Summer Reading for Graduates

If you’ve noticed that the only food group in your diet lately has been Free Pasta Salads, don’t worry. It’s not a covert conspiracy between macaroni salesmen and Midwestern moms to take over the world. Alright, it is, but it’s also graduation party season. And in your mayonnaise dressing haze, you may have forgotten that in exchange for the free food, you should bring a gift for the recent graduate (if you’ve crashed the party and are having trouble picking the grad out of a crowd, look for the one giving off the ‘frightened and aimless’ vibe, usually characterized by nervous laughter and a constant darting of the eyes).

Maybe your biggest gift to them is a human representation of life choices they should avoid. But you can’t wrap that. So consider the (cue echo) GIFT OF KNOWLEDGE. Instead of giving them a dayplanner or a laundry basket or the cash they really want, you could give your grad a book. And if you can’t afford to buy them a book, give them the following list and take them to the library to get a library card, the greatest gift of them all!

High School Grads:


For Guidance:

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: This book has remained popular since it’s release in 1990. I’m convinced it’s going to change my life once I  get around to reading it.

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison: This essay collection about modern situations involving empathy explores how we relate to others. Good buy if you’re terrified your teen has spent too much time on their phone and won’t know how to feel empathy, although I think they’ll probably do ok. They just call it feels now.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: This guy won a Nobel Prize so you should listen to what he has to say about our quick intuitive thinking vs. our deliberate logical thinking and when to use which.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit: Got a grad that wants to explore? Send them packing with this thoughtful book to ponder as they wander.

What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming by Per Espen Stoknes: Since they have to fix that.

For Fun:

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley: If American Graffiti took place in this century in Australia and instead of cruising you spent the night biking around with a boy searching for your favorite graffiti artist. So maybe not at all like American Graffiti. But still great.

The Disenchantments by Nina Lacour: This is one of my favorite summer books. A group of recent grads on a road trip, falling in and out of love and wondering what their futures hold.

College Grads:

“There’s no point to any of this. It’s all just a… a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details. You know… a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, those are good, the sky about 10 minutes before it starts to rain, the moment where your laughter become a cackle… and I, I sit back and I smoke my Camel Straights, and I ride my own melt.”

In my opinion, the above speech by Reality Bite’s Troy Dyer is the only graduation speech you need. But if you were looking for something a little more hopeful, try any of these:

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan: This collection by 2012 Yale grad, Marina Keegan, includes her popular essay from the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness”. The piece went viral after Marina was tragically killed in a car crash just days after her graduation

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling: Lookit, everyone knows that everything that comes out of Rowling’s mind and mouth is wise and golden, so why wouldn’t you give this book to everyone you know?

Congratulations, By the Way by George Saunders: Saunder’s speech to Syracruse U grads on how to live a satisfying life by being kinder.

If This Isn’t Nice What Is: Advice for the Young by Kurt Vonnegut: This is a collection of Vonnegut’s best speeches and includes “How to Make Money and Find Love!” and “How to Have Something Most Billionaires Don’t”

For Fun:

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham: Gotta let Lena herself describe this one:

“If I could take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine was worthwhile…No, I am not a sexpert, a psychologist or a dietician. I am not a mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle.”

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides: A reinvention of classic love stories. Three recent college grads in the 1980s tryna figure it out.

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This generation isn’t the first to be chastised for being entitled. Anthony and Gloria, the main characters of this novel (believed to be based on Fitzgerald himself and his wife Zelda) are young, beautiful, and spendin’ cash like it’s going out of style in the early 1900s. But, as the title might imply, it doesn’t bode well for them… “Life plays the same lovely and agonizing joke on all of us.”

Yes Please by Amy Poehler: This book is so funny, but also so real and unapologetic about how hard it is to do what you really love.

Just Kids by Patti Smith: From Publishers Weekly: “In 1967, 21-year-old singer–song writer Smith, determined to make art her life… left her family behind for a new life in Brooklyn. …Through a series of events, she met a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe who changed her life—and in her typically lyrical and poignant manner Smith describes the start of a romance and lifelong friendship with this man.”

Good luck graduates. Stay sweet. Don’t ever change. I’ve had a crush on you since the first grade and never had the nerve to tell you, etc. etc.


PBF | June

Party Banter Friday: 

In Which A Librarian Provides You With An Interesting Fact to Make You More Popular During Weekend Socializing

By the time you read this, I’ll be huddled in a tent in black bear country singing old 4H songs like “One Tin Soldier” to myself in order to stay calm. Or, I could be eating ice cream outside a Dairy Queen or in a car trying to convince my family we should go to Dairy Queen, depending on when you get around to reading this.

The point is, I’m going camping and I’m scared of bears. So this Friday, we’re all going to learn some bear facts. Ready? This is the information I gleaned from Survivor Kid: A Practical Guide to Wilderness Survival by Denise Long.

Don’t keep any food on you! NONE! This may seem like common sense, but Long also mentioned that campers and hikers should steer clear of scented lotions and lip balms. “You don’t want to make yourself smell yummy to a bear,” she writes. Yikes bikes. I cannot believe I almost left for camping without that information. Smell ya later Dr. Pepper chapstick.

