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10+ Books to Read this Summer

Person holds poetry reading in library

“In a day and age so heavily dominated by proprietary algorithms trying to convince me what to buy, I cherish personal reading recommendations more than ever,” says Maria Aghazarian, scholarly communications librarian.

If you’re of the same mind, and/or need a book for the beach or that quiet night on the back patio, the Swarthmore Libraries have you covered.

For the 14th year, they have compiled a list of summer reading recommendations from students, faculty, and staff members. Dedicated in memory of science librarian and “ultimate book lover” Meg Spencer, who passed away in 2015, the list includes personal accounts on Swarthmoreans’ favorite titles, with an array of authors, eras, and genres.

Among this year’s recommendations are books by Swarthmore’s own Rachel Pastan, whose work mentions Meg Spencer in its acknowledgements, and Chinelo Okparanta, both of English literature.

The list also includes one of the most banned books across the U.S., Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, and a 2022 book from Bonnie Garmus for which a T.V. series is in the works.

Read on for more selections from this summer’s list, and be sure to check out this year’s full list and lists from years past. With more than 300 recommendations in all, there is truly something for everyone — not unlike the offerings and opportunities that abound in libraries.

“They afford