A woman reads a book on the beach in Biarritz on April 15, 2015.

Summer in the Bay Area may not always provide great beach weather, but that’s no reason we can’t indulge in that vacation-time tradition of the beach read. We check in with local bookstores about what the summer’s big literary hits are and we’ll open the phones to hear from you — what fiction or nonfiction do you recommend for a summer read?


  • Sheryl Cotleur, buyer, Copperfield’s Book’s
  • Christin Evans, owner, Booksmith in San Francisco; buyer, Kepler’s Books
  • Joe Christiano, buyer, Pegasus Books

Books Recommended on Air

Books are grouped according to Fiction/Non-Fiction and are listed alphabetically.


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 2015

Another Fine Myth by Robert Lynne Asprin

Away by Amy Bloom

Historical fiction

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

Spiritual fiction

Demetrius: Machine Stops by E.M. Forster

A science fiction novel published in 1909 that predicted many of today’s technologies. The full text is available on the internet because copyright laws no longer apply.

Earthquake Storms by John Dvorak

A scientific history of the slow discovery of the St. Andreas Fault

The Fall of the House of Dixie by Bruce Levine

A big-picture, easy to understand look of the causes of the Civil War

Fat City by Leonard Gardner

Recommended by Joe Christiano of Pegasus Books

A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie

Recommended by Sheryl Cotleur of Copperfield’s Books

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Mead

Young adult fiction that touches on technology and bullying.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Historical fiction

Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi

Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart

Recommended by Sheryl Cotleur of Copperfield’s Books

The Magic Journey by John Nichols

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Fantasy meets the crime novel in another novel in The Discman series.

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

Comic novel

The Pittsburgh Cycle by August Wilson

Ten plays that speak to each other; one play for each century in America; Recommended by Joe Christiano of Pegasus Books

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

A young adult fiction book

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

A young adult fiction book

Underground Airlines by Ben Winters

Recommended by Christin Evans of Booksmith in San Francisco and Kepler’s in Menlo Park

Weather to Fly: A Novel in Stories by Christopher LeGras


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Mathew Desmond

Recommended by Christin Evans Booksmith in San Francisco and Kepler’s in Menlo Park

Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein by Peggy Orenstein

Recommended by Christin Evans of Booksmith in San Francisco and Kepler’s in Menlo Park

Listen to the Forum interview here.

Love that Boy by Ron Fournier

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Recommended by Christin Evans of Booksmith in San Francisco and Kepler’s in Menlo Park: “an important book at this moment.”

Notes from the Playground by Greg John

A school principal shares his observations on playground experience and how they shape who we become.

Once Were Cannibals by John N. Tunui

Season of the Witch by David Talbot

Listen to the Forum interview here.

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington

Listener Picks: Summer Reads 14 July,2016Michael Krasny

  • sista_friend

    The Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy. It’s feminist sci fi noir. Highly entertaining.

  • bdpony

    Agree with the recommendation for “Jade Mountain.” It was fascinating from a historical aspect. Very well written and an excellent mystery.

  • A San Francisco Elementary School Principal (Greg John) penned this amazing book of short stories about his experiences on the playgrounds in the bay Area. “Notes from the Playground” documents how childhood experiences — especially those that happen on the blacktop — shape who we become. These narratives arise from one principal’s epiphany that came as he looked out over a hundred children, playing, running, yelling, laughing, and crying. He recognized that he stood in a place where millions of journeys begin. He had found the starting point for countless destinies. He went forward with a different vision for how we can, by affirming the child within ourselves and one another, make our lives truer and more vital than we might have imagined. https://www.amazon.com/Notes-Playground-Greg-John/dp/1519120419/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1468257187&sr=8-2&keywords=playground+notes

  • Ben Rawner

    “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright is a well written history of the Church of Scientology and their numerous borderline criminal activities.

  • Cressida Hanson

    Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead is the best book for those in and entering middle school. Like a modern Judy Blume story GS deals with the awkwardness of adolescence, as well as the modern difficulties of teenage flirting via cell phone and frenemy bullying (handled gently). A great prompt for parents and teens to discuss these topics.

  • I’d like to recommend Steven Saylor’s “The Seven Wonders,” a historical mystery set in 92 B.C. It’s especially appropriate for this summer because part of the book is set at the Olympic Games in ancient Greece, which may have been safer and better-organized than the upcoming Rio games. It’s a lot of fun, beautifully written, and as a bonus, you’ll learn a lot about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
    –Sue in Alameda

  • Shannon

    I started listening late and missed the title and author of the book on the history of education. If someone caught that and could provide the information to me I would appreciate it. Thank you.

    • Katie

      I believe a list of books will be posted on the KQED website in a bit.

      • Shannon

        Thank you.

  • KQED listener

    “Trail of Echoes” (Forge Press) by Rachel Howzell Hall — book 3 of a crime fiction series with African American woman police detective — touches on gender, race, class on the streets of L.A. — well written — good reviews — not many black women voices in crime fiction.

  • Katie

    Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is a great mystery, I agree. It is not a modern-day mystery, as the caller said, however. It is set in 1950 England in a crumbling estate, a little like Downton Abbey circa 1950. The protagonist, Flavia DeLuce is a brilliant 11-year-old with a penchant for chemistry. It is the beginning of a series and Bradley won the Edgar Award for this one.

  • Katie

    I just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This is a fun video-game themed adventure story with a lot of ’80’s references. I had a lot of fun reading it. It’s sort of a dystopian fantasy, but has many relevant themes to today’s world. It’s being made into a movie which will be out in 2017.

    • Robin Rhein Hurwitz

      Agreed! I loved it. Took me back to high school and arcades, and also lots to think about. Maybe living in Silicon Valley made it more fun.

  • Robert Thomas

    Perhaps our host can take aside the Forum web page manager and explain the value of spelling properly the names of the titans of Western literature.

    • Robert Thomas

      Ah, they fixed it.

  • Robert Thomas

    I like “literary trepanation”. Very evocative.

  • the evil gif

    I loved this book. The Boy Who Knew Too Much by Jeffrey Westhoff. It’s a wonderful read for teens and adults. Takes me back to high school and those imagined adventures.

    “The Adventure of his dreams just became a nightmare. The Boy Who Knew Too Much is an action-charged YA adventure that blends the suspense of Alfred Hitchcock with the thrills of James Bond”

  • Robin Rhein Hurwitz

    Also by Fredrik Backman: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.

  • sage

    Max Hastings “Retribution: The Battle for Japan 1944-1945”. Gripping description of the last year of the Battle in the Pacific If you think you know about the last days of Japan’s war, read and learn.
    For light reading – Ashley Gardiner’s Captain Gabriel Lacy mysteries- fast and fun!

  • Michael Greenberg MD

    The book by Yaa Gyasi is Homegoing (not Homecoming). Either way it looks great.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor