“I have just the book for you,” are words that bibliophiles love to hear from the expert staff at Joseph Fox Bookstore in Center City. Established in 1951, Joseph Fox is one of the city’s last remaining independent bookstores. What books are on owner Michael Fox’s summer reading list? “These aren’t the most commercial, although some may end up as best sellers,” he says, “but they are representative of the sort of book we sell well in the shop — and I think are important.”
Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution
By Nathaniel Philbrick
The city is Boston, the siege is by the British Army and the revolution that begins is American. The book opens in 1775 Boston, which is post-Tea Party, post-Lexington and Concord, but Colonial independence has yet to spark a war. That changes with the Battle of Bunker Hill, the bloody conflict that was the point of no return for the colonists. Nathaniel Philbrick, bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea, Mayflower and The Last Stand, provides in-depth details about Colonial life and pre-hero portraits of Paul Revere, John Quincy Adams and the young and brash George Washington.
History buffs will also love: Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, by Joseph Ellis and The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, by Rick Atkinson.
The Woman Upstairs
By Claire Messud
In the new novel from award-winning author Claire Messud, the glamorous and cosmopolitan Shahid family become neighbors to elementary school teacher Nora Eldridge. Her formerly quiet life becomes loud and colorful when a bullying incident targets the Shahids’ young son. The New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani wrote that The Woman Upstairs is “a mashup of a very self-consciously literary novel (invoking the likes of Chekhov) and one of those psychological horror films like Single White Female orThe Hand That Rocks the Cradle, in which someone, ominously, is not who she appears to be.” Messud’s most recent novel, The Emperor’s Children, was a New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post Best Book of the Year.
If you’re looking for fiction for your children to read while you’re engrossed in The Woman Upstairs, try: Again! by Emily Gravett; The Weight Of Water, by Sarah Crossan; and Bully, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.
The Philadelphia Chromosome: A Mutant Gene and the Quest to Cure Cancer at the Genetic Level
By Jessica Wapner
In the vein of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, comes Jessica Wapner’s “biography” of the Philadelphia chromosome. While it would be nice if something that bears the name of Philadelphia was a signifier of genius or creativity, this chromosome is a marker for cancer. Discovered in 1959, it took until 1990 for the Philadelphia chromosome to be recognized as the signifier of chronic myeloid leukemia. Wapner, a science writer and former lab technician, chronicles the long, deadly history of the chromosome.
More medically themed writing: In the Body of the World: A Memoir, by Eve Ensler, the creator of The Vagina Monologues, who details her battle with uterine cancer.
Melissa Jacobs is the senior editor of Inside Magazine. This article was originally printed in This Summer, a Jewish Exponent magazine.