Southwestern University staff and faculty-recommended books for relaxing this summer. Have a question about a SUmmer book? Ask a Librarian.
Since 2016, Southwestern staff and faculty have submitted their favorite SUmmer Reads to share with the SU community. Happy reading!
Mastering the art of Soviet cooking a memoir of food and longing by Anya Von Bremzen
Part history, part memoir, part cookbook. Bremzen, an award-winning food writer, narrates the rise and fall of the Soviet Union in one meal per decade: from tsarist decadence to the mayo craze of the 1970s and into Putin’s twenty-first-century elitism. Major turning points in twentieth-century history are bound up in the personal lives of family members, weaving daily experience (and flavors) into the superpower drama.
It’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable way to track the development of the country currently dominating our headlines. Warning: it will make you hungry!
-- Melissa Byrnes (History)
New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Set in New York City after the “second surge” of sea level rise, this well-researched cli-fi novel depicts life going on, even with the lower floors underwater. It's definitely horrible, but not a dystopia. In 2140 the City is still a center of the international financial system, and its workings is central to the book. The City’s inequalities did not drown, and characters work to creatively address them. One way life has improved: There are many strong prominent women leaders. The novel is long, but I’m still happy to recommend it.
-- Emily Northrup (Economics & Business)
Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marquet
It gets at the need to lead and impact those around you toward making an impact in their field of work, study, sport, life.
-- Don Flora (Athletic Dept. WVB)
The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
Why are Danes the happiest people in the world? Want to know the secrets of happy living? The answer, says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) - the Danish philosophy of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. I have found the advice and ideas the book offers very helpful, such as build relationships, spend time with the people you love, get comfy, take a break and be here now. It will be a refreshing summer read that shows how to experience more joy and contentment in life.
-- Hong Yu (Library)
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
If you enjoy explorations of magic, fantasy, and flawed but empathetic characters, you'll love this book.
-- Carin Perilloux (Psychology)
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
Cornwell balances historical accuracy with an action-packed, flowing narrative and cultural insight into the melting pot of 9th Century Britannia. It is a fun read while sitting on your deck soaking up the Texas heat.
-- Heath Roberie (Finance & Administration)
Thank You for Being Late by Thomas L. Friedman
Thomas Friedman does an incredible job of taking the reader through the exponential rate of change happening in the world since the introduction of the iPhone and similar technology and how it's impacting our lives. Geo-political revolutions, climate change, and so many more things happening at an accelerated pace are contemplated in a thoughtful manner -- offering both warnings and hope. A great read as profound as his earlier book, The World is Flat.
-- Todd Watson (Information Technology)
The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer
Truth is an eternal conversation about things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline.” (106) In our work, we aim to help people explore truth from a variety of different perspectives. Palmer suggests that it helps to think of truth not as something at which we will one day arrive, but instead as an ongoing conversation. His discussion of truth in this way clarified a lot of what I do and why. We all have to participate in exploring truth together… I can’t get there without you and you can’t get there without me. We need one another. We need community. This book will be food for your soul.
-- Megan Danner (Spiritual & Religious Life)
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
It's a sweet, yet sad, book with some interesting twists.
-- Grace Mineta (Institutional Research)
The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente; Annie Wu (Illus.)
"Ever wonder what becomes of those “Women in Refrigerators,” the various female comic book characters killed off to provide male heroes with suitable motivation for their future story arcs? Turns out, they hang out together in the afterlife. Six members of the Hell Hath Club tell their own stories in Valente’s novella. This is the perfect book to cap off a year that harnessed the immense power of women finding their voices. Fun, sharp, creative—and a spectacular twist on the superhero genre." -- Melissa Byrnes (History)
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
This author knows how to describe the way humans think and live their lives when motivated by justice in a time of war.
-- Sherry Adrian (Education)
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
This great American novel has something for almost everyone. There are things dreamy and meditative as well as an epic chase. We learn about whales and the whaling industry. Melville paints from an immense rich palate, giving us terrific comic scenes and even more moments of powerful beauty. I will be rereading in anticipation of my fall course, "American Outlaw Literature", in which we will share not only Melville but also Mark Twain, Billy the Kidd, Belle Starr, Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and Tupac Shakur.
-- David Gaines (English)
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
It is simply one of the greatest novels about Medieval culture and history, as well as being one of the most enjoyable who-dunnits out there.
-- Heath Roberie (Finance & Admin)
Blackout by Connie Willis
Great reads at any time of year! "Sci Fi" books but really historical fiction. Future Oxford historians do research through time travel, in the case of this two-book series, to World War II England. Humorous, full of adventure and suspense.
-- Alexandra Anderson (Career Services)
All Clear by Connie Willis
[Second book in the series] Great reads at any time of year! "Sci Fi" books but really historical fiction. Future Oxford historians do research through time travel, in the case of this two-book series, to World War II England. Humorous, full of adventure and suspense.
-- Alexandra Anderson (Career Services)
An Odyssey by Daniel Mendelsohn
Publication Date: 2017-09-12
This story of voyages braids literary criticism, classroom tales, travel writing, and memoir. It is a multifaceted love story about family, literature, and university life in which classicist Mendelsohn writes beautifully of etymology and mythology, teachers and students, parents and children.
-- David Gaines (English)
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
With surprising twists and turns, Count Rostov's life would change unexpectedly. Rostov was an aristocrat, educated, and with a kind heart, but sentenced to house arrest in The Metropol Hotel, across the street from the Kremlin in 1922. Now he must live in one room in the attic. He was assured that he would be shot if he stepped outside the hotel. The characters in his life are exquisitely presented and his relationships evolve into such a wonderful tale of a gentleman with a sense of humor and knowledge about humankind. Even the ending surprised me.
-- Norma Gaines (Finance & Administration)
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Great story that weaves history & fiction together at a time in Jamaica's history fraught with tension. CIA, reggae music, The Singer, slum gangs, music business insiders, murder & more. Great read!
-- Alma Raymer (Admissions)
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer
When al-Qaeda took over the city of Timbuktu, in 2012, Abdel Kader Haïdara, a librarian and the focus of this book, knew that the city's collection of Islamic and secular manuscripts, which numbered over 300,000 volumes, would be destroyed. Gone would be the history and culture of Timbuktu's golden era. With a little help from his librarian friends, and under some unbearable conditions and threats, these manuscripts escaped to tell their story.
The book is a story about the many supporters, friends and relatives who risked their lives to protect what Haidara described as "the city's heritage," and the "heritage of all humanity."
-- Joan Parks (Library)
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
A somewhat disturbing thriller about the abduction of a Realtor, her escape and struggle to put her life back together. It's also the winner of the 2011 International Thriller Award for Best First Novel.
-- Michelle Hohman (Admissions)
Basketball (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano; Arturo Torres (Illus.)
It's a hilarious look at basketball and the ways it bleeds into the rest of society. Great illustrations, enjoyable for any basketball fan.
-- Patrick Firme (Admissions)
The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard
Elvira Carr is a 27 year old woman who hasn't lived on her own until her mother --her caretaker --- falls ill and Elvira must create her own structure through which to navigate the world. In the process she learns more about her "condition" and her family.
-- Jennifer Leach (Advising and Retention)
From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon
The author’s creative skill at helping you live inside the characters. I love historical fiction. You will FEEL this story deep inside.
-- Sherry Adrian (Education)
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I found _Just Mercy_ so riveting that I read it in just a few sittings. In it, Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, documents his journey as a lawyer defending the poor and the condemned in the South, advocating against systemic injustice in a legal system shaped by our country's history of slavery. _Just Mercy_ has been called a memoir, but its story is less about Stevenson than about the people he meets in prisons, courthouses, and communities and the work he begins with them--work that seeks not only to right individual wrongs but to address the history and mechanisms of injustice. Stevenson is eloquent and modest, but he is not afraid to name hard truths. He’ll make you want to put down the book and join him.
-- Julie Sievers (Office of Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship)
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
A short, simple, and powerful read. It emphasizes the importance of community and togetherness in extreme situations around the world. -- Brad Dunn (Athletics)
The Civil Rights Movement by Steven Kasher; Myrlie Evers-Williams (Introd.)
The pictures captured the people and the moments of courage and bravery during some of the most crucial moments of the Civil Rights Movement. The book is a great summer read because it speaks to the heart and mind of a time in our history that is often forgotten and wakes you up! The book brings their stories to life and speaks to you directly through each page about the importance and value of human life. It reminds us over and over again to never forget the difficult struggles, the tragic lost of lives and the horrific pain endured which is all shown through numerous photographs and text throughout the book. The book tells a gripping and heartbreaking story and provides the reader with a deeper understanding of the long struggle and fight for equality.
-- Terri Johnson (Office of Diversity Education)
Court of Lions by Jane Johnson
Set in Granada and taking place both in the 1480s and today, the book tells the story of the city of Granada through different characters' eyes. It is entertaining, well-researched, and beautifully written.
-- Katy Ross (Spanish)
Quirky by Melissa A. Schilling (Contribution by)
I am excited to start this book because of the focus on innovators rather than only their innovations. It offers a deeper glimpse into the characteristics shared by eight brilliant individuals. I think this is a great SUmmer read because it blends biographical information, psychology, and social/organizational norms, all into one narrative.
-- Debika Sihi (Business & Economics)
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
I urge you not to read the back of this book before you begin - it's best experienced completely unaware of what's to come. All I'll say is it's a sci-fi thriller that is smart and suspenseful (and even romantic in a very weird way). Trust me, it's a page-turner if you're into this genre. (PS - It is NOT the same as the TV series of the same name.)
-- Carin Perilloux (Psychology)
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in a London park without any idea who she is or why she's there. She also doesn't know why she's surrounded by a bunch of bodies. She finds a note in her pocket telling her she can either run away, or she can accept who the note is telling her she is (a high-ranking member of a secret organization that battles supernatural baddies in Britain) and reclaim her old life. This book (and its sequel, Stiletto) is absolutely thrilling: with fantastical characters, crazy but very real conspiracies, and a healthy dose of humor thrown in for good measure.
-- Theresa Zelasko (Library)
White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler
Published as a spiral bound collection of Southern recipes, stories, and photographs “White Trash Cooking” by Ernest “Ernie” Matthew Mickler has become a recent obsession. Ernie, a queer Southerner who battled AIDS at a time when the South actively worked to hide those suffering from this plague, transforms “white trash cooking” into a celebration of camp, creativity, and culture while uncovering an unknown foodway. In November of 1988 Mickler released a follow-up book entitled “Sinkin’ Spells, Hot Flashes, Fits and Cravins” one day before his death at age 48.
-- Taylor Kidd (University Relations)