Have you assembled your summer beach reads yet? While there's lots to do in Milwaukee during the summer, there’s always time to read. Daniel Goldin, of Boswell Book Company, put together a list of books perfect for the wide ranging festivals and activities the city has to offer all summer:
For Germanfest: Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini
This historical novel delves into the life of American Mildred Fish Harnack and her circle of friends who waged a clandestine battle against Hitler in Nazi Berlin during the 1930s.
"[Harnack] went over to Germany, married a German man and really led a big resistance program called the Red Orchestra," explains Goldin. "They were trying to do whatever they could to oust Hitler from office as they saw his rise to power."
He notes that Chiaverini's book is filled with great research and memorable characters. And while "it's not a short book, you can't tear yourself away from it."
For Northwestern Mutual Life's annual meeting (really!): If She Wakes by Michael Koryta
"I thought it is summer and I had to read some escapist literature, so this is a nail-biter with some real twists," says Goldin. The story is told from the perspective of Tara Beckley, who's involved in a car accident that results in locked-in syndrome: a condition that leaves the brain fully alert but the body remains in a vegetative state.
"The story is told from [Tara's] perspective as well as that of an insurance investigator who's trying to figure out what's going on. Now, this isn't just any insurance investigator — she's got some stuff in her past," Goldin teases.
For Bastille Days: Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain
"It's a time travel book about four people Paris who drink Beaujolais nouveau that is tainted by aliens and go back and find themselves in 1950s Paris," says Goldin.
He notes that there's a local connection with one of the characters: an American tourist from Milwaukee who works as an engineer at Harley Davidson. "I was a little worried ... but he's lovely. If people think that people from Milwaukee are like him, I'm OK with it!"
For the JCC Summer Festival: Dani Shapiro's Inheritance
Popular with bioethicist groups and the Jewish community, Inheritance is a memoir that reveals more about Dani Shapiro's family. "She takes a DNA test and gets some disturbing news that she's not related to her half-sister," explains Goldin.
While Shapiro has written about her troublesome relationship with her mother and her loving relationship with her father, the latest book reveals that her father is not her birth father. "The book reveals the misleading fertility treatments of the '50s and '60s ... so that leads her to a search for her birth family," adds Goldin.
For Zoo a la Carte: Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl
Food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the job (and the risk) of a lifetime when entering the high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor-in-chief of Gourmet. It's the latest in a series of memoirs from Reichl.
Reichl depicts the food critic world in "full color," according to Goldin. "Her food writing is spectacular," adds Goldin.
For the Wisconsin State Fair: Biloxi by Mary Miller
The book follows Louis McDonald Jr., a recently retired and somewhat unlikeable guy according to Goldin. Unhappy with where his life is going, he decides to pick up a dog — but it turns out the dog wasn't meant to be given away.
Goldin says Biloxi is "classic Southern literature ... Charming ... and it's a really good dog book."
For Irish Fest: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
"I loved it," says Goldin. Set in the suburbs of the United States, the book follows two Irish families that live next door to each other. Something terrible happens that drives them apart, however the children are still secretly in love with each other.
But Goldin says the love story is not the central theme: "The story's about the burden of the earlier generation on the next with mental illness and alcoholism," he notes. "There's a wonderful heritage of Irish writing and Irish American writing and this book falls right into it."
For the Black Arts Festival: Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
This is an immigrant story that follows a woman from Jamaica who decides leave her daughter behind and to go to New York to follow her dreams. She does that only to find that her dreams have left her behind.
Goldin notes that the mother is "a fascinating character study," as the book bounces between the mother and daughter in it narratives. "It's a wonderful story about contemporary Jamaica and the life of an undocumented and the struggles that people go through. It's kind of a dual mother/daughter coming out story as well," he adds.
For the Democratic National Convention: Girl In the Rearview Mirror by Kelsey Rae Dimberg
We know the DNC isn't until July 2020, but this book by Milwaukee author Kelsey Rae Dimberg is a great political thriller. The book follows a young woman running away from her past who winds up becoming a nanny for a powerful senator in Arizona. "Something happens to the little girl she's taking care of and, of course, the secrets start unraveling and the consipracies start popping up. It's really well done," Goldin says.
For Maker's Faire: Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes
"This was my favorite book that I read this spring," says Goldin. While Kevin Henkes is best known for his picture books, Sweeping Up the Heart is a middle grade novel (that adults can also enjoy).
Set in a pottery studio, the book follows a young girl who has to spend her summer there since she wasn't allowed to go on vacation with her best friend. As she deals with the disappointment and adolescent angst, she meets a boy going through tough times as well.
"There's a wonderful simpleness to the story, but it's very intense and you really get into this kid's head," notes Goldin. "And you can tell the love for the pottery studio ... I thought that it was beautiful."
For the Downer Avenue Classic/Tour of America's Dairyland: The World's Fastest Man by Michael Kranish
The book is about the life and times of a cyclist named Major Taylor. He was the first black sports hero in the country. "Can you imagine everybody at the tour not paying attention to the race because they're reading this spectacular history book?" asks Goldin.