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Host: Scott LaMar

Books to read this summer

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jun 8, 2017 6:06 PM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, June 9, 2017:

A few questions for you to answer before Friday's Smart Talk:

  • Is reading a book a big part of how you relax on vacation?
  • When you go on vacation, do you take the books you want to read along with all your other vacation necessities or buy books at your destination?
  • Do you change the kind of books you read when on vacation -- maybe looking for something a little lighter or more fun?
  • What is the ultimate summer book?

These are all important questions that are part of Friday's Smart Talk discussion.  It's our annual "books for the beach or on summer vacation" program. 

We've assembled a panel of book lovers and sellers to recommend summer books and describe their favorites.  With the kids off school, we'll have a list of books for them to read as well.

Appearing on the program are Catherine Lawrence, co-owner of the Midtown Scholar Book Store in Harrisburg, Jon Walker, who reviews books on his blog and has just published his first book called A Certain Cast of Light and Travis Kurowski, an assistant professor of creative writing at York College of Pennsylvania.

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Catherine Lawrence - Co-owner, Midtown Scholar Book Store, Harrisburg / Travis Kurowski - Assistant Professor of creative writing, York College of Pennsylvania / Jon Walker, Book Reviewer,; Author, A Certain Cast of Light

We'd like to hear from you too!  What books do you want to read this summer?  What's the ultimate summer book?

Summer Reading List:

Catherine Lawrence


Dickinson College's Susan Perabo, The Fall of Lisa Bellow: A Novel

Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: A Novel

Jeff Shaara, The Frozen Hours: A Novel of the Korean War -- would make a great father's day gift!

* The author will be reading from and signing copies of his book at the Midtown Scholar, this Monday, June 12th, at 7pm.

+ We're really looking forward to this upcoming summer release (publication date of July 11th):

Zinzi Clemmons, What We Lose -- The first novel from an accomplished writer who was raised in Philadelphia by a South African mother and an American father.


F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Anne Margaret Daniel, I'd Die for You: And Other Lost Stories -- makes a great father's day gift!

Walt Whitman, The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: An Auto-Biography; A Story of New York at the Present Time in which the Reader will Find some Familiar Characters (a recently rediscovered, newspaper-serialized novel c.1852)


Aja Monet, My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter


Harrisburg's own Lauren Castillo (author & illustrator), Nana in the City * Caldecott Honor Book

Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carlisle's own Amy June Bates, Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed  * Association of Jewish Libraries: Sydney Taylor Winner


Jason Reynolds, As Brave As You * Schneider Family Book Award -- a great story for summertime; two brothers visit their grandparents in rural Virginia

V. E. Schwab, A Conjuring of Light: A Novel 
"An ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay." -- Inventive fantasy, a dark magical world of four Londons; book 3 in her Shades of Magic series. "Addictive and immersive" say the critics.


Helena Kelly, Jane Austen, the Secret Radical -- what I'm reading myself! 

Jill Lepore, The Secret History of Wonder Woman  

Steven Levingston, Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle over Civil Rights

+ We're really looking forward to this upcoming summer release, publication date of July 17th:
Laura Dassow Walls, Henry David Thoreau: A Life -- the first full biography of him in two generations

Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things: Essays 
+ This fantastic author has a new release, out next week (publication date of June 13th): 
Blind Spot -- an innovative synthesis of words and images

* The WITF & Midtown Scholar Bookstore "Pick of the Month" for June 2017:

Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions

Travis Kurowski

1. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

2. Too Much and Not the Mood, by Durga Chew-Bose

3. There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, by Morgan Parker

4. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

5. How to Love, by Thich Nhat Hahn

6. Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh (currently reading)

Jon Walker

1. Homeging, by Yaa Gyasi

2. ​Ahab's Wife, ​by Sena Jeter Naslund

3. ​Strangers in Their Own Land, by Arlie Russell Hochschild

4. ​The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry

Listener Recommendations:

-  My name is Todd Gontz and I wrote a Civil War spy novel set in Lancaster PA called Operation Cinder.  Check it out.

- My favorite Author is Bill Bryson, I think A Walk in the Woods is a great summer book! Its a mixture of his personal story of trying to walk the Appalachian trail and history of the trail and America's National Park systems. 

  And another personal favorite of mine is At Home:  A Short History of Private Life is a history of houses and how they developed through history, its a wonderful insight to how our lives and homes adapted society through time . I also love A Short History of Nearly Everything which is more science based topic but very readable.

  Bill Bryson also reads most of his books on tape- he has a lovely voice and we love listening to him on tape when we have road trips.                           - Have a great summer!  Megan, Camp Hill

- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  R.I.P. Robert Persig               - Thomas

- Members of my book club are reading Open Season by Archer Mayor because our annual trip takes us to Brattleboro this year where the story is set. We're going to have a scavenger hunt based on the book which is the first in the Joe Gunther series. It is by no means a new book, but a good murder mystery with potential for not only good discussion but fun playtime for adults.
P. S. We're staying in the Rudyard Kipling house and touring other literary and presidential sites.   - Melanie

- Best books ever are the books written by Fredrik Backman!  Leaving for the beach soon and I will be reading his book                     - Jan

- The Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

 I re-read this every few years, always during the summer.  This is a book that covers love, acceptance, family, racism, environmental issues, love and surprises at mid-life and beyond.  The description of the natural world that surrounds the main character is lush and beautiful has an important message about fierce protection of nature and protection of the heart.

 Also, on my list to read:  Sherman Alexie's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir                                                                                                    - Kathleen

- Also great book:  Make your Bed.  Excellent quick read!  Gave it to my son upon graduation and entry into military!                        - Sue

- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand                   - Sue

- Cristine, Mechanicsburg:  Soldier's Heart by Michele Baker McKnight                                                         

- Faith, Lancaster:               The Poison Wood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver                                                                                               Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance                                                                                   

- Laura, Enola:                     Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas                                                                                                 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck                                                                                                              A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

- Jesse, York:                      The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

- Caroline, Newburg:           The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown                                                                                               Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy                                                                                                                        by Ian W. Toll 

- Bruce:                                Single Handed by Daniel Cohen

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