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Duchnowski: Summer reading suggestions from DeKalb County and beyond

Few people would mistake me for a morning person.

I’m grouchy before I have my coffee. I seldom make much sense before 8 a.m., especially via text message, and I certainly cannot be trusted to start a road trip before noon.

But getting out of bed has become more of a struggle lately as I’ve been working my way through the Harry Potter series again. It’s so tempting to read just a few pages after I let the dog out in the morning – and then, I’m drawn into the magical, mysterious world of the young wizards and their interesting teachers.

I’m still amazed that Hermione isn’t celebrated more (I realize she doesn’t have a scar, but she could have done well on her own in the Triwizard Tournament), and I’m horrified that Rita Skeeter is depicted as a journalist. I have no desire for a Quick-Quotes Quill, but I wouldn’t mind having a wand from time to time. Or tasting butterbeer.

There have been times in my life when I’ve lost entire weekends to a good book, or have developed a lobster-red sunburn while reading outside. I remember participating in my hometown’s summer reading program year after year as a child.

Now that summer is here – and local library reading programs are in full swing – I thought I’d share some reading suggestions from newsroom staff and folks around DeKalb County.

My favorite book of all time is “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” by Zora Neale Hurston. Written in 1937 as part of the Harlem Renaissance, the narrative deconstructs love, marriage, work and race while recounting the three marriages of Janie Crawford. Hurston’s metaphors and use of dialect are delicious and hilarious.

Daily Chronicle Editor Eric Olson’s favorite book is “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller. Web Producer John Sahly’s is “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas, and photographer Monica Maschak’s is “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

Reporter David Thomas has two favorites: “Rainbow Six” by Tom Clancy and “The Stand” by Stephen King.

DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery also has two favorites: “The Art of War” by (or attributed to) Sun Tzu and “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo. The first is a book about war tactics that doubles as a blueprint for modern politics. The second has short passages for each calendar day built around a theme of having the life you want by being present in the life you have.

Douglas Baker, who will become president of Northern Illinois University on July 1, reread “One More Day Everywhere” by Glen Heggstad. Baker and his wife, Dana, are avid motorcyclists, and the book is about a guy who rode his motorcycle across Asia, Russia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“The title refers to his misgiving that he wished he could have had one more day everywhere,” Baker wrote in an email.

Dana Baker is reading Hillary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies,” which follows King Henry VIII after he married Anne Boleyn.

“I love historical books, and her first book in this series ‘Wolf Hall’ is about King Henry VIII’s quest to be rid of Queen Catherine so he could marry Anne Boleyn,” Dana Baker said. “Both books are incredibly well written/researched and told through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, the King’s secretary, among other duties.”

DeKalb Public Library Director Dee Coover’s favorite book is “Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro.

“It was also a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson with James Fox, Christopher Reeve, Hugh Grant and Ben Chaplin. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards,” Coover wrote in an email. “I believe it captures the history of the time and the characters with their complexity as real human beings.”

Northern Illinois University spokesman Joe King suggests “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson.

“It makes even the most intimidating science accessible, interesting and fun,” King wrote in an email. “Great summer read, because you can pick it up and put it down and not really have to keep track of a storyline. Love books like that for vacation.”

Meanwhile, KishHealth System spokeswoman Allison Bryan reads “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb each spring.

“For me, it’s a reminder that no matter the circumstances you come from or the obstacles in your life, happiness is obtainable for everyone,” Bryan wrote in an email.

What books are you planning to read this summer?

• Jillian Duchnowski is the Daily Chronicle’s news editor. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email

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