Once again, we are pleased to share our annual summer reading newsletter! Humanities Texas regularly supports and partners with public libraries to bring educational programs to readers throughout the state. This year, we asked public libraries from across Texas to recommend the best books for the summer season. The suggested titles include fiction and nonfiction, poetry and photography, books set in Texas and books featuring far-flung locales. Visit your local library branch and check out these great reads.

The Library by Jacob Lawrence, 1960. Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Abilene Public Library | Abilene

Janis Test, Information Services Manager:

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson

You may think you know all you want to know about the 1915 sinking of the luxury liner Lusitania by a German U-boat, but, let me assure you, unless you’ve read Larson’s gripping book, you don’t. Larson brings to life a historical seismic event with an eye for details and a way of making one wonder what will happen next, even with a known, well-reported event. If you love history as I do, this will be a book you don’t want to put down until the end.

Marie Noe, Customer Services Manager:

The Book with No Pictures, by B. J. Novak

Yes, it’s true.  This book has NO pictures. Just the thing you want to tell that group of five-year-olds. (Can you hear the moans?) However, once you explain the rules—the reader has to say what the words say, no matter what—the fun begins. If you can manage to get through the hilarity with a straight face, you are a better man than I. The colorful text begs to be read with as much theatrics as possible. Be warned, you will end up reading this several times as the kids will surely yell, "Read it again!" I mean, how often do they get to hear you say, "Boo Boo Butt" out loud?

Abilene Public Library.

Amarillo Public Library | Amarillo

Amanda Barrera, Director of Library Services:

Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea is one of those books that stays with you long after you turn the last page. In her usual lyrical fashion, Sepetys tells her story through the perspectives of four young adults caught in the midst of World War II's Operation Hannibal, the most massive civilian and troop evacuation in history. Over a million German and Eastern European refugees, fleeing before the advance of Stalin's Red Army, sought escape across the Baltic Sea. Those who believed their salvation was assured on board the Wilhelm Gustloff were tragically proved wrong an hour before midnight on January 30, 1945, when three torpedoes from the Soviet submarine S-13 ripped through the bowels of the ship. Close to 11,000 people (about 5,000 of them children) were stuffed stem to stern into a vessel meant to hold 1,500—and less than 1,200 would live to see the dawn. As was the case with the Titanic, many who survived the sinking itself perished in the freezing waters of an unseasonably cold night, hoping in vain for a rescue that did not reach them in time.

Sepetys states in her author's note that suffering was the only true victor of World War II. Reading about the struggles of the four fictional protagonists in Salt to the Sea made me reflect on all the forgotten tragedies endured by real people swallowed up by a brutal war long past.

Amanda Barrera.

Arlington Public Library | Arlington

Marti Gullatt, Cataloging and Acquisitions Assistant:

Bloodsucking Fiends, by Christopher Moore

If you like to have a laugh while you read, pick up Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore. Jody is a new vampire, and Tommy is a Midwestern transplant to San Francisco. Since Jody needs a minion and Tommy wants a girl, they set up house. . . getting into a lot of trouble along the way. The old vampire who created Jody and happens to be bored causes most of the trouble. Filled with interesting characters such as "The Animals" and "The Emperor," the book is not short on laughs or impossible situations. Christopher Moore writes with off-the-wall humor and unusual stories that make for a fun, light-hearted read. If audiobooks are your method of indulging in books, the reader for this book, Susan Bennett, brings all of the characters to life and has a gift for comedic timing.

Karen Huffman, Librarian:

A Man Called Ove: A Novel, by Fredrick Backman

A bestseller in Sweden, this debut book is about a fifty-nine-year-old man who has lost his wife. He decides he is ready to join her in the afterlife, puts on his best suit, and decides to die that day. He keeps getting interrupted by pushy neighbors, a homeless cat, an estranged friend, and small children who decide he is fun to be with. Before he realizes what is happening, he is getting drawn back into life and suddenly suicide will have to wait until he can get everyone else straightened out. A charming read, this book is also a reflection on getting older and finding new purpose in life.

Arlington Public Library.

Austin Public Library | Austin

Cesar Garza, Reference Librarian

Good on Paper, by Rachel Cantor

In Rachel Cantor’s unconventional, eccentric Good on Paper, an opportunity to salvage Shira Greene’s struggling career appears when she is asked to translate an untranslatable work of masterful Italian literature. Good on Paper is published by Melville House, an independent press that publishes books of remarkable quality and popularity including The Girl in the Red Coat, Not on Fire, But Burning, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine (UK edition), and more.

Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail,
by Kelly Luce

Kelly Luce’s quiet, lonely short stories involve fantastical elements like a blue demon, an oracular toaster, a surprising sex reassignment and a machine that measures one’s capacity for love. Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail is published by Austin-based publishing house A Strange Object.

