Written by Diane Helentjaris | Photos by Kaitlin Hill
Looking for something good to read? Elizabeth Gregg, the adult services librarian at Middleburg Public Library, says, “We’re always ready for that question — what should I read next? Truly it is our favorite thing. … This is the best part of our job. We love … to connect people to the stories that change their lives. That’s what reader advisory is all about… I think it’s a beautiful piece of the work we do.”
With that in mind, Gregg shares her summer reading picks in a few categories, all of which are available at the Middleburg Library.
An Equine Story for Everyone
“The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation” by Elizabeth Letts
“First and foremost,” says Gregg, “it’s a story of an underdog. A man, a recent immigrant, purchases a horse off the back of a truck — a horse meant for the meat market. The horse becomes a champion jumper … smashes all the records, really a miraculous story, really one of the best stories. … It’s a horse book for non-horsey people, a nonfiction story about a real horse folded into a story about his owner and our country.”
Family Saga Echoes Today’s Topics
“Mad Honey: A Novel” by Jodi Picoult
“This is the new fiction book on everybody’s list. Jodi Picoult is extremely prolific. Whenever she has something new, people pay attention. Jodi Picoult is a fantastic author. [This is] a story about a do-over. I kind of like that. It’s especially important for all of us to have reminders — things don’t always turn out and that’s OK. … [It’s] a fantastic romance, a story about becoming one’s self. [I] don’t think anyone can go wrong reading it.”
“Truth & Beauty: A Friendship” by Ann Patchett
“[It’s] one of my favorite books because it’s a story about a lifelong friendship. Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy became friends in grad school. For twenty years they were friends and muses, [who] came from very different backgrounds. … It’s a really beautiful story about two people who find each other, a beautiful story of what it means to have a friend.”
Fiction Inspired by True Events
“Horse: A Novel” by Geraldine Brooks
“Brand new. Can’t keep it on the shelf. … Geraldine Brooks’ ‘Horse’ reminds me of Marguerite Henry’s ‘King of the Wind,’ not only because of the connection between the groom and foal, [but also] because it folds together a beautiful equine story and reflects how we culturally have treated race in the last 100 years. Three timelines in the book are juxtaposed with three views.”
A Look at Vulnerability in America
“Rough Sleepers: Dr. Jim O’Connell’s Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless People” by Tracy Kidder
Gregg believes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, in his narrative nonfiction books, helps readers keep “track of being human. ‘Rough Sleepers’ is the story of Dr. Jim O’Connell who works to bring healthcare to the homeless. I trust Tracy Kidder. He’s such a master of storytelling.”
Best Upcycling of a Classic
“Demon Copperhead: A Novel” by Barbara Kingsolver, Charlie Thurston, et al.
“New and exciting, it’s hugely popular and a really intriguing story retelling ‘David Copperfield’ but set in Appalachia. [Kingsolver] has the ecological narrative down pat. She gets a story into a place.”
“Milk Street: The World in a Skillet” by Christopher Kimball
“I am lazy and also love my cast-iron skillet. [I’m] always looking for something to cook for dinner in one pan and utilize my cast iron. … ‘Laziness makes you efficient’ was my quote when I was a waitress. [This book has] really good recipes.”
Virginia True Crime
“Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South” by Beth Macy, Suzanne Toren, et al.
“‘Truevine’ is a narrative nonfiction. Beth Macy writes from southwest Virginia. She wrote this before she wrote ‘Dope Sick.’ [It’s] about a couple of young men abducted from their families, albino brothers, African American, who were used to make money. Embedded in their story is what it means to live in that part of the world. It’s an interesting study on the things we do sometimes and how stories go on…”
Elizabeth Gregg enjoys children’s books and believes they are not only for children. Recently, she has hosted an adult book club dedicated to rereading children’s classics. During the height of the coronavirus, she found solace in reading children’s books. Here are her recommendations for children or simply the young at heart:
Two Buddies Travel Around the World
“The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick” by Drew Daywalt
“Hysterical. A little boy’s two favorite toys, Huggie (a stuffed toy) and Stick (a stick), and the story of their adventures around the world trying to get back home. A lesson in the many perspectives in the universe.” Drew Daywalt is a New York Times bestselling author who wrote the immensely popular “The Day the Crayons Quit.”
An Adventure Tale
“The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo
Gregg says this is “a tough story, full of hope.” The protagonist Edward Tulane is a china rabbit. Targeted for children ages 7 to 10, first to fourth grade, adults have written rave reviews as well. This illustrated chapter book is by bestselling author and Newberry Medalist Kate DiCamillo.
A Child and His Pet
“This Moose Belongs to Me” by Oliver Jeffers
“Oliver Jeffers — [I] love all of his children’s books and own all of them. The artwork is really interesting [and the book is] very funny. In ‘This Moose belongs to Me,’ a little boy named Wilfred owns a moose. But it’s really a story about how he doesn’t own a moose. He tries to teach the moose to be a good pet — a very funny, silly tale which takes him around the community. Oliver Jeffers tends to write silly stories which have a point.”
Summertime is prime time for reading and for enjoying the outdoors, often simultaneously. Elizabeth Gregg also wants readers heading to one of Virginia’s state parks to know Loudoun County Public Library has provided a number of free state park passes at its branches, including Middleburg. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis. ML
For more information see library.loudoun.gov/middleburg.
101 Reed Street
Middleburg, VA 20117
Published in the June 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.