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July 25, 2006 > Summer reading at your library

Summer reading at your library

by Sallie Pine

Summer is traditionally a time for relaxing and vacations as well as a time for reading something fun. At the library, we are asked for reading recommendations quite often, but never so frequently as in the summer. If you've read all the books by your favorite authors, or just want to try something different from what you usually pick up, here are some books recommended by various library staff, with their comments.

All the Stars Came Out That Night by Kevin King (2005)
Walter Winchell posthumously narrates the story of an epic baseball game between a group of all-white all stars and the best of the Negro Leagues. This is a wonderful period piece, as much fun for the portrayal of gangsters, Hollywood, and other unsavory parts of the 1930s as it is for the baseball.

The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer (2004)
Max is growing up at the turn of 19th century San Francisco and experiences the emotional pains of falling in love as a young man. The problem is that Max is born physically an old man who mentally grows older while physically growing younger.

Cowboy Logic by Kinky Freedman (2006)
A book of "bumper sticker aphorisms," great for reading while on BART.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003)
A 15-year-old named Christopher is a mathematical genius who is made socially hopeless through his autism. After being falsely accused of the crime, he decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog. This amazing first novel gives the reader a feel for what it might be like to cope with a world filled with incomprehensible metaphors and illogic, but without being overly sentimental or condescending.  Christopher's detecting eventually leads him out of his usual world to uncover hidden truths about his family, himself, and the dog.

Dead Man Running by Rhett MacPherson (2006)
If having both a toddler and a teen doesn't make you crazy, having your mom married to the sheriff might. Torie O'Shea, genealogist, is irreverent, funny and down-to-earth in this small town mystery series.

Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith (2006)
Two Montana cowboys, circa 1892, use the "deductifying" methods of Sherlock Holmes to solve a murder on a shady cattle ranch. Pure fun.

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea (2005)
A novel based on the true story of the author's great Aunt Teresita, the real life "Saint of Cabora," born in 1873 to a 14-year-old Indian girl. Wildly romantic, with great insight into Latin American magical realism all set in a time of guerrilla violence and revolution in Mexico.

Inside Track by John Francome (2004)
This book is for all the Dick Francis fans that miss his novels on horse racing in England. The story revolves around a jockey who has just been released from prison after the car he was driving spun out of control killing a young boy. How he rebuilds his life and how a murdered girl ties in with his previous accident keeps this story moving along as a fast-paced thriller. The behind the scenes look at horse racing is just as interesting as previous Dick Francis novels. A good summer read.

The March by E. L. Doctorow (2005)
This very rich and evocative historical novel about Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's devastating march to the sea during the final years of the Civil War offers a clear portrait of Sherman's unstable mind.

Marley and Me: Life and love with the world's worst dog by John Grogan (2005)
Dog stories abound in the book world. Old Yeller and Shiloh are classics; Marley and Me catches you and makes you think, not just about dogs and their nature, but about your own humanity, sense of humor and ability to change. You don't need to be a "dog person" to thoroughly enjoy Grogan's story.

My Life in France by Julia Child (2006)
A fascinating look at Julia's life in France in the late 1940s and early 1950s, her growing love of French cooking and the development of the classic "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." A must-read for anyone who enjoys food--a real slice of life!

Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. (2005)
The storyline of this book revolves around three sisters who flee Iran; first to England and then to a small town in Ireland to open a restaurant. The clash of the two cultures makes an interesting and sometimes humorous story, but the book really shines in the author's richness of language and descriptions of the characters. This is a beautiful book from a first author.

Red Thunder by John Varley (2003)
Four teenagers from Florida nearly run over washed-up ex-astronaut Travis Broussard. After hauling him home, they meet his genius-but-socially-challenged cousin Jubal. Jubal, it turns out, has invented something that will help them all realize their dream of going to Mars, including a rescue operation. With several tips of the hat to Grand Master Heinlein, Varley has produced a fine, funny space race.

Saturday by Ian McEwan (2005)
The story is about one extraordinary day in the life of a London neurosurgeon and the consequences of a car accident. As a result of his training, he can see there is a congenital defect in the other driver. It touches on so many subjects: family, education and class differences. The book is beautifully written with a quite suspenseful ending.

Want more? Click on Summer Reads at

People are nosy. We love finding out about other people, especially famous ones. Your library card gets you into a database with reliable information from books, interviews, magazines and newspapers about the famous and infamous, living or dead. Go to and click on Research/Articles and Databases, then on History & Biography, then on the top listing, Biography Resource Center. You'll be asked for the number on the back of your library card, and then you are in. You can type in a name in the search box or even a nickname (Ol' Blue Eyes works as well as Frank Sinatra) and you will get information on that person, divided by tabs into narrative (longer) biographies, thumbnail (short) biographies, magazine articles and sometimes websites.

The websites have been carefully chosen by an editorial staff for good biographical content, links to related information and frequent updating.  Sources for the magazine articles include everything from People Weekly to professional journals in the field of the person being written about, and are listed with the most recent articles first. They will have the most up to date information, while the narrative biographies have the most information. A recent search for Angelina Jolie resulted in one narrative biography, an update, two thumbnail biographies, 259 magazine articles and three websites. (A search for Jesse Jackson resulted in eight narrative biographies, two thumbnail biographies, 661 magazine articles and one website.

But what if you have an assignment to just write about any Japanese artist, or any African American female scientist or inventor? Use the Biographical Facts Search instead of the search box, and only fill in the qualities you need. That page looks like this:

Enter your search criteria below.

You may enter criteria in one field, some of the fields, or all of the fields below. For example, you could search for American inventors born between 1850 and 1900, by filling in the Nationality, Occupation, and Birth Year fields. For more information on how to use Biographical Facts Search, click here.

Need a library card so you can explore this and other databases? Go to and click on Get a Library Card. Print out an application, fill it out and bring it in to any Alameda County Library with identification showing your name and address. We'll give you a card right away. With it, our databases are available 24/7 from home, work or school.

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