Tim Staley, Executive Director, Austin Public Library Foundation

Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library, by Wayne A. Wiegand

Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library by Wayne Wiegand, a professor at Florida State University's School of Information, presents the public library from library patrons' perspectives as an institution deeply valued for the access it provides to information and knowledge but also for its role in popularizing reading and providing the public space for a range of community enriching programs such as author readings, lectures, movies, and, more recently, computer classes.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts, by Joshua Hammer

Whatever Raiders of the Lost Ark might have accomplished in glamorizing archeologists, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts may well do the same for librarians. Journalist Joshua Hammer conveys the compelling story of a librarian named Abdel Kader Haidara who organized a dangerous operation to sneak tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts out of Timbuktu to the safety of southern Mali as Al-Qaeda militants tightened their control over the city in 2012.

Bay City Public Library | Bay City

Samantha Denbow, Director:

Dancing with Einstein, by Kate Wenner

The book that I am recommending is Kate Wenner's Dancing with Einstein. It offers a familiar portrayal of Albert Einstein and makes for an excellent book discussion selection. For fans of historical fiction, this will not disappoint.

"A grimly fascinating tale set in New York City in summer 1975, when the daughter of a nuclear physicist faces—with the help of her four therapists—the psychological damage caused by her father’s early death."

Sterling Municipal Library | Baytown

Jamie Eustace, City Librarian:

Grunt, by Mary Roach

Nonfiction readers love the way Mary Roach makes life's most basic topics accessible and interesting. In her latest book, Grunt, she explores the science behind how soldiers process the extreme circumstances of war.

Truly, Madly, Guilty, by Liane Moriarty

Fans of Australian author Liane Moriarty are always eager for her books to be released in America. Her new summer novel Truly, Madly, Guilty promises to be the perfect beach read as a seemingly simple neighborhood barbeque turns out to be more than the guests had bargained for.

Patient H. M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets, by Luke Dittrich

Patient H. M. is the true account of a factory worker who became the world's most studied human research subject when a brain surgery intended to cure his epilepsy made him an amnesiac. This fascinating history is sure to be in the book bags of medical memoir enthusiasts and fans of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Sterling Municipal Library.

Benbrook Public Library | Benbrook

Cullen Dansby, Adult Services Librarian:

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

I wholeheartedly recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I know I’m not unique in showing love for this book (it has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for 107 weeks and counting), but it’s one of the best books I’ve read in recent memory, was universally praised by our library’s book club members, and, after over two years since its publication, is still widely read by users of our library system. It’s a historical fiction novel, but this beautifully written, well-crafted, emotionally affecting story about two young people whose lives converge in German-occupied France during World War II can be enjoyed by all readers. World War II is a well-tread backdrop for historical fiction, but All the Light We Cannot See, which succeeds at being both heartbreaking and uplifting all at once, is unique and highly deserving of readers’ attention.

Benbrook Public Library.

Patrick Heath Public Library | Boerne

Robin Stauber, Adult Services Librarian:

After several years as the teen librarian here, I thought I was more than over dystopian fiction. But two recent (ish) adult novels provided me with some new twists on an overdone genre, and I find myself intrigued by them both for their plausible setups of pending apocalyptic futures, but also for their page-turning ability—perfect summer reads, in other words! 

Station Eleven: A Novel, by Emily St. John Mandel

Centered on the life of aging Hollywood movie star Arthur Leander and the lives he touched in the years prior to the outbreak of a deadly flu that wipes out humanity—as well as the lives he touched on the night he died on stage in the title role of King Lear—this novel is an exploration of what it means to be human when the world as you know it is over and how our connections to each other and to art are perhaps the ties that bind. Kirkus Reviews describes the writing as "Cormac McCarthy seesawing with Joan Didion," and, well, that's about as apt as I could describe it.  

The Queen of the Tearling: A Novel and The Invasion of the Tearling: A Novel, by Erika Johansen

The first two in a planned trilogy (with the third book scheduled to drop in November), this is the story of two women: Kelsea, destined to rule a medieval-type kingdom, and Lilly, a woman living under difficult circumstances in the not-so-distant future of America. They are connected by a mysterious occurrence called "The Crossing," and both of their fates are dependent, it seems, on each other. What I loved about this series is that while the first book is clearly fantasy, the second book very much plays in both the fantasy and the science fiction world, with plenty of questions arising for thought in regards to women's rights, income disparity, and just exactly how these two very disparate stories come together.

Patrick Heath Public Library.

Clara B. Mounce Public Library | Bryan

Elaine Platt, Youth Services Librarian:

Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger

"Told from Frank's perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God."

The setting of this story, 1961 in New Bremen, Minnesota, is so personally alluring I fell in love instantly. Mr. Krueger has crafted a story that is deep, moving, and absorbing, yet is an easy read. I didn't feel overwhelmed with detail, but it was just the right amount to illustrate. The beautifully written story is heartbreaking and, at the same time, uplifting. I was pleased that it was chosen for my book club.

Elaine Platt.

Herman Brown Free Library | Burnet

Betsy Engelbrecht, Director:

The Son, by Phillipp Meyer

A sweeping Texas saga that chronicles the struggles of a multigenerational family from Comanche raids during the 1800s to the oil booms of the twentieth century. This is storytelling at its finest and is currently in development as a television series on AMC.

