Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust Rediscoveries: Summer Reading Beyond the New Shelf

By Nancy Pearl, Guest Blogger

Library users are not going to be thrilled when they discover that many‚ actually most, probably‚ of the titles on the summer reading lists recommended in seemingly every magazine (online or in print) are unavailable when they check the online catalog or look on their library shelves. What can we do for those readers? You certainly don’t want them to leave the library empty-handed or exit the library’s website in frustration. That’s why I think the roundup produced by the ALA RUSA-CODES Reading List Council is so good. For every new book cited, the committee offers an older title as well.

I would love to see every library compile a similar summer reading list and make it available both as a print bookmark and on the library’s website, if possible. I think that current blockbusters already get enough publicity, so I would actually include only titles that are no longer on the New Books shelf. Offer your patrons summer reading titles that are likely to be on the shelves (at least at first) or don’t already have a long holds queue. When you hand the list to a library patron, you might even say something like, While you’re waiting for Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or Ridley Pearson’s The Risk Agent“‚ or whatever they’re asking for that’s currently unavailable‚ try these oldies but goodies that you may have missed along the way.

Here’s a beginning:
  • Jeffrey Deaver’s The Blue Nowhere (Pocket, 2002) comb ines a br eakneck-paced plot with lots of fascinating information about computer hackers as an old-school policeman and a mega-talented computer hacker join forces to search fo r a sadistic killer. Not for the faint of heart. I’d give this to Chelsea Cain fans.
  • David Anthony Durham’s richly detailed fantasy Acacia (Anchor, 2004, reprinted 2012) is an excellent choice to suggest to fans of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. (Not the least of the reasons for doing so is that all three books in this trilogy are published and available, the first two in paperback editions.) When Acacia, their homeland, is invaded by their longtime enemy, the Mein, the four children of the royal family of the Akaran dynasty are forced to run for their lives.
  • Fans of Susan Isaacs’s novels will also enjoy Peter Lefcourt’s Abbreviating Ernie (Villard, 1997; o.p.), which is one of the funniest novels I’ve ever read. After her cross-dressing urologist husband has a fatal heart attack while they’re having sex, Audrey, who is handcuffed to the stove in the kitchen, can think of only one way to escape Ernie’s dead weight: by making good use of an electric carving knife.
  • Of all of Elinor Lipman’s wonderful novels, my favorite remains The Way Men Act (Washington Square Pr., 1993). Because Lipman adores her characters, it’s impossible for readers not to love them, too. After she returns to the New England college town where she grew up, Melinda LeBlanc works in her cousin’s flower shop, takes up old friendships, and falls in love with a man apparently uninterested in her, all the while trying to get along with her mother and live down a high school reputation as a bad girl.
  • In Carol Shields’s The Republic of Love (Viking, 1992; o.p.), forty-something Tom Avery, a three-times-married, late-night-radio talk show host, and never-married Fay McLeod, 35, who researches mermaids, alternate telling the story of the complications that ensue after they fall in love at first sight.
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