Read any good books lately? We open the phone lines for our annual show featuring listeners’ suggestions for the best books to enjoy this summer on the beach and beyond.

Here is a list of books mentioned on air during the show:


If you are interested in buying one of these books, you can support KQED by clicking on the title, which will take you to that book on A portion of the profit will go to KQED.

These titles are also available from your local independent bookseller. You can find the one nearest you at

Summer Reading 29 May,2012forum
  • Lena

    Since I can’t get to Paris this summer I’m going in Cara Black’s Aimée Leduc books set in Paris…so authentic I can smell the Gauloise and pretend I’m there solving crime with a chic detective on a Vespa over the cobblestones in the Marais. Start with Murder in the Marais the first in the series then inhale the next eleven book set in different arrondissements. Evocative, compelling and not fluff but with historical detail and social comments…so French you can taste the croissants. Lena

  • Sara

    Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, is a great summer read!

  • Gary

    Why the West Rules – for Now    by Stanford Prof. Ian Morris

    A concise history of Western cultures versus Eastern cultures over the past 10,000 years. Well written and very enlightening comparing/contrasting developments in each culture. Designed to provide a bigger perspective on history than individual elections, financial crises or even average individual lifespans. I highly recommend this book.

    Gary (Belmont)

  • Nancy

    If you like mystery thrillers try Project Moses by Robert B. Lowe.  

    Enzo Lee, a reporter in San Francisco uncovers a bioterrorism scandal. Will he and his partner get to the bottom of the scandal in time or will they be added to the growing list of victims… read and find out.  -Nancy

  • Tej (tage)

    Dalva by Jim Harrison. Actually I think all Harrison is great summer reading. Engaging, emotional and with adventure abounding.

    You also can’t walk away from the Game of Thrones series as great beach books.

  • Bill_Woods

    Terry Pratchett

    Small Gods (1992) (!) is one good place to start.

  • I snagged a pre-publication galley of local author Gigi Pandian’s first book, Artifact, and I can’t put it down. It’s a cozy treasure hunt mystery  with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter. The characters are really distinctive and charming and Gigi Pandian has a terrific grasp on dialog and dialect.

    Side note: Michael Krasny, you’ve not heard of Terry Pratchett? Get thee to Discworld!

    -Karma in Oakland

  • Karla

    This is How by Augustin Burrows  The best, most realistic self-help book you’ll ever need

  • John Timothy

     Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants is an historical novel in the classic English lit style. Well-drawn international cast of characters, before and during WW I. You may need many days at the beach, it’s 1000 pages long.

  • todd dickason

    Local author Mark Abramson is well worth a look…lot’s of San Francisciana

  • Elizabeth Lorenz

    “The Gun” by CJ Chivers…great history of the origin of the gun by a NY Times writer

    Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, really good book about how introverts can make a difference.

    Any Elin Hilderbrand book about Nantucket romances

  • MelliX

    Have you heard of the Slow Food movement? Well, I think this would classify as a Slow Book (in a good way), meaning that it asks one to slow down and take in and contemplate life’s mysteries: An Uncertain Age by Ulrica Hume. It’s got a sense of humor, too!

  • Jan

    Lunatics – by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel.
    Hilarious book – couldn’t put it down.

  • Sarahkessler1

    The Chinese Jars andKing of the BottombothBy William C. GordonSF murder noir, gritty detective pulpy greatness!!!!

  • Jenkrna

    The Dirty Life Essex Farm by Kristen Kimball 
    I am 1/2 way through and it has made me laugh out loud and brought me to tears. This story about farming and a girl from the city giving it all up to be with the farmer she loves, most of the time. If you have ever dreamed of farming and leaving your city life behind to do it, read this book. 
    Kristen is a fantastic writer and a funny woman. 
    Jen in Friant 

  • Katie

    The Season of the Witch – non fiction about the years 1968 to around 1982 about the wild ups and downs of SF during that period.  Took me back to my youth.  Though I thought I was well informed at the time being a newsaholic, it went into the back rooms of SF politics of which I was unaware.

  • Sarahkessler1

    The Chinese Jars and King of the Bottom both By William C. Gordon fabulous SF murder noir, gritty detective pulpy greatness!!!!

  • Mike

    I just read Malibu Murder from the California author Hope Newman.  It is a legal thriller with an offbeat sense of humor, and a feisty sense of justice. I stayed up to finish it. It is addictive. Great book. Highly recommend it.

  • LDReeve

    Devoted by Brett Eastonfield is a dark, funny novel about a recluse and his an illicit affair with a neighbor. Set in the present day, it’s wry commentary on suburban life is insightful and very entertaining.

