My Favorite Book


Anna Karenina

by Leo Tolstoy

-- Anne Tyler, author

For all of my grownup life, I have re-read Anna Karenina every single summer. Or I used to. Then it seemed I started just saying I read it. Saying it now in print means that I will have to go back into my shelves and dig it out again. I'm looking forward to it.

Betsy and Tacy Go Over

the Big Hill

by Maud Hart Lovelace

-- Laura Lippman, author

The summer I was 11, I took this classic to Bethany Beach, along with six books by Walter Farley, having forgotten that I wasn't particularly interested in horses. I ended up reading Betsy and Tacy over and over again that week. I still re-read all Lovelace's work once a year.


by Jane Austen

-- Alice Steinbach, writer

Prepare to lose yourself in this smashing story of love lost and then regained in the nick of time -- all plotted, of course, in Austen's usual brilliant scenes of social comedy and mores. Add to that the author's delightful ability to spot from a mile off the slightest hint in her characters of such bad habits as pomposity, self-delusion and prejudice. But Persuasion goes further than other Austen novels. The love story is deeper, the characters slightly older, and it tackles in a very bold way the morally ambiguous nature of persuasion in all its forms.

The Long Goodbye

by Raymond Chandler

-- Andy Bienstock, WYPR program director

Our Baltimore summers always put me in mind of Raymond Chandler's L.A. On a hot summer night, I love to pull out a copy of The Long Goodbye and drink a gimlet along with Marlowe and his rich pal Terry Lennox. Aside from lines so good that you want to read them aloud to someone, The Long Goodbye is a wonderful meditation on friendship, and on doing what is right, no matter the cost.

Ice Haven

by Daniel Clowes

-- Benn Ray, co-owner, Atomic Books

With a story loosely based on the infamous Leopold & Loeb case, Clowes (author of Ghost World) weaves a multilayered story, in graphic novel format, that calls to mind a combination of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, and the best films of Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson. Clowes interweaves varying narratives, illustration styles and plot lines focused on specific characters to create a larger story and a portrait of a small town. Exquisite, complex, funny, heart-wrenching and disturbing. What more could you want from a summer read?

Absolute Friends

by John LeCarre

-- Sujata Massey, author

The best thing that can happen to a successful writer is for him to continue taking risks -- and John LeCarre has done that exponentially in his most recent books. This novel tells the life stories of two male friends, both retired spies, who are called back to duty after 9 / 11 for one last mission. The book raises serious questions about the new world order, and will alternately make you laugh and cry over the changing fates of its believable, endearing characters.

Love in the Time of Cholera

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

-- Andre M. Davis, federal judge

A sweeping, lyrical narrative that creates mental images that have stayed with me long after I finished the book. Having just returned from a brief visit to Chile, my first trip to South America, the book has been on my mind lately. It is the perfect book for the summer: long, rich in detail, culturally informative, and alive with real characters. Escapism to be sure, but a book in which to luxuriate.

Ball Four

by Jim Bouton, edited by Leonard Shecter

-- David Simon, writer, TV producer

To call this one of the greatest sports books ever is a heedless insult. This is a transcendent work of cultural honesty, a narrative account of life on a professional baseball team that somehow manages to speak to larger issues of who we really are and what America is and isn't. The story is laden with wit, humor and honesty; with every page, all that is hyped and hypocritical about ourselves and our heroes is simply torched -- and in the America of 1970, this kind of arson was something brave and remarkable.

Double Vision

by Pat Barker

-- Avi Decter, director, Jewish Museum of Maryland

Pat Barker tells intertwined stories of injury and recovery. A photojournalist dies while reporting on a world at war; his colleague meditates on loss and love; and a mysterious young man with a troubled past wanders about the countryside. The prose is alternately brutal and delicate, the story mesmerizing. The women who inhabit this novel are exceptionally well drawn.

The Notebook

by Nicholas Sparks

-- Freeman Hrabowski, president UMBC

The book reminded me of the fragile nature of life -- how nothing remainsthe same, and yet, as we go through life's changes, how love is the mostpowerful force in our lives.

Anything by Carl Hiaasen

-- Jed Dietz, Director Maryland

Film Society

He's such a cheerful iconoclast. Hiaasen writes great, funny characters (even the evil ones), takes us into parts of Florida most of us never see, makes an outrageous story seem perfectly plausible, and wraps all this in righteous environmental fury. What could be better ?

The Master and Margarita

by Mikhail Bulgakov

-- Gavin Witt, dramaturg, CenterStage

Now a celebrated classic of world literature, this darkly comic fable has enough of everything crammed into its gorgeous, compact bulk to satisfy any taste. A biting satire of the early Soviet society that has managed to stay fresh (maybe there's something inherently Stalinist about the publishing world?), it's also a literally magical evocation of artistic and personal passion and a transcendent love story. And the passages from the novel-within-a-novel conjure the world of Biblical Jerusalem more vividly than any movie might. In winter, it satisfies meatier tastes for reflection; in summer, it's a great and laugh-out-loud escapist treat.

