Local librarians suggest summer 'must reads'

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
Want to escape the summer doldrums? Try a book.

Long before YouTube, social media and Netflix, there was a place to escape the summer doldrums: books.

I am a book girl. I love the touch and feel of a book, flipping the pages and having something tangible in my hands. You can keep your Nooks and Kindles. Take me to a library or bookstore and I’m in my happy place.

Books have always been an escape — and an addiction. As a kid, if I got in trouble or couldn’t stay on task, my mother would hit the ultimate sore spot. She’d take away whatever book I had my nose buried in. Talk about torture.

Studies show books are more than an escape. A 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading reduces stress by more than 60 percent and that it’s a faster, more effective relaxation method than drinking tea or listening to music.

So with the official start of summer just days away, I reached out to the experts – librarians across Metro Detroit, including those at the Troy Public Library, Macomb-Clinton Public Library and Orion Township Public Library – for their “must read” suggestions for the summer. If anyone knows what should be on your reading radar, it’s them. 

Some suggestions are from best-selling authors – Elizabeth Gilbert, Colson Whitehead  and Richard Russo to name a few – and others are from newcomers. Here are a few of their recommendations: 

“City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert: Gilbert may be more known for magical memoirs (”Eat Pray Love”) but her novels are also beautifully written and “City of Girls” is her latest. Set in New York in the 1940s, it follows teenager Vivian as she navigates life, adventure, sex and glamour, learning “you don’t have to be a good girl to be a good person.”

“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead: Whitehead follows his Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Underground Railroad” with “The Nickel Boys” (out July 16). It tells the story of two young men sent to a reform academy in Jim Crow-era Florida. It’s based on a real reform school with a horrifying history in Florida that operated for more than a century. 

“Chances Are” by Richard Russo: The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Empire Falls” returns this summer with his latest, “Chances Are” (out July 30) which follows three sixty-something friends who’ve known each other since college. It’s “a riveting story about the abiding yet complex power of friendship,” according to Amazon.com.

“The Bride Test” by Helen Hoang: “The Bride Test” follows a young man who has autism struggling to make real emotional connections and a young woman in Vietnam who wants to start a new life for herself in America. What’s interesting is the author herself, Hoang, also is on the autism spectrum.

“Evvie Drake Starts Over” by Linda Holmes: Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for National Public Radio and the host of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. In her first book, “Evvie Drake Starts Over” is about a friendship between a widow and a former baseball star as they struggle to find their way through grief and new beginnings.

“Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate. I couldn’t put this book down. Based in part on the true story of the Tennessee Children’s Society and the woman who ran it, Wingate will leave you in tears – and wanting more – as you read about young Rill and her siblings. 

“Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover. To say that Westover has come a long way from her childhood in rural Idaho to earning her doctorate from Cambridge University would be a huge understatement. In “Educated,” Westover shares the story of her survivalist upbringing in a Mormon fundamentalist family and how she found her own way.

So as you settle into summer – or whenever you have some free time – grab a book (and I guess a Kindle or Nook would be just fine, too). It could be the cheapest, most relaxing getaway of the season.