It’s Forum’s annual summer book show. We’d like to hear your recommendations for a good book to throw in a beach bag, prop next to your fishing pole, or relax with in the shade of a tree. Whether your idea of a great summer read is “Gone Girl” or “War and Peace,” call or write with your picks.

Listener and Guest Recommended Books

Books are sorted by genre and listed alphabetically


  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  • Bone Mountain by Eliot Pattison
  • The Bone People by Keri Hulme
  • Brilliant by Marne Davis Kellogg
  • Cha Ching by Ali Liebegott
  • Children of the Days by Eduardo Galeano
  • The Chinese Jar by Willie Gordon
  • Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch
  • Dog in the South by Charles Portis
  • Fever by Mary Beth Keane
  • The Flamethrowers by Rache Kushner
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  • The Golden Age by Gore Vidal
  • The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
  • A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias
  • A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
  • Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau
  • Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
  • Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyse
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Mystery Series by Louise Penny
  • The Night In Lisbon by Erich Maria Remarque
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elisabeth Strout
  • The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Perfect by Marne Davis Kellogg
  • Priceless by Marne Davis Kellogg
  • Quick Silver by Neal Stephenson
  • The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi
  • The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich
  • Runaway by Alive Munro
  • Sacre Blue: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore
  • Seeing in the Dark by Timothy Ferris
  • Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Skull Mantra by Eliot Pattison
  • Song of Solomon by Tony Morrison
  • Stoner by John Williams
  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
  • Thera by Zeruya Shalev
  • True Grit by Charles Portis
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  • Water Touching Stone by Eliot Pattison
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  • A Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio


  • 1776 by David Mccullough
  • The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Shlain
  • American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard
  • Apples are From Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins
  • Bailout by Neil Barofsky
  • A Beautiful Boy by David Sheff
  • Buzzkill by Peter Goodman
  • Culture and Dignity: Dialogues Between the Middle East and the West by Laura Nader
  • Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III
  • Far Away Nearby by Rebecca Solnit
  • Far Flung and Well Fed by R.W. Apple
  • A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos
  • Infinite Cities by Rebecca Solnit
  • King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  • The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
  • Midnight in Peking by Paul French
  • Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
  • To Repair the World by Paul Farmer
  • Return of a King by William Dalrymple
  • Roving Mars by Steve Squyres
  • Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  • Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK by Lamar Waldron with Thom Hartmann
  • The Unwinding by George Packer
  • The Way of the Dreamcatcher: Spirit Lessons with Robert Lax by S.T. Georgiou
  • Why Knot? by Philippe Petit
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed


  • Poems Retrieved by Frank O'Hara
  • The Complete Poems: 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop
  • Dawn Rucker

    I do have a Political Digest that I am about to market titled: ” Theory In: Political Digest 2010″ . The Interest is there; I am going to market. Look for It in August 2013! Ms. Dawn Rucker

  • Paulette Kessler

    Katie Hafner’s Mother Daughter Me. Have you read any of her other books? (Most recent until now, A Romance on Three Legs, about Glenn Gould’s search for the perfect piano) This is a memoir that looks great. Amazon editors have picked it as one of the best 5 non-fiction books of the summer, Comes out July 2.

  • Mary Ladd

    Dirty Love by Andrew Dubus III (best-selling author of House of Sand and Fog) and The Food Writing of R.W. Apple Jr., titled Far Flung and Well Fed. Both books fill me with longing.

  • Krystal Kelley

    I’m reading “Dune” by Frank Herbert and I love it. Great book.

  • nora levine

    Fever, by Mary Beth Keane. A fictionalized “biography” about Typhoid Mary. Fascinating story, especially as to her treatment by the medical and health communities. Vivid descriptions of immigrant life in New York. And beautifully written.

  • evitah

    I read local, my favorite: Mary Roach, (Oakland)… She is funny! “Bonk” led me to “Gulp” and can’t wait to “Stiff”…

  • Nadia Scocimara

    This is a re-read- on a recent trip to my folks I found Wally Lamb’s “She’s Come Undone.” It was as funny, touching, and poignant as it was when I first read in college. I recommend it as a first time read or evenif you’ve already read it.

    • JoEllen

      I hated that book! So much needless pain and suffering–and so long!

  • smaktcat

    Classic Westerns, 26 Zane Grey novels. Since we really can’t afford to travel this year, reading the discriptions of the great wild west it a real treat. Great detail of the plains, canyons, grandness of the land. His details of the flowers and weeds almost makes one feel as if you can actually smell the beauty, choke a bit on the hot dust, all of it, just transports ya away.

  • a_sheldon

    One book that I highly recommend is Culture and Dignity: Dialogues Between the
    Middle East and the West by Dr. Laura Nader. This book is an excellent way
    to learn about the Middle East.

  • Erica

    Twenty Years Behind Bars by Jeff Burkhart

    Perfect for summer, this book if full of short stories from a bartender who is a wonderful observer of human nature. Jeff also has a deep understanding of drinks and their components. I gave it to my husband for Father’s Day and he sits and smiles and laughs.

