Book Finds: Summer Reads You Can Take Into Fall | KCUR 89.3

The official summer reading season may be over, but there are still warm days and plenty of great titles to read.

Owner of BLK & BRWN Bookstore Cori Smith and Kansas City author Steve Paul prove it with these suggestions.

Cori Smith’s recommendations

Children’s fiction:

  • Our Gift Grace (self-published) by Dayonne Richardson: This Kansas City author writes about a little girl named Grace, who becomes an example of kindness and appreciation for herself and others.


  • The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living on Less (Simon & Schuster) by Christine Flat: The author delves into how childhood experiences and expectations manifest in adult life and the boundary between needs and wants.
  • The will to change: men, masculinity and love” (Simon & Schuster) by bell hooks: This book serves to provide space for men to be loving, as the author acknowledges the ways in which men and women perpetuate patriarchy (especially when they benefit from it).


  • Scenes from my life” (Penguin Random House) by Michael K. Williams: A deeply personal reflection on the life of the late Emmy-nominated actor Michael K. Williams, known for ‘Lovecraft Country’, ‘The Wire’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’. Williams reflects the trials and tribulations of his life with the victories and activism that came from the lessons he learned as an actor.
  • Not all boys are blue” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by George M. Johnson: A New York Times bestseller, both memoir and manifesto, explores the author’s upbringing and experience as a gay black man.
  • Blindfolded: Essays by the Only Black Woman in the Room(Pathless Land Press) by Dawn Downey: As she recounts the microaggressions, author Dawn Downey reflects on the many times she found herself the only person of color in the room.

Non-fiction for adults:

  • The Intersectional Ecologist (Small, Brown) by Leah Thomas: Author and activist Leah Thomas explains what exactly an intersectional ecologist is and why it’s important to note how environmental crises affect marginalized people harder, longer, and more negatively than any other people.


  • Arsenic and Adobo” (Penguin Random House) by Mia P. Manansala: Food, culture, and a series of murders impact main character Lila Macapagal’s family restaurant.
  • Bloodchild and other stories (Seven Stories Press) by Octavia E. Butler: Standing as the perfect first read for those interested in the work of Octavia Butler, this collection of essays and short stories ranges from alien takeovers to What Problem Would We Solve If We Could Play God.

Classic Fiction:

  • Their eyes looked at God (JB Lippincott) by Zora Neale Hurston: First published in 1937, this novel tells the story of Janie Crawford’s character, seeking to find her own definition of love at a time when marriage was a matter of transaction. As a young girl, she is arranged to be married and soon begins her journey to find true love and define womanhood for herself.

Steve Paul’s recommendations


  • River of the gods: genius, courage and betrayal in the search for the source of the Nile” (Doubleday) by Candice Millard: Hugely popular and extremely accomplished local author with a global following. His books transport us to distant corners of history, focusing on very dramatic episodes in the lives of fascinating people. In this case, we travel with her and British explorers on wild and often disastrous scientific expeditions in search of the source of the Nile in Africa.


  • Victory is Assured: Uncollected Writings” (Liveright) by Stanley Crouch: Crouch, a prominent cultural critic who died in 2020, wrote voraciously and pugnaciously about jazz, politics, race and movies. Author of a significant biography of Charlie Parker, Crouch was a serious champion of Kansas City jazz, who once wrote: “Many of our myths are as porous as Swiss cheese…but there is no more mythical city rightly in the history of jazz. than Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Why Bob Dylan Matters (Dey St./William Morrow) by Richard F. Thomas: For me at least, this has been something like Bob Dylan’s year. It’s one of many recent books on the octogenarian pop superstar, but it carries some weight given the author’s status as a classics scholar at Harvard. Thomas gives us an accessible collection of essays on Dylan’s work, which serve to celebrate and vindicate Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature. And soon, Dylan’s world can’t wait to see Dylan’s first book in about 20 years. Titled “The Philosophy of Modern Song” and due out in November, it’s a collection of essays on a surprising range of pop music from around the last 70 years.


  • Was it worth it?” (Patagonia) by Peacock Douglas: Another book that asks us to connect deeply with the planet and wildlife is this collection of essays and travelogues from a devoted chronicler of the natural world, particularly the desert southwest, northern Mexico and from Yellowstone, where Peacock tracked grizzly bears for nearly half an hour. century. After serving in the Vietnam War, Peacock became close friends with writer and desert sage Edward Abbey, who cast him as George Washington Hayduke, the eco-activist character at the heart of Abbey’s famous novel. The Monkey Wrench Gang”.
  • Also poet: Frank O’Hara, my father and me(Grove Press) by Ada Calhoun: Charming portrait of New York literati, the art world of the 1960s and 1970s, and Calhoun’s own dysfunctional family. Calhoun’s father, New York art critic Peter Schjeldahl, once attempted to write a biography of poet Frank O’Hara. He was stopped in his tracks by a family roadblock. After a fire destroyed his parents’ apartment a few years ago, Calhoun found his father’s interview tapes and tried to track down the biographer.


  • Janis: her life and her music” (Simon & Schuster) by Holly George Warren: Very readable biography of the short and tragic life of rock superstar Janis Joplin.
  • Burning Man: The Trials of DH Lawrence” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Frances Wilson: This book just so happens to have won the Plutarch, or best of the year, award from the International Organization of Biographers, of which I sit on the board. Lawrence, of course, was the author of several notable and sometimes controversial novels, including ‘Women in Love’, ‘Sons and Lovers’ and ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ (a new adaptation of which will hit Netflix soon in theaters and online. ). For literary readers, it’s a compelling and insightful account of Lawrence’s wild array of work and often clumsy life.


  • Azabu Getaway (Raked Gravel Press) by Michael Pronko: The author is a Kansas citizen who has long lived and taught English and American literature in Tokyo. This is the fifth in his series of detective novels featuring Detective Hiroshi, who finds himself embroiled in gripping and complex cases often involving corporate misdeeds and cultural collisions in today’s Tokyo. This book was actually released on September 10th, so I’ve only just started reading it, but I recently went through the audio version of the previous novel in his series, “Tokyo Zangyo”. Pronko does for Tokyo what Michael Connelly does for Los Angeles.
  • Harlem mix (Double day) by Colson Whitehead: Not a conventional crime novel per se, rather a literary portrait of New York’s black cultural landscape in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The novel’s central character owns a furniture store and becomes involved in business risky. Whitehead spoke last spring in Lawrence and read a sequel slated for release next year.
  • Detransition, baby (Penguin Random House) by Torrey Peters: Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Prize for a first novel this year, the book takes us into the very contemporary world of gender fluidity. The story involves a transgender couple, a straight woman, and a pregnancy. Fascinating and painfully human.


  • collected poems(Library of America) by Gary Snider: A great American poet and teacher of Zen whose many books span from his Beat associations of the early 1950s to today and are now available in one volume. At a time when many people are only now becoming more aware of “climate change,” Snyder has provided a vital voice for the land and wilderness for nearly seven decades.

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