Hot summer reads

Published on: June 16th, 2016
Credit: Book Cellar

Credit: Book Cellar

Don’t-miss titles, book club inspirations and where to kick back with a paperback

Summer ushers in a number of classic warm-weather activities such as camping, pool parties, family vacations — and for book lovers, reading opportunities. The warm months usher in new releases by favorite authors, engaging events at local bookstores and longer days to binge read in the great outdoors.

Sami Boylan, assistant manager at The Book Cellar in Louisville, admits summer can be a busy time for many people, leaving little time to check off titles on your book list. She suggests setting a summer reading goal.“I try to set a goal each summer, and this year my goal is to read something that’s out of my comfort zone.  For example, if you love war stories, try a fantasy novel. Just give it a try and dip a toe into the water. For kids especially, it’s really fun to see where that takes them,” she said.

Peter Jones, manager at Boulder’s Trident Booksellers and Cafe, said he likes to keep a variety of books going at the same time. “Usually I’ll have a novel, nonfiction title and something eclectic.”

If your reading list grew stale over the winter, local bookstores can help readers discover some fresh new options. The Book Cellar keeps a display of Colorado-focused books for all ages. Trident and the Boulder bookstores also offer a large selection of books by Boulder County authors, and most bookstores and librarians are happy to help recommend a new author or title.

“We’re not your average bookstore, we don’t carry your typical top sellers. I’d say we also specialize in the outdoor genre,” said Jones of Trident.

Where to read
Boulder County summers provide a picturesque backdrop for getting absorbed in a new book. Cafes, bookshops and your local library are buzzing, along with their respective patios or decks.

Bookstores like Trident and Denver’s Tattered Cover offer plenty of nooks, plush armchairs and corners to curl up with a book. You might even end up sitting next to one of your favorite local authors. “A lot of authors come and work here in the bookstore,” said Jones of Trident Cafe. “We have an outdoor spot out back where there are always people reading as well. It’s a relaxed atmosphere modeled after the traditional European bookstore and cafe.”

Recent renovation to the Louisville Public Library created a delightful environment for kids. The large children’s section includes quiet spots to sit, a playroom and even a puppet theater.

Don’t forget about the classic reading destination, the local coffee shop. For a peaceful environment conducive to reading and good coffee, we recommend The Cup in Boulder, Vic’s Espresso in downtown Louisville, Cristo’s Coffee in Erie, and Ziggy’s Coffee House in Longmont.

Boylan, of the Book Cellar, admits one of her favorite reading spots is at the bar during the day.

“I like books and I like good beer, so it makes sense to me, but everyone always looks at me like I’m crazy,” she laughed.

And don’t forget Colorado’s main attraction — the outdoors. With sunny skies and warm temperatures, who says that reading is an indoor activity? Renee Thompson, circulation specialist at the Boulder Public Library, said her favorite reading spot is her back deck. She also recommends sitting in any of the area’s public parks or by a creek.

Trident manager Peter Jones suggested several reading spots with a view, including Chautauqua Park and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), both in Boulder. “NCAR has a lot of really nice spots with some sandstone retaining walls. You can drive all the way up and sit and read with a fabulous view. Of course, anywhere in the mountains is also great,” he said.  

Don’t forget to pack a book when you head out on a camping trip. For that occasion, Jones said he prefers truly unplugging by bringing a paperback instead of an e-reader. “E-readers have a glow, plus they can run out of batteries,” he said. “There’s nothing like a paperback in the wilderness. That way I can get lost in both worlds.”

Join the party

Besides new releases, summer also brings a packed calendar of literary events. Check your local library for reading groups and summer reading programs aimed at young children and teens. The Boulder Public Library even offers book-club-ready Books in a Bag. Librarians have curated a number of very popular book club titles, and each bag contains eight copies of the book, background material and discussion questions.

Websites like goodreads.com allow you to set reading goals for the year, and helps track books on your to-read list.

When summer comes to an end, celebrate literature at Jaipur Literature Festival in Boulder, a three-day festival of author conversations, readings and special speakers from all over the world. The event, which runs from Sept. 23-25, is free and open to the public. The Boulder Public Library, local bookstores and Naropa University are all partners for the festival and will hold associated events and readings throughout the weekend.

Not your typical summer reading list

We’re not in grade school anymore, so summer doesn’t come with a required reading list. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a list of books to tackle. We asked some Boulder County reading buffs for some of their favorite summer reads and compiled their recommendations. Happy reading!

From the Book Cellar in Louisville

“The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi

This sci-fi read is set partially in Colorado, combining elements of environmental awareness, prophetic narrative and a compelling storyline that explores how water might affect our lives in the near future.

“Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarity

By the bestselling author of “The Husband’s Secret,” “Big Little Lies” is Moriarty’s latest about three women whose lives are at a crossroads. Assistant Manager Eric Roth describes Moriarity’s writing as an “escape,” and “like a lighter version of ‘Gone Girl,’ but with the compelling story and thriller feel.”

From the Boulder Public Library

“Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice for Love and Life by Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed

By the author of “Wild,” this book compiles some of Strayed’s online columns under the pseudonym Sugar. Renee Thompson of the Boulder Public Library calls it an entertaining travel read.

“Dear Mr. You” by Mary-Louise Parker

In this unconventional read, each chapter is a letter to a man who impacted actress Mary-Louise Parker’s life, from her grandfather to ex-lovers.

“Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande
On a more serious note, physician and eloquent writer Gawande thoughtfully tackles the subject of death and what it means to have a good end. This is a shorter read, full of both research and great storytelling.

From Trident Booksellers and Cafe in Boulder

“Red Doc” by Anne Carson

This unconventional story by poet Anne Carson is a bizarre and interesting read that connects characters from her earlier works.

“Where the Heart Beats” by Kay Larson

This biography tells the story of composer John Cage, his awakening through Zen Buddhism and his relationship with choreographer Merce Cunningham.  

A classic.

Manager Peter Jones suggests trying to read at least one classic each summer. Start with something by Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut or Margaret Atwood.

For young readers:

“Dog Man” series by Dave Pilkey
The author of the very popular Captain Underpants series has a new series debuting this summer. “Dog Man” books promise to offer the same silly humor and comic-book style storytelling.

“El Deafo” by Cece Bell
In this comic-book-style book, a young rabbit starts school with a cochlear implant. She’s self-conscious at first, but realizes her implant allows her to hear everything in the school. Through the eyes of her young protagonist, Bell helps young readers explore self-confidence, the struggles of fitting in and being your own self.

“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman

This fantasy novel is a modern take on the idea of gods from different cultures. Gaiman explores the modern American landscape, weaving in mythology and master storytelling. Gaiman’s books, categorized as adult literature, are a great choice for young adult readers who love fantasy and sci-fi literature.

The Merlin Saga by T.A. Barron

This Colorado author artfully tells the story of young Merlin in this popular young adult series.  

Editor’s Picks

“The Girls” by Emma Cline

This is likely the book of the summer, which a movie is already in the works. The plot centers around the end of 60s with a cult killing in Northern California, but where it resonates are with the identity and desires of its female characters before and since those events. This is more literary than the past few summer reads with a “Girl” in the title, and looks like the start of fine writing career.

“Improbable Fortunes” by Jeffrey Price

Set in a fictional mining town in southwestern Colorado, which like the book’s characters, have seen boom-and-bust years. An established screenwriter, Price uses the cliche of a small-town sheriff looking into one last murder as a jumping off point to play with much broader themes in this novel. BoCo readers will find the book’s changing town vaguely familiar, and its modern take on (and disruption of) old cowboy culture refreshing.

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