The Patient's Playbook, by Leslie D. Michelson

Medical errors are a leading cause of death in the U.S. Leslie D. Michelson outlines strategies that will reduce these errors by suggesting proactive decisions that put the power back in the hands of the patient. His mantra is: educate yourself before the inevitable health crisis strikes you or someone you love. He also includes links that enable patients/family members to research their situation and take action for their care.

Tye Preston Memorial Library | Canyon Lake

Brenda Coulter, Adult Services Coordinator:

A Man Called Ove: A Novel, by Fredrik Backman

My favorite book is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Even though the book was published in 2014, I still recommend it over and over. It is the story of a grumpy old man with a short fuse. The neighbors don't like him and have ousted him as chairman of the neighborhood residents' association.

Ove's world get a shakeup one morning with the arrival of a new couple moving in next door with two children, and they promptly run over his mailbox. What follows is a funny and heartwarming story of friendship and the community deciding they may have been wrong about Ove. You will love this book!

Library Friends of Conroe | Conroe

Vicki Christopher, President:

One Rough Man, by Brad Taylor

Raised in Conroe, Texas, author Brad Taylor is a fiction thriller military writer with the character Pike Logan solving crime. Read them in order starting with One Rough Man. We get a lot of requests for his books since he grew up in this area.

"A fallen-from-grace former antiterrorist operative and his lady friend chase terrorists armed with a horrifying weapon halfway around the world."

Vicki Christopher.

Ben F. McDonald Public Library | Corpus Christi

Susan Turpin, Library Assistant:

The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel, by Michael Chabon.

I love alternative history novels. The Alteration by Kingsley Amis and The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick are two favorites. Chabon's alternative history is set in a temporary settlement established in 1941 for Jewish refugees in Sitka, Alaska. It is now some sixty years later and the lease is about to run out. This means that Alaska will now reclaim its territory and push the refugees out. There is no Jewish state, Israel having lost the Israeli-Arab war in 1948. This is the setting and impetus for the plot.

Elements of noir: powerful organized crime bosses, alcoholic cop, murder.

The twist: a paramilitary group that wants to build a new Temple in Jerusalem after destroying the Dome of the Rock, hoping to speed the birth of the Messiah. An evangelical Christian Zionist American government supports the group.

Ben F. McDonald Public Library.

Dallas Public Library | Dallas

Kristy Smrcka, Librarian:

Honky Tonk Samuari, by Joe R. Lansdale 

Hap and Leonard are on a cold case job in East Texas searching for a missing person. This is the latest book in the Hap and Leonard series that is now a show on Sundance TV.

Jane Steele: A Novel, by Lyndsay Faye

Described as a retelling of the classic Jane Eyre. Jane is a woman with a less-than-happy childhood who sometimes murders people. She finds out that the new owner of her childhood estate is looking for a governess. Jane applies without revealing her true identity—since she has been on the lam because of the trail of bodies she's left behind—in hopes of finding out if she is the rightful heir. What she finds is a potential love interest, and she must decide how much to reveal about her past indiscretions.

The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant, by Drew Hayes

"Some people are born boring. Some live boring. Some even die boring. Fred managed to do all three, and when he woke up as a vampire, he did so as a boring one. Timid, socially awkward, and plagued by self-esteem issues, Fred has never been the adventurous sort."

This is a book of short stories about Fred and his friends. It hooked me with Bubba, the weresteed. Undead Fred returns to his high school reunion, and his life is suddenly uninteresting no longer. Fans of Christopher Moore and A. Lee Martinez may get a kick out of this one.

Dallas Public Library.

Val Verde County Library | Del Rio

M. Graciela Monday, Director:

Images of America: Val Verde County, by Douglas Lee Braudaway and Val Verde County Historical Commission

We suggest a classic, Images of America: Val Verde County, written by our own local historian Douglas Braudaway and the Val Verde County Historical Commission. Published in 1999, this book captures the spirit of the region and its people through historic photographs.

Denton Public Library | Denton

Carmen P. Grant, Public Service Librarian, North Branch:

The Friday Night Knitting Club, by Kate Jacobs

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs is a story of friendship and sisterhood. Georgia Walker owns a little yarn shop on Manhattan's Upper West Side. She begins a knitting club in her shop. Every Friday night, the knitters work on their latest project. They chat about their lives, loves, and everything in between. When things change for the worst, this group of knitters realize their group is more than a club; they have evolved into a sisterhood where friendships are strong.

Kate Jacobs does a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life. You begin to feel that you are part of the knitting club and privileged to be involved in each characters' life. I must say, after finishing this book, I had to find out what happen to all these wonderful characters. So I read the sequels, Knit Two and Knit the Season.

Jackson County Memorial Library | Edna

Cherie Robinson, Director:

Redemption Road, by John Hart

This is a literary thriller full of tension, secrets, and betrayal. I honestly did not guess who "it" was until the author revealed it! Lots of twists and turns.

"Imagine: A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother. A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting. After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free as deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, a body cools in pale linen… This is a town on the brink."

The Silver Suitcase, by Terrie Todd

This is a beautiful story that will drag you in right from the very beginning. Once the secret is revealed, it may shock you but, at the same time, it will warm your heart and remind you to hold on to hope when it seems all is lost.

