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The next great book

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Summer reading

READ ALONG Get your reading list ready to go, and you'll be ready for those slow summer days. (Illustration:

Summer has finally begun (!) and a lot of us will be looking for books to read, whether we’re traveling or just enjoying a slowed-down schedule.

For me, figuring out what to read is often a shot in the dark. Friends will recommend books, or I’ll read something somewhere about a book that sounds interesting. I’ll jot these ideas down on a running list in “Notes” on my iPhone. Weeks or months later, when I visit the list to find something to read, I’m usually a little baffled – I’ll have a book’s title, maybe the author’s name, but nothing else. Only that at one time, the book intrigued me.

There’s a better way. Stephanie Ostrosky, mom of three young kids, married to Luis, an infectious-diseases specialist, is a more organized reader. “Last year I read 52 books,” she says. 52? “I keep track on Goodreads ( You can put on books that you’ve read, books you want to read and books that you’re currently reading. When you finish the book, you can rate it one to five and review it.”

Stephanie connected with Goodreads via Facebook. “Anybody I’m friends with on Facebook who is on Goodreads is automatically connected to me. I can see what my friends are reading, and I can read their reviews.

“Every once in awhile, it will send an email letting me know a friend put an update on Goodreads. So I can see what people who I know like similar books are reading.”

Beyond Goodreads, Stephanie says she and her husband Luis used to read together. “We’d actually buy two books – like the Divergent series and Harry Potter – and we’d read them at the same time. Now he doesn’t have the time to read. But he listens to NPR, which I don’t, and he’ll hear about books he think I’ll like and come home and tell me. While I’m reading, he’ll ask, ‘What’s happening now?’ I’ll tell him what’s happening along the way.”

Stephanie also spends four hours a week volunteering at the Kinkaid Lower School library. She’s gotten some recommendations there, too.

That’s how she found Everything Everything, by Nicola Yoon. “The librarian told me about Yoon. [Everything Everything] was short enough to get through in a day, an easy read. About a [teenaged] girl who has a medical issue, one of those ‘boy in a bubble’ kind of things. She can’t leave the house, and she starts a relationship with a boy next door through her window. How can she manage a relationship when she can’t leave the house? Before she didn’t know any different, and now there’s this apple she needs to have. There’s a good twist, and I will tell you I figured it out before it happened. Every time that happens I tell my husband. He’s not reading the book, but I just have to get it out there!”

Also connected to her library duties, Stephanie touts local author Katherine Center. “I loved The Lost Husband. It made me want to move to a farm and raise a goat!” The novel, which People calls “a sweet tale about creating the family you need,” chronicles a young widow’s somewhat drastic move with her two small children to a Hill Country goat farm. Katherine was recently the speaker at a volunteer-appreciation luncheon for Kinkaid library volunteers.

On the other end of the literary spectrum, Stephanie loves post-apocalyptic novels. “Not the zombie type, but the kind where a big flu hits and everybody dies off except a couple of people,” she says. “They’re fun to read, but then I think about them all the time. What would happen? Should we have guns? How would we find food? Now everyone in my family has a bicycle just in case!”

Life as We Know It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, is Stephanie’s suggestion for the genre. “The moon gets off track after an asteroid hits it, and then tsunamis and hurricanes come, all the stuff that the moon affects that I didn’t know about. The book is about one girl and her family and how they’re affected.”

Carpool line is another spot where Stephanie finds inspiration. She says moms will jump out of cars and ask, ‘What are you reading now?’ Because she reads everything on her iPhone through iBooks, her library is portable. “It’s small, but I have it everywhere I am,” she says. “I get samples of books and keep them there until I’m ready to read them.” Which makes Stephanie perpetually ready to hear about the next great book.

Editor’s Note: For more on books, see Book Buzz, a blog created by librarians from the Houston Public Library, Harris County Public Library and Bellaire Library.

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