Looking for a good book to tote to the beach this summer or to pack as part of your picnic? Staff members at Lincoln Library, Springfield's public library, were happy to share their suggestions.

The Bridge by Solomon Jones
(St. Martin's Minotaur, hardcover, 320 pages, 2003)
This dark, realistic mystery, set in the housing projects of Philadelphia, features well-rendered characters and an ending with an amazing twist.

Child of My Heart by Alice McDermott
(Picador USA, paperback, 242 pages, 2003)
A tender 1960s coming-of-age story in which a 15-year-old girl loses her innocence over a summer spent looking after the children of wealthy families on Long Island.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
(Vintage, paperback, 464 pages, 2004)
Two true stories combined in one incredible book. Larson uses the 1893 Chicago World's Fair as the stage for his intricate narrative of "the devil," a serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims. The story of the murderer is engrossing, but even more riveting is the tale of how the country's best architects shared a vision of city planning that has yet to be surpassed.

Eventide by Kent Haruf
(Knopf, hardcover, 320 pages, 2004)
Those who loved Plainsong, Springfield's first pick for "Together We Read," won't want to miss its just-published sequel. Haruf revisits Victoria Roubideaux, now the mother of a 4-year-old, as she sets off to college in Fort Collins, Colo. He also lets us know what's happening with the unforgettable McPheron brothers.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
(Penguin USA, paperback 384 pages, 2003)
A quirky alternative reality, filled with wordplay and ridiculous situations, finds literature enjoying a celebrity our world reserves for professional sports. When the classics are in danger, literary detective Thursday Next must save them.

The Frumious Bandersnatch: A Novel of the 87th Precinct by Ed McBain
(Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 304 pages, 2004)
Don't let the title confuse you. This is a police procedural by a master of the genre. The title is from a Lewis Carroll poem and, in the novel, the title of a 24-year-old pop diva's newest CD. When masked gunmen at the video-release party kidnap the diva off right off the stage, it's up to Detective Steve Carella to crack the case.

I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies) by Laurie Notaro
(Villard, paperback, 240 pages, 2004)
Self-proclaimed "true tales of a loudmouth girl," these essays follow Notaro's The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure and Autobiography of a Fat Bride. Bosses from hell, the madness of a family trip to Disneyland, and a QVC-addicted mother are just a few of the topics Notaro tackles. Hilarious.

Mr. Paradise by Elmore Leonard
(William Morrow, hardcover, 291 pages, 2004)
Another character-driven good guys-bad guys classic from Dutch Leonard. The plot is simple: Should a Detroit homicide detective get involved with a beautiful witness? Tight, up-tempo storytelling.

More Than You Know by Beth Gutcheon
(Perennial, paperback, 288 pages, 2001)
A contemporary couple on the coast of Maine find their romance inexplicably linked with that of another couple who lived a hundred years ago. A must-read for those who love ghost stories.

Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver
(Perennial, paperback, 288 pages, 2003)
Kingsolver contemplates the Grand Canyon, her vegetable garden, motherhood, adolescence, genetic engineering, TV-watching, the history of civil rights, and the future of a nation -- all in one volume of incredibly incisive essays.

The Terra-Cotta Dog: An Inspector Montalbano Mystery by Andrea Camilleri; translated by Stephen Sartarelli
(Viking Press, hardcover, 192 pages, 2002)
The second in a series set in the fictional Sicilian town of Vigata features a tenacious and intelligent detective. The mystery is well done, but the book's real charm lies in the inspector, his colleagues, and companions. But beware: The descriptions of Italian cuisine are not Atkins-approved.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
(Regan Books, reprint edition, paperback, 406 pages, 1996)
The Oz tale, written from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West, draws elements from both the book and the film. Humorous and magical, the book explains why the Witch was wicked ... or was she just misunderstood? How would you like to go through life with a green-skin condition?

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