Category Archives: Summer Reading

A Shimmer of Hummingbirds by Steve Burrows

Shimmer of Hummingbirds cover

The fourth in the “Birder Murder Mysteries” series, this book follow DCI Jejeune on a trip to Columbia, the country with the largest number of resident bird species (> 1,900 species). In the guise of a birding trip, he is really on the trail for information about his brother’s criminal past. At home in Norfolk, a murder of a drone-tech investor is investigated by another DCI in Jejeune’s absence.

I won’t say that the series is the best in mystery fiction, but the books are a solid read. And for those interested in birds, there is just enough of that to keep your interest.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Kevin Emerson
Rating: Recommended

Macbeth by Jo Nesbø

Macbeth Cover (Nesbo)

In this new thriller, Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø provides a (more) contemporary take on Shakespeare’s tale of a tormented king. Nesbø sets his Macbeth in 1970s Scotland – in an unnamed lawless city plagued with crime, drug abuse, and police corruption. Macbeth, who leads the city’s SWAT team, comes from humble origins but has ambitions to become police commissioner; ambitions that are stoked by his wife “Lady,” here a former prostitute who now runs a successful casino.

Nesbø does a good job of translating Shakespeare into this new setting. Rather than queen of the witches, Hecate here is the city’s untouchable drug lord, whose employees produce the drug “brew.” Many of the play’s famous murders transpire in a similar way, just updated to include guns and car chases. Macbeth and Lady’s increasingly frequent visions and hallucinations are less supernatural than the result of drug use.

I found the writing to be somewhat uneven (possibly the result of translation from Norwegian to English) and more focused on plot and characterization than language. I wouldn’t exactly call it a page turner, but the novel retains much of the otherworldly nightmarish vision of the play.

Nesbø’s book is the most recent offering by Hogarth Shakespeare, a series in which famous contemporary novelists transform Shakespeare into modern literary fiction. Other authors in this series – which I have so far found interesting but uneven in execution – include Jeanette Winterson, Howard Jacboson, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, Tracy Chevalier, Edward St. Aubyn, and Gillian Flynn (not yet released).

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby-Hall
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2018; translated book

Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker

Birding without borders cover

Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World

Birders are an odd bunch. In birding, many times activity revolves around creating a ‘list’ – a list of all of the birds you have seen in a specified time or place. People keep all sorts – there are backyard lists, county lists, state lists. For many years the biggest listing goal was to do a North American Big Year – see as many species as possible in North America (north of Mexico and including Atu – the westernmost Aleutian island). The most recent record in North America is 836 species set by John Weigel of Australia in 2016.

Over the past few years, a few crazy folks have taken on a new mission. A World Big Year – how many species of bird can one person see in one calendar year worldwide. This book tells the story of a crazy trip around the world looking for birds. Noah Strycker started his big year at midnight – New Years, under the midnight sun, in a hot tub on a ship in the Antarctic and ended the trip in India on the following New Years Eve, after seeing 6,042 birds. The year after, the world big year record of 6,833 species was set again in 2016 by Arjan Dwarshuis of the Netherlands – that book hasn’t yet been written.

It is an interesting read full of tidbits from his travels, mostly focused on the people he met. I was maybe hoping for something a bit more detailed, which is why I only rated this book as ‘recommend’. It was an interesting and quick read, and I think it might get you to think a bit differently about the robin you see singing in your front yard every morning.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Kevin Emerson
Rating: Recommended

Sandman vol. 1-10 by Neil Gaiman

Sandman book cover

The Sandman is an exciting chronicle that focuses on the character of Dream, or Morpheus, or the Sandman. He is one of seven anthropomorphized qualities (the others being Destruction, Desire, Delight/Delerium, Destiny, Despair, and Death) and the series follows Sandman through as he tries to reconstruct his lost kingdom after escaping from capture. It has elements of horror, fantasy, mythology, and history, and is fun to read as well as captivating and dramatic. If you’ve enjoyed any of Neil Gaiman’s novels, this would be a good read. Definitely has some parts which are inappropriate for younger audiences or uncomfortable for general audiences (dark, scary, sexual, or violent themes).


Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Ivy Antunes
Rating:  Highly Recommended

Challenge Update: Translated books

Think translated books aren’t for you? Check these out.

Read Books. Win these prizes.

LAMC Hoodie

This year’s grand prize is a $25 amazon gift card and a fabulous LAMC hoodie. You can also win a water bottle, thermos, stickers, enamel pins and books. Yes, we will have books.

Amazon Gift Card

Summer Reading is Coming

Summer Reading 2018Summer Reading starts on June 1, 2018.

The SMCM Library Adult Summer Reading Program will begin on June 1 and end on August 17, 2018.  Look for 2018 prize and challenge updates over the next few weeks.

The Summer Reading program is sponsored by the St. Mary’s College Library, Archives & Media Center and is open to all members of the St. Mary’s Library community including students, staff, faculty, alumni and residents of the Tri-County area (St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles counties.) You may read anything you like as long as a copy is available at the St. Mary’s College Library (SMCM) or via COSMOS, the Southern Maryland Libraries catalog, or the USMAI catalog. You do not need to check the book out of the library. To get points you must post a review on the St. Mary’s College Library Summer Reading blog.