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Summer reading recommendations from Bend's literary elite

Here at the Source, we like to improve our minds as well as our tans. That's why outdoor summer reading is one of our favorite two-birds activities. But with a wealth of new releases and old favorites, it can be hard to choose which books are worthy of a summer read. So, we asked some of our most trusted local literary experts to suggest their favorites. And, we asked some local authors to suggest books by themselves and others that will keep the pages turning for your summer reading pleasure.

I sing Portland author Molly Gloss's praise often. Her book, "The Hearts of Horses," is one of my all-time favorites. It's historical (WWI), set in Eastern Oregon with a strong female character and with community woven throughout. Rain or shine, it'll hold you. And there are horses in it. They run through the summer.

As for my own good summer reads: "A Light in the Wilderness," comes out September 2. Set in the 1840s in the Corvallis area, it's the true story imagined of Letitia Carson, a black woman who sets the standard for courage and grace in the Oregon Territory.

—Jane Kirkpatrick, author

Judy Blume's books for kids were a staple of my childhood, which is probably why I'm nostalgic about Summer Sisters, one of her adult-themed novels. Published in 1998, it's a tale of friendship, love, family, sex, summer romance, and growing up in the '70s and '80s. I'm not ashamed to admit I've read it more than 100 times.

It's a tough call which of my romantic comedies makes the best summer read. My 2011 debut, Making Waves, was nominated for contemporary romance of the year by RT Book Reviews, and dubbed "The perfect literary antidote to any romance reader's summer reading doldrums" by the Chicago Tribune, but my most recent romantic comedy release, Frisky Business (May 2014) might be fun for local readers, since it's my first full-length novel set in Bend.

—Tawna Fenske, author

My favorite summer read right now is "We Were Liars," by E. Lockhart. This young adult mystery/thriller came out last May, and is currently on the New York Times bestsellers list. The writing is literary and succinct (which I love), the setting is idyllic (summer on a private island off Cape Cod), and the plot is twisting and intensely unpredictable. A perfect read-in-one-sitting-on-a-warm-summer-night kind of book.

As for my own writing, I only have one book out so far, but I think "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," would make a good, scary, summer read—it's set during a Maine summer in a small town by the sea, and the teen characters do quintessential summer things, like build a bonfire on the beach, and laze about in cluttered attics, and hang in local cemeteries...and rescue red-haired children from abandoned mansions...and find dead bodies by the railroad tracks...

—April Genevieve Tucholke, author

Even in the summer I like my characters full, not two-dimensional, and plot rich. Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch" would be this year's undisputed summer recommendation, except for one major drawback, it's not in paperback. So download it from the library onto your Kindle. And, when browsing for a paperback at the bookstore, anything by Ian McEwan will enrich and enthrall.

—Kevin Barclay, Assistant Director Deschutes Public Library

As Program Director of the Low-Residency MFA here at OSU-Cascades, I get to spend a lot of time thinking about what's really exciting in contemporary American writing. And there's a lot to be excited about. For example, this spring we've been studying American poet Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack and Honey: Collected Lectures. These aren't just lectures on poetry, or on art, or on the artist's life. These are lectures on living; they give us an intimate cross-section of what it means, in the 21st-century in America, to be an explorer of the human consciousness—to ask why, not just how or what.

These are a few of our favorite things about Madness, Rack, and Honey:

There are cats and there are kittens. "If we fail to be moved by the kitten, something is terribly wrong." Hart Crane.

When in France, sit in the place from where you cannot see the Eiffel Tower.

Waste time, with all your heart. No, more than that—schedule time to be distracted.

Look out a window. Also, be gracious when calling out the work of another respected poet that has pissed you off.

Read books that bite and sting. Discover and recognize connections between books, and use what is revealed in your own life and work.

Honor the problem, and pay attention to the wings, not to the sky.

When your pencil is dull, sharpen it. And when your pencil is sharp, use it until it is dull again.

When in doubt, look toward the moon.

Accept that you are going to be recognized.

Every time you write an unengaged email or text message, you are wasting another opportunity to be a writer. Write while you can, for there is nothing quite like it. Not even Paradise.

Poetry is unsolvable; life is also unsolvable. Isn't that wonderful!?

Do exercise your ability to discern, regardless of popular opinion or any opinion for that matter. Your muscles will grow stronger and thank you.

Wish higher. Fail faster. Be wilder.

This was written with the assistance of OSU-Cascades Low-Residency MFA students. You know who you are; thank you!

—Dr. Emily Carr, Program Director of the Low-Residency MFA at OSU-Cascades

Favorite Guilty Pleasure: "Outlander," by Diana Gabaldon.

Sure, it's not high literature. But summer reading is all about pleasure reading—and what could be more pleasurable than a wild romp through the Scottish Highlands with time-travelling proto-feminists and bodice-ripping warrior poets? In the first installment of this much-beloved series (Book eight, "Written in My Own Heart's Blood," topped the New York Times bestseller list when it dropped last week) Claire Randall, WWII nurse and honeymooning Englishwoman, finds herself suddenly transported to 18th century Scotland, and directly into the arms of Jamie Fraser—one of the most memorable leading men in all of popular literature. Bonus: Starz has adapted the books into a series that premieres August 9!

Favorite Literary Tome: "Housekeeping," by Marilynn Robinson.

Set in the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho, two orphan sisters land in the care of their maiden aunt, a mysterious train-hopper named Sylvie. Gorgeously written by the incomparable Robinson, "Housekeeping" is a haunting tribute to what it's like to grow up in a tiny Western town. Haunting, rich, and poignant, the pages are bursting with prose that will knock you out, and then linger.

Favorite Go-To Author: John Irving.

If you haven't read "Hotel New Hampshire" while swaying gently in a hammock, you're doing yourself a disservice. With incredible range, Irving has served up some of the funniest ("The World According to Garp"), saddest ("A Tale for Owen Meany"), most important ("Cider House Rules"), most serious ("A Widow for One Year") titles in American literature.

Favorite Summer 2014 Book: "All The Light We Cannot See," by Anthony Doerr.

I'm going to be hyperbolic here, so bear with me: this is quite possibly the best book I've read in a decade. Idaho author Anthony Doerr follows a blind French girl and a young German soldier through WWII Europe, on a meandering and transcendent path that leaves the reader gasping with its horror and beauty. The short chapters (none much longer than two pages) are exceedingly reader-friendly, and Doerr's mastery of language and scientific arcana will make you feel super smart.

—Christie Hinrichs, literary reviewer for the Source Weekly


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