Santa Barbara Bookworms’ Reading Recs
Local Picks for Great Summer Reads
By Leslie Dinaberg | July 14, 2022
Barbara Cronin Hershberg
“I’ve been in the same book group for about 30 years now, so it keeps me reading,” says Barbara Cronin Hershberg. A former elementary school teacher for the Goleta Union School District, Hershberg now volunteers as president of Friends of Santa Barbara Public Library, sits on the City of Santa Barbara Library Board, and helps at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale — so she’s a big book advocate.
Her summer read recommendations include: Teenager by Bud Smith, The Maid by Nita Prose, French Braid by Anne Tyler, Listening Still by Anne Griffin, The Paris Library by Janet Charles, and Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. “I’m currently reading Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness (a coming of age story, much of which takes place in a fictional version of the Vancouver Public Library).”
“I’ve been really looking forward to reading Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Sea of Tranquility. I love the way she writes such vivid, almost simple scenes, but they’re always in service to a larger, more complex plot,” says former Santa Barbara Poet Laureate and SBCC English Professor Emeritus David Starkey.
“As far as summer reading goes, I don’t think of it as a time to read ‘lesser’ or ‘lighter’ books — it’s just an opportunity to read more good books!” he says.
“I read incessantly, day and night, on my phone, laptop, and my favorite way — in print. I prefer the latter because there’s something intimate about holding another human’s words and imagination in your hands and allowing them to enter your own consciousness, even if just for a brief while,” says Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emma Trelles. ”I’m not reading any less or more in the summer, but since I’m typically not teaching (she teaches composition and creative writing at SBCC), I do circle back and visit books waiting patiently for me on my shelves and stacked on my night table. And that can mean newer or older titles, as well as classics. When I look toward summer reading, I think of the freedom to read anything I want.”
She says, “Right now, and ironically, I’m in the thoughtful heart of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May, which pins the season to when things go awry in our lives and how we might use that slower time to heal. I’m also reading Calypso, by David Sedaris. I haven’t read anything of his in a long time and he is really at his peak with this textured collection of essays that makes me feel his losses and fumbling (and by default, my own) and also makes me laugh out loud, sometimes all in one paragraph.”
On deck next for Trelles: “the great Audre Lorde’s A Burst of Light and Other Essays (because while I’ve read some of her work, I want to sit down and dwell in her brilliance for a sustained period of time); In the Dream House, by Carmen Maria Machado; and Willa Cather’s My Antonia, a novel I’ve been meaning to read forever and that I picked up last year at Planned Parenthood’s annual book sale at Earl Warren.”
Trelles also has some poetry to recommend. “I’m under the spell of Central Coast poet Marsha de la O’s Every Ravening Thing. She’s such a gifted poet in how she combines a rich fabric of images with personal inquiry. The first poem in the book asks ‘Can you say what you want?’ And the poet responds: ‘To lay it down lay my story down / over the harm like a blanket of moth wings.’ I’ve been walking around with those lines in my skull for days.”
Other poetry books Trelles is looking forward to: “The Gospel of Wildflowers and Weeds, by Cuban-American poet Orlando Ricardo Menes; An Incomplete List of Names, by Michael Torres, a young poet who just read here at the Santa Barbara Public Library and blew me away; and, because I’m teaching them this fall, rereading Levitations, by Nicholas Reiner, and Grief Logic, by Crystal AC Salas, two Latinx poets and the winners of the Alta California Chapbook Prize from our city’s own Gunpowder Press. This prize was the cornerstone of my first year as poet laureate and both of these collections speak to family and love in deeply moving ways.”
Some personal favorites recommendations from Santa Barbara Public Library Foundation Director Lauren Trujillo include Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid and The Personal Librarian by Heather Terrell. Trujillo is currently reading Unbound by Tarana Burke, Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown and Do Better Work by Max Yoder.
Also soon to be on Trujillo’s stack is The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, a sci-fi fantasy novel that was recently announced as the 2022 Santa Barbara Reads Book. This annual community reading program of the Santa Barbara Public Library is one of the many initiatives the foundation supports, and Trujillo is particularly enthused that The Fifth Season is the first SB Reads book written by a Black woman, as well as the first in the sci-fi fantasy genre.
“I am reading Amy Bloom’s memoir In Love right now,” says SBCC English Professor Emeritus Sandy Starkey. “It’s about her husband who has early onset Alzheimer’s and her efforts to do what he’s asked of her: find a way to end his life with dignity. Turns out Switzerland is the best option in this case. It’s very, very sad, and not what I would normally call summer reading, but it’s good. Starkey also recently reread James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, which she says is not typical summer reading, “but it inspires me to stand against racism. I might seek out some Barbara Pym for some more typical summer reading when I’m done with Bloom. Her novels are funny and engaging …with wonderful characters, all flawed but still mostly kind. She’s kind of a modern day Jane Austen.”
Emily Cosentino Lee
Always a smitten bookworm, Marketing and Promotions Manager Emily Cosentino Lee share some summer reading faves in the most recent Santa Barbara Independent All Booked newsletter (register at independent.com/newsletters): There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura, My Life in France by Julia Child, and One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid are currently tops on her list.
Lee also spotlights books by Santa Barbara authors in the newsletter and online (independent.com/2022/07/06/local-book-spotlight). Some recent additions: Off-Script: a mom’s journey through adoption, a husband’s alcoholism and special needs parenting by Valerie Cantella; Cinema in Flux by Roger Durling; Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits: Americans Against the Grain by Arthur Hoyle; and The Premonition by Michael Lewis. To be included, locals should send their book news announcements to email@example.com, with the subject line “Local Author Spotlight.”