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Armchair travels

Your summer reading list

Summer doesn’t always have to mean it’s time to travel. You can experience unique points of view without leaving your couch. Whether its journeying to Poland or Chicago or getting into the mind of a local author, check out these books. If you do feel like venturing outside your living room, the public library is a perfect destination; it can always take you farther.

Just Desserts: 40 Step-By-Step Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes 

By Calvin Eaton 

2023, paperback, $24.99 

Eaton introduces his book with a summary of his mental and physical health journeys that resulted in his gluten-free lifestyle—and what a delicious lifestyle that is. Cookies, cakes, frostings, and more fill the pages in this cookbook. Some treats are vegan, and all recipes contain pro tips for baking the most successful dessert. 

Quality color photos adorn every page, making the book itself sweet, artistic, and appealing. Cookbook lovers, baking aficionados, and gluten-free keepers will eat this one up. The book’s first self-published print run quickly sold out in fall 2023, so if you want in on the next one, preorder it here: 

Eaton was born in Texas, raised in Rochester, and educated at Rochester Institute of Technology. After a stint in Nashville, he returned to Rochester where he ran a bakery and a blog and is on the board of When he’s not baking or helping the community, Eaton indulges in podcasts, The Golden Girls, and Seabreeze.

Life Is Written in Pencil: Finding Your Best Life in Plans B Through Z 

By Melissa Panara 

Synergy Publishing, 2023, paperback, $18.99 

After graduating from college and becoming a school teacher, Panara flailed under the unexpected pressure until her breaking point. Later, she realized she can change her thinking, her path, and her future. Through anecdotes about her careers, friendships, college experiences, and family matters, Panara shares the wisdom she gained. 

Recent graduates—or anyone at any stage of life—may be inspired by this part-memoir-part-self-help book. Knowing our paths are constantly changing because of the flux of the world can give readers a reality check. These reminders are told in a positive way throughout this slim, helpful volume. 

Originally from Long Island, Panara graduated from SUNY Geneseo and now lives in Fairport with her husband, two kids, and one Goldendoodle. She loves being in nature and listening to musicals, local bands, or 1980s tunes. She is a proud Parrothead (Jimmy Buffett fans will get this), Bunco player, and breakfast-for-dinner eater. Learn more about this Pink Pearl Eraser enthusiast here:

Miracles Through Hell: A True Story of Holocaust Survival and Intergenerational Healing 

By Jerry Elman 

Waterview Books, 2022, hardcover, $26.95 

In November 1942, fourteen-year-old Rochal Gritczak and her family hid from the Germans who were preparing to exterminate them. Three months later, twenty-two-year-old Shmeryl Elman (Rochal’s future husband) escaped a Polish ghetto days before its liquidation. Through miracles and suffering, both Rochal and Shmeryl survived the Holocaust but were forever changed. 

Like many survivors, Elman’s parents didn’t discuss the Holocaust era. Years after their deaths, he researched his family history and wrote this book, which allowed him to understand and share their bravery and heroism. The detailed story illustrates the unbelievable strength of the Jewish people, and the letters and photos keep Elman’s family in our thoughts. 

Elman is a retired Kodak engineer with a knack for BBQ, a passion for women’s causes, and a nearly complete collection of hand tools for DIY home repairs. He met his wife via a personal ad in CITY Newspaper in 1983, and his biggest accomplishments today are his blog and speaker series about the history of antisemitism.

This Room Is Made of Noise 

By Stephen Schottenfeld 

University of Wisconsin Press, 2023, paperback, $18.95 

Don is a divorced, childless handyman who offers to sell a lamp for ninety-year-old Millie. When it fetches a good price, he takes Millie up on additional odd jobs—until her mental and physical capabilities decline. Knowing she has the money to pay him, Don appoints himself her caretaker, a situation for which he becomes both grateful and resentful. 

This novel casts a light on loneliness, aging with dignity, and one’s “intent” in situations that are mutually beneficial, though in an unbalanced way. Don’s narrative voice is no nonsense, and the end sparks hope for his future. This Room Is Made of Noise is a solid story with a specific Rochester setting that will have local readers consulting a map. 

Schottenfeld previously taught in Memphis, where his first novel, Buff City Pawn, takes place. In 2008, he joined the English department at the University of Rochester and received the Lillian Fairchild Award in 2023. When asked about what he does in his spare time, he claims that he is “skill-less and hobbyless.” We doubt that, but he is website-less, so you can hit him up here: [email protected].

You Are Here: Connecting Flights 

Edited by Ellen Oh and written by various authors, including Linda Sue Park 

Allida, 2023, hardcover, $18.99 

When a thunderstorm grounds planes at the Chicago airport, one child learns his grandmother has his grandfather’s cremains in her bag, another doesn’t want to visit the country of her birth, and a third rocks out on guitar. Others have their own coming-of-age experiences, crossing paths until the storm recedes. 

This collection of short stories by various authors features Asian American kids and blends seamlessly into a novel. It hits on travel and identity and is a great middle grade book to read all at once or story by story. 

Linda Sue Park is the founder of Allida Books, and You Are Here, this imprint’s first release, contains one of her stories. She is the mother of two and grandmother of three and frequently travels the world with her husband. She built, where she features kidlit created by those of the Korean diaspora. Learn more about this award-winning Brightonian here:  

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