The 21st Show

The 21st’s Summer Reading Recommendations


All this week we spoke with librarians, authors and bookstore owners from around the state to share summer book recommendations. Here's our full list of those recommendations categorized under fiction, non-fiction and children's/young adult books.

Fiction Books

Nina Barrett is author of "The Leopold and Loeb Files" and owner of Bookends and Beginnings, an independent bookstore in Evanston. Here are her recommendations:

  • "The Lake on Fire" (2018) by Rosellen Brown
  • "Make Me A City" (2019) by Jonathan Carr
  • "The Great Believers" (2018) by Rebecca Makkai
  • "Courting Mr. Lincoln" (2019) by Louis Bayard
  • "Park Avenue Summer" (2019) by Renee Rosen

Amy Hassinger is the author of the three novels. Her most recent is "After The Dam." She teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois. These books made her list:

  • "Sing, Unburied, Sing" (2017) by Jesmyn Ward
  • "Varieties of Disturbance" (2007) by Lydia Davis
  • "Heads of the Colored People" (2018) by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
  • "Gold Fame Citrus" (2015) by Claire Vaye Watkins
  • "Trust Exercise" (2019) by Susan Choi
  • "The House of Broken Angels" (2018) by Luis Alberto Urrea

Nafissa Thompson Spires is the author of "The Heads of Colored People." She’s a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois. She shared her recommendations:

  • "We Cast a Shadow" (2019) by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
  • "Lot" (2019) by Bryan Washington
  • "Home Remedies" (2019) by Xuan Juliana Wang
  • "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" (2019) by Ocean Vuong

Listen to our guests share thoughts on their fiction book recommendations:

Non-Fiction Books

Sheri Bay is an adult services librarian at Lincoln Library in Springfield. Her book recommendation list includes: 

  • "Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir" (2019) by Kwame Onwuachi
  • "Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered" (2019) by Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff
  • "Naturally Tan: A Memoir" (2019) by Tan France
  • "I'll Be Gone in the Dark" 2018) by Michelle McNamara

Carol Torrens is an adult services manager at Bloomington Public Library. She shared her list with us:

  • "Educated: A Memoir" (2018) by Tara Westover
  • "The Library Book" (2018) by Susan Orlean
  • "Life Itself: A Memoir" (2011) by Roger Ebert
  • "Bossy Pants" (2011) by Tina Fey

Diana Sussman is the library director at Carbondale Public Library. She recommends:

  • "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" (2015) by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • "The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America" (2017) by Richard Rothstein
  • "Dead People Suck: A Guide for Survivors of the Newly Departed" (2018) by Laurie Kilmartin
  • "My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey" (2006) by Jill Bolte Taylor

Listen to our guests share thoughts on their non-fiction book recommendations:

Children's and Young Adult Books

Mike Rogalla is a children’s services manager at Champaign Public Library. Here are his book recommendations:

  • "Bob" (2018) by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass
  • "Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows" (2017) by Asia Citro
  • "Endling #1: The Last" (2018) by K. A. Applegate
  • "You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P!" (2018) by Alex Gino
  • "Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective" Book Series (2015-2016) by Octavia Spencer

George Rischel is the owner of the independent bookstore the Sly Fox in Virden, Illinois. His picks include:

  • Picture Book: "Llama Destroys the World" (2019) by Jonathan Stutzman
  • Middle Grade: "Finding Orion" (2019) by John David Anderson // "A Wolf Called Wander" (2019) by Rosanne Parry
  • Young Adult: "The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe" (2019) by Ally Condie // "The Rest of the Story" (2019) by Sarah Dessen

Jason Smith is co-owner of The Book Table in Oak Park. These books made his list:

  • Ages 4-8: "Cinderella, Liberator" (2019) by Rebecca Solnit
  • Ages 6-9: "Ada Twist and the Perilous Pants" (2019) by Andrea Beaty
  • Ages 8-12: "Other Words for Home" (2019) by Jasmine Warga
  • Ages 10-13: "Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel" (2019) by Rey Terciero
  • Ages 10-14: "Born a Crime" (2016) by Trevor Noah // "With the Fire on High" (2019) by Elizabeth Acevedo // "Internment" (2019) by Samira Ahmed

Listen to our guests share thoughts on their children's and young adult book recommendations:

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