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Local Book Experts Suggest Summer Reading

Twenty-nine books and eight poets to enrich and entertain.

A perfect response to summer's hot weather and slow pace is the savoring of a good book.

With that in mind a few of Alexandria's book experts have suggested some summer readings for adults.

Beatley Central Library Adult Services Staff

• "Between the Bridge and the River" by Craig Ferguson. This is a romantic comic odyssey about two childhood friends from Scotland and two half-brothers from the deep South.

• "Between Meals" by A. J. Liebling. Funny and wonderfully written chronicle of one man's gastronomic discovery of France.

• "Collected Stories" by Ellen Gilchrist. Selected stories by this award-winning Southern writer. These stories bring the "Land of Dreamy Dreams," New Orleans, to life.

• "The Dogs of Babel" by Carolyn Parkhurst. Paul arrives home to find that his wife has died under mysterious circumstances. Their dog, Lorelei, is the only witness. Paul tries to teach the dog to communicate what she knows. This is a story of marriage, grief and devotion.

• "Empress Orchid" by Anchee Min. China's Forbidden City in the last days of imperial glory is the setting for this historical novel. Thousands of eunuchs run the palaces and gardens. China's emperor performs two duties: he rules the court and produces a heir to the throne. This is the story of the concubine, Tzu Hsi, who becomes the Empress of China.

• "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke. Fantasy novel about English magicians who have lost their ability to perform magic. The author weaves magic into a detailed vision of historical England.

• "The Noble Radiance" by Donna Leon. Mystery set in Venice in a series featuring Commasario Guido Brunetti. The library has the whole series.

• "Pompeii: A Novel" by Robert Harris. A must read for anyone traveling to Italy or interested in Roman history. It is a historical novel that examines Roman society prior to the eruption of the volcano that destroyed Pompeii.

• "To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War" by Jeff Shaara. The horror of World War I is shown through the eyes of Roscoe Temple (an enlisted marine), Raoul Lufberry (a French aviator), Baron Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) and General John "Black Jack" Pershing (commander of the American Expeditionary Force).

• "To the Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf. The action takes place during vacations by the sea in England. A meditation on time and beauty. One of the greatest works of English fiction.

Waldenbooks in Landmark Mall

Store Manager Tracey McPeck suggested a half dozen titles, some new, some older.

• "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult. In this novel Picoult writes about unusual family issues. In the book a girl is born with a life threatening illness that makes her require multiple bone marrow transplants. The parents have a second child to harvest bone marrow from. The novel traces conflicts between the family members.

• "Animals in Translation" by Temple Grandin. This nonfiction work explains animal behavior through the eyes of awoman who is autistic.

• "Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood. This 1996 novel is based on a true story of a servant in the 1800s who killed a person she worked for and the head housekeeper. It is set in Canada.

• "Night" by Elie Wiesel. This is a memoir of a Jewish teenager living under Nazi rule. Wiesel writes about his time in a concentration camp.

• "Cider House Rules" by John Irving. In this novel the main character is an orphan who was raised in an orphanage. At some point the character moves on and works in an orchard. Here, he falls in love with a woman. Set in 1940s Maine, it is about a person raised in an alternative context trying to achieve maturity and live in what to him is a foreign society.

• "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle. This classic young adult science fiction tale is about a family whose father goes missing. The family searches for him. They discover that the father has discovered a means to transport himself through time. The family figures it out and pursues him. While written for teens, adults can enjoy this as well, McPeck said.

Miles Moore

Miles Moore is an Alexandria resident who hosts a poetry reading series at Iota Club and Café in Arlington. For summer reading he suggested four books and ten of his favorite poets.

Moore said he suggested the first two books because they represent the dark side and light side, respectively, of travel. He suggested the Tham books because she acted as a mentor for many D.C. area writers and she "deserves greater fame than she's achieved."

• "The Sheltering Sky" by Paul Bowles. This is a novel about a couple who visits North Africa in the late 1940s. They are New York sophisticates who see themselves as enlightened travelers. However, the book ends tragically. "One of the most beautifully written books since World War II," Moore said.

• "Italian Days" by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison. This is a memoir of the author's year in Italy. The book is as much a guide to the author as to Italy. "One of the most beautifully written books I've ever read," Moore said.

• "The Tao of Mrs. Wei" by Hillary Tham. This is a book of interconnected poems. Mrs. Wei is a Chinese mother character.

• "Tin Mines and Concubines" by Hillary Tham. Related stories about families of various ethnic backgrounds in 1960s Malaysia. This book has "very richly drawn characters," Moore said. The stories are "funny, warm, tragic." Any reader would respond to them, Moore said.

• Suggested poets: Phillip Larkin, Richard Wilbur, William Butler Yeats, Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, C. P. Cavafy, Ogden Nash ("if you want a laugh," Moore said) and Wislawa Szymborska.

Olsson's Books and Records

Olsson's Books and Records Old Town Alexandria, 106 S. Union St.

Books Manager Beguin suggested some newer and some older books. Book publishers provided the descriptions.

• "Digging to America" by Anne Tyler.

This novel is filled with tender observations about what it is to be an American, and about Iranian-born Maryam Yazdam, who after 35 years in this country must finally come to terms with her "outsiderness."

• "The Poe Shadow" by Matthew Pearl.

From the author of "The Dante Club" comes a historical thriller about one man's quest to solve the strange mystery surrounding the death of Edgar Allan Poe.

• "The Foreign Correspondent: A Novel" by Alan Furst.

This is a gripping story of an underground reporter who becomes the target of a deadly web of European spies in the shadow of World War II.

• "Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War" by Nathaniel Philbrick.

The story of the Plymouth Colony — from the flight to religious freedom to the war that ravaged New England — is told by a winner of the National Book Award.

• "Capturing Paris: A Novel" by Katharine Davis.

After 25 years of marriage, Annie and Wesley are living an elegant, sophisticated life in Paris. All of this changes when Wesley loses his job and a mysterious woman enters their lives. Suddenly the sights, smells, and sounds of Paris are cast in a different light.

• "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers.

This moving memoir is the story of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother. It manages to be simultaneously hilarious and inventive as well as a deeply heartfelt story of the love that holds a family together.

• "The Full Cupboard of Life" by Alexander McCall Smith.

The fifth installment in the popular No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, set in Botswana, picks up with Mma Precious Ramotswe still engaged to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. She realizes that her fiancé has other things on his mind — most notably a frightening request from the orphan farm's assertive matron.

• "His Excellency: George Washington" by Joseph J. Ellis.

With careful attention to detail and lyrical prose, Ellis presents a full portrait of George Washington's life and career — from his military years through his two terms as president.

• "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

This international literary sensation is about a boy's quest through the secrets and shadows of postwar Barcelona for a mysterious author whose book has proved as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget.