Staff and faculty members share their favorite titles and authors
By Nancy Koeneman
As the to-do list for summer projects grows like dandelions, one item for many people is more a treat than a chore. For some, reading during those lazy, hazy and sometimes rainy days of summer is the best part of the season.
Last year, more than a dozen faculty and staff members shared with Inside Illinois and its readers what they were reading or planned to read during the summer and why.
A new group of faculty and staff members is now offering summer reading lists and subjects.
Fiction and mysteries remain the most popular summer reading, according to Yoline Chandler, manager of the general books department at the Illini Union Bookstore.
"But poetry is also a very healthy section these days. It has been growing over the past few years. There seems to be a renaissance. It's not only the well-known poets of the past, the established poets. Now we're ordering more contemporary, younger poets, too."
And thanks to the recent movies, Jane Austen books are enjoying an upswing in popularity, she said.
Terry McMillan's newest book, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," and anything by Richard Powers also are hot sellers. Powers' popularity probably stems in part from his being on the English faculty at the UI and recently having been named to a Swanlund Chair, Chandler said.
However, nonfiction also has its share of popular titles, Chandler said. "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," by John Berendt, has been selling very well. A nonfiction book, written as fiction, Berendt's book explores the lives of several people in Savannah, Ga.
How-to books, especially on gardening, consistently move off the shelves in the summer, as do travel books, especially those that deal with architecture or nature, she said.
Children's books also are extremely popular. With several weeks available for leisure pursuits, parents and children select an assortment of titles to help fill summer days with more than outdoor activities.
"Activity books are really hot right now," said Kate Pfenninger, the Illini Union Bookstore supervisor who handles the ordering of children's books. "These are more than just reading books, for children, and they apply to all ages."
"Kid's Gardening," published by Klutz Press, is an especially popular title right now, Pfenninger said. "The book comes with a seed packet and a little trowel. They're good for all season long with pumpkins, carrots and beans."
Another popular title from Klutz Press is "Kids Travel."
"This one comes with markers, a string for cat's cradle, paper-folding and games to play in the car," Pfenninger said. "Klutz Press puts out a lot of these kinds of books."
Always a favorite read, even for adults, is anything by Shel Silverstein, who has come out with a new title, "Falling Up."
And movies also play a role in book interests. "James and the Giant Peach" is doing and will continue to do well with the animated movie of the same name playing in theaters.
Reading is a great summer activity that pleases both parents and kids, Pfenninger said. "It's educational, but it's fun too. These are things kids can do inside the house and outside. Some books are also geared for rainy-day activities," she said.
So hang the hammock, pour the lemonade and put your feet up. It's time to escape to the pages of a good book.
Vice Chancellor for Administration and Human Resources
Charles Colbert frequently visits the nonfiction section of bookstores and libraries. He doesn't make plans about what he reads, but does read every day.
"I have no way of knowing what I will read this summer. Generally, I read something daily on a variety of topics related to interests that I have in chess, wine- and beer-making, golf, tennis, human rights, biographies, etc." Colbert said.
Victoria "Fitz" Fitzgerald
"I read in the summer the same as in the three other seasons - constantly," said Victoria Fitzgerald. "I seem to 'browse' with different authors -- if I like one selection, I find myself reading three or four more books by that author, then I settle with another. This spring-summer, I am reading books by Anne Rice. Her Mayfair Witches Trilogy was superb; I highly recommend all three, but make sure you read them in sequence.
"Naturally after my grazing into the Mayfair witches, I bought more of Rice -- now I am into her earlier book 'Cry to Heaven,' a great book about the castrati in Venice in the 1500s. I just finished her book 'Ramses the Damned' -- kind of a 'Curse of the Mummy' thing, only much better than Hollywood's B versions. The story is all dark and baroque and cerebral. It's thoroughly entertaining.
"However, I plan to get back to mysteries, one of my favorite themes. I love Ruth Rendell -- she also writes under Barbara Vine; and Robert Parker.
"Naturally, the O.J. thing fascinated and repelled me. The Christopher Darden book, 'In Contempt' was great. I plan to read the Robert Shapiro book, also.
"I guess if you were to ask the desert island question -- What books would you take? -- it would be Conan Doyle and Dumas. My favorite book is Dumas' 'The Count of Monte Cristo.' I must have read it 20 or 30 times; it never fails to entertain me and I love the story. And, 'The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes' is a favorite."