    Also love Alice Munro and have given “Still Alice” to friends.

    Also anything by Jasper Fforde. This man is literate, funny and very weird. You can see the horrible puns coming and still groan. “The Fourth Bear” is our favorite so far.

  • Ross

    “Life Inc” By David Rushkoff is a great book about how corporations are taking over. It’s a great history about how corporations were created to centralize and horde money and exploit foreign lands and people.
    What I found most interesting is how our monetary system makes all of this possible and the other concepts of money that can benefit local communities (as opposed to money centralizing to, say a Walton family member)

  • Candace Turtle

    “Divine Fury” by Robert Lowe. Fun, intelligent mystery thriller set in SF. Second in the Enzo Lee series. Hero is a SF newspaper reporter. Quick read.

  • Krystal Kelley

    Also, I just finished listening to “Paris” by Edward Rutherford. It’s a great historical fiction novel that covers 16th century Paris through just after the German occupation.

  • Mimi

    A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

    In an emotionally complex novel and beautifully written novel set during
    the Chechen rebellion, a father is disappeared at the hands of his
    friend, an informer. The book portrays with a rich blend of passion and
    wit, a neighbor friend’s efforts to save the orphaned eight year old
    daughter, forcing her upon a female surgeon struggling with her own
    traumas. The writing is exceptionally mature…. it’s extraordinary
    this is a debut novel. This one should deservedly scoop up 2013
    literary awards.

  • Linden Skjeie (Shay)

    Just finished “Brooklyn” by Colm Toiben. A classic coming of age story about a female irish immigrant to 1950s New York. Toiben provides us with functional characters having functional relationships, role models we are sorely in need of today.

  • Jack McKinnon

    Cooked by Michael Pollan
    Simply good accessible reading about what we eat, and what we are learning about it.

  • Kevin Roberts

    Hi, I would like to recommend a couple of science fiction classics by Robert A Heinlein. The first is Stranger in a Strange Land which explores the nature of being human, religion and what it means to be human. This book helped fuel the ‘Free Love’ movement of the 60’s.
    The second is the Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Which is about a penal colony on the moon and the nature of democracy and is one of the books like Atlas Shrugged by Ann Rand that fuels the Libertarian movement.

  • Noah Adrien Lyons

    Russian Debutante’s Handbook, by Gary Shteyngart.

    A wonderful tragicomedy about an American Russian Jew, with beautiful language and humor that recalls A Confederacy of Dunces. One of my favorite books of all time.

  • I’m reading a YA book from Berkeley author Corina Vacco. It’s called My Chemical Mountain, and it’s like if David Cronenberg wrote environmental books for teens.

    It’s about a boy who seeks revenge for his dad’s gory chemical death, while playing all summer in those same chemicals. There’s powerful dramatic irony, because you know the kid’s are foolish to dig in a mountain of toxic waste, but they are young and reckless.

    I compare it to Croneneberg because instead of reading like the mountain is made of ordinary trash, her descriptions are so vivid it’s more like fantasy, more like the magical three-eyed animals you find in the Simpsons’ Springfield lake than reading about a landfill. That she can make a story about the environmental dangers of playing in landfills into a compelling read about a dangerous, magical summer makes me think this author can do anything.

  • Sigrid Reinsch

    Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier – Historical fiction about the lives of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot – early fossil experts from the Dorset coast in England in the early 1800s. Mary Anning was a working class woman Elizabeth Philpot was a spinster from a landed family. Mary uncovered many large fossils including the first Pterodactyl skeleton. Mary and Elizabeth formed a friendship hunting fossils in the cliffs exposed during storms. They become experts to all the early archeologists who want them to find large fossils. Interesting story of the personal conflict that Mary faces to reconcile her religious beliefs with the folssils she finds in the cliffs (ie why would god create a creature that isn’t perfect and no longer lives on the earth?, and Mary and Elizabeth’s struggle for recognition in the scientific community. Well written and fascinating

  • Barbara Ginsberg

    I highly recommend Sugaree Rising, the recently published first novel by Oakland journalist and political writer J. Douglas Allen-Taylor. People in Oakland who follow Jesse’s journalistic writing will be highly surprised by this book. It is set in rural South Carolina in the 1930’s, in an isolated rice-growing low country African-American community which is facing destruction because a rural-electrification dam is being built which will result in the complete flooding out of the entire community. This book is not “post-modern”; it is simply a classic beautifully written novel–wonderful characters, compelling story, lyrical writing. If you want to get it at a local bookstore in Oakland, Laurel Books is selling it.

  • Rosemary Ono

    After getting caught up in the Downton Abbey rage, I decided to search out an Elizabeth McGovern movie, which lead me to Ragtime. This then inspired me to read the book by E. L. Doctorow. I had heard of him but thought stuffy historical novels where best left to my dad. Needless to say, I devoured the book and moved on to any other Doctorow novels I could get my hands on. I highly recommend Ragtime, both the movie and the book but suggest taking them up in the reverse order that I came upon them.

