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I’ve been working at the MLK Jr. Memorial Library for about 3 years, and it’s fair to say that on every day that I work, I am engaging (even if briefly), with hundreds of books. It’s both great, and a little bit maddening because often there are new books I’m seeing that I’d like to read. I have to schedule out and prioritize different books or reading experiences that I’m looking for. I try to read seasonally, so that I can read a breadth of material (and that is the aim of the Calendars and Clocks book club I lead). 

But I’m also grabbed by things that speak to my personality outside of work and responsibilities to my job/readers and information seekers of the city. For this, I read reviews, take stock of my own interests and assess what really speaks to me. I also tend to do this seasonally in order to get myself into a specific mindset for whatever is on the horizon for me, and can connect me more to who I want to be, as well as what I want to reflect on, in the coming months. 

All that to say: here are my summer reading choices for 2024, and hopefully one or more will speak to you as well. The first three, I hope to get to in the month of June, the last two I’m hoping to finish in July and August (respectively). 

North Woods book cover, features a rural field with an oversized panther lounging at its center

North Woods by Daniel Mason

This book focuses on a single house in the woods (obviously?) of New England and is told from the multiple perspectives of those who occupy it across centuries. It seems to be expansive, in the novel seem to be two lovers who abscond from a Puritan colony, an English soldier who abandons war to grow apples, a pair of spinster twins navigating a range of dark impulses and circumstances, a crime reporter who stumbles on an unanswerable mystery, a con-man, a panther, even a beetle. For all of them the present is present, but the past is still alive. This book seems inventive and incredibly engaged with the wonder of being alive in the world, as well as how we live on even after we’re gone. If it’s even half as good a feat of storytelling as it seems, I know I’ll be moved by it, and I can’t wait to dive in. 

Book of Love book cover, red background with title and author listed, as well as illustrations of the phases of the moon

Book of Love by Kelly Link

Kelly Link’s strange and affecting short story collections have been something I’ve been wanting to read for a bit, because she seems so talented and interesting. However…I’m not really a short-story kind of reader and almost never pick them up. I was initially thrilled that she wrote a novel, and was enthusiastic about it as a first taste of her writing. Then I read about the plot, and got even more lit up. 


The book is about teenage former ghosts, given a new chance at life after being summoned by their music teacher to their hometown of Lovesend, Massachusetts, who have to complete a series of magical tasks in order to truly be restored to their former lives. But: only two will be allowed to stay, the other two will have their second chance at life taken away from them. The tasks see them engaging with supernatural figures as well as the very notion of chaos and disaster: something they will do all they can to avert. 

A bonus (for me at least) is that Link also put together a playlist in support of the book. I can’t wait to read, and to listen to what has gone on insider her head.

Same as it ever was book cover, features title and author against a backdrop of suburban houses at trees

Same as it Ever Was by Claire Lombardo

Speaking of music, I happen to think that Talking Heads are one of the best bands to have ever existed. They loom large in my heart, and so does the line “same as it ever was” from their song Once in a Lifetime. If you’ve ever felt the monotony of your life bearing down, you’ll know what I mean. This book, which is not out quite yet, is visible in our catalog, and open to holds, so it’s definitely coming (it publishes June 18). I’ve not read Lombardo’s other very well received book, The Most Fun We Ever Had, but this seems at least as good, and I’m looking forward to being introduced to her writing through a host of characters; particularly her complex protagonist, Julia, who is coming to terms with the cessation of emotional upheaval from her youth that has landed her into the placidness of a privileged class in her midlife. But the stasis promises not to last as rocky terrain of life and family relationships reshape her situation, and her heart. The title definitely got my attention, and the promise of reflection on our past and how we’ve gotten to where we are seems like a great way to pull my attention to my own life, while getting lost in someone else’s. 

Infinite Jest book cover featuring author's name and title against a backdrop of the light blue sky and clouds

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

While none of these are short books, these last two on the list are doorstoppers (especially when you take into account that the last book is part of a series). But this title, by Foster Wallace is a little bit of a white whale. Most people (including me) could probably describe at least some of it to you, but not many have experienced it for themselves. Maybe it doesn’t hurt that I’m coming out of just having seen the new movie Challengers, but I feel ready for a book about tennis (at least nominally). I suppose I’ll have to prepare myself for the footnotes, but I’m getting there. A lot of people try to take the summer to read this book, my aim is to start and finish in July. 


I can’t imagine how Foster Wallace would interpret the world of today, but this book, written in 1996, has a lot to say about the difference between pleasure, the high value we place on entertainment, and true meaning in the form of a half-philosophical quest/half-screwball comedy that takes place in an addicts’ “halfway house” and a tennis academy. It is a take on the very American pursuit of happiness, but it is also a piece of entertainment in its own right. Excited for its point of view, excited for the contradictions it seems to represent. My July is “booked.”

Priory of the Orange Tree book cover featuring an orange backdrop, and an ornate medieval cityscape with a dragon wrapped around a spire

Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

For any fellow fantasy fans, my August pick is probably/maybe up your alley (and you’ve certainly heard of it). Priory of the Orange Tree is the first in a series, but as far as I can tell the story moves backward to a prequel (though with spoilers, this is the one to start with). I’m thrilled for this and for having something cool to distract me from DC’s summer heat. 

The book follows Queen Sabran the Ninth, still unwed, but who must conceive a daughter to protect her realm (ruled by the House of Berethnet for a thousand years) as assassins close in. Ead Duryan is an outsider who’s risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, also secretly loyal to a hidden society of mages. She keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, protecting her with forbidden magic. Then, across the dark sea, there is Tané who has trained to be a dragon rider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that will result in her life’s unraveling. As we get to know these characters, larger forces of chaos and political divisions between the East and West make themselves known and start to threaten the entire world. 

This book is joyfully epic fantasy and I can’t wait to be swept up in its world. Happily, the author for this book has also curated a playlist to allow even more immersion and satisfy curiosity of the reader. 


I hope your summer is as full as mine seems promised to be; happy summer and happy reading!


About the Author

Jen F. is an Adult Services Librarian at the MLK Library. When not at work, they enjoy listening to music, reading, learning more about camerawork and storytelling, going for walks, and baking.