A&E’s summer reading guide

Learn about the books you should be reading this summer from the people who know them best.

Maddy Folstein

It’s summer. You shouldn’t have any syllabi-listed books to avoid.

Instead, take the time to work through some non-required reading. 

A&E spoke with the experts — local librarians and an English professor — to bring you the best recommendations from Minneapolis’ most avid readers. 

Lisa Von Drasek, associate librarian at the University of Minnesota and curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collection 

“[A summer read] is, in the cliché, a page-turning book that takes you away from the every day,” Lisa Von Drasek said. “It’s also great for short breaks, so if you find yourself waiting in line for a movie on a hot day it’s a great thing to have with you.” 

Von Drasek pointed toward books that are just meant to be fun reads. “Sophie Kinsella has a new one, [‘Surprise Me’], that’s just a delight. It’s nothing that you’re ever going to sit and chew over in a book group, but who cares,” she said. 

Though it can be fun to get your hands on new releases, Von Drasek prefers the convenience of a paperback — they take up less space in your beach bag, after all. She suggests books like Michael Chabon’s renowned novel, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” easily found in paperback at the library. 

“It’s the history of comic book guys, and it’s fiction. If you’re a person who loves a nice, thick read that’s a great choice,” Von Drasek said. 

And, if all else fails, why not turn to a classic summer read celebrating its 20th anniversary this June? 

“If you’re hating that internship or flipping pancakes or if it seems that the State Fair is only days away, pick up a nice Harry Potter,’” Von Drasek said. 

Eric Heideman, librarian at Hennepin County Library-Southeast

For Eric Heideman, a great summer read involves “a combination of action and ideas.”

“[You’re] probably looking for something that [you] can take to the beach,” he said.

Heideman is personally reading authors in the science fiction genre — great for escaping on hot, lazy days. 

“I’ve been reading two authors who have their centennials — Theodore Sturgeon and Madeleine L’Engle, whose best known novel is ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’” Heideman said. 

The Hennepin County libraries also offer a variety of resources to help readers browse collections online. “If you go to the main public website, there’s a place where you can click at the top to browse, and it will show you the different library collections. I’d recommend starting there,” Heideman said. 

Hennepin County libraries also offers their OverDrive service, which allows library users to check out e-books for Kindle and other e-readers.

Nathaniel Mills, assistant English professor at the University

As a member of the University’s English department, assistant professor Nathaniel Mills spends most of his time reading. 

In the summer, Mills prefers “the sort of book that’s accessible and easy enough to read while relaxing at the beach, but still intellectually engaging enough to make it feel like you’re using your summer reading time to the best of your purpose.”

Mills recommends books like Jennifer Egan’s “Manhattan Beach” and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels for the ideal blend of engaging and relaxing. 

If you’d like to cross some classics of your to-read list, he looks towards books like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man” and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

Sometimes, summer reading can take you to a new place — like a vacation in book form. However, if you’re stuck in Minnesota Mills recommends two Twin Cities-related novels: Robert Clark’s “Mr. White’s Confession” and “In The Deep Midwinter” are both set in 1940s St. Paul.

A&E’s bonus picks

Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado

 Remember that one story about the girl who wears a green ribbon to keep her head on her neck? Remember how creepy and gripping it was when you were little? Machado takes it a step further in “The Husband Stitch,” the opening story of this collection. You can read it on Granta online, and you’ll be hooked. The rest of the book blends magical realism, science fiction and “Law and Order: SVU.” 

“Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay: Written in 2014, Roxane Gay’s collection of essays is still interesting and relevant today. You’ll tear through “Bad Feminist,” and then track down her latest works, “Hunger” and “Not That Bad.” 

“Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” by Rebecca Wells: Mother-daughter relationships, the warmth of Louisiana and family secrets? Sounds like the perfect beach read to us.