Summer 2017

The City Books Short List

A summer reading list should include books that are compelling enough to keep people reading, but not so complicated that folks will be lost if they put a book down and pick it back up. I’m not adverse to heavy subjects, but they should be topics that will make readers feel wiser for having undergone the journey. My selections for summer 2017 include poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and a graphic novel. Some were published in 2016; others are brand new. All will transport the ‘Burgh-bound and accommodate the world traveler. (In alphabetical order by author.)

Jennifer Jackson Berry, The Feeder: This prize-winning book reveals a poet with no fear. With pieces about pregnancy, infertility, and physical pleasure, Berry’s collection is some of the most authentic poetry readers will ever find. She is Editor-in-Chief of Pittsburgh Poetry Review.

Katie Fallon, Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird: This work of literary non-fiction examines a year in the life of a North American turkey vulture. Including scientific data and interviews with raptor experts, Vulture is an ideal read for environmentalists and sustainability enthusiasts. Fallon is the founder of the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia and lives in West Virginia.

Sarah Gerard, Sunshine State: A collection of essays about growing up in Florida in the 70s and 80s, this book straddles the line between personal and geographical history. Whether a reader has been to Florida or not, everyone will connect with Gerard’s exploration of physical and psychological homes.

Adam Grant, Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World: Whether a reader is taking a break from job or school, Grant’s 2016 book will help people renew their sense of imagination and purpose. He describes how to create spaces and cultures of originality to breed new ideas at home and in the workplace.

Abeer Y. Hoque, Olive Witch: An attention-grabbing memoir written by a former Pittsburgh resident about the search for home, both literally and figuratively. Electrifying and bittersweet, Olive Witch was selected by TIME Magazine as one of seven notable memoirs for International Women’s Day 2017.

Cathy Malkasian, Eartha: From the author of Temperance and the Percy Gloom books comes another graphic novel that makes the reader forget this is a work of fiction. When the title character leaves her homeland to find out why residents of a distant city have stopped dreaming, readers learn what it’s like to believe again in humanity.

Leonardo Padura, Heretics: A darkly comical part-detective, part-historical novel about a missing painting and a missing girl, this tale sweeps through centuries and across continents all while exploring the tensions between tradition and modernity. Padura is one of Cuba’s great contemporary writers.

Adriana E. Ramirez, The Swallows: In a collection of intoxicating poetry ranging from adolescent scars to the memories of birds, Ramirez writes about migration and the conditions that push us away from home. A Mexican-Columbian, Ramirez is a nationally ranked slam poet and runs the Pittsburgh Poetry Collective.

Sofia Samatar, Tender: In her third book, Samatar offers a collection of 20 short stories about the nature of landscape. Obviously influenced by some of the greatest science fiction writers of the last thirty years, Samatar creates evocative worlds readers may or may not recognize as our own. Contemporary speculative fiction at its finest.

Nell Stevens, Bleaker House: When the author won a three-month grant to go anywhere in the world to write, she chose Bleaker Island in a remote archipelago in the South Atlantic where she could not only write but, hopefully, find something to write about. This witty volume is the result of that adventure.