  • Jt

    Just finished When Captain Flint Was Still A Good Man, a first novel by Nick Dybek – I devoured it.  It’s a story about a Northwest fishing down dealing with the loss of the town’s patriarch, filled with intrigue and good tunes.  Also a fan of the young novelist’s father’s work, any collection of short stories by Stuart Dybek, but especially The Coasts of Chicago.

  • Marilyn Taube

    I’m reading Tempo Dulu, a memoir of a woman born in Indonesia of Dutch parents before World War II. Her descriptions are vivid and frightening.

  • Ldreeve

    The Hayfield by Arthur Gordon reminds us of what it was like in the sixties when it seemed like everybody wanted to get back to the land. One man’s attempt to move his family to the country and grow hay forces him to confront more than the elements in this intriguing read.

  • Nanmart8

    Not a new or local book, but well worth the read: Body and Soul by Frank Conroy, a “writer’s writer” who was a great story teller. A novel that explores the power of music to elevate lives, along with touching on all the major political and historical issues our country has faced in modern times Didn’t want the book to end.


    If you’re looking for a book on spiritual jpurney, I recommend Borrowed Bibles by Jim Good, who is a local first time author. The book reads like fiction but is an outstanding true account of a man from the deep south who goes from being a fundamental Christian to arriving at agnostocism.


  • Diane

     Journey into the Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg is a memoir of the her imprisonment in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era purges. I think that most Americans have perfunctory knowlegde of the historical details of this era. Ginzburg’s first-hand account, first published in 1967 in the West, is extraordinarily moving.  Diane of Berkeley

  • Want to add enthusiastic plug for Discworld and anything Terry Pratchet puts pen to.  Funny, astute, wildly imaginative and deep.

  • Jennell

    I’m halfway through ‘The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court’ by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. This is an amazing account of the Supreme Court from 1969 – 1975. It follows the transition from the Warren court to the Burger court and I have been absolutely amazed so far. I highly recommend it!!

  • Preegop

    A surprising read that I discovered recently is a vampire series of mysteries called “The Vampire Files” by P N Elrod.   The first book in the series begins with the death of the principal character and his becoming a vampire and proceeds with his solving his own death.   I read the first 3 books end-to-end in about a week.

  • Marian

    I highly recommend Connie Willis’ latest, two continuous volumes titled “Blackout” and “All Clear” about time travel to London during World War II. I was glad I waited for the second volume to come out before reading the first as I would have gone crazy waiting to see how it turned out. It may be fantasy but it’s also great history.

  • Also, Patrick O’Brian’s 16 volumns of genius about Jack Aubry, and friend Steven doing battle with the French on sea and land during the Napolionic era. Sweeping vision, esthetic writing, authentic perspective, and wonderful characters grace every novel.

  • Barbara Fukumoto

    Cooler Smarter by the Union of Concerned Scientists.  A new, very readable book on Climate Disruption,that focuses on the most impactful things each of us can do to reduce our contribution to the problem. Clear explanation of the current state of Climate Science. Empowering. If widely read, could change the world. Best-seller.

  • Marilyn Reynolds

    Over 70 And I Don’t Mean MPH: Reflections on the Gift of Longevity, by Marilyn Reynolds, both a funny and poignant look at the joys and challenges of becoming a senior-senior. Published by Morning Glory Press.

  • Marybeth

    The book I recommend can be found in both English and Spanish:

    Before We Were Free (Antes de Ser Libres) by Julia Alvarez.

    It’s told from the perspective of a 12 year old girl during the 1960s in the totalitarian regime of Trujillo in the Domincan Republic.

    I also second the recommendation of the Disc World series by Terry Pratchet. It’s a great alternative to the Harry Potter series. The Color of Magic has been made into a movie.


    Mary Beth

  • Erica

    I just finished State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.  Such an amazing story.  The scenes in the Amazon are so rich.  The plot is terrific and it is beautifully written.

  • Brent

    A gripping Sci-Fi read for teens and adults alike by a local author is:

    Surviving Xcarion by R.G. Chandler

    It’s set in the Bay Area and
    features a strong female protagonist. Highly recommended.

  • Jennifer

    “Why be happy when you can be normal”  by British Writer(oranges are not the only fruit) jennette winterson. I funny, horrific and deeply moving memoire..written by a “writers writer”.

  • Susa2013

    Devoted by Brett Eastonfield, an e-book. A stranger arrives in Saratoga, California, with a
    secret even he won’t think about. His teenage neighbor rattles his soul. Wonderful dry dialog, quirky, coming-of-age/forbidden love story with very surprising conclusion. 

  • Helen conway

    Recommend an amusing read “Small Things Considered” by Henry Petrroski … ‘Why there is no perfect design’

  • Booklover

    The Paul Auster book written from a dog’s point of view is called Timbuktu!

  • Rogerw

    Death Dance by Berton Garey is a great summer read: muder & mystery in Los Angeles

  • Amooers1

    My recommendation is a lovely and inspiring work by a local author/artist etitled “Tree Spirits: Tales & Encounters”, which features gorgeous artwork & 34 story-essays about the spritit in all of nature and mankind’s eternal love of and involvement with the natural world. It’s conversational in style, beautifully written and a real pleasure to read. It’s also an IBPA national award winner.

  • Nancy C

    i second the nomination for Laurie R. King, not only for the Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series — yes, she does marry Sherlock Holmes.  But Ms. King has many other non-series books, including Touchstone; Keeping Watch; and Folly.   Ms. King is on the faculty, I believe, at UC Santa Cruz

  • KC

    Check out “The Traveler” and its sequals by John Twelve Hawks. The author lives through his pen name due to his fear of government surveillance and this fiction draws you into his world of paranoia.

  • Wendy

    A short but important read is Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani. A personal story about her NDE (near death experience) and how she was completely healed (without medicine) from a cancer that had nearly killed her. She realized she needed to come back to this world to explain how it is we don’t need to suffer in this life. I’ve given 5 of her books away. Everyone should read this!

  • “Project Moses” is a perfect summer read. A mystery-thriller by an East Bay author who used to be an investigative reporter. It’s set in San Francisco. Lot’s of fun reading about the city and food. A page-turner. 
    Here’s a

  • Sharma Gaponoff

    I recommend “Tevis, From the Back of My Horse”. An Action-packed true story about riding the most difficult 100-mile endurance ride in the world. It is a story about triumph over adversity, about courage, teamwork and knowledge. Join Sharma and her horse Tahoe on their journey through the rugged and scenic Sierra Nevada Mountains of Cailfornia during their 24 hours of the 55th running of the “Tevis-Cup 100-Miles-One-Day Trail Ride”. You will read about the “spills, trills ad bumps along the way” in this compelling, entertaining and instructive chronicle. Mount up and enjoy the ride!

  • Michael in Hayward

    Fantasy reads from local authors:
    The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger – 
    In Soulless, Victorian spinster Alexia Tarabotti fights werewolves, vampires, and proper society with snappy wit and a dry British sense of humor. 

    Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey – 
    Stark has a chip on his shoulder having been sent to Hell before he actually died, but ends up saving the world anyway. Incredibly dark and bitter, but brilliantly written. Plot is solid, but I found I didn’t care where it was going because Kadrey wrote it so richly. 

  • Marian Cremin

    stumbled across an interesting new literary memoir titled “Beamish Boy” by Northern California poet Albert Flynn DeSilver–I think KIRKUS called it “a beautifully written memoir, poingnant and inspirational”–might be worth checking out!

  • Tom DeBoni

    Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem” is the only book I’ve ever read cover to cover and when I finished the last page immediately turned back to the first page and started over. It’s so rich and full of plot, that such treatment is worth while.

    • Just Julie

       Tom, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is the only book that I ever did the same for; read cover to cover and then read it again immediately.

  • Estherwgulli

    Just read Wife 22 by local writer Melanie Gideon. Perfect summer read. A study of marriage in midlife in the Internet era. Highly recommend.

  • Nancy Prevot-Fattlar

    Two old favorites:  Earth Abides by George R Stewart….written in the late 1940’s by a UC Berkeley prof, it chronicles a survivor population after a super virus wipes out most of mankind.  Fascinating novel takes place in the Bay Area.  Second:  The Eight by Katherine Neville….it is about OPEC’s beginnings, Charlemagne’s chess set, and the French Revolution–all interwoven into one big novel. 

    • Barb

      “The Eight” is wonderful and don’t miss the sequel “The Fire”

  • Wheatspear

    I second most emphatically the recommendation of “West with the Night” by Beryl Markham, a book beloved by 2 generations of my family.

    What a wonderful show this could have been (and future ones could be) if Mr. Krasny were forbidden to ever again use the phrase “__________was on the show.”  

  • Jeff Stram

    With the utmost appreciation and respect: Drat you, Michael Krasny! I am barely keeping up with my huge pile of books accumulated from listening to your regular shows; I am really in trouble now!

    Thanks a lot for yet another excellent show ;o)

  • Kts

    Recommend “Sendero” by local author Max Tomlinson.  A fast paced thriller set in modern day Cusco and Peruvian Andes against the backdrop of the waning Shining Path, the surging drug trade and government corruption.  The story tracks the desperate attempt by a young Indian tourist police woman to save her old all too human village parish priest who has vanished while in the hands of the police. 