  • Alexandra Burke

    Sacre Bleu my favorite this year. Michael, did you remember that you had Christopher Moore on Forum? Because of your interview I immediately purchased the book! : )

  • rjkp

    Captivating books on Haiti: “Goodbye Fred Voodoo,” by Amy Wilentz, and “The Big Truck that Went By,” written by Jonathan Katz. You won’t be able to put them down as they explore the conundrum of Haiti, and how myriad non-profits have done much more harm than good, especially in the aftermath of the quake. But not a depressing read in either case: Gripping and pulsing with life, in Katz’s account (he was the only reporter on the ground during the quake), and luminous and captivating in Wilentz’s book, one of many she’s written on the country and its people over decades.

  • DJMarshall

    “The Execution of Richard Sturgis, as told by his son, Colin” by Tony Rogers
    This novel’s compelling story quickly captures the reader. Scenes, both exterior and interior, are skillfully written. As a bonus, there are some insights to legal practice! The book won the Nilsen Prize for a first novel.

  • Kat Swift

    A very enjoyable and educational read on how he got OUT of student DEBT-Prison by living an alternative lifestyle!
    HIghly recommended for HIgh School seniors and their parents…
    OR anyone who just wants a great fascinating , easy read
    p.s Because this is his 1st book, many bookstores do NOT have it,
    so i suggest ordering it through any BOOKS INC. store.

  • Nancy McNally

    ” Fairyland A Memoir of my Father” by Alysia Abbott. Recently published and featured on the cover of the SF Chronicle Sunday Book Section . Ms. Abbott lives in Boston now.. She was raised in San Francisco by her gay poet father, Steve Abbott. He died of AIDS when Alysia was 22. She will be reading at City Lights June 19 and at the SF Main Library June 20th. I say it is a book that captures lightening in a bottle, similar to the Gift of the Magi .by O. Henry, in terms of nearly anyone being able to relate to the love lessons revealed. A love story of a father and daughter, a universal love story, and offers a transcendent love story no matter how old you are, your gender role or preferences. Ms. Abbott will be signing books after the readings.

    be there or be square
    encourage someone to go somewhere

  • Regina Green

    I’d like to recommend “Cooked” too. It’s fascinating.

    Also, for anyone who’d like to learn more about adult ADD, especially in women, an interesting short memoir called “Connecting the Dots: My Midlife Journey with Adult AD/HD” by S.F. writer Gabriella West has just been published as an ebook. It’s available in the Kindle store.

  • Gabrielle

    The same is true for you. If you want to take the next step in life, you
    have to read…and you have to read a lot. Reading will advance and
    educate you beyond your present capabilities, but books also help us
    mark life. I can point to particular books that I happened upon at just
    the right time. Those books changed my life. If you don’t have your
    summer reading list set, you need to get on it.

  • Patricia

    High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver, a collection of exceptionally well written essays that explore fascinating aspects of life, relationships and… science. The book was written in 2003 but is just as relevant today as then. For me summer reading is all about relaxed reflection and new ways of looking at the world. This book does just that.

  • greatlakes

    Story of a Marriage by Greer, surprising and well written, set in SF in the mid 20th century. Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen. Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words (Vol. I). Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie. The Beauty of Men by Andrew Holleran.

  • Michael McGuire

    I recommend my book, “May You Have an Interesting Wife!”, It is a story of a Chinese American woman who was a great world traveler untilf she fell down a Mayan pyramid in Mexico beoming a paraplegic. She never expected to travel the world again until she met and married another world traveler. One person wrote, “Their’s is a love story,a travelogue, a history lesson and is also filled with great perspectives on life and successful relationships.”

  • Dan Goldes

    “Ageless Erotica”, an anthology of erotic fiction edited by local author Joan Price. 29 stories from authors over 50, about characters over 50 (sometimes way over 50) having steamy, realistic-for-their-age sex. A great reminder that, while we might need to learn new ways of doing things, we never have to retire our genitals!

  • Urban Explorer

    I recommend “Divine Fury” by Robert Lowe. This second installment of the Enzo Lee series is a fast paced mystery thriller set in San Francisco. The characters are well drawn, the story compelling and the themes covered by the book very timely.

  • regine_l

    For utter and absolute escapism, consider fan fiction–written by _people like you_, occasionally brilliantly–inspired by TV and film and books. Check out and pay very close attention to the warnings–anything ‘slash’ (or ‘/,’ the separator between character names) may turn into smut, occasionally written by teenage girls referencing a library copy of ‘Joy of Gay Sex.’ I prefer pre-slash, and writers I particularly admire are verityburns and mad_lori. You may be inspired to write your own, too.

  • Bob

    I’m currently reading The Deep Hot Biosphere by Thomas Gold. This 1999 non-fiction book makes the case for abiogenic oil as compared to the popular myth of “fossil-fuels.” This scientific book is very interesting but definitely not a leisurely read at the beach.

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