"It’s 1939, and Canada is on the cusp of entering World War II. Seventeen-year-old farm girl Cornelia has been heartbroken since the day her mother died five years ago. Alone and carrying a heavy secret, she makes a desperate choice that will haunt her for years to come. Never telling a soul, Cornelia pours out the painful events of the war in her diary.

Many decades later, Cornelia’s granddaughter, Benita, is in the midst of her own crisis, experiencing several losses in the same week, including the grandmother she adored. She discovers Cornelia’s diary. Now the secrets of her grandmother’s past will lead Benita on an unexpected journey of healing, reunion, and faith."

El Paso Public Library | El Paso

Margaret M. Neill, Interim Co-Director:

From this Wicked Patch of Dust, by Sergio Troncoso

This is a fascinating book set right here in El Paso about the struggles of an immigrant family trying to realize the American dream while remaining true to their cultural heritage. I think the story of Pilar and Cuauhtémoc Martinez and their children will fascinate anyone who is interested in fiction dealing with family dynamics, culture clashes, and what it means to be an immigrant in America. 

Sergio Troncoso is a resident faculty member of the Yale Writers' Conference in New Haven, Connecticut, and an instructor at the Hudson Valley Writers' Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York, but he's a native El Pasoan, born and raised in Ysleta. Last year, we re-named the Ysleta Branch Library the Sergio Troncoso Branch Library in honor of his contributions to the community and literature. He's very active and involved in the Ysleta community and visits often.

El Paso Public Library.

Fort Worth Library | Fort Worth

Michelle Morris and Sallie Swank, Adult Materials Selection Staff:

Prelude to Bruise, by Saeed Jones

This poetry collection captured my attention from the first poem "Anthracite." Saeed Jones was raised in Lewisville, Texas, and his poems often speak about Southern locations ("Jasper, 1998," "Lower Ninth," and "In Nashville"). His singular experiences are wrapped in words that sting straight to your heart. The first line of "Casket Sharp"—"Your soft cough becomes prognosis"—lets you know that the poem will have you holding your breath until the end. There's a reason why this poetry collection has won the American Library Association Stonewall Book Awards/Barbara Gittings Literature Award and the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and been the finalist for several other poetry awards.

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking), by Christian Rudder

A beach book for people who like looking at patterns in Big Data. Christian Rudder was one of the founders of the dating site OkCupid and ran the OkTrends blog that parsed the back-end data into general observations on preferences from the site's users. In this book, he does the same with Google search results and other troves of data. It's a pop-science book that's an easy read for the summer.

The Visiting Privilege, by Joy Williams

This is a career-spanning collection of stories by one of my favorite writers. Her stories are so quietly loud. I loved re-reading things I first read in my twenties such as "Rot," "The Blue Men," and "Escapes." The new stories are like found gems. A wonderful book to take your time with.

The Water Knife: A Novel, by Paolo Bacigalupi

A sci-fi thriller set in a depressingly plausible near future—where control of the vanishing water supply in the Southwest United States is maintained by a corrupt few. I don't care for dystopian novels usually, but this one is like Inception meets Blade Runner in the desert. Have a glass of water handy while reading.

Fort Worth Public Library.

Grapevine Public Library | Grapevine

Linda Treviño, Adult Reference Librarian II:

Isaac's Storm, by Erik Larson

During September of 1900, a massive hurricane swept through and devastated the city of Galveston, Texas. This book tells a true-life story of man versus nature concerning Isaac Cline, chief weatherman for Texas at the time, who believed no storm could do serious harm to the city of Galveston. Ultimately, the storm killed thousands of people and changed the way hurricane experts viewed the power of a great hurricane. Originally published in 2000, Isaac's Storm was meticulously investigated by Larson, who offers a story based on Cline's personal letters, telegrams, reports, and the testimony of individual survivors. Isaac's Storm became a top favorite of our current book discussion group, Entwined Minds, because it is both well-written and researched and proves historically valuable as a recounting of the deadliest natural disaster to ever hit the United States. From one of our book club members: "This is a story every Texan should know much like we know the story of the Alamo, but, in this case, it was an epic battle against nature's force in which we suffered tremendous loss."

Linda Treviño.

Houston Public Library | Houston

Darcy Casavant, Librarian III:

Strangers in Paradise, by Terry Moore

David loves Katchoo. Katchoo loves Francine. Francine feels unlovable to everyone, especially herself. This Eisner-winner indie graphic novel is mostly based in Houston (although there is an international thriller side-story). It will break and mend your heart a million times as it reminds you that family is what you make it.

The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell

One survivor of a failed Jesuit mission to another planet is found maimed physically, mentally, and spiritually; the Vatican must investigate what really happened. Intriguing concepts of morality, anthropology, parallel evolution, and linguistics are woven into this powerful tale of a faith lost and won. This is the novel I give to people who normally don't read science fiction.

Christopher Hu, Adult Services Librarian:

The Buried Giant: A Novel, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro also wrote The Remains of the Day. On the face of it, The Buried Giant would be considered a fantasy novel. However, the author has imbued the book with several deeper themes.

