You may have noticed that here at the Berkshire Museum we’re big into reading! This summer we’ve been working with Pittsfield Promise Literacy Campaign on Word of the Day and Book of the Week, which we hope have been helping parents work with their kids on vocabulary and reading skills during these crucial summer months.
But it’s not just kids and families who have fun reading during the summer – who doesn’t love a good book while on a beach, lying in a hammock, or staying up into the late hours of the night? We polled our staff and collected some great suggestions for readers of all ages and interests.
Here are the picks that we recommend you check out this summer:
Nina Garlington, Director of Development:
I just finished The Circle by Dave Eggers which captures the essence of our infamous tech industry in a brilliant manner; noting innovation, transparency, data utopia, in a way that is both unbelievably exciting and horrifying at the same time.
I am also enjoying being read The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies which my nine year old daughter is reading as part of her summer reading assignments. It takes place at the end of summer vacation with two siblings who have very different skills competing to see who can sell more lemonade.
Bill Blaauw, Events Coordinator:
The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert:
Not my words, but says it best in just a few:
From the publisher: “The story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas.”
Kathy Johnson, Guest Services Associate/Birthday Party Hostess:
We, The Jury was written by 7 of the jurors that decided the Peterson case. I had read Amber Frey’s book and I wondered how the jurors came to the decision they did. Something I learned is that we often think that people serve on a jury for a little while and then they go back to their lives after its done but this case affected pretty much all of them. Any kind of tragedy affects the human psyche whether you are male or female. It also shows how much we can bond together with those around us after dealing with such a tragedy. Whether you believe in the death penalty or not, this case tested that belief to make you think if we really want to save the lives that do such unspeakable, horrible acts or rid them in our society.
Jesseca Williamson, Early Childhood Education Specialist:
Everyday my son (he’s 4) and I read books but at night we often read a short story and make up our own stories after. I decided it might be fun to read him a chapter book that leaves a little bit of room for imagining what happens next once a chapter is completed. So we recently read Stuart Little and lo and behold it was a wonderful way to go to bed, thinking up what Stuart could get himself into the next day!
We also raided Daddy’s bookshelf and found two Shel Silverstein books, Where the Sidewalk Ends and There’s a Light in the Attic. It is fun to read these silly poems and talk about what they could possibly mean. Sometimes we make up our own and I would recommend doing this with your kids too!
Van Shields, Executive Director:
I’m reading Simon Winchester’s The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time on my iPad. I seek out books that generally fall into the category of environmental history, stories of people and place, and especially books where I learn more about places and times I have always been interested in but never found the right entry point. So far, Winchester’s book is just the ticket.
I also picked up my hard copy of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake that I first read 10 years ago. I am pondering a re-read because the book is still very fresh today, with its depiction of a dystopian future based on what is happening now related to environmental degradation, climate change, genetic research, and several other issues of pan-human relevance, well, gone wrong.
Kate Preissler, Digital Media Marketing Manager:
If you’re at all curious to get a fun look at some of the behind-the-scenes working of a museum, check out A Grizzly in the Mail and other Adventures in American History, by Tim Grove, currently chief of museum learning at the National Air and Space Museum. In a series of short, readable chapters Grove tells story after story – some humorous, some though-provoking, all fascinating – about the efforts and trials of historians working to bring the past alive for the public.
The incomparable Alice Munro, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature last October, specializes in short stories, a form often overlooked by readers and award-granters alike, but also a form I find perfect for the summer when I want to be completely transported by a book but sometimes only have short chunks of time to read between work, the hikes, the bbqs, and the road trips. Munro’s most recent (and apparently her last) collection Dear Life: Stories deals with sadness, age, regret, and turmoil, but the brilliance of her prose allows it to transcend to a place of hope and beauty. I found it a flawless read for any season.
Maria Mingalone, Director of Interpretation:
Recently The Goldfinch by Donna Tart, which was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, was going around among staff and I got my hands on a copy. I was pulled right in by the storyline , which revolves around a stolen piece of seventeenth century art – a small beautiful painting of a goldfinch by Dutch artist Carl Fabritius. The work of art becomes the emotional and narrative anchor around which the reader follows Theo Decker from a boy to young man as he moves through drawing rooms of the rich, the seedier side of American life, and the darker side of the art world, navigating tremendous loss, alienation, addiction, and the mysteries of love, as he finds his own voice and integrity in a confusing world.
Inferno by Dan Brown, is an older book but I loved ‘traveling’ back to Italy and rediscovering favorite memories of Italian art. The thriller that Brown unravels twists and turns through Italian art history, bringing the reader to all of the famous locations, and introducing them to renowned artists and their work as it follows the main character, Robert Lagndon through Florence, Venice, and Istanbul. Can you say Bobli Gardens, Palazzo Vecchio, and Hagia Sofia all in one breath?
Laurie Werner, Director of Advancement
1Q84, by Haruki Murakami — The best book I’ve read this year: epic fantasy novel, part mystery, part love story, part dystopian nightmare (echoing George Orwell).
Most recently I read Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter: funny, sad, charming story that moves back and forth between 1960s Italy and contemporary Hollywood (a few places in between).
Scott Jervas, Aquarium Manager:
The Moon is Down, by John Steinbeck. A sleepy Norwegian town is occupied by the Nazis. Will it stay peaceful?
Craig Langlois, Education and Public Programs Manager:
How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City, by Joan DeJean
“At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Paris was known for isolated monuments but had not yet put its brand on urban space. Like other European cities, it was still emerging from its medieval past. But in a mere century Paris would be transformed into the modern and mythic city we know today.” (From the publisher)
John Starsja, Assistant Building Manager:
I am currently reading the Dresden Files series, by Jim Butcher.
“In the world of The Dresden Files, magic is real, along with ghouls, vampires, demons, spirits, faeries, werewolves, zombies and other mythical monsters. Harry Dresden works to protect the general public, who are ignorant of magic and the dark forces conspiring against them. This makes it difficult for Harry to get by as a working wizard and private eye…” (From Wikipedia)
My daughter Autumn and I like to read Monster at the End of This Book which features Sesame Street’s Grover, who is horrified to learn that there may be a monster at the end of the book. He does everything to convince the reader not to turn each page, until the final surprise ending is revealed!
Lesley Ann Beck, Director of Communications:
The Book of Life, the final novel in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness was published in mid-July, completing the compelling – and complicated — story of Diana Bishop, a contemporary witch (who is also a tenured professor of history) and Matthew Clairmont, a charismatic vampire. The third book is just as good as the first two, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night. Terrific summer reading!
What are you reading? Let us know here in the comments or on our Facebook Page!