Suzanne Perez

Volunteer Book Reviewer

Suzanne Perez writes editorials and opinion columns for The Wichita Eagle, where she has worked as a journalist for nearly 30 years. She also oversees the Eagle’s books coverage and coordinates the #ReadICT Challenge, an annual effort to encourage Wichitans to explore new authors and genres and just to have more fun reading.

Suzanne grew up in North Carolina and attended North Carolina State University, where she earned a bachelor’s in English and an unofficial minor in Waffle House hashbrowns (“scattered, smothered and covered”). She moved to Wichita in 1990 and has two children.

When she’s not reading or listening to an audio book, Suzanne loves to shop for books and talk about books, and she’s an enthusiastic member of way too many book clubs. She has a hard time picking favorites, but some books that have shaped her life include Charlotte’s Web, The Outsiders, Bird by Bird, The Handmaid’s Tale, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life and A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Ways to Connect

Writers & Lovers, the latest novel by Lily King, centers on 31-year-old Casey Peabody, a weepy, anxious wanna-be novelist reeling from her mother’s sudden death.

The setting is Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1997. Casey lives in a converted shed attached to a garage. She walks her landlord’s dog each morning—she doesn’t even know the dog’s name—and rides her banana bike to and from her job waiting tables in Harvard Square. Her mail consists of wedding invitations and final notices from debt collectors. She’s a woman without a plan.

As an avid reader, I envisioned a government-issued, weeks-long stay-at-home order as the ultimate excuse to tackle my shelves of unread books, to finally catch up on some old classics, to read for hours or even days at a time.

None of that has happened.

Over the past week, as we’ve hunkered down at home, public libraries, book publishers and others have begun offering free services to keep readers reading. And let’s face it: There’s no better time to escape with a good book.

This past week, as our country has been dealing with the global pandemic of COVID-19, I’ve been listening to The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11, an audiobook that chronicles in vivid detail one of the worst disasters in American history.

Ann Napolitano’s new novel opens with a transcontinental flight from New York to Los Angeles. Among the passengers boarding the plane are 12-year-old Edward Adler, his parents and older brother. We learn quickly that this particular flight doesn’t have a happy ending — the plane crashes near Denver, killing almost everyone aboard. Only Eddie survives.

Lizzie the librarian has a long list of worries -- her drug addict brother; cranky professors lining up at the help desk; her bum knee; the end of the world. She is the narrator behind Jenny Offill’s newest novel, “Weather,” a slender but powerful book that reads like a collection of random thoughts but so accurately reflects the fragmented, Twitter-inspired mindset of our modern times.

I should begin by saying, I’m a sucker for weird. Weird food. Weird art. Weird newspaper stories about 37-pound cats that people line up to adopt from the local Humane Society. So when I heard about “Little Weirds,” a book by actress and comedian Jenny Slate, I thought, “Wait a second . . . ‘Weird’ as a noun? I’m here for it.”

“Heart of Junk,” a new novel by Luke Geddes, opens with uptight Margaret watching two vendors unpack their wares at the Heart of America Antique Mall – a large but struggling operation in Wichita, Kansas.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your reading life is to revisit the kinds of books that made you fall in love with reading in the first place – the early chapter books or middle-grade novels that illustrate the power of great storytelling. That’s the reason I picked up “To Night Owl From Dogfish,” a collaboration by authors Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolizter that had me feeling like a tween again.

Suzanne Tobias

Today is the final day of 2019, and I imagine you’re growing tired of “best of” lists. Best of the year. Best of the decade. But aren’t these lists important? I mean, how can one be expected to grow without reflection and resolution?

When I look back at my 2019 reading life, I see that I read 62 books, probably abandoned even more, listened to 13 audio books, analyzed more poetry than I’ve ever read before in my life, and interviewed 35 authors for Marginalia.