"In post-Arthurian Britain, the wars that once raged between the Saxons and the Britons have finally ceased. Axl and Beatrice, an elderly British couple, set off to visit their son, whom they haven’t seen in years. And, because a strange mist has caused mass amnesia throughout the land, they can scarcely remember anything about him. As they are joined on their journey by a Saxon warrior, his orphan charge, and an illustrious knight, Axl and Beatrice slowly begin to remember the dark and troubled past they all share."

Pleasantville: A Novel, by Attica Locke

Attica Locke is a Houston native and the book is set in Houston. The setting, Pleasantville, is an actual neighborhood surrounded by industrial plants. The main character is an attorney. The book is in the vein of the classic legal thriller, much like the works of John Grisham.

"This sophisticated thriller sees lawyer Jay Porter—hero of her bestseller Black Water Rising—return to fight one last case, only to become embroiled in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how far those in power are willing to go to win."

Houston Public Library.

Johnson City Public Library | Johnson City

Maggie Goodman, Director:

Fortune Smiles: Stories, by Adam Johnson

This collection of short stories won the 2015 National Book Award for best fiction. All the stories are very contemporary: a story about Hurricane Katrina survivors or refugees from North Korea. They always have a little "fortune smiles" at the end but not too much. 

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson 

The Devil in the White City is the true story of the creator of the 1900 Chicago World's Fair juxtaposed against a mass murderer in Chicago at the same time. It's one of the creepiest things I've read, but totally fascinating.

Leander Public Library | Leander

Priscilla Donovan, Director:

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

What makes life worth living? For a man called Ove, it's following the rules, living by your principles, and making sure things get done right. It's taking care of all the things the imbeciles, morons, and fools in his community can't do for themselves. And it's realizing that this old curmudgeon needs these imbeciles, morons, and fools as much as they need him. A funny, touching story of love lost and found.

Priscilla Donovan.

Midland County Public Library | Midland

John Trischitti III, Director:

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything About the World, by Tim Marshall

With up-to-date maps of each region, this title serves as a guide to one of the major factors that determine world affairs and our borders. Marshall, a former foreign correspondent for Britain's Sky News, paints an informed and interesting picture into geopolitics. A compelling read and a departure from "traditional" non-fiction.

The Sage of Waterloo: A Tale, by Leona Francombe

A lively reimagining of a key moment in history, the story is told by William, a resident of Hougoumont, an ancient farmstead a stone's throw from Waterloo. William happens to be a white rabbit.

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times, by Lucy Lethbridge 

With Downton Abbey off the air now, fans of the show might be looking to scratch that itch. The upstairs/downstairs relationship of the grand homes of Britain has captivated our imagination. This book brings to life, through letters and diaries, the voices of countless men and women who have often been neglected by history for their "service."

John Trischitti III.

Judy B. McDonald Public Library | Nacogdoches

Crystal Hicks, Assistant Director:

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, and The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Our patrons at the Judy B. McDonald Public Library have thoroughly enjoyed a couple of titles, and, although they have been on the shelf for a while, they are still being circulated. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is being made into a movie this summer, and both it and its sequel, After You, are hugely popular hits that satisfy the desire for a good cathartic tearjerker. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a taut thriller that has also piqued the interest of our readers, and local book clubs have selected the novel for their groups.

Judy B. McDonald Public Library staff.

Ector County Library | Odessa

Kim Underwood, Managing Librarian, Southwest History and Genealogy Department:

The Son, by Philipp Meyer

The Son is a remarkable, epic work realized in an historical novel giving credence to the extensive research by its author, Philipp Meyer. The fictional McCullough family could, without a doubt, be a true-bred Texas cornerstone family during the time of Texas Independence on through the twentieth century with the Comanches, the Mexican American element, and the wildness of the land and of the oil. When the reader believes that surely not one more tragedy or traumatic event could occur, the likes of patriarch Col. Eli McCullough and his gritty skills, intuition, and rugged talent for survival—and even that of some of his descendants—make this a page-turning must after each chapter. Meyer's McCullough is not necessarily a likeable character, but he garners the respect of the Comanches, who kidnapped him, the Mexicans who labored for him, and even the reader who can't help but continue to follow him in disbelief and amazement at his life and family. Will stand firm as a classic novel for Texas for years to come!

Kim Underwood. Photo courtesy of the Odessa American.

Pharr Memorial Library | Pharr

Romeo Rosales Jr., Reference Librarian and Supervisor:

I Would Rather Sleep in Texas: A History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and The People of the Santa Anita Land Grant, by Mary Margaret McAllen Amberson, James A. McAllen, and Margaret H. McAllen

Never before have I read such an amazing and accurate account of the history of the Rio Grande Valley. Having lived in the region for thirty years, I am fully aware of the history and pioneers that set the foundation of such an interesting and perplexing area. The scholarship and research conducted for this book are unmatched. For anybody who is unfamiliar with the Rio Grande Valley (the southernmost area in Texas), this book is a must-read. It will completely knock your boots off and captivate you in a way that no other book written about the area has. No other region has been shaped by Spanish conquistadors, Mexican revolutionaries, cowboys, ranchers, Texas Rangers, Civil War generals, entrepreneurs, and empire builders quite like the Rio Grande Valley.

