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Pittsburgh, Aug. 3, 2009 – Summer is a great time for people to catch up on their reading – whether it’s on vacation or just during the proverbial lazy days of summer. Choosing your next book can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t want to peruse the latest bestseller list for a good read.

Linda Jordan-Platt, Ph.D., a La Roche College English professor and avid reader, has provided her recommendations for this summer’s best beach books.

If you are looking for some insight …

“One common theme of today is that we are all facing the consequences of living in an economic down time,” Dr. Jordan-Platt said. “If you are looking for some insight on your financial troubles, I suggest a number of books that tell stories you can relate to and perhaps provide a different way of looking at things.”

Little Dorritt by Charles Dickens follows the financial and romantic experiences of Amy Dorritt through the 1850s. You travel through the English society with Amy as she deals with poverty, families falling into debt, financial fraud and bank collapse. After reading Little Dorritt, you may want to look into the PBS version that was recently broadcast in a British TV mini-series. You’ll find that the perils of the economy are ageless, but so is the way society deals with them.

Dr. Jordan-Platt recommends these selections, which are along the same lines: Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; and The Raj Quartet (A Jewel in the Crown, The Day of the Scorpion, The Towers of Silence and A Division of the Spoils), a four-volume series by Paul Scott.

If you like local stories …

If you want to read a book that hits close to home, Pittsburgh is celebrating its 250th birthday. What better time to check out local novels?

Out of this Furnace by Thomas Bell describes three generations of a Slovak family growing up in the shadow of Carnegie’s mill. The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough is a historical book about the disaster but reads like a novel. About Three Brick Shy of a Load: And the Load Filled Up by Roy Blount Jr., is a classic story of the 1973 Pittsburgh Steelers and was recently updated for the 30th anniversary edition (It’s not just about football either!). Finally, Coal Run by Tawni O’Dell is a novel about the people of Coal Run, Pa., and features the tale of a once-proud Pennsylvania coal town destroyed by a mining disaster. O’Dell also wrote Back Roads and Sister Mine, both also set in western Pennsylvania.

If you are saving money …

You don’t have to find your best reads for sale, Dr. Jordan-Platt said. She recommends revisiting old best sellers that are just as good – if not better – now. Even better, most are available at local libraries if you are counting your pennies this summer.

Old best sellers to consider: The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, a readable, historical account of D-Day; The Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk, parallel stories about a naval captain and his family during World War II;In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, a classic true crime story; and Merlin Trilogy: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart, the retelling of the King Arthur legend from the engineer/wizard Merlin’s perspective.

If you like to stick with one author …

Many people like to find one favorite author and stick to just his/her books. Dr. Jordan-Platt suggests the following:

Carl Hiaasen, a Miami Herald columnist, has developed a series of novels that are intended for adults and young readers who care about the environment but can appreciate a good laugh along the way. He writes “laugh-out-loud” mystery stories that expose the way politicians and developers have ruined Florida’s nature landscape and ecology. Tourist Season was his 1986 debut novel, and he also has three books for young adults: Hoot, Flush and Scat.

Michael Malone has been compared to Dickens, but like Dickens, he is not for everyone. His new novel, The Four Corners of the Sky, is described as part caper novel, part mystery and part romantic comedy. Other novels by Malone are Handling Sin, Uncivil Seasons, First Lady and Time’s Witness.

Thomas Perry is a mystery/thriller writer who set the stage for his Jane Whitefield series with Vanishing Act. The latest book in the series, Runner, debuted in spring 2009. Perry has also written other novels, including Metzger’s Dog, Death Benefits, Island, The Butcher’s Boy and Pursuit.

Others books to consider …

For those who want a summer book that doesn’t fall into any of the previous categories, Dr. Jordan-Platt offers up this hodgepodge of her favorites:

Five Fortunes by Beth Gutcheon describes a year in the life of five women, from high school to age 80, who meet and become friends at a famous weight-loss spa.

The River King by Alice Hoffman has been tagged a “favorite Hoffman novel” by Dr. Jordan-Platt and is described as part mystery, part love story and part ghost story.

Chin Up, Honey by Curtiss Ann Matlock is the latest in a series about the small town of Valentine, Okla.

Last days of Summer by Steve Kluger is a story about a young Brooklyn boy in the late 1930s who is a fan of New York Giants third baseman Charlie Banks. The story is told in letters, notes, telegrams and news clippings.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a young adult novel about a Native American teen who tries to find a better life by transferring to a white high school near his reservation. La Roche College used this as its 2008 summer reading novel.

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