Daniel Goldin’s summer book list takes readers on a trip around the world

New reads from Tracy Chevalier, Jacob Kushner, Ruth Ware and Andrew Graff among picks

Snapshots of some of Daniel Goldin’s Summer 2024 book recommendations.

Are you looking for a summer getaway but finding yourself unable to … well, get away?

Daniel Goldin of Milwaukee’s Boswell Book Company has a suggestion for you: Let a good book take you on a journey. Visiting exotic — or nonexotic — locales via the written word is inexpensive, won’t result in lost luggage and there’s no concern about whether the local cuisine will agree with you.

During a recent interview on WPR’s “The Larry Meiller Show,” Goldin took us on a trip around the world with his top 20 best reads for this summer.

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For any doubters that a great vacation can be found in a book, note that Goldin practices what he preaches.

“I visit relatives in the same two places,” Goldin said. “So reading is my vicarious way of traveling. And I think it’s successful.”

Goldin’s suggested a literary vacation starts in Italy with “The Glassmaker,” the latest work of historical fiction by Tracy Chevalier.

“This book is about the glassmakers of Murano, a series of islands just outside of Italy,” Goldin said. “The story takes place over 500 years, but it makes perfect sense because glassmaking was a slow industry to change.”

Goldin said the book is “delightful,” and its characters deal with everything from Napoleon to ecological disasters to tourism to the rise of manufacturing.

Pack your (book) bags — here is the rest of Goldin’s literary itinerary:

“The Sicilian Inheritance,” by Jo Piazza

This novel is about a butcher from Philadelphia who travels to Sicily to scatter her great aunt’s ashes but finds herself caught up trying to solve a murder.

“It’s historical fiction with a lot of research, but it’s also a mystery. And it’s also a romance,” said Goldin. “I enjoyed this one a lot.”

“Look Away,” by Jacob Kushner

Subtitled “A True Story of Murders, Bombings, and a Far-Right Campaign to Rid Germany of Immigrants,” this work of narrative nonfiction is about a gang of white supremacists in Germany who kill Muslim immigrants over a span of 10 years.

Goldin said that Kushner, who attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and got his start writing for The Daily Cardinal, had “heard about this story for many years and just assumed that somebody would write a book about it. But nobody did, so he wrote it himself.”

“Miss Morgan’s Book Brigade,” by Janet Skeslien Charles

This novel is based on the true story of Jessie Carson, who helped establish children’s libraries in France during World War I. Charles’ story also involves a modern-day librarian doing research on Carson. The story uses a dual timeline to go back and forth between the contemporary librarian and Carson. The backstory is terrific,” Goldin said.

“Sipsworth,” by Simon Van Booy

“I do really like this book,” Goldin said. “Van Booy is so good at tugging at your heart in a sophisticated, non-schmaltzy sort of way.”

“Sipsworth” tells the story of a widow in a small English town who reconnects to her community thanks to a chance encounter with a mouse. Goldin called “Sipsworth” an “emotionally fulfilling” read.

“The Lion Women of Tehran,” by Marjan Kamali

Leaving Europe and moving east to Asia, the next stop on Goldin’s book vacation is Kamali’s latest novel.

“The Lion Women of Tehran” is about the relationship between two girls trying to stay connected over 70 years through a series of betrayals and upheavals in Iranian government.

“If you want a really wonderful friendship novel, this is it,” Goldin said.

“One Perfect Couple,” by Ruth Ware

This thriller is about a couple who travel to a deserted island in the Indian Ocean to take part in a TV game show.

The book is “a survival thriller with a good sense of humor that’s part ‘Love Island,’ part ‘Lord of the Flies’ and part Fyre Festival,” Goldin said.

“Real Americans,” by Rachel Khong

This generational novel tells the story of Chinese immigrants who flee Mao’s Cultural Revolution to live in New York City.

Goldin said this book has been so popular at the Boswell Book Company that whoever reads it writes up a recommendation card for it. Goldin called the book “very, very rewarding.”

“Birnam Wood,” by Eleanor Catton

Set in New Zealand following a deadly landslide, Catton’s novel is a psychological thriller about the struggle between a gardening collective and a billionaire for control of a suddenly valuable piece of land.

Goldin teased at one point, “there is a terrible gut punch that readers will have to sleep off” before braving the rest of the novel.

“Olivetti” by Allie Millington

Goldin’s summer pick for kids is about an abandoned typewriter who tries to help a 12-year-old boy solve the sudden disappearance of his mother. Set in San Francisco, Goldin said “Olivetti” is so good, it may cause kids to encourage their parents to buy a typewriter.

“The Heart in Winter,” by Kevin Barry

This novel about two lovers on the lam in 1890s Montana has, Goldin said, “a little Bonnie and Clyde-ness about it,” and is “beautifully bawdy.”

“When Women Ran Fifth Avenue,” by Julie Satow

Goldin said this non-fiction account of “three groundbreaking women of retail” is wonderful and could make readers nostalgic for the days when shoppers assembled in public instead of logging on from home.

“How to Read A Book,” by Monica Wood

This is not an instructional book, but rather a story of three strangers and how their random encounter in a Maine bookshop winds up transforming all of their lives.

Goldin called Wood’s novel a “story of connection and found family.”

“Sandwich,” by Catherine Newman

The novel’s title refers not to what you might eat for lunch but a town in Cape Cod where a family’s matriarch finds herself dealing with the struggles of her adult children needing her less and her aging parents needing her more.

Goldin said this “midlife meltdown novel” is “funny and terrific,” and Newman’s voice is amazing.

“I Cheerfully Refuse,” by Leif Enger

Goldin implored readers not to be concerned about hearing that Enger’s latest is a dystopian novel.

Far from depressing, he said this book set in a small town on the Lake Superior shore has “warmth and heart” and is “written with light fingers.”

“Same As It Ever Was,” by Claire Lombardo

This novel, set in Illinois, is the second on this list that Goldin referred to as his “midlife meltdown” picks.

“If you know Chicago, you’ll recognize a lot of the settings,” Goldin said.

This character study is about a mother planning a wedding who needs to reconcile a mistake from her past before she makes a similar one that could affect her future.

“True North,” by Andrew Graff

Goldin’s book tour brought us back to Wisconsin for this story set in the state’s Northwoods about a family that risks everything to take over a rafting business.

Perfect for enjoying while camping at the lake, Goldin said the novel is exciting and a “lot of fun.”  

“A Taste for More,” by Phyllis Dixon

A native Milwaukeean, Dixon sets this novel in her hometown.

Goldin said part of the fun of reading this novel about a woman searching for a better life for her and her daughter is seeing its parallels to the classic novel (and film) “Mildred Pierce.”

“Dogland,” by Tommy Tomlinson

Speaking of films, if you love the movie “Best in Show,” then this behind-the-scenes look at dog shows — Tomlinson’s research took him to more than 100 shows over three years — is for you.

Goldin said this non-fiction book “talks about the history of dog shows and the history of breeding,” while being “a very heartwarming look at the dog-human relationship.”

“My Life in Seventeen Books,” by Jon M. Sweeney

A fitting end to this literary trip, Milwaukee native Sweeney looks at some of his favorite books and the major impacts they have had on his life.

From Thoreau to Tolstoy, Goldin said Sweeney’s exploration of his life through books is “wonderful for the person who really loves books and loves the life of the mind.”

It’s a terrific book,” he added.

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