The most common reason bears attack is because you’ve startled them. Don’t startle them! Make noise when you’re hiking with a bear bell or good old fashioned clapping and yelling.  Be extra noisy around rivers or creeks that are loud (OMG, we’re going to see waterfalls! What if bears are there?) and food sources like berry patches and dead animals and picanic baskets.

No eye contact! Don’t bend over! Back away slowly while talking soothingly, unless that seems to upset the bear. Don’t upset the bear!

Have fun at your bear-less parties this weekend, you guys. If you need me, I’ll be curled into a ball protecting my vital organs.

Photo credit: Bear photo is from Wikimedia; our featured image for PBF is a picture from our digital history collection. You can view the original image and browse our collection here.


We DJ’d Rebecca’s Summer Road Trip

Rebecca writes:

“I’m driving [from Michigan] to North Carolina with a car narcoleptic!”

What to listen to?

My first suggestion is, of course, to listen to Raise Up by Petey Pablo on repeat the entire drive (aprx. 165 times!). Spin it like a helicopter, Rebecca. That’ll keep your car narc awake!

If that’s not your thing, we’ve put together a list that will at least keep YOU awake. And give your passenger trippy dreams:

This book is exactly the length of your trip, one way. You can split it up or listen to it in one take, which you may want to because it’s pretty thrilling. Here’s the publisher’s review:

“It all started the previous summer. Marc, his wife, and their two beautiful teenage daughters agreed to spend a week at the Meiers’ extravagant summer home on the Mediterranean. Joined by Ralph and his striking wife, Judith, her mother, and film director Stanley Forbes and his much younger girlfriend, the group settles in for days of sunshine, wine tasting, and trips to the beach. But when a violent incident disrupts the idyll, darker motivations are revealed, and suddenly no one can be trusted…A controversial, thought-provoking novel that showcases Herman Koch at his finest.”

When you need to change it up, try some of these records. It’ll put a little bounce in your drive:

road trip music

Teen Dream by Beach House (50 min.): This type of music is typically called dreamy pop. It’s mellow and imaginative. Ease into your trip by playing this album first.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band by the Beatles (40 min.): This is where the trippy dreams come in.

Arular by M.I.A. (40 min.): With M.I.A.’s hot beats to listen to, you won’t care if you’re the only one awake. You’ll be too busy shouting,  “‘Scuse me little hombre. Take my numba, call me!”

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming by M83 (75 min.): A double album dose of synth music. Fans say it’s best to listen to if you’ve got some nighttime driving.

Who Is William Onyeabor? by William Onyeabor (70 min.): Speaking of super crazy awesome synth music

How about some stand-up? Try Sarah Silverman or, my personal favorite, Sinbad: Brain Damaged.

First Band on the Moon by The Cardigans (40 min.): This is the one with “Lovefool” on it so you can jam out like you’re in seventh grade again.

While you feel like singing along (this is the portion of trip where your road-trip buddy wakes up and scolds you), pop in some Lily Allen. She’s fun and bratty.

Lungs by Florence + the Machine (70 min.): If you’re feeling driving fatigue, these big pounding rhythms will help you recharge.

Young Americans by David Bowie (40 min.): How cool are you going to feel after 11 and a half hours, cruising into North Carolina blasting “Young Americans”?

Drive safe Rebecca!

We DJ’d Cathleen’s Summer Road Trip

Cathleen writes us:

“What a fun idea– who doesn’t love a good mix tape or audiobook! The family (me, main squeeze, the little toddler) are heading to the beach (3 1/2 hour car ride) to celebrate our little one’s 3 year birthday (her second time ever at the beach too).”

What to listen to?

Hey Cathleen! The beach, how relaxing! The toddler and the 3 1/2 hour drive? How the-opposite-of relaxing! I have taken a toddler to the beach before. You need some sweet tunes to help you, the squeeze, and that babay jam and to remind yourself that this trip will eventually culminate in some sunshine and idyllic memories even though right now you are simultaneously driving, mumbling swears at your GPS, reaching back with one arm to grapple for the child’s drink cup and resenting your partner for sleeping through all of this.

Since you mentioned mixed tapes, Tom from Sight & Sound put together this one, which will take up just under an hour of your trip. Although lots of them are summery enough to listen to as full albums as well, like Wilco’s Summerteeth, Bob Marley, and War. Here are Tom’s recs:

1. Swimming/ Breathe Owl Breathe
2. We’re Going To Be Friends/ White Stripes
3. Where’s the Music/ Medeski, Martin & Wood (a jazzy version of children’s songs for the kiddo)
4. Surfer Girl / Beach Boys
5. Three Little Birds/  Bob Marley (babies love Marley)
6. My Girl/ Temptations (and also this song is on The Big Chill soundtrack, which is a pretty good road trip album)
7. Summer/ War
8. My Darling/ Wilco
9. Swimming Hole/John McCutcheon (more songs for the toddler)
10. Forever Young/ Rod Stewart
11. A Summer Place Theme / Percy Faith
12. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay/Otis Redding
13. Summertime/ Pico & Chown
14. Summer Breeze/Seals & Crofts
15. To the End / Blur

For the rest of the way there, we’ve found a few sunny sounding albums to pump you up for your day off. Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life will guide you through a whopping hour and a half of hits you can sing along to. It’s Mr. Wonder’s favorite album because it was a great time in his life as he had just become a father! Sing along with him!

