Updated July 17th with new additions!
We asked a few bookish Kennett Squareans to share some of their favorite summer reading suggestions. What follows are recommendations as diverse and interesting as our community itself—there are great books on race-related themes, as well as fiction, poetry, suggestions for kids (in green) and YA (in purple), and some humor as well!
Our readers share below why they love these books, and each title links to The Kennett Bookhouse website. You can also find the whole collection gathered together on their website here! You can order online and have the book sent to youdirectly. Or, if you prefer in-store or curbside pickup, you can call (610-444-1063) or email the shop to place an order. They also offer free delivery to local addresses for orders placed by phone or email. You can also find many of these titles at our amazing Kennett Library!
Kristin Proto, Executive Director, The Garage Community & Youth Center:
Flyover Country by Austin Smith is a collection of poems linking the beauty and simplicity of rural farm life in the American Midwest to the violence of war and genocide, people displaced by violence, and militarized drone strikes. His thoughtful use of language connects with the reader emotionally to both the mundane and complex actions of nature and humanity. A beautiful read from cover to cover!
I read two books by Liz Moore, and I loved both of them. The Unseen World describes a girl with an unconventional upbringing who discovers her scientist father is not who she thinks he is. Long Bright River is the story of two sisters, one of whom is a cop and the other is an addict. Both books have complicated but believable plots and characters.
I also read Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller. It’s a very interesting book about a man with a passion for collecting and identifying new fish species.
Kathleen Snyder, Casa Guanajuato founder and community advocate:
I’ve just finished The Last Negroes at Harvard, by Kent Garrett, member of the class of 1963. A story of 18 students who changed Harvard forever. They were recruited by Harvard as an early form of affirmative action. The author’s narrative deals with how they grappled with racism, their fight for justice, and their individual stories. A very interesting read.
A House in the Mountains by Caroline Moorehead is the story of the women who liberated Italy from Fascism. The main characters, Ada, Frida, Silvia, and Bianca, fought against the Fascists and their German collaborators. When Italy changed sides in the war, the Italian Resistance was born. These brave and tenacious women’s contribution was invaluable. They fought, laid mines, took prisoners, carried messages and weapons, and provided safe housing. Ada’s house in the mountains became the meeting place and refuge for their comrades. A story of courage and tenacity.
Nat Caccamo, photographer:
Here are but a few selections. Recently read was The Splendid and the Vile. Erik Larson’s prose make what could’ve been just another Churchill biography a really engaging, funny, and human portrait of a very complicated human being.
All the Light We Cannot See is another WWII era tale. This is a work of fiction told masterfully by Anthony Doerr.
For a good summer read I’m a sucker for well-told pulpy detective stories, and for my money no one comes close to Raymond Chandler! His prose are a cross between Beat poetry and an Edward Hopper painting. The Big Sleep is my favorite with Farewell My Lovely not far behind!
And in case you missed these suggestions last week . . .
Megan Walters, Director, Kennett Library:
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep, is a nonfiction book that I describe to people as Book A, meets Book B, meets Book AB. Book A is about a murder that took place in Alabama and the details surrounding this case. Book B is basically a Harper Lee biography, which made me realize just how little I actually knew about her. And Book AB is about Harper Lee covering the case that occurs in Book A. It is a fascinating read and I love the insight it gives into the area in Alabama and into Harper Lee in the mid-1900s.
Jan Michener, Executive Director, Arts Holding Hands and Hearts:
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Mike Bontrager, Team Leader, Square Roots Collective:
I recently read The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War by Andrew Delbanco and found it to be an extremely readable, eye-opening, and disturbing account of how slavery became an entrenched institution in America despite its obvious contradictions to the principles and ideals on which this nation was founded. Compromise certainly has its place in politics, however, this book cautions against a compromise that can lead to moral and societal failure.
RuthAnn Deveney, book lover extraordinaire:
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. Why I loved it: This new young adult novel in verse tells the story of two young women who share Dominican heritage and so much more. For the best experience, listen to it on audio to enjoy the author’s amazing narration; she is a spoken word performer and it shows!
Lynn Sinclair, Kennett Heritage Center
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Michele Richardson. Cultural touch points: the desperation and hopelessness of the Depression, a woman’s right to choose, the value of knowledge, and prejudice. The reviewers say: “a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere.” That, too!
Stefanie & John Lynn, owners of The Kennett Bookhouse:
Master and Commander, by Patrick O’Brian. It’s the first in a series of sea-faring adventures featuring the Royal Navy during the early 19th century. Enjoy it for the unforgettable characters as much as for the dramatic sea battles. Perfect to read while on a seaside (or dry land) vacation.
Rosa Moore, Borough Councilmember:
The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper, is a good introduction to fantasy for late-elementary to middle-school age kids. It’s mysterious with a rising sense of doom that keeps my son going even though it’s a long book.
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan Higgins and My Name Is Isabella by Jennifer Fosbery are both books that my daughter loves. The first is about a dinosaur who learns to control her urge to eat (human) classmates when she goes to school for the first time, and the second is about a girl who tries on many different identities throughout the day. Her identities are all based on female role models (e.g., Sally Ride and Rosa Parks) which is great exposure for little ones.
Fiction: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. I’m a big fan of Graham Greene, and this is an answer to The Quiet American from the point of view of a Vietnamese refugee. I learned a lot about the Vietnam War as well. Nonfiction/Short Stories: When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. He’s a well-needed dose of humor during this time, and it was written long enough ago that there’s no reference to anything happening now.
Milady Lagunas, Recent HKS graduate and community leader:
One of my all-time favorite books is Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. It can be found both in English and Spanish! It is humorous, entertaining, and overall such a joy to read. It’s something that we all need on our bookshelf and definitely something that would brighten anyone’s mood during these hard times!
Whitney Hoffman, Kennett Township Supervisor:
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. Best book out there on how to craft messages that stick with consumers, which is something all small businesses need—especially in times like this.
Stealing Wyeth by Bruce Mowday. A great true-life book on the robbery that occurred years ago on the Wyeth farm, which also helps readers learn more about this great local family.
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcom Gladwell—a great look into our psychology and why we trust people—sometimes more than we should. Also available in Spanish: Hablar con Extraños.
I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster—or, frankly, any of her books. Jen is hysterical, and her personal stories and novels are all fun reads that always make me smile.
Bo Wright, Executive Director, Historic Kennett Square:
Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America, by Chris Arnade. Arnade left Wall Street after the 2008 crash to travel among the poor and downtrodden throughout America. He didn’t set out to write a book or find a story, but what he found is a commonality that transcends race or geography: the need for dignity. I read the book and listened to it on audio. If you do the latter, you must also buy the hardcover because the pictures are critical to the narrative.
Risk Game: Self-Portrait of an Entrepreneur, by Francis Greenburger. Greenburger recounts his non-traditional path to creating both successful publishing and real estate development companies. In publishing, he risked his reputation early on to give a start to authors like James Patterson and Dan Brown, and in real estate, he was a pioneering investor, taking “hopeless” properties and neighborhoods in New York City in the 1970s and giving them new life. Both endeavors are full of eccentric characters.
Do you have a favorite summer reading suggestion you’d like to share? Please let us know!