8 Locally-Sourced Summer Reading Ideas

A locally sourced summer reading list for lovers of marital drama, influenza outbreaks and delicious pie.


By Ann Christenson and Claire Hanan

Days of Awe ➼ Knopf, August 2015
Milwaukeean Lauren Fox’s third novel follows an East Side woman, Isabel Moore, for whom much is going wrong. Her best friend dies as her marriage is falling apart, and the story follows the battle raging in her psyche. Armed with a thick shield of dark humor, Moore struggles to set her life aright and repair her relationship with her teenage daughter. 

Stalin’s Daughter ➼ Harper, June 2015
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s favorite daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva (later known as Lana Peters), lived a life wilder than any fiction, from her mother’s suicide to fleeing her father’s country and protesting his atrocities. Rosemary Sullivan’s biography illustrates the breadth of human complexity at work in this story, which concludes with Alliluyeva’s death in Wisconsin in 2011.

The Dead Lands ➼ Grand Central Publishing
Minnesota denizen Benjamin Percy scared the pants off readers with his 2013 werewolf thriller Red Moon. Now he’s back exploring the wildness within us all with a new novel about a flu outbreak and a squalid St. Louis compound known as the Sanctuary. Tensions rise when two survivors escape its confines and venture out into the wilds, hoping to expand the settlement’s territory à la Lewis and Clark.

The Norske Nook Book of Pies and Other Recipes ➼ University of Wisconsin Press
Dazzle your family or bribe your friends with a sublime dessert from this venerated Norwegian restaurant chain from Wisconsin. Norske’s owner, Jerry Bechard, and regional manager, Cindee Borton-Parker, dish up the goods, and boy, are they ever.

The Boy in the Black Suit ➼ Atheneum
Brooklyn-based Jason Reynolds writes for boys of color, a group of readers for whom not much literary ink is spilled. His second novel follows high school senior Matt, who takes a job at a funeral home after the death of his mother and makes friends with other teens and adults experiencing loss. Although written for young adults, The Boy in the Black Suit is full of humor and tenderness beyond these years.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake ➼ Gallery Books, July 2015
It’s love at first smell when a male restaurant critic bumps into a female chef hand-delivering a seductively fragrant coconut cake to an unappreciative fiancé. But little does the chef know that the critic is about to review her new Third Ward restaurant, which he visits at the worst possible time. Wisconsinite Amy E. Reichert’s debut novel is the perfect read for a day at Bradford Beach.

Beneath the Bonfire ➼ St. Martin’s Press
Eau Claire writer Nickolas Butler’s 2014 debut, Shotgun Lovesongs, centered on friends who grow up and apart but can’t shake their connections to small-town Wisconsin. This is again the setting for Beneath the Bonfire, Butler’s new short story collection full of flawed and failing characters nevertheless linked by friendship and love.

Little Free Library Book ➼ Coffee House Press
Take pride, local readers: You’re partly responsible for the miniature library movement that started in Hudson, Wis., in 2009. Twenty-five thousand Little Free Libraries later, there’s a handy coffee table book, The Little Free Library Book, that details some 300 colorful examples and blueprints for building your own.

‘In a Bind’ appears in the June 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
Purchase a copy on newsstands at one of 400+ locations throughout Wisconsin.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.