Need a good read? Ask the experts

With Labor Day fast approaching, book lovers are cramming in those final novels, memoirs, and bios before the sun sets on beach season. To help navigate the crowded ocean of reading options, the Monitor asked owners and buyers of some of America's most respected bookstores what they've been reading this summer. Dive in!

Barnes and Noble

Sessalee Hensley – fiction buyer

I read "The Devil and Miss Prym" by Paulo Coelho, the author of "The Alchemist." It's about a town that's offered wealth by a stranger if someone is murdered. It basically shows how the town is consumed by greed and envy.

Another one is "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven" by Fannie Flagg. She's a great writer who really makes you think about your value system.

Also, Emily Giffin's "Baby Proof." It's about how a seemingly perfect relationship starts to unravel when the couple starts talking about having children. I think it's right for the times, because a lot of people are making those decisions in their lives. You go into a marriage with the same feelings about things like children; sometimes you stay on track and sometimes you don't. She's a little bit funny and a little bit in your face about it.


Bill Nasshan – senior vice president of trade books

I reread "1776" by David McCullough, which just came out in paperback. It's for anyone who likes history or anything to do with our forefathers. In the first 75 pages you'll learn everything you need to know about George Washington – actually there hasn't been a lot of stuff written about him in the past. And for the next couple hundred pages you'll be on the edge of your seat learning about history.

We've all heard about this stuff in history classes, but, quite frankly, with this book it feels like it's the first time you're reading about it.

Another good summer read is James Patterson's first legal thriller, "Judge & Jury." He has a tremendously large existing fan base, and I think he'll gain some new fans with this book. There are a lot of typical mystery stories being written, but this is something different. People are saying it's well written, unlike some popular mysteries out there, and isn't as predictable.

Also, the first novel in the Mary Magdalene trilogy, "Expected One," by Kathleen McGowan, is getting a lot of interest from people in the business. Everyone who has been interested in the "The Da Vinci Code" or Templar books will be very interested in reading it.

Harvard Book Store, Cambridge Mass.

Carol Horne – head buyer

I read Kate Atkinson's "Case Histories," and I liked it so much I read her newest one that's coming out in October, called "One Good Turn." I wanted to read them because they both got rave reviews – we've sold a lot in the bookstore, and some of my co-workers recommended her to me. Both [books] are very literary mysteries. In both of them there are three different mysteries that become related two-thirds of the way through the book by the private detective that's investigating the crimes.

I'm also reading Alice McDermott. She's such a fantastic prose stylist. When you start reading her you realize she's sort of changed the pace of your reading by changing her use of language. Her pace makes you slow down and savor every word. I'd read "Charming Billy" and thought it was one of the best books I'd read in a long time. Now I'm reading her new book coming out in September, "After This." It's about a middle-class family from the New York area in the '60s and how they deal with the social changes and each other.

The Strand, New York City

Nancy Bassowner

I read "Gift from the Sea," written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh in 1955. It's a short read, but a really good book. It's a memoir, which – along with biographies – is my favorite book genre. She uses shells as a metaphor for self-discovery and spirituality.... [It's the] perfect read for the summer when you have a quiet place to go, such as to the ocean.

I'm also reading Laura Weisberger's "The Devil Wears Prada." Okay, I read light books sometimes! With books that are made into movies, a lot of people like to see the movie first. But it's interesting to see how the movie presented the character differently; the Anne Hathaway character in the book is more selfish and frenetic.

I'd also recommend "The Fourth Bear." It's the second in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. He takes fictional characters from nursery rhymes, like Goldilocks, and puts them in an alternate reality involving a crime. Fforde combines the best of noir and nursery rhymes, and he's impossible to stop reading once you begin.

The Monitor asked each of the above respondents which book they'd recommend for someone who only has time to read one book this summer. Read their responses at

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