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Staff Favorites of Summer Reading: June 2013

The County of Los Angeles Public Library staff is reviewing books this summer too. Find some of our favorites here, and come back this summer for more lists!

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Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari by Paul Theroux

Veteran travel writer Paul Theroux takes his last trip to Africa in this moving but ultimately depressing travelogue. He travels from Cape Town to Angola, up the West Coast of Africa, experiencing travel like the locals do, with the exception of a foray to one of the most expensive safari campus in Africa ($4,000/day per couple!) where rich Western tourists ride trained elephants in the Botswana bush. He ends up in Angola, where oil millionaires live in luxury while most of the population lives in urban slums of unimaginable squalor, in a country that's now devoid of wildlife after decades of civil war. A soul-searching travelogue in which Theroux questions the purpose and meaning of his own travel adventures. Well worth reading, especially for those with an interest in Africa.

Genre: travel

Recommended by Margo from Hacienda Heights Library

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Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez

This is a small gem from an author who has given us epics such as Palomar. Marble Season is a short story about the lives of a group of kids growing up in the 1960"s, reading comic books, watching Batman and Bozo the Clown, getting into fights, and of course playing marbles. The story centers around Huey, and his older brother Junior, and even to a certain extent their baby brother Chavo. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the situations, all too familiar, that the characters get themselves into. I would call this book a celebration of all those kids who grew up loving comics, and is greatly enjoyable for those of us who found them later on in life.

Genre: graphic novel

Recommended by Victoria from West Covina Library

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The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

Historical fiction with a side of romance and the history of the diamond industry in South Africa. I picked up this book because it has a quote on the cover from Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame), and I was not disappointed. Although the main character can be irritatingly clueless at times, I liked that this book contained a lot of information about a relatively little-known place and time.

Genre: historic fiction

Recommended by Katherine from Paramount Library

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The Art of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein

Not going to lie, I cried while reading the book. Granted the tears I was shedding was a result of crash-reading the entire book in one sitting, so the emotional attachment of growing up (and old) with Enzo and his human owner Denny Swift was all-consuming and uninterrupted, but the tears were very real and yes, very messy. The author Garth Stein does a wonderful job of telling Enzo's story in his point of view, a story of an old soul trapped in the body of a dog, who not only wishes the best for Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver, but who also harbors fantasies of being reborn as a man in his next life. Full of life, love, loss, and painful reminders that life is what you make it, this story should please anyone interested in Enzo's story. And again, you've been warned. You might need a box of tissues at the ready.

Genre: fiction

Recommended by Zia from Culver City Library

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About Alice by Calvin Trillin

New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin paints a moving portrait of his late wife Alice. The book itself is quite short but that doesn't diminish the love in Trillin's words.

Genre: biography

Recommended by Teresa from La Crescenta Library

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January First by Michael Schofield

In this compelling and poignant book, Michael Schofield details his struggle with his young daughter's early onset schizophrenia--getting it diagnosed, finding proper treatment, and ensuring safety for her and her younger brother. The story of six-year-old January (called Janni) is a page-turner, sure to tug the heartstrings of any parent.

Genre: non-fiction

Recommended by Laurie from Lake Los Angeles

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Ari and Dante are two Mexican-american boys in El Paso, TX. They are both loners but when they meet at the pool one summer, they hit it off right away. Soon they are inseparable but circumstances start to come between them. A beautiful coming of age story about friendship, love and communication. I read it in 2 hours, I couldn't put it down.

Genre: realistic teen fiction

Recommended by Sarah Mae from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

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Internal Time by Till Roenneberg

If you've ever wondered why getting up in the morning is such a nightmare, then this book is for you. Sleep researcher Till Roenneberg's introduction to the state-of-the-art in sleep research touches on all the pertinent questions of our nightly interlude in a way that even the sleep-deprived can understand. Every chapter is broken down into two parts, a story and an explanation. The stories introduce the topic while the explanation delves into the scientific exploration of said topic. Not only will this book teach you about sleep, but Till Roenneberg's enthusiastic descriptions of interesting experiments may even tempt you to scientific inquiry of your own!

Genre: non-fiction

Recommended by Oleg from West Hollywood Library

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Starting Now by Debbie Macomber

This is a Blossom Street novel. Since I enjoy knitting, I had to read this latest installment. Debbie Macomber certainly delivers! I was on the edge of my seat, wanting to know what Libby would do next, and frustrated with her for her naivety. The sweet romance and inspiration that I expect from Macomber were there as well.

Genre: women's fiction

Recommended by Brenda from View Park Library

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The Adobo Road Cookbook: A Filipino Food Journey  by Marvin Gapultos

Wonderfully written and photographed! The recipes are easy to follow and I enjoyed all of the historical and cultural anecdotes. This is a great addition to capturing Filipino American history.

Genre: cookbook

Recommended by Charmaine from Carson Library

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Austenland by Shannon Hale

This frothy quick-read imagines a BBC Pride and Prejudice obsessed thirty something being bequeathed a three week vacation at an exclusive Austen-themed resort where women dress and act like Regency debutantes and are wooed by actors. Lovers of Jane Austen, Sophie Kinsella and Bridget Jones will enjoy this light and entertaining read.

Genre: chick lit

Recommended by Katharine from Westlake Village Library

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The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

This is a stunning debut by Helene Wecker. I listened to the audiobook and felt a deep loss when it ended because the story really drew me in. The narration by George Guidall is also superb. This is a tale about two beings from folklore, each trapped in their own way, one searching for her place and purpose in the world and the other looking for his freedom. The story is set in 1800s New York and explores diverse ethnic cultures of that era.

Genre: fiction

Recommended by Iris from La Canada Library

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Healthy cooking : at home with the Culinary Institute of America by Culinary Insitute of America

Watching what you eat can be difficult, but knowing that there is a healthier version with the same taste, is helpful. These recipes are made by professional chefs that an average person can make at home in a healthier way. Perfect for the summer cooking.

Genre: cookbook

Recommended by Hosanna from Paramount Library

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Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul

"Lost Cat" is about a San Francisco couple who is searching for their cat who mysteriously disappeared, just to mysteriously return 5 weeks later. The story is about their quest to find out where their cat Tibby went, and then why he chose to return home. I absolutely loved this book! I am a self-proclaimed "Cat Lady," and this is a must-read for all cat lovers. I laughed, I cried, and I could relate to most of the story. It was also a nice touch that it had illustrations that helped convey the story, kind of like a children's book format but for adult cat people. My only complaint is that it was too short, and I didn't want the book to end so soon.

Genre: non-fiction

Recommended by Penelope from Bell Gardens Library