TCR’s Top 10 Reading List for Summer of 2011


"The beach sure is crowded today" photo by Darrell Powell

With Memorial Day comes the (unofficial) beginning of summer.   Here are some books from This Common Reader’s bookshelf which will keep you entertained while on summer holiday.   Enjoy and send in comments or critiques.


1. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

 If you think historical romance isn’t your cup of tea, try this novel anyway.  With lots of crossover references from present day, the early 19th Century heroine chases spies, at one point with an Irish private investigating firm named Dooney & Burke.   It is a series.  Once you finish the first one, you will want to find out what happens next.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, The Masque of the Black Tulip, The Deception of the Emerald Ring, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, The Temptation for the Night Jasmine, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, The Mischief of the Mistletoe, and The Orchid Affair

2.  Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith  

This is the seventh installment of the Arkady Renko series.  A little older and a lot more cynical, Police Inspector Renko can still catch the bad guys. See This Common Reader blog for the full series.

3.  Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon

 Imagine an Israeli state created in Alaska in 1948 and the police who protected and served, strange but funny.  The Coen Brothers have plans to make a movie based on the story.

4.  New York New York by Edward Rutherford  

Classified as historical fiction, this story is more history than fiction.   It is on the list because reading it will provide great background for Empire State of Mind (see Non-fiction list). 

5.  The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant

Native Virginian, Mr. Bondurant uses his family’s personal history to create a Bonnie and Clyde, prohibition shoot ‘em up story.  Movie is in production.

Honorable Mention:  Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Recommended by This Common Reader‘s editorial staff.


1.  Finding Thalhimers by Elizabeth Smart

Another native Virginian, Ms. Smart has taken over the reins of her family’s great dynasty by creating this beautiful tribute.  A must read for those who study Richmond’s history and the part it played in the Civil Rights Movement.

2.  Empire State of Mind by Zack O’Malley Greenburg

Street thug or entrepreneurial genius? One man’s view of hip hop rapper Jay- Z’s rise to fame and fortune.  Mr. Greenburg writes for Forbes magazine and this is his first book.

f3.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

A runaway hit and New York Times best seller, the “… story of a woman whose cancer cells were extensively cultured without her permission in 1951”.  Ms. Skloot questions medical research boundaries and individual rights and recognition. 

4.  The Crash of the Titans by Greg Ferrell

Curious about the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis and how it impacted investment firms? Read   how Merrill Lynch almost bought the farm and took Bank of America with them.

5.  Where Wizards Stay Up Late Katie Hafner

Find out who invented the internet and why.

Happy Reading.

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