On the last leg of the trip, try Polyphonic Spree’s Beginning Stages of…  The first nine tracks of their album take about 30 minutes, but the last track is 36 minutes long by itself. They’re weird but they’ll make you smile.


Now on the way home from the beach, you also need something to look forward to. The little one will be tuckered out, your ears will be a bit tired from the lovely sounds of the waves and the wind and you’ll want something quiet, but also something that will keep you from falling asleep at the wheel.

I would recommend listening to a book that’s suspenseful, summery, and on the short-side. The Young Adult section is the perfect place to go for those things. How about We Were Liars by E. Lockhart? Here’s the Goodreads description:

A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I hope you like our playlist for you. Happy birthday to your kiddo and have a blast at the beach. Or as my son calls it, loudly, in public, “Beetch! Mama beetch!”



3 to 5 with Nicole C. Kear

3 to 5 Questions for Authors:

In Which A Librarian asks a Talented Author a Small Number of Questions

Also, we’re reading Now I See You for our June Books & Brewskis! And she’s going to visit us via Skype! So excited! Read our interview with Nicole below:

Q: Though your book deals with pretty heavy subject matter, the experience of going blind from a young age, an emotion that continues to stand out in your writing is your humor. Is there a comedic author or book that helped to shape you as a writer?

A: There are so many. Most of my favorite writers are funny, to some extent. I have long been a fan of David Sedaris. His point of view is just always so frank and so funny, in the most effortless way. I read Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott when I was just starting my writing career and I found her honesty and humor to be a real revelation. But the book that had perhaps the biggest impact on the writing of my book was Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton. He has the same eye disease I do, and he writes about losing his vision in a way that is both piercingly poignant and also laugh-out-loud funny. I think his book really made me feel like I had permission to be as funny and irreverent as I wanted to be.

Q: Did you always know that your experience would make a great book or did it come to you all at once that you should write about your life?

A: I’m not sure I was even aware of this at the time but I think there was a tiny part of me that really hoped, from the day I was diagnosed, that my experience would cohere into a story that would one day be helpful and interesting to others. I think it was a hope I harbored, unconsciously, because it offered me some solace. But for the most part, no, I didn’t really think about writing a memoir about my experience losing my vision until my husband, also a writer, suggested it one day on a long car ride. As soon as he mentioned it, I realized it was absolutely the story I had to tell. It was a real “aha!” moment, and I’m grateful to my husband for it.

Q: Did your friends and family, especially those mentioned in the book, read it as a draft or after it was published?

A: I gave my family the book early, before publication, but after it was finished. I also gave it to a few close friends, many of whom are writers and gave me tons of invaluable feedback. But a lot of my friends only read it after publication — and many of them were shocked to find that I was losing my vision; they had no idea. One friend, who had been a roommate of mine, read the synopsis on Amazon, and was convinced the designation “memoir” was a mistake, and that it should say “fiction” instead.

Q: Lastly, if you were a Dewey Decimal number, what number would you be?

A: Oh that’s easy. 999-Extraterrestrial Worlds. I’m joking, of course. Not about the Extraterrestrial Worlds but about it being easy. I just spent a half hour googling “Dewey Decimal,” then had a ten-minute episode where I had to wrestle my inferiority complex because I didn’t know jack about the DDS. Then I had a five-minute long identity crisis. Then I found 999 but wondered, for about 2 seconds, if that was perhaps a Satanic number, and then I remembered no, that was 6s. So actually, it was the hardest thing I did all day.

Let Us DJ Your Summer Road Trip

Who wants to go on a road trip? Over here at the library, we can feel the excitement radiating from all of the patrons rushing to the travel section, grabbing their favorite beach read authors, and tripping over the new flip-flops they’re trying to break in. So far, no one has invited us along.  😥 😥 😥

But LOTS of people have asked us what they should listen to while they travel, and that’s pretty close. We like to live vicariously through your travel plans. So please, let us DJ Your Roadtrip.


Find us on Facebook or send an email to with the subject “DJ My Roadtrip”. Tell us where you’re headed and how long you’ll be driving and we’ll put together a combination of music and audiobooks to match your trip!

Cruising toward Nashville? We’ll give you all the Dolly, Johnny, and Blake you’ll need. Driving all the way to the desert? How about some Dune? We’ll even do imaginary road trips, if that’s your thing.

So, c’mon, ask us! You’ve got so much packing and planning and pretending you’re going to get into bathing suit shape to do. We’ll take care of this part.

Photo Credit: The featured image is Desert Road by William Warby