Here are some suggestions of new and newish books for summer reading, including a hefty batch of Wisconsin-connected titles for locavores. While these selections emphasize pleasure reading, some hard-hitting books are included.
The Milwaukee Public Library encourages your children to join its Super Reader Squad for children 12 and younger, and its Teen Summer Challenge program for youth ages 13 through 18. In addition to the pure pleasure of reading, children and teens can earn prizes. Visit mpl.org/summerreading.
If you live in a different community, check with your local library. It probably has a summer reading program, too.
A tip of the snapback to my colleague Chris Foran for contributing the pop-culture and baseball sections.
“An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago,” by Alex Kotlowitz (Nan A. Talese). With honesty and compassion, Kotlowitz reports the stories and backstories of victims and shooters and their mothers and girlfriends, social workers and retired gang leaders.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers,” by Fred Rogers, illustrated by Luke Flowers (Quirk). Lyrics for 75 of the children’s TV icon’s songs, including such deep cuts as “What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?”
“Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style,” by Benjamin Dreyer (Random House). A smart, opinionated and funny guide to grammar, usage and word choice by the longtime copy chief for Random House.
“A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father,” by David Maraniss (Simon & Schuster). Pulitzer Prize winner (and Vince Lombardi biographer) Maraniss chronicles the effect of communist witch-hunting on his father, Elliott Maraniss, a World War II veteran who later became a prominent Madison journalist. (David Maraniss will give the keynote talk May 29 for the Spring Literary Luncheon, the Friends of Milwaukee Public Library annual fundraiser at the Wisconsin Club, 900 W. Wisconsin Ave. To purchase tickets, visit supportmpl.org/friends/#spring-literary-luncheon.)
“Milwaukee Noir,” edited by Tim Hennessy (Akashic). Fourteen fictional tales of people behaving badly in the city and the ‘burbs, including top-shelf writers Valerie Laken, Jane Hamilton, Larry Watson and Nick Petrie.
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“Murder by the Book,” by Claire Harman (Knopf). A crisply written Victorian true-crime tale, with Charles Dickens in a supporting role. Many elements of Harman’s book resonate today, including the suggestion by some people that the murderer was stimulated to kill by the entertainment he consumed.
“The Satapur Moonstone,” by Sujata Massey (Soho Crime). Female attorney Perveen Mistry, a rarity in 1920s India, investigates a high-stakes dispute between two maharanis (princesses). I’d recommend this series for fans of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs novels. (Massey will speak at 7 p.m. May 21 at Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer Ave.)
“Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories,” by Sarah Pinsker (Small Beer Press). Compelling science fiction and fantasy stories, many featuring LGBTQIA characters, some about music.
“Tear It Down,” By Nick Petrie (Putnam). In the latest from a Whitefish Bay crime novelist, series hero Peter Ash battles some bad people in Memphis, while also crossing paths with a remarkable teenage blues guitarist.
“The Vanishing Man,” by Charles Finch (Minotaur). Young aristocrat Charles Lenox, just beginning his career as a consulting detective, and his perfect valet Graham dive into a fraught case that includes both murder and a stolen portrait of Shakespeare.
“The Civilian Conservation Corps in Wisconsin: Nature’s Army at Work,” by Jerry Apps (Wisconsin Historical Society Press). A succinct history, with photos, of the Depression-era federal project that put young men to work here restoring natural resources.
“Death by the Bay,” by Patricia Skalka (University of Wisconsin Press). In this new installment of a Door County series, Sheriff Dave Cubiak’s investigation of sudden death at a medical conference exposes a decades-old crime.
“The Handy Wisconsin Answer Book,” by Terri Schlichenmeyer and Mark Meier (Visible Ink). A big compendium of Badger State trivia and factoids, with a helpful subject index.
“Little Faith,” by Nickolas Butler (Ecco). Eau Claire writer Butler (“Shotgun Lovesongs”) blends a grandfather’s love for his grandson with a divisive religious conflict that could have life-altering consequences for that child. Butler’s book was stimulated in part by the death of an 11-year-old Weston girl in 2008.
