Staff Picks: Best Books We Read this Summer

Looking out onto a bay with rocks on the shore of the photographer, and mountains/buildings on the far side of the bay; the sky is blue with bright sunshine and puffy clouds

This summer felt like it flew by in a warm (some may argue too warm) breeze, but San José Public Library staff bloggers still managed to enjoy their reading in the whirlwind of activity! Get prepped for the rest of the year with these great recommendations from the library.


Dinosaur Dance by Sandra BoyntonCover of the board book "Dinosaur Dance"

Since I became a parent over the summer, I have a renewed appreciation for picture books, especially board books (classified as J HARDPAGE in our catalog). They are durable and usually the right size for tiny hands. My little guy can finally grasp well, so he likes holding books himself. Lately, our favorite read before work and daycare (AKA: playcare) is Dinosaur Dance by Sandra Boynton. My husband and I love to dance. The easiest way to get our son to chill out if he's upset is to start singing and dancing. (His favorite song at the moment is "The Price Is Right" theme song, so that's a more challenging dance song.) Also, before our son was born, his codename was Petrie like the little pterodactyl from The Land Before Time. That made Dinosaur Dance the perfect introduction to Sandra Boynton.

For the uninitiated, Sandra Boynton writes silly but often meaningful books for little ones. They have infectious rhymes, solid storytelling, and clever little details that adults can appreciate. The illustrations are whimsical and charming. Oh, and they are short, not super annoying, and anything but boring. That makes it easier to read the same book over and over ... and over, again. I love reading Sandra Boynton books to my son, but my heart absolutely melts when I listen to his dad reading these books to him! Dinosaur Dance, in particular, has an easy cadence and rhyming scheme that begs to be rapped or sung. This story has a very simple plot. All of the dinosaurs strut their stuff, but a teensy little critter steals the show. Who could it be? You'll have to read the book to find out. - Julie O.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O'ConnellCover of the novel "Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me"

In this Graphic novel the main character Freddy is in love Laura Dean, the most popular girl in school, the only problem is, Laura Dean is a PLAYER! Laura Dean has broken up with Freddy a total of 3 times! Freddy knows she's a habitual cheater, but keeps running back. They are left in a complicated / heartbreaking cycle of repetitiveness. Her friends are over it, and have given up trying to talk any sense into Freddy. They know she will always take Laura Dean back. Freddy not knowing what to do anymore reaches out to an advice columnist, and I have to say that the advice she received was STUNNING! That was relationship advice I think everybody deserves to hear!

Tamaki and Valero-O'Connell did a wonderful job of depicting a 'toxic relationship.' I really appreciated this novel for its honesty and I think a lot of people are going to be able to relate to the main character Freddy. Plus the artwork was amazing and it was a great LGBT+ read. - Penelope G.

Lovely War by Julie BerryThe cover of "Lovely War"

The Greek goddess Aphrodite recounts two tales of tragic love during WWI to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: "Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another?" but her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music revealing that War is no match for the power of Love.

Why I like it: The audiobook is beautifully narrated, with a story that spans years among 2 different couples from all walks of life. Through the years, the time periods are marked with the appropriate music, such as jazz and classical. The story will not only enteratin your ears, but captivate your heart as well as Aphrodite narrates 2 sets of lovers amidst the battle and destruction of WWII. - Alyssa M.

Modern Romance by Aziz AnsariCover of "Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari

Dating is not so easy. In the 21st century, it's even more complicated. It used to be all based on proximity. Now, one can start a relationship with someone across the globe. Or you may be catfished. Standard etiquette has warped into something unrecognizable also. No wonder so many people are frustrated by just the thought of online dating.

It takes a comedian like Aziz to point out the wild aspects of the new dating culture. And by teaming up with an NYU sociologist, they analyzed behavioral data of thousands of individuals to compose a humorous social science book unlike any other. You can also download this title as an eAudiobook read by Ansari himself. - David F.

Dune by Frank HerbertCover of "Dune" by Frank Herbert

Long after humanity has matured past the crutch of thinking machines, and have thus banned A.I., a matriarchal secret society’s plan to breed a messiah may have come to fruition. The colossal arrogance of assuming that they could control a new kind of human being leaves one person and his decisions as the fulcrum for the future of humanity.

After hearing about this book’s wide acclaim for so long, I wanted to read it before the new movie comes out and contaminates my mind’s eye with what everything is supposed to look like. While the wall of fictional nouns in the opening chapters can make it difficult to immerse yourself in the book’s far-future setting, pushing through reveals a story that is much more character-driven than you’d expect out of Sci-Fi.

Dune lives up to the hype. It’s decades ahead of its time and is more than just a good read; it contains some real wisdom that you can keep long after you’ve turned the last page. One of the most memorable of these passages is the Bene Gesserit’s Litany Against Fear: "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." - Adam P.

Lonely Planet: Make My Day Series by Lonely Planet PublicationsCover of "Lonely Planet: Make My Day Tokyo"

Summer is known for traveling. While we do have many travel books available, a 300+ page book the size of brick with hundreds of locations can be overwhelming. Especially when you're in the early stages of trip planning. We loved the Make My Day series, a lightweight flipbook that it's a league of its own. Inside, there are 3 horizontal booklets to flip through, each one an attraction option for your morning, afternoon, and evening travel plans. With options like a relaxing picnic in the park or an energetic night out, this series allows you to mix and match your interests to make your perfect day. And then, by some form of magic, there are arrows connecting each page/location with the best method of travel and travel time!

These amazing books pack a lot of information for something the size of pamphlet, and covers several major cities including New York, London, Barcelona, and Tokyo. While summer is almost over, it's never too early to plan your next vacation! - by Jessica N.

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