top of page

Kathy's and Barbara's Summer Reads

My Picks by Barbara Anne Radtke

Whenever I hear someone say, “It’s a good summer read,” I immediately conjure up days from my childhood summers: a book, a beach near a little lake in which my family swam, and a blanket in the sand. Later, during my urban summers, I can almost hear the sounds before central air conditioning: traffic coming through open windows, the drone of a box fan, a sweating glass of ice tea.

What make a good summer read? For me it is a story in which I can get entirely lost or a book with ideas that make my mind drift.  Length doesn’t matter; although the older I got before retirement, the shorter the books.  Maybe that’s because the beach breaks got shorter, too. Pod casts, audio books, and streaming series also occupy my relaxation time now.  Let’s call them all “summer reads.”  Based on what I have been reading, here are my candidates. I hope, dear reader, you will share yours. Here or on our Facebook or LinkedIn announcements.

First, I recommend any of the Donna Leon’s series featuring Guido Brunetti.  They are brief mysteries that take place in Venice.  If you have visited there, it makes the reading fun. If you haven’t, you will begin to feel like you have! Regardless, the city becomes a character, too, in these books.  In many police procedurals and mystery books, the detective has a distinctive personality flaw or physical challenge.  In this series, Brunetti is an average, well-balanced, middle aged man who loves his family, his city, and ancient Roman classics. He is interesting because each mystery engages him in a moral dilemma that he sees between mercy and the law.

Second, I enjoy the playfulness of Phaedra Patrick in her novels about people in midlife and later. The two I have in mind are The Messy Lives of Book People and The Little Italian Hotel.  Her characters are sweet and endearing.  I can imagine them in my neighborhood although they are based in the UK as the author is. The dilemmas of daily life seem real, and the life lessons they learn, while they can sometimes seem too baldly stated, are ones that are good to think about.

Third, I am totally enthralled with the FX show The Bear.  I am even engaged in a discussion group about it as the third season has just now begun to stream on Hulu/Disney +.  The program is driven by the plot to transform a greasy spoon into a first class, Michelin starred restaurant. The series is, however, also weaving a tapestry of salvation with the narratives of restaurant workers who have suffered deeply and dare to be open to being transformed themselves.

When I talk to people about what they are reading, I always wonder what will come next. For me, “next” is on an iPhone list and a stack on end table, reflecting my combination of using audio books and reading hard copies.  Sitting in that virtual and actual stacks is Heather Cox Richardson’s Democracy Awakening.  She is a blogger and a Boston College American History professor who tries to make sense out of current geopolitical circumstances. The chapters in this book are each free standing essays.  I was totally taken by Percival Everett’s earlier books, one of which was the basis for the film “American Fiction.” Now, I would like to read James. Ideally, I would love to read Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn first since James is Everett’s take on that classic.


My Picks by Kathy Hendricks

I always appreciate your recommendations, Barbara, so I look forward to digging into each of these. As you note, summer reading is a particular pleasure. I especially enjoy sitting on our back deck with a glass of iced tea as I immerse myself in a good book. In addition there is the joy of finding an interesting series to watch or podcast to listen to. Here are my summer picks.


Knowing how much I enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, my daughter, Anna, recommended his book, Cloud Cuckoo Land. It is a hefty read – over 600 pages – with several tales taking place at various times in the past and into the future. They are woven together by a single ancient text, which is told in segments as each character and story progresses. I admit to being a bit lost at first but after sticking with it, the pattern began to emerge and the stories of the main characters became more engaging.


I realize there is no shortage of cop shows on TV but “Blue Lights” (BBC) stands out for its great characters, interesting plots, and intelligent scripts. The six-part series (season 1) follows three rookies as they make their way through the probationary period and learn the ropes of policing from those more well-seasoned. Set in Belfast, they also face the hostility of a community that is not far removed from the “Troubles” that beset Northern Ireland for decades. The series is available through BritBox and the second season is now being released.


Another recommendation from one of my children is the podcast, “Gastropod” (Apple Podcasts.) As the name would suggest, it focuses on food but “with a side of science and history”, as their promo goes. My son, Eric, is a great cook with a very active interest in both “sides” so he has been a fan of the series since its inception in 2014. While visiting us recently, we listened together to the episode, “The Birth of Cool: How Refrigeration Changed Everything.” The podcast coincides with a book on the topic by one of the hosts and is a fascinating exploration of how cold storage was first viewed with suspicion and then became part of everyday life.


I look forward to your recommendations for summer reading, viewing, and listening, dear readers. As Barbara noted, you can leave these on the comments section of the blog or one Facebook or LinkedIn.


bottom of page