Libraries and best-seller lists packed for summer

June 20, 2004|By KATE COLEMAN

Today is the last day of spring.

Summer starts tomorrow, and, with it, the summer reading season.

Even if you're not a kid and don't have a couple of months of vacation, summer feels different.

In all of our imaginations as children, summer was a time for adventure, said Mary Baykan, director of Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown. There are no lessons, no homework. It's a time to set aside cares, she added.

Many students have lists of books recommended or required for reading before they head back to school. With reading lists in hand, people have been buying classics, said Kathy Wyne, merchandising supervisor at Borders Books, Music and Cafe in Hagerstown.

Mass-market paperbacks - mysteries and romances - are popular in the summer, she added. They fit in the category of "beach read" - a book you can put down and take a break in the ocean before picking up where you left off.


Publishers Weekly, the 131-year-old news magazine of the book industry, online at, compiles lists of best-selling books in several categories.

Need some ideas for your personal reading list?

Here are some popular titles:

Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," a conspiracy tale steeped in religion and art, still is strong in its 63rd week at the top of the hardcover fiction roster, and his similarly plotted "Angels & Demons" had the No. 5 spot last week. It also ranked first among the mass-market paperback best sellers. Wyne hasn't read "Angels & Demons" but said "it's flying off the shelves."

Standing in the No. 3 position on the hardcover fiction list is "The Five People You Meet in Heaven," by Mitch Albom, a novel about the life and death of an 83-year-old amusement park maintenance man. Albom penned the popular "Tuesdays with Morrie," the true story of lessons learned from Albom's beloved terminally ill former professor Morrie Schwartz.

David Sedaris' "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim," his latest collection of personal essays, is No. 1 in hardcover nonfiction. For truly light summer reading, you could check out the second- and third-place books on that list: "The South Beach Diet" and Phil McGraw's "The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom."

Also in the lineup are Bob Woodward's account of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, "Plan of Attack," and some political history from earlier times in "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow and Cokie Roberts' "Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation."

Bill Clinton's 900-page autobiography, "My Life," is set for release Tuesday, June 22.

"Anna Karenina" tops Publishers Weekly's trade paperback best-seller list as well as the New York Times' paperback fiction roster. Russian author Leo Tolstoy's love story originally was published in installments between 1875 and 1877.

How does it get to be a best seller in the 21st century?

"Thank Oprah," said Joe Mix, a manager at the Hagers-town Borders.

The book is a selection of the reading club Oprah Winfrey started with her television talk show. The club has nearly 200,000 members, according to, and more can join online.

What are kids reading?

The Harry Potter books are popular, as are the fourth and fifth books in the Lemony Snicket series, said Jeff Ridgeway, children's librarian at Washington County Free Library. Kids like books in the "American Girl" series, as well as the "Dear America" titles - historical fiction in the form of diaries and letters.

Childhood classics such as books by Beverly Cleary hold up, and Mary Pope Osborne's "Magic Tree House" books also are well-liked, Ridgeway added.

"Readers Rule" is the theme of the Maryland libraries' summer reading club for kids this year. The club has been in Washington County for decades, Ridgeway said. A scrapbook has photos of club events back into the 1930s.

Baykan said she doesn't care what children read - as long as they're reading.

Baykan enjoys books of many different genres. She likes the mysteries of Frederick, Md., author Elizabeth Peters, and she enjoys the writing of Nora Roberts, Washington County's perennially best-selling writer. Her description is excellent, and character development is good, Baykan said. Roberts' "The MacKade Brothers: Devin and Shane" was No. 9 on Publishers Weekly's trade paperback best-seller list.

She also liked "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed," a tale in which Patricia Cornwell applied modern forensics to an old murder.

She recently re-read Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." So did Ridgeway, and he also took another look at some of Ray Bradbury's work.

A summer book doesn't have to be a best seller.

Online resources

You don't need a reading list to find books you might like to read.

You can do it by computer:

-- Access to a wealth of online databases is available at Washington County Free Library in downtown Hagers-town and its branches, or with the ease of a computer if you have a library card.

Go to or call 301-739-3250 for information about accessing the system's fact-filled online databases.

-- Online databases also are available, with a library card, in the Franklin County, Pa., library system. Go to

-- You can access information online in West Virginia's public libraries without a library card at, said Pam Mann, children's librarian at Morgan County Public Library in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

-- A library card is required for remote access to online databases through Martinsburg-Berkeley County Library at


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