Ready Player One: A Novel, by Ernest Cline

What can I say about this book other than it was simply amazing! It has already cracked my list of the top five books I have ever read because it had me feeling nostalgic about growing up in the late 1980s and 1990s. Cline has a knack for taking you back in time (picture yourself in a time-traveling DeLorean) and making references to some of the greatest science fiction movies and classic arcade games that we once tried to master in arcades. I was in awe of this book from the beginning, and I think readers all over the world will be, too.

"In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape."

Romeo Rosales Jr.

Richardson Public Library | Richardson

Janet Vance, Assistant Director of Library Services:

Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream, by Joshua Davis

I'd like to recommend our Richardson Reads One Book choice for 2016—Spare Parts by Joshua Davis. It's the true story of four undocumented, Hispanic teenagers at a low-performing high school in Phoenix, who challenged themselves by forming a robotics team and entering a national underwater robotics contest. Their quest was complicated by the fact that they lived miles from an ocean, had no access to a swimming pool, often worked long hours at menial jobs outside of school hours, and were kids that society had basically given up on. It's also the true story of two inspiring teachers and their ability to profoundly impact these students and show them that they could have options, dreams, and, ultimately, hope for their future. This book is a great vehicle for kickstarting discussion of important issues such as the value our communities place on education and compassion. Joshua Davis will be coming to Richardson in September as a guest of Richardson Reads One Book to further enrich our town's reading and discussion of this significant book.

Calling Me Home: A Novel, by Julie Kibler

The second book that I'm currently in love with is from Julie Kibler, a first-time novelist from my area (Dallas-Fort Worth). Taking a piece of history from her own grandmother's life, Kibler wrote a beautiful, heartbreaking story of an interracial love affair set in the South in 1939. In the book's present-day opening pages, eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle asks Dorrie, her friend and hairdresser, to drive her from Dallas to Ohio for an important, yet secret, reason. The two women are from different races, different backgrounds, and different generations—yet the sharing of their personal stories during the long road trip forges new bonds of understanding and friendship and deepens the reader's knowledge of a painful time in our nation's past. This book was one of our most popular discussion choices this year in all three of our library's in-house book clubs. Fans of Kathryn Stockett's The Help will devour this one.

Richardson Public Library.

Round Rock Public Library | Round Rock

Michelle Cervantes, Director:

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, by A. Lee Martinez

One of my co-workers brought back from the Texas Library Association meeting an advanced reader's copy of The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez. I'm looking forward to reading this book. This fantasy novel by a Texas author promises adventure and humor with a strong female lead character—all things I look for in a leisurely read. Hopefully, I will not be disappointed! (Available July 2016)

Michelle Cervantes.

Tom Green County Library | San Angelo

Reading Nook Book Club:

The Gargoyle: A Novel, by Andrew Davidson 

I have never been more pleasantly surprised at the content of a book as compared to the expectations set by the jacket. I only cracked the cover as a favor to a friend who highly recommended it. Never before or since have I seen words give life to a story the way they do within these pages. Mr. Davidson takes a character I felt predestined to detest, places him in a setting I rarely read, and spins a story so wonderful that I was forced to reconsider my preconceptions—both in and out of the story. My biggest complaint is the seeming grail quest to find a book to match it.

Euphoria, by Lily King 

An excellent love story that takes place in the 1930s in Papua New Guinea, loosely based on the the life of Margaret Mead.

"Euphoria is Lily King's nationally bestselling breakout novel of three young, gifted anthropologists of the '30s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives."

The Vegetarian, by Han King

A very strange but powerful Korean novel about a woman's place in society and her relationship with her family.

"Before the nightmares began, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary, controlled life. But the dreams—invasive images of blood and brutality—torture her, driving Yeong-hye to purge her mind and renounce eating meat altogether. It's a small act of independence, but it interrupts her marriage and sets into motion an increasingly grotesque chain of events at home."

Vanessa Hartel, Young Adult Librarian, Stephens Central Library
Teen Republic

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer 

The first book of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer isn't just an ordinary retelling of Cinderella. First of all, the story is set in the future and definitely falls into the science fiction genre; be prepared for flying cars and cyborgs. But the changes don't stop there. Political intrigue, biological warfare, aliens, and many more fantastical additions truly make Cinder its own story, wildly divergent from its source of inspiration. All these elements combine in a beautiful way that transforms an age-old story about a girl, a fabulous pair of shoes, and a charming prince into an engaging story for today's audiences. Younger readers may enjoy the parallels to the fairy tale, while adult readers may become engrossed in the social and political aspects of Meyer's world. All of the books in the Lunar Chronicles series follow this pattern, morphing classic tales into something modern made for all ages.

