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Think global and read local with a summer reading list that’s distinctly Wisconsin thanks to homegrown luminaries, local recommendations and author visits to our fair city.

Letters from Hillside Farm, the new young adult novel from Madison man of letters Jerry Apps, is intended to teach its impressionable readers the importance of a well-written letter. The tale, set during the Great Depression, unfolds in brisk letters penned by a boy for his grandmother. (MH)  Milwaukee art gallery proprietor Dean Jensen’s fourth novel, Queen of the Air, follows one of the biggest circus stars of the 20th Century, Lillian Leitzel, as she discovers a soul mate in Alfredo, a world-renowned trapeze artist. Jensen will be at Boswell Book Company June 13 for a reading. (CH) Esquire magazine Contributing Editor Benjamin Percy, who once taught at Marquette, unleashed Red Moon in May and has critics crying “werewolf.” His suspense-filled second novel, a bone-chilling thriller filtered through a more literate sensibility, is well-suited to stormy nights.  (CH)  Culture vulture and New York Times ethicist Chuck Klosterman’s latest rumination, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined), discusses our perceptions of the bad (and not-so-bad) guys, from Batman to O.J. Simpson. The popular columnist will read at Boswell July 18. (CH)  Florida native-cum-Wisconsinite Susanna Daniel’s sophomore novel Sea Creatures is set in Miami – also the location of Daniel’s award-winning Stiltsville – to which the lead characters retreat after great personal failures. Behind their crises of job and spirit brews a deadly hurricane climate. (AC)

Transatlantic, the ninth book by Colum McCann, Irish author of the National Book Award-winning Let The Great World Spin, is making local booksellers gush. Boswell’s Hannah Johnson-Breimeier says that McCann “perfectly inhabits the thoughts and the movements of all his characters. It’s like he puts on their skin and lives their lives.” (CH) Dan Savage, the ex-Madisonian known for dispensing bracingly direct advice in the syndicated “Savage Love” column, serves up 320 pages of opinions on subjects ranging from the Catholic Church to the “gay agenda” in American Savage. The provocateur’s profile as a gay-rights advocate has risen in recent years amid his efforts to prevent teen suicides. (AC) Inhale deeply. This is one helluva long title: You Don’t Know Me But... etc. Nathan Rabin (former head writer at The A.V. Club and a UW-Madison grad) embedded with Phish and Insane Clown Posse groupies for two years and emerged with a complex record of what the uber-long title calls “two of music’s most maligned tribes.” Maligned, but not ignored. (AC) The anticipated third novel from Khaled Hosseini, author of the best-seller The Kite Runner, showcases a web of characters in cities from Kabul to San Francisco. This pick from Milwaukee Public Library fiction selector Jacki Potratz follows Hosseini’s strong second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hopes soar for the third and latest, And the Mountains Echoed. (AC) Greta Wells tries electroshock therapy to erase the pain of life’s misfortunes but instead finds herself transported through time in Andrew Sean Greer’s The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. Early reviews are strong for the sixth book from the author of The Story of a Marriage, a poignant novel about matrimony torn asunder. Greer will talk Greta Wells at Boswell June 26. (CH)
This article appears in the City Guide 2013 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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