Area Public Library District, said, "I just finished reading 'Angelica' by Arthur Phillips. He will be speaking at the Vernon Area Library on Sunday, June 7. He's also scheduled to speak at the Printers Row Book Fair on June 6. 'Angelica' is billed as a 'Victorian Ghost Story' but it is more of a psychological tale. It's well written, a little on the long side, but lots of twists and turns which made it interesting. Next will be something lighter, a 'chick-lit' title by Jennifer Weiner who will be visiting here on July 20. She's probably best known for 'Best Friends Forever' and has a new book, 'Good in Bed' coming out later this summer. She's pretty popular here, so I'll read whatever is left on the shelf!"

Ben Schapiro, executive director of the Morton Grove Public Library is a more serious reader.

"Just finished 'An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943' by Rick Atkinson," he said. "The best work I've read on the North African campaign. Atkinson does an excellent job of threading together the strategic, political, tactical and logistical issues of bringing an army that only had a minimal role in WWI into the realm of mobile warfare. This book would make a very good intro to the work of Carlo D'Este, the distinguished American military historian. Currently, I am reading, 'The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle.' It's a biography by Russell Miller."

Listen to my podcast with noted librarian readers' adviser Nancy Pearl atlibrarybeat.org for her picks on the best summer reads. Visit nsls.info/SummerReadingPrograms for information on summer reading programs with prizes for readers of all ages. Let the library not only help you with your summer reading, but motivate you, too.