“Mary Nohl: Inside & Outside,” by Barbara Manger and Janine Smith (Greater Milwaukee Foundation). An illustrated biography of the remarkable local creator who turned her Fox Point home into an artistic environment. This new edition includes an epilogue with photos about efforts to preserve the fragile home.
“The Milwaukee Anthology,” edited by Justin Kern (Belt Publishing). Prose and a few poems about life in many corners of the city, balancing love for this community with frustration about its flaws and resistance to change.
“Milwaukee County’s Oak Leaf Trail,” by Jill Rothenbueler Maher (The History Press). An illustrated history and appreciation of the 125-mile trail that winds through this county’s big parks.
“Nothing to Lose, by Kim Suhr (Cornerstone Press). Wisconsin-flavored short stories by the director of Red Oak Writing, including the title tale about a woman who takes the advice on Dove chocolate wrappers very seriously.
“100 Things to Do in Milwaukee Before You Die,” by Jenna Kashou (Reedy Press). The second edition of Kashou’s guidebook blends newer attractions (The Hop streetcar) with classic stops such as the Milwaukee County Zoo and the Mitchell Park Domes.
“Resistance Women,” by Jennifer Chiaverini (Morrow). Madison historical novelist Chiaverini (“The Spymistress”) fictionalizes the lives of Milwaukee native Mildred Fish Harnack and other women who defied Hitler in Berlin. (Chiaverini will speak at 3 p.m. May 19 at Boswell Books and at 7 p.m. May 30 at Books & Company, 1039 Summit Ave
“Special Brew — An Inside Look at the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers,” by Tom Haudricourt (KCI Sports Publishing). The long-tenured Journal Sentinel baseball writer looks at how Milwaukee’s baseball team went from rock bottom to the brink of the World Series so quickly. (Haudricourt will talk and sign books at 7 p.m. May 22 at Boswell Books.)
“Tornado Dreams,” by Constance Malloy (Orange Hat). In this memoir Malloy describes surviving the childhood trauma caused by her abusive father through her love of dance and her hard work in therapy.
“We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood,” by Dani McClain (Bold Type Books). McClain, a former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter, blends her personal story with reporting on the intersection of motherhood with social, political and culture issues.
“Exhalation,” by Ted Chiang (Knopf). A new collection of stories from one of science fiction’s living masters.
“The Farm,” by Joanne Ramos (Random House). At an isolated retreat, surrogate mothers for hire are pampered and ruthlessly manipulated by the director. Ramos, a native of the Philippines, grew up in Racine. Her debut novel has earned positive comparison to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
“Lost Children Archive,” by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf). Married audio documentarians and their children intersect unexpectedly with immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border, in a novel that’s both intensely literary and distinctly timely.
“More Deadly Than the Male: Masterpieces From the Queens of Horror,” edited by Graeme Davis (Pegasus Crime). Nineteenth century and early 20th century tales of terror from writers both expected (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) and unexpected (Louisa May Alcott).
“Mrs. Everything,” by Jennifer Weiner (Atria). Weiner’s novel follows American sisters Jo and Bethie from the 1950s to the present, reflecting women’s roles, opportunities and challenges over those turbulent decades. (Publishes June 11.)
“Patsy,” by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright). Patsy left her daughter Tru in Jamaica to come to the United States. This novel alternates between their stories. (Publishes June 4.)
“Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl,” by Andrea Lawlor (Vintage). A gender-bending dive into queer culture a la Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando,” but in 1990s America, with clubbing, fetishizing and a remarkable shapeshifting protagonist.
“The Red Daughter,” by John Burhnham Schwartz (Random House). A fictional account of Svetlana Alliluyeva, Joseph Stalin’s daughter, who defected to the U.S. in 1967 and died in Richland Center, Wis.
“The Big Book of Rock & Roll Names,” by Adam Dolgins (Abrams Image). The stories of how more than 500 bands and performers chose their names, including Wisconsin’s Bon Iver (there’s a “Northern Exposure” angle) and Violent Femmes (Brian Ritchie explains).
“Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump,” by Rick Reilly (Hachette). Former Sports Illustrated star Reilly looks at Donald Trump through the prism of his behavior while playing golf and talking about his exploits.
“Everything in its Place: First Loves and Last Tales,” by Oliver Sacks (Knopf). A posthumous, possibly final collection from the great neurologist and memoirist.
“Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life,” by Darcey Steinke (Sarah Crichton Books). Novelist (“Suicide Blonde”) Steinke delves into the changes brought on by menopause, from personal, literary and feminist points of view.
“Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays From the Grown-up Years,” by Cathy Guisewite (Putnam). Humorous essays from the creator of the “Cathy” comic strip about aging, parenting and adulting (usually gone awry).
“The Great American Sports Page: A Century of Classic Columns from Ring Lardner to Sally Jenkins,” edited by John Schulian (Library of America). Classic sportswriters on classic subjects. There are a few Milwaukee angles: a Diane K. Shah column on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and a characteristically crisp foreword by Marquette University alum Charles P. Pierce.
“The Hidden Meaning of Birds: A Spiritual Field Guide,” by Arin Murphy-Hiscock (Abrams Media). An illustrated bird book with a twist: in addition to biological and territorial details, it also includes folkloric, mythic and divinatory associations.
“How to Play the Piano,” by James Rhodes (The Experiment). This little book is designed to walk a beginner who devotes 45 minutes a day from knowing nothing about piano to playing Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C major.
“I’m Not Here to Give a Speech,” by Gabriel García Márquez (Vintage). Actually, sometimes the Colombian author of “100 Years of Solitude” did give a speech, and they’re worth reading.
“The Longest Day / A Bridge Too Far,” by Cornelius Ryan (Library of America). An attractive repackaging of Ryan’s popular histories of the D-Day invasion of Normandy and the failed Allied attempt to break through German lines at Arnhem, based on Ryan’s interviews of hundreds of participants in each of those WWII events.
“Nothing’s Bad Luck: The Lives of Warren Zevon,” by C.M. Kushins (Da Capo). An appreciative but honest biography of the creator of “Werewolves of London” and “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” Wild Zevon behavior you heard about that you thought was probably exaggerated? It was probably not exaggerated.
“What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence,” edited by Michele Filgate (Simon & Schuster). They write what they could not say, such as Filgate’s disclosure of her stepfather’s abuse and André Aciman’s appreciation of his deaf mother.
“K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches,” by Tyler Kepner (Doubleday). The New York Times’ national baseball writer talks with pitchers, catchers and hitters — sometimes all three, about a specific pitch in a specific game — to show what goes into pitching (and hitting pitching).
“They Said It Couldn’t Be Done: The ’69 Mets, New York City and the Most Astounding Season in Baseball History,” by Wayne Coffey (Crown Archetype); and “After the Miracle: The Lasting Brotherhood of the ‘69 Mets” by Art Shamsky and Erik Sherman (Simon & Schuster). Among the shelf full of books recounting the 50th anniversary of the “Amazin’ Mets” and their surprise World Series triumph, these two are MVPs. Coffey entertainingly recounts the season (showing it was baseball smarts, not fate, that made the Mets so amazin’), while Shamsky, one of the ‘69 Mets’ sluggers, shows how the players’ bonds made for a lineup with unbeatable chemistry, on and off the field.
“Son of Havana: A Baseball Journey From Cuba to the Big Leagues and Back,” by Luis Tiant with Saul Wisnia (Diversion Books). Tiant, whose colorful rise-and-fall career, capped by his comeback with the Boston Red Sox in the 1970s, tells a candid tale of his struggle to make it to the big leagues from Cuba, and then start all over again.
“They Bled Blue: The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers,” by Jason Turbow (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). This engaging look at the Dodgers’ unlikely championship season reveals a team that wasn’t nearly as united as people thought, in an organization dedicated more to profits than players.
“Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher,” by David Cone and Jack Curry (Grand Central). One of the few to find success pitching for New York’s Yankees and Mets, Cone had a reputation as one of the game’s smartest pitchers. This deep but readable dive into the art of pitching shows why.
“Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,” by Peter Doggett (Atria). In this well-told collective biography, Doggett, a veteran music writer, reconstructs the history of one of pop’s first supergroups, whose lives and stories spill into just about every corner of rock music in the late 1960s and ‘70s.
“Best. Movie. Year. Ever.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen” by Brian Raftery (Simon & Schuster). Was 1999 the best year ever for movies? Probably not, but Raftery makes an entertaining case that we should pay more attention to that year’s movies and their continuing impact, from “The Matrix” to “Office Space.”
“Funny Man,” by Patrick McGilligan (HarperCollins). Writer-director Mel Brooks is a very funny man, but not a very nice man, in this sobering, painstakingly researched biography by Milwaukee-based film biographer McGilligan.
“The Ultimate History of the 80s Teen Movie,” by James King (Diversion Books). This breezy recounting of Hollywood movies in the 1980s shows there was more than MTV-style editing and pretty young people going on onscreen (and behind the cameras).
“Hollywood Black: The Stars, the Films, the Filmmakers,” by Donald Bogle (Running Press). The leading scholar and historian on African Americans in film puts it all in one volume in this well-illustrated study, produced with Turner Classic Movies. (It includes a foreword by John Singleton, the Oscar-nominated director who died in April following a stroke at age 50.)
“The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont,” by Shawn Levy (Doubleday). In this very fun and informative read, Levy chronicles one of Hollywood’s most famous addresses — where, among other things, Jean Harlow honeymooned and John Belushi died.
“Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir,” by Victoria Riskin (Pantheon). Victoria Riskin, herself a screenwriter, writes a dual biography of her parents — Mom, the versatile actress who won King Kong’s heart; Dad, an Oscar-winning screenwriter — with adulation and some pretty solid Hollywood history.
“Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobain,” by Danny Goldberg (HarperCollins). Goldberg, a music-industry veteran, was co-manager of the uber-influential band Nirvana, and in this book offers a revealing but sympathetic look at the talent, art and demons of its leader, Cobain, 25 years after Cobain committed suicide.
“All That Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson,” by Mark Griffin (Harper). The matinee idol’s death from AIDS-related complications was the first hint to many how complicated he was. Interviewing more than 100 people in Hudson’s life, Griffin crafts a complete look at his tangled life and underrated career.
“Frankly: Unmasking Frank Capra,” by Joseph McBride (Hightower Press). McBride, a celebrated film scholar and author of several important Hollywood biographies, went through the writer’s version of hell to get his revisionist biography, “Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success,” published in 1992. In this book, McBride, a Milwaukee native, relates the uphill battle he fought with Capra allies and apologists to get that book out.
“Claudia Jennings: An Authorized Biography,” by Eric J. Karell (Midnight Marquee Press). Before she was one of the 1970s’ best B-movie actresses, Jennings was a Midwestern girl who grew up in Milwaukee and got her first taste of theater as a child actor in Marquette University productions. This biography, written by a loving fan, is an overdue look at her life and career.
“The Lady From the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Millicent Patrick,” by Mallory O’Meara (Hanover Square Press). The effects artist who created the Creature from “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” and a number of the 1950s’ coolest horror movies was frozen out by Hollywood because, well, she was a she. O’Meara makes up for the oversight with this engaging look at Patrick’s work and life, and how the sexist movie industry tried to mute her accomplishments.
“Parental Discretion Is Advised: The Rise of N.W.A. and the Dawn of Gangsta Rap,” by Gerrick D. Kennedy (Atria). One of rap’s most important groups gets a deserved focus in this highly readable (if familiar) rise-and-fall history/biopic of N.W.A.
“Sleeping With Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire,” by David Thomson (Knopf). Did Hollywood turn all of us into voyeurs? Thomson, one of film writing’s smartest and most iconoclastic thinkers, says “Oh yeah,” in this thought-provoking history/critique/memoir.
“Jimmy Page: The Definitive Biography,” by Chris Salewicz (Da Capo). The life and times of one of rock’s most-worshipped guitar gods gets a clear-eyed look in this well-researched biography of Page, before, during and after his days with Led Zeppelin.
“The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood and the Making of a Legendary Film,” by W.K. Stratton (Bloomsbury). Love it or hate it, Peckinpah’s 1969 Western “The Wild Bunch” changed the conversation about how movies depict violence. Stratton’s making-of chronicle shows it wasn’t by accident.
“Dear Scarlet: The Story of My Postpartum Depression,” by Teresa Wong (Arsenal Pulp Press). In this graphic memoir, Wong depicts months of postpartum agony in the form of a letter to her daughter. It’s leavened with touches of humor.
“The Earth Book: From the Beginning to the End of Our Planet, 250 Milestones in the History of Earth Science,” by Jim Bell (Sterling). Text and gorgeous photography about this wonderful planet.
“Leonardo da Vinci: The 100 Milestones,” by Martin Kemp (Sterling). One hundred drawings and paintings by the master, with succinct commentary by a top art historian.
“Motown: The Sound of Young America,” by Adam White with Barney Ales (Thames & Hudson). An appreciation and history of the great record label, packed with album cover photos, promo photos and some candids.
“Sprawlball: A Visual Tour of the New Era of the NBA,” by Kirk Goldsberry, illustrated by Aaron Dana (HMH). A colorful, analytics-minded look at pro basketball in an era increasingly dominated by three-point shooting. Infographics geeks will love the shot charts.
“This Is the Book You Give Your Dad,” by Matt Goulet, illustrated by Andrew Janik (Simon & Schuster). A compendium of stuff Dads theoretically know, including tools, cars and how to have “the talk,” in playful infographic format. Hey, if you guys had published this 25 years ago, you would have saved me a lot of trial and error!
FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS
“The Last Peach,” by Gus Gordon (Roaring Brook). Two insects eye, desire and squabble comically over the final hanging fruit. The collaged artwork may appeal to fans of Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert. For 4 to 8 years old.
“My Papi Has a Motorcycle,” by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña (Kokila). A girl’s beloved ritual is a motorcycle ride with her father through their California town. Text is in English, with speech balloons in a mixture of English and Spanish. For 4 to 8 years old.
“The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Books for Photographs,” by Fiona Robinson (Abrams Books for Young Readers). This picture book for readers ages 6 through 9 portrays the work of a pioneering botanist who used the new technique of cyanotype photograph to document plant specimens. It’s a strikingly beautiful book.
“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: A Puzzle Adventure,” by Aleksandra Artymowska (Big Picture Press). Visual puzzles inspired by the Jules Verne adventure story, for fans of Waldo and I Spy books. For ages 6 to 9 years old.
“Can You Crack the Code? A Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography,” by Ella Schwartz, illustrated by Lily Williams (Bloomsbury). An illustrated history of codebreaking (and code making). Ostensibly for 8- to 12-year-olds, but a good primer for adults, too.
“Stories for Kids Who Dare to Be Different,” by Ben Brooks, illustrated by Quinton Winter (Running Press Kids). An eclectic treasury of profiles of young people who stood up and stood out, such as Ellen Craft, who made a daring escape from slavery, and gun-control activist Emma González. For 8 to 12 years old.
“Trees: A Rooted History,” by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski (Abrams Books for Young Readers). An illustrated, oversize book that delves into many aspects of trees, roots and things made from wood. For 8 to 12 years old.
“Up for Air,” by Laurie Morrison (Amulet). A realistic portrait of a teen who wrestles with her learning disability, family complications and a challenging school partly through her success as a swimmer. For 10 to 14 years old.
“With the Fire on High,” by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen). A Philly teen, who’s juggling high school classes, work and mothering her daughter, finds strength through her increasing mastery of culinary arts. For 13 years and older.
“On the Come Up,” by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray). Teen rapper Bri is trying to make her voice heard and lift up her family from poverty. But a viral moment leads to unexpected complications and challenges. For 14 years and older.
Jim Higgins is the author of “Wisconsin Literary Luminaries: From Laura Ingalls Wilder to Ayad Akhtar” (The History Press). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @jhiggy.
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