Need a summer read? Portsmouth library has your back

Here’s a baker’s dozen of books to stuff in your beach bag

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PORTSMOUTH — Finished all your beach reads and looking for more? The staff at the Portsmouth Free Public Library has some ideas for you.

We asked the library for some summer reading recommendations, and staff members were generous with their picks. There are still seven weeks of summer left, so get reading!

Carolyn Magnus, director:

• The Forensic Genealogist series, by Nathan Dylan Goodwin 

The library has a series of genealogy mysteries by British author Nathan Dylan Goodwin that centers on the activities of Morton Farrier, a forensic genealogist, and the cases that put his investigative skills to the test. Morton delves into each case methodically tracing a family’s lineage to reach the target of the inquiry, sometimes putting himself and his girlfriend in terrible danger as he seeks the truth. In addition to his clients’ requests, Morton also works on his own genealogy with some surprising results. After reading the first four books in the series, I guess you could say that I am hooked!

• The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are, by Libby Copeland (Abrams, 2020) 

The author examines what happens when you take a DNA test and how that cheek swab or vial of saliva can reveal secrets from your family’s past. That test that you took out of curiosity can suddenly and irreversibly change your family forever. Those of us who want to know the answers to “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” may be in for a surprise. Threaded through the story are the personal accounts about people who wanted to find out more about their family histories and were surprised what their DNA test uncovered. 

Award-winning journalist Libby Copeland will be the featured guest speaker on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. Register for this free program at www.portsmouthlibrary.org.

Nicole Carrubba, assistant director:

• Early Morning Riser, by Katherine Heiny (Alfred A. Knopf, 2021)

It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud when I’m reading. Heiny’s latest did just that. An exploration of what it means to be a family, this book has all the chaos and dysfunction you would expect from a modern look at life as we know it, but without the depressing sentiment. That’s not to say it doesn’t pack an emotional punch. But for once, you don’t feel relief that you don’t live next door to these characters. Just the opposite. The last page feels like an abrupt parting, and you want to spend one more long summer day in Michigan

• The Guncle, by Steven Rowley (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2021)

Grieving the loss of his husband, his sitcom career, and now his sister-in-law, Patrick is ill-equipped to care for his niece and nephew for a few weeks over summer. But caring for the children forces him to move forward, with all the panache, heart, and ’80s cultural references he can muster. This is a charmer, even when the losses seem more than anyone can bear.

Colleen LeComte, reference/young adult librarian:

• The Ladies of the Secret Circus, by Constance Sayers (Redbook, 2021)

Who knew such a lovely and extravagant circus was actually the eighth layer of Hell? Things are not as they seem if you receive a ticket to The Secret Circus in Paris. People who have died and traded their soul to the devil are the acts here, from the famous to the infamous. Through generations of the same family, see how events of the past affect the present and the future. Full of magic, daemons, and lost love, this one is sure to enthrall.

• The Bestseller, by Olivia Goldsmith (HarperCollins, 1996)

If you are an avid reader but don’t know much about the publishing industry and its dirty little secrets, this is the book for you! While lengthy, the inner workings and drama of a big publishing house in NYC is fascinating enough to keep the pages turning. There are characters you loathe, those you love to hate, and those you just love. Comparable to one of the biggest publishing houses in the ’90s, this is a spitfire of a book that will make you laugh out loud, cry, and appreciate your 9-5. 

• Pudge and Prejudice, by A. K. Pittman (Wander, 2021)

Looking for some teen reads for the summer? Whether you are one or just like to read YA, Pudge and Prejudice is a gem. Set in the ’80s and using fashion choices, TV shows and music as the backdrop, we get a feel for the all American family. It’s not perfect (what family is?), but it’s cozy and homey. The sisterly relationship between Elyse and Janey is refreshing. Realistic, touching, and funny, it is written with a sense of teenage urgency that can’t be missed. 

• The Inheritance Games, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Little, Brown, 2020)

When a down on her luck high school student receives a mysterious inheritance from Tobias Hawthorne, billionaire extraordinaire, she doesn’t understand why. She doesn’t know Tobias, but now must move into his mansion and deal with the family in order to get her inheritance. Touted as the YA print version of Knives Out, this one is sure to entertain almost anyone. Filled with riddles, secret passageways, a giant inheritance and secrets galore, this is a guaranteed page-turner.

Johnna Armijo, library assistant:

• The Stationery Shop, by Marjan Kamali (Gallery Books, 2019)

A beautifully written tragic love story told over decades and across continents. Roya and Bahman meet by chance at The Stationery Shop in 1953 Tehran. Their romance and future happiness is derailed by political upheaval and family interference. Fast forward 60 years and we find the two ex-lovers reunited in America and asking questions about what might have been. Roya and Bahman’s individual narratives shed light on past events while connecting the characters to present circumstances. This is an enjoyable read with surprising developments throughout, tearjerking moments, and a satisfying conclusion.

• Unsettled Ground, by Claire Fuller (Tin House, 2021)

The title says it all, and I felt uneasy throughout most of this novel. Despite constantly feeling “unsettled,” I could not stop reading. I found myself caring about the main characters and I had to know how their story would end! Fifty-one-year-old twins, Jeanie and Julius’ world is exceedingly small. They have lived their entire lives alone with their mother, Dot, in a tiny cottage in isolation and poverty. The book begins with the sudden death of Dot and proceeds to follow the twins’ struggles to survive without her. Family secrets are uncovered as the story progresses but the loyalty between these siblings offers hope as they overcome tragedy and loss to find purpose and truth. 

Olivia Seymour, children's librarian:

• Is Was (picture book), by Deborah Freedman (Atheneum, 2021)

With simple, yet breathtaking illustrations, Is Was shows readers different aspects of the natural world as it happens around us. Early morning sun turns to mid-morning rain; a bird sings and then is silent as a child swings on a swing. Things that were in the morning may not be as they are in the evening and vice versa. But in the end, there are always some things that remain the same.

• Raymond the Buffalo (first chapter), by Lou Beauchesne and Kate Chappell (Orca Book Publishers, 2021)

This first chapter is sure to draw readers in with its fun illustrations and Raymond’s awesome theme song! Raymond the Buffalo is a story about Raymond himself and his best friend. When they are accidentally separated, Raymond ends up living in a library for years and makes a new and unexpected friend. This touching story of lifelong friendship teaches us not to give up and how a love for reading connects us to others.

• She Persisted: Nellie Bly, by Michelle Knudsen (Penguin Random House, 2021)

Fans of the “Who Was …” biography series will love this new series celebrating female figures in history! Based on the bestselling picture book series, these books are adapted for older readers. This installment celebrates the life of Nellie Bly, female journalist and investigative reporter who traveled the world despite many obstacles. Her tale is truly inspiring and this book allows readers who are transitioning to chapter books to really learn more about Nellie’s story!

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