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It’s summertime, and many of us are faced with the most difficult question of the season – what to read by the pool, on the beach, or on that eight-hour roadtrip. If your bookshelf isn’t offering up any inspiration, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Check out these great recommendations from some of our colleagues:

Bob Hope: Entertainer of the Century by Richard Zoglin
The story of the one man – in a brilliantly managed career — to hit the peaks in every field of showbiz: from ‘vaude’ to Broadway to radio to movies to video is a riveting read. Much new material and great, great laughs make it a gold mine. I’ll probably read it again along with you. –Dick Cavett, Dick Cavett’s Watergate

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth’s earlier book, Eat, Pray, Love shot her into an orbit of international celebrity. It was, of course, a memoir of her single-woman search for love and meaning, intercut with pasta and yoga. At first, it was hard for me to believe that Signature was written by the same person. It is a big, masterful, 19th century-type novel which tells us the life-story of a lady botanist, Alma Whittaker. It’s set in London, Philadelphia, Tahiti, and Amsterdam and, not only does Alma’s story rub up against subjects such as Captain Cook’s voyages, the abolition of slavery, sex, love, moss, and the origin of species, it is also an absolute page-turner which I would love to see become a mini-series on Masterpiece one day.
–Rebecca Eaton, Masterpiece

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I am often drawn to stories about fish out of water, especially immigrants making their way through the complications of assimilation. The fictional Ifemelu sounds like someone I would know, like and understand. I suppose my own background as the child of immigrants — although not from Nigeria — makes me get her vibe. –Gwen Ifill, PBS Newshour

CHOP CHOP by Sally Sampson
Oh boy, picking just ONE book as a favorite is really hard — especially if you love to read as much as I do!! But my newest hobby is cooking, so I’ll recommend CHOP CHOP. It’s a really great cookbook because the recipes are easy to understand. And they’re healthy too! Try the Watermelon Agua Fresca for a cool drink on a summer day that’s muy caliente. And when I’m making dinner with my parents and my abuela, I’m doing math – and you know how much I love math too. –Inez, Cyberchase

The Man Who Loved Dogs by Leonardo Padura
This is the triple story of the desperate life of Leon Trotsky in exile; the tortured life of Ramon Mercader, the Stalinist agent who assassinated him; and the defeated life of Ivan Cardenas, a (fictional) Cuban writer to whom Mercader confesses his crimes and guilt at the end of his life. The book is an engrossing and thrilling read. It is also a brief tour through hell: the hell on earth created by the armed prophets who were intent on constructing a heaven on earth, even if they had to torture and murder half of humanity to achieve it.–Rafael Pi Roman, MetroFocus

Careless People by Sarah Churchwell
Whether or not you think The Great Gatsby is the best American novel–and it is!–this book is a fascinating look at the real stories, people and circumstances that must have inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald. –Neal Shapiro, President and CEO, WNET

True American by Anand Giridhardas
I interviewed [the author] for Newshour not too long ago. It’s an interesting true story about two different characters who collide violently after 9/11 but more importantly, an examination of what led them to this moment. Giridhardas does a deep dive into the background of an immigrant from Bangladesh who accessed the American dream and a man who grew up on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks for whom the dream never materialized.
–Hari Sreenivasan, PBS Newshour

Family Life by Akhil Sharma
I was drawn to this gripping work of fiction based on Sharma’s own life after I heard him talking about it in an interview. It’s the story of a family of Indian immigrants, and how they coped after the older son suffered a terrible accident. I was curious to see how his family managed compared to my own, after a different sort of tragic incident. Sharma spares no one in describing how lives and relationships were altered, in unexpected ways that transcend culture. By the end of the book, I felt as if I too were part of his family.
–Judy Woodruff, PBS Newshour
  • BenInBrooklyn

    I’m reading a fascinating WWII history book – “An Army At Dawn” by Rick Atkinson. Its the first book in his “Liberation Trilogy” about the war. This book covers the North African campaign, which kicked off America’s involvement in the war. What’s fascinating about it is how poorly it went initially for us. I’m halfway thru, but the Nazi’s were kicking our butts early on. Cant wait to find out how it goes for us :)

    • rachellepachtman

      Fantastic book. Fascinating read. Can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

  • bklyncd

    I just started reading Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. Super interesting and very timely. Cyber-punk spec fiction is getting scarily closed to reality.

  • Nadine in Manhattan

    Although it was published in 2007, I just discovered Andrea Barrett’s “The Air We Breathe”, A beautifully told and exquisitely written novel about a young immigrant in NYC in 1916, who contracts tuberculosis and is banished to an upstate sanatorium. His story, the story of his fellow “inmates”, their caretakers, and an isolated town are told against the background of new scientific discoveries and the political paranoia surrounding WWI.

  • John Herbert

    Don’t miss Mary McAuliffe’s “Twilight of the Belle Epoque – the Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and their Friends through the Great War” which the New York Times called “A vivid and hugely enjoyable narrative of extraordinary times” and I agree.

  • GVillager

    The Bully Pulpit by Doris kearns Goodwin. You think the times are bad? The early 1900′S were worse! Enter brave journalists–Tarbel, Steffes, McClure and the public was awakened to the need for reform,

  • srnyc

    I highly recommend “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin.” Erik Larson did a fantastic job of reconstructing the historical context of the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party from a rare perspective – that of the American Ambassador to Germany in Berlin. With the personal lives of the “characters” woven in to the story, this work of historical fiction reads like a novel.

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