  • jakelake

    Mounting Evidence by Steven Rea is an easy to read compilation of strong evidence for the re-investigation by citizens into the 9-11 tragedy and cover-up. Mostly about little known or discussed elements of complicity and deceit with names and dates like any good mystery/crime novel, it also includes a couple chapters on the better-known chemistry and physics evidence uncovered by real scientists. Every American citizen should read at least one 9-11 book and this is the most current and complete.

  • Peter Parrish

    I would like to recomend Greenfire by Pam Coy. It is an intuitive history of 5 century Ireland. It is about nature and spirtituallity. The names are unfamilar and the text is complex like a college text book, but it is worth it if one can get into the story.

  • Sage

     A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay
    really beautifully written fantasy but paralleling medieval France.

    House of Abraham
    A gripping account of Mary Todd’s family and their role in the Civil War

  • Dgoldes

    “Naked at our Age” by Joan Price. A great read about having a fulfilling sex life after 50, 60, 70, 80…whether single, coupled, gay or straight. No one talks about this topic but we should – as Joan asks young people who think “senior sex” is “icky”: at what age do you plan to retire your genitals?

  • ldemelis

    I recommend any of the books in the Captain Alatriste series by Arturo Perez-Reverte, a contemporary Spanish author.  Set in 17th C Spain, the series chronicles the life and adventures of Alatriste, a fictional soldier of fortune who participates in real events.  Each book deals with a different topic — the Inquisition, the 30 Years War, the gold trade with the New World — but the overarching subject is the decline of empire, which has a lot to say to our own time.  Although this is a series, each book tells a complete story, and the books can be read out of order. 

    I also second the recommendation for Kristin Lavransdatter, a novel of 14th C Norway.  Sigrid Undset’s novel wears very well, although it was written a century ago.

  • Rich Tamm

    DEVIL’S TANGO – How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step – by Cecile Pineda – a fascinating book written by a Berkeley resident!  I am still reading it, and I’m learning SO much.  interesting how she develops the story – not like a regular non-fiction book describing a disaster, more like a blog, interweaving incidents in Cecile’s life with the number of days since the earthquake and tsunami, unpealing layer after layer of what occurred at Fukushima while also describing Chernobyl, fallout, DU weapons, radiation effects, the nuclear industry, etc.  Very interesting.  I highly recommend it.

  • Rich Tamm

    BROKEN BALLOTS – Will Your Vote Count? by Douglas W. Jones and Barbara Simons.  I know Barbara Simons through a number of voting rights battles.  She is a cyber security expert who has advised the government on voting issues a number of times.  This is a very interesting book that goes through the history of the development of voting machines over the last century and more – all to handle better prior problems of vote rigging.  The current voting machines are still Very Problematic.  She describes why and offers solutions that must be applied to ensure honest elections.

  • Nancy Kast

    I remember a caller mentioning a book that he claimed had been boycotted by the media on the Kennedy assassination.  The host thought he had read a positive review.  What was the name of the book?

    • Rousse

       I don’t remember the name of the book but I believe I heard that Thom Hartmann was the author, or maybe the co-author. Hope that helps.

  • Gabriel Roybal

    i better get started!

  • is anyone aware of a decent San Francisco book club i could check out?

  • Shaz Gilbert

    I just read Beyond the Illusion by Antonia Vidor, eldest daughter of famed Hollywood director King Vidor.  This is poignant memoir of a woman was born   into 
    privilege and wealth whose heart seeks peace and understanding beyond the facade of Hollywood and her own self delusions.  Her life is winding path full of travel, marriages, sleuthing for the true origins of 
    Shakespeare , becoming a gifted healer, and profound spiritual experience.   All  of her fascinating life adventure comes into focus when she connects with her Spiritual Teacher and finds Peace and the love that surpasses all understanding.  Profound truth and a great read!

    • Janis

      BLUE NIGHTS was beautifully written.  She captures the experience of being human so perfectly. 

  • Barbara D. Lee

    Unfortunately I couldn’t phone in…but I do wish to highly, highly recommend Thomas Steinbeck’s new book, Silver Lotus.  He is a writer, certainly in his father’s path….but I think almost better.  His prose is beautiful.  His other book is Fallen Cypress….both of these are about early California at Monterey.

  • Mary

    The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of my favorite books.  Mary

  • Megan

    Cryptonomicon is a must read for ANY science/techy type who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Math. Adventure. Romance. What else do you need in summer reading!

  • Slrponsford

    I’ve read several good books lately & none are on this list. These three are highly recommended: WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel, THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES by Edmund de Waal and THE SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes. Excellent writing, fascinating reading.

  • Heidi

    I recommend “I Wish You Were Dead” by Edward S. Barkin for a great read.


      I just heard someone else recommend that today. I’m ordering it!

  • Cjaay

    A few of my favorites:  A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cammeron, Run by Ann Patchett, The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver.


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