Galsworthy, Faulkner, et. al.

-- Jean Baker, historian,

Goucher College

Summer brings time and so for me the best summer reads have always been a series by the same author. Whether John Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga, Faulkner's novels on Yoknapatawpha County or Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series, the reading stretches out through the summer. For nonfiction, summer is the time for long biographies. I suggest Leon Edel's elegant multi-volume biography of Henry James and Hillary Clinton's Living History.

The Four-Minute Mile

by Roger Bannister

-- Peter Agre, Nobel Laureate chemist

Running a sub-four minute mile was long considered an impossible feat, until a medical student did so at Oxford 51 years ago. The athlete went on to a distinguished career as a neurologist and medical researcher. I recently met him and asked him to autograph my copy. With a twinkle in his eye, he wrote "To your future grandchildren, Roger Bannister."

Jayber Crowe

by Wendell Berry

-- Brian McLaren, pastor, author

Wendell Berry, in my opinion, is one of the smartest and best writers alive today. He's a gifted poet and essayist, but his novels are a special treat. A few summers ago, I moved into Berry's fictional Kentucky village and became a member of the community -- feeling the pathos, the outrage, the hope, the poignancy, and the spirituality of common people living quiet lives along the Kentucky River. Whether I was sitting at the beach or reading in my backyard hammock, that whole summer was touched with the slow rhythms of this rich literary gift.

An Honorable Defeat:

The Last Days of the

Confederate Government

by William C. Davis

-- Brooks Robinson, Orioles Hall

of Fame third baseman

History was my best subject in school and I'm very interested in books about the Civil War and World War II. I love this book. It talks about the Confederates' withdrawal from Richmond to Danville and it's given me quite a perspective, especially on Jefferson Davis, who would still be fighting if it weren't for some of his generals.

A Confederacy of Dunces

by John Kennedy Toole

-- Janet Marie Smith, architect

and stadium designer

This book is set in New Orleans, which is one of the world's most magical places, and it captured the city just so perfectly with all of its crazy characters. It made me laugh out loud, and I love a book that makes me laugh out loud. Summer is for lighthearted reading, for enjoying some of the more pleasurable aspects of life, and that's exactly what this book is about. I've read it at least half a dozen times.

Parting the Waters

by Taylor Branch

-- Walter Thomas, Pastor New Psalmist Baptist Church

This book presents the struggle of African American people as they fought through an era of Jim Crow, segregation, and discrimination. It presents the heroic efforts of members of both the black and white community as they joined hands in the fight for liberation. It is a long book because it seeks to give so much information and help individuals understand the untaught history of the civil rights struggle.

The Bluest Eye

by Toni Morrison

-- Angela Brodie, Kettering Prize-winning breast-cancer researcher

The Bluest Eye is a fascinating book written from an interesting perspective and a commentary on some little known aspects of society.

Every Secret Thing

by Laura Lippman

-- Denise Whiting, owner Cafe Hon

I have enjoyed the development of Lippman's novels. Cabot Cove meets Homicide in this one, not exactly something you want to curl up with at night. After this, you will have a new appreciation for the mundaneness of your own life. Don't even try to figure out the ending.

In Cold Blood

by Truman Capote

-- Jayne Miller, reporter WBAL-TV

Truman Capote's classic In Cold Blood has been, perhaps, my most frequently read summer book--first, many years ago when I was beginning my interest in journalism, and then, in the mid 1990s, when I was covering the mass murder of a family in Potomac, I pulled it off the shelf and read it again.

Moby Dick

by Herman Melville

-- Ted Widmer, history professor, Washington College

One summer about 20 years ago I went on vacation to a tiny cabin in Nova Scotia, on the Atlantic. It rained every day. Fortunately, a dog-eared paperback of Moby-Dick was on the shelf -- so old that the 1950s glue was no longer holding the pages together. I read reluctantly, then urgently, swept up in the book's manic energy, somehow tied to the raging storms outside the cabin. It's hardly a typical book for the beach -- almost guaranteed to get sand kicked in your face. But still, Melville describes the ocean and the various reasons we depend upon it, including those elusive moments we do not even know we are looking for. That rain-swept week was one of my best vacations.

Bookmarks for summer

What's your favorite summertime book? What are your most treasured memories of summer reading? Join a discussion online at / summerreading.

Or, find more about summer reading, as well as news and information about summer music, movies and events in the city and at the shore at / hottimes.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad