Oprah’s Summer Reading List!

Thanks to Oprah, and O Magazine for the super summer reading list! “Lush historical novels, wise contemporary tales and crowd-pleasing beach reads… Go on, dive into O’s summer reading list!”

You will find ALL of the titles below, at your local San Diego County Library branch!

You can use these, or any books, as you enjoy San Diego County Library’s Summer Reading Program. Sign up online today!
The particular sadness of lemon cake : a novel / by Aimee Bender
At age 8, Rose Edelstein discovers she can taste feelings in food—lonely pie, adulterous roast beef, resentment soup—whatever angst or elation the cook might have experienced while preparing the meal. Weird for any kid, yes. But when a family like the Edelsteins is serving up its own wacky stew of alienation and contradiction—from the taciturn father, who “always seemed a little like a guest,” to the misanthropic brother, a physics prodigy with KEEP OUT posted (in 17 languages) on his bedroom door—having the ability to sense the dissonance between emotion and behavior can be especially painful. It’s no wonder Rose’s insights and subsequent psychic ramblings land her in the ER. Thankfully, George Malcolm, an adorable science whiz, comes to the rescue, simply by believing her. Voracious for human connection, Rose comes of age while unraveling family secrets as strangely lucid as they are nightmarish. At its core, Aimee Bender’s novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake encourages us all to make the most of our unique gifts while still finding a way to live in the so-called real world. — Kristy Davis, O Magazine
Both ways is the only way I want it / Maile Meloy
Maile Meloy’s Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It reads like a Bruce Springsteen album sounds: raw with a tender wildness and loaded with adolescent ache. The nuanced depictions of small-town life in some of these stories (“He could have told her that her father was the first person he had ever seen falling down drunk, but that seemed unfriendly”) make for a rich tableau of lovelorn cowboys, provincial lawyers, and renegade women. Don’t miss this sleeper hit of 2009, due out in paperback this month. — Kristy Davis, O Magazine
My name is Mary Sutter / Robin Oliveira
The title of Robin Oliveira’s debut historical novel, My Name Is Mary Sutter, perfectly evokes its eponymous heroine’s style: clear, determined, and, unlike most women of the Civil War era, unapologetically direct. Expected, at most, to follow her mother into local midwifery, Mary has the nerve to want to be a “real” doctor. (“No woman is a surgeon,” chides even her admiring twin sister, Jenny.) When Mary’s beloved, Thomas, devastates her by choosing the more conventional Jenny as his wife, Mary sets out for Washington, D.C.; perhaps there she can heal herself as well as those wounded in war. Her heartbreak may have given her compassion equal to her excellent medical skills—both of which endear her to two male surgeons along the way—but Mary (who’s nothing if not plucky) struggles mightily to achieve her dream. When news of her good works in a D.C. hospital finally wins her a meeting with President Lincoln, he declares: “I have more faith in that young woman than I do in most of my generals.” We, of course, felt that way about Mary all along. — Sara Nelson, O Magazine

The Madonnas of Echo Park : a novel / Brando Skyhorse
Culture, identity, and politics are just a few of the threads masterfully woven through the partly autobiographical novel of linked stories that is The Madonnas of Echo Park. Author Brando Skyhorse—so named because his mother revered the famous actor—grew up in the largely Mexican-American L.A. neighborhood of the title, which explains his understanding of its residents: among them a gang member, a day laborer, and a little girl tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time. Far from stock, Skyhorse’s characters also include an iconoclastic bus driver who considers himself more American than Mexican and rails against newcomers, illegal or no, and a maid who has one complex relationship with her gringa employer. (“When men want relief they hire a whore,” she observes. “When women want relief they hire a cleaning lady.”) What happens to a neighborhood that’s overrun by gentrification and warring intracultural factions? Violence, for one thing—but also, finally, in Skyhorse’s indelible storytelling, something that begins to look like hope. — Sara Nelson, O Magazine
Elizabeth Street : a novel based on true events / Laurie Fabiano
n her debut novel, Elizabeth Street , based on her family’s history, Laurie Fabiano examines the lives of Italian immigrants who struggled to survive in the tenements of New York City in the early 1900s. Giovanna is mute when she embarks for America, her voice having disappeared as news of her husband’s death arrived. But once she sees land several months later, she can speak: “[Her voice] wasn’t loud; it was strong and deep as if it had been buried….” Determined not to become another immigrant broken by poverty and prejudice, Giovanna immerses herself in the shadowy world of extortion and murder to fight the Black Hand, a precursor to the Mafia, and save her family. “What plans do you have for me…L’America?” Giovanna asks. Over almost 20 years and more than 400 pages, we watch her naïveté turn to wisdom in a place where the reality of daily survival quickly overshadows even the idea of prosperity. — Elizabeth Thompson , O Magazine

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