Casey Dees, Young Adult Librarian, Stephens Central Library
Teen Republic

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

Far from a fairy tale, our next recommendation is Ransom Riggs's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Although initially skeptical of his grandfather's wondrous stories, Jacob (Riggs's protagonist) quickly discovers that the stories were all true after the mysterious circumstance of his grandfather's death. Naturally, Jacob sets out to find more information on the characters featured in his grandfather's not-so-tall-tales; thus begins his perilous quest to find the fabled Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Riggs does not tell this story with words alone; integral to the story are the various black-and-white photographs mentioned throughout the book, depicting the odd children Jacob heard about from his grandfather. Adults reading this novel may start off thinking it is just another tale of children with magical talents, but an abundance of suspenseful and touching moments, along with the occasional scare, will keep readers of all ages enthralled until the end. And the best part is, with a movie adaptation right around the corner, new readers won't have long to wait before they see the story's fascinating images come to life.

Tom Green County Library.

San Antonio Public Library | San Antonio

Cindy Moreno, Assistant Branch Manager, Great Northwest Branch:

Barrio Princess: Growing Up in Texas, by Consuelo Samarripa

I recommend Consuelo Samarripa's biography Barrio Princess: Growing Up in Texas. Samarripa shares her childhood memories in both English and Spanish. Samarripa introduces the reader to her family and friends who have shaped her stories and given her the gift of bilingual storytelling. She lovingly describes her Abuelita as a woman whose "words were always so endearing, always spoken in Spanish." Her Abuelita is also the adult who gives her a brief tutoring before the first day of school; she teaches her how to say "please," "thank you," and "no ma'am" and "yes ma'am." The reader is introduced to Doña Basilia, curandera (folk healer) of Westside barrio. Doña Basilia cures Consuelo from her susto that had caused her to lose weight as a teenager. 

When Consuelo's mother remarries an Anglo man they move to Huntsville, Alabama. On the way there, Consuelo experiences discrimination and racism. "I still believed that Diosito, the creator, made people just like my mother's cookies: some light, others slightly brown, and still others are a little overcooked, just like my Uncle Chocolate in San Antonio." Consuelo takes her readers through these experiences and as a reader you become enraptured in her life—learning that there are different bells at school and one is for recess and one is for the end of school, enjoying the delphiniums in her Abuelita's yard and holding her hermanitas (cousins) hands as they pretend to be a policewoman. The biography includes photographs of her family as well as a Q&A with the author.

Deedee Lu, Librarian:

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

This is an insightful and affecting memoir from a young neurosurgeon facing his mortality with a fatal diagnosis at age thirty-six. There's a San Antonio connection, too: The foreword is by Abraham Verghese, who was the founding director of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio's Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics.

San Antonio Public Library.

San Marcos Public Library | San Marcos

Deb Tomaselli, Program and Outreach Librarian:

The Fountains of Saint Mark: The Amazing San Marcos Springs, by Ron Coley

I never can pick just one favorite book. Being a librarian, after ten years of being a bookseller, is the perfect fit for my book-wandering eye. This summer comes a new photography book that I think all of San Marcos and anyone interested in the Hill Country or rivers and conservation will love to read. The Fountains of Saint Mark: The Amazing San Marcos Springs collects some of Ron Coley's underwater photography of Spring Lake and is punctuated with paintings by Janet Skaggs Hardin and maps by Sam R. Massey. The eight chapters capture and preserve some of the most treasured aspects of our beloved San Marcos community.

Tyler Public Library | Tyler

Mary Vernau, City Librarian:

Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley, examines the aftermath of a private luxury jet crash and the impossible survival of two of its passengers, a middle-aged artist and a four-year-old toddler. Was the accident mechanical, human error, or was it an act of terrorism? Who stands to benefit from the death of two very powerful men who were on the flight? Just don't plan on getting anything done once you start reading. Hawley's novel is "unputdownable!" One part mystery, one part psychological thriller, Before the Fall is sure to be a popular beach read of 2016. Highly recommended!

Missing, Presumed, by Susie Steiner

Susie Steiner has written a near perfect British police procedural. As you might predict from the title, Missing, Presumed, tells the story of a beautiful young Cambridge student, Edith Hind, who disappears from her flat without a trace one evening. Catching the case on her scanner, Detective Manon Bradshaw, age thirty-nine, is soon entrenched, questioning suspects who may have wished young Edith harm. Steiner has created an appealing cast of police officers who are carefully drawn. This mystery novel has a bit more in-depth characterization and description than most, which I enjoyed. And there is a very nice twist at the end that I did not see coming. Recommended for fans of Kate Atkinson.

Tyler Public Library.

Victoria Public Library | Victoria

Amanda Place, Teen Librarian:

The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke 

The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke, is a fantasy novel about two orphaned brothers set in modern-day Italy. Prosper, a boy around twelve years of age, learns that he and his younger brother, Bo, are going to be separated through adoption. Thus, the two run away to Venice. As winter nears, Prosper worries they may have to turn themselves in to save his little brother, who was ill. Luckily, the boys are saved by a young girl nicknamed Hornet. She brings them to her hideout (with two other boys), an abandoned movie theater. Their leader Scipio, a.k.a. the Thief Lord, keeps the children safe by stealing and selling. Little do the children know that their lives will change forever after being offered five million lire for stealing something sentimental from an elderly man. The children learn the dark truth of the Thief Lord and how he came to be and also find something powerful that will change their lives forever. This book is exciting and thought-provoking. It highlights the importance of family, both by blood and by choice, and resonates well with readers of all ages.

Kathy Westergren, Public Services Librarian:

The True Meaning of Smekday and Smek for President!, by Adam Rex

My recommendations are The True Meaning of Smekday and Smek for President! by Adam Rex, who started off as an illustrator of children's books. The True Meaning of Smekday is what the Disney movie Home is somewhat based on. These two books are brilliant, should be read in order, and are probably the best books I've read in a long time out of books for adults, teens, or kids.

 Joy Edwards-Huggins, Children's Library Assistant:

The Girl With the Silver Eyes, by Willo Davis Roberts

A favorite book of mine when I was younger, which has seen a relatively new republish date—it was originally published in 1980 and again recently in 2011—was The Girl with the Silver Eyes.

"Katie Welker is used to being alone. She would rather read a book than deal with other people. Other people don't have silver eyes. Other people can't make things happen just by thinking about them! But these special powers make Katie unusual, and it's hard to make friends when you're unusual. Katie knows that she's different but she's never done anything to hurt anyone so why is everyone afraid of her? Maybe there are other kids out there who have the same silver eyes . . . and the same talents . . . and maybe they'll be willing to help her."

Barbarajean Burton-Williams, Programming Services Lead:

Riders on the Orphan Train: A Novel, by Alison Moore

Riders on the Orphan Train is a historical novel about a little-known piece of American history. Between 1854 and 1929, over 250,000 orphans and "surrendered" children were "placed out" across the country. They started their journey in New York and were given away in train stations across the country. The novel is the story of the journey of two children from very different backgrounds who find themselves on the same train heading West in 1918. Ezra Duval, age 11, was left in an orphanage. Ezra's father, a widower, left his son behind for an opportunity to be a part of an archaeological expedition in Egypt. Maud Farrell, age 12, arrives in America from the west of Ireland to join her father, a "sand hog" excavating the subway, and discovers she must make her own way as a singing girl on the streets.

Victoria Public Library staff.

Waco-McLennan County Library | Waco

Jessica Emmett, Community Services LIbrarian:

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

I may be a little late to the Magicians party, but this series is perfect for light, fun summer reading. Billed as a "grown-up Harry Potter," there are definitely similarities between the two, but The Magicians is a little more like "Holden Caulfield can do magic." Quentin Coldwater is definitely a loner—unlucky in love and awkward with friends—but his acceptance into a secret magical school gives him a new lease on life, or so he thinks. The problems he had in his "regular life" in Brooklyn followed him, and there is no magical cure. It turns out being awkward in your twenties isn't any easier with magical powers! Humor, crazy magical situations, romance, and action will have readers hooked and wondering if this reluctant hero can actually save the day. The books read so fast, you will blow through the trilogy just in time to binge-watch the series on Syfy when it's too hot to go outside!

Jessica Emmett.

Wharton County Library | Wharton

Elene Gedevani, Director:

Hard Rain Falling, by Don Carpenter

Hard Rain Falling includes elements of adventure, crime, and redemption. Library patrons are always interested in this kind of story.

"A tough-as-nails account of being down and out, but never down for good—a Dostoyevskian tale of crime, punishment, and the pursuit of an ever-elusive redemption. The novel follows the adventures of Jack Levitt, an orphaned teenager living off his wits in the fleabag hotels and seedy pool halls of Portland, Oregon. Jack befriends Billy Lancing, a young black runaway and pool hustler extraordinaire. A heist gone wrong gets Jack sent to reform school, from which he emerges embittered by abuse and solitary confinement. In the meantime Billy has joined the middle class—married, fathered a son, acquired a business and a mistress. But neither Jack nor Billy can escape their troubled pasts, and they will meet again in San Quentin before their strange double drama comes to a violent and revelatory end."

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel, by M. L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans is a novel about adoption, love, and the complex life of parents dealing with the consequences of adopting a child.

"After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them."

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns conveys deep knowledge about the Great Migration, an important part of the history of the United States.

"From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves."

Wharton County Library.

Wichita Falls Public Library | Wichita Falls

Susan Cooper, Youth Services Manager:

Half Upon a Time, by James Riley

Riley does an excellent job of pulling many of the iconic elements of the best-known fairy tales into his story and weaving them with a nice touch of reality and sarcasm to keep readers of many ages engaged. This is the perfect book to capture your attention for a pleasant summer read, and, if you truly get hooked, you can follow up the adventures of Jack and May in the subsequent two books that make up the trilogy: Twice Upon a Time and Once Upon the End.

Rebel Belle, by Rachel Hawkins

To me, summer is a time to relax and enjoy books that don't cause too much stress. Rebel Belle fits the bill perfectly for a fantastic beach read. Told in the first person perspective of Harper herself, the dialogue is fast-paced and engaging. Teens and young adults will enjoy the juxtaposition of danger, mad fighting skills, and magic with the worries about lip-gloss, the perfect dress, and young love. This is also the first in a series, so readers who fall for Harper and David will be able to follow-up on their story with Miss Mayhem and Lady Renegades.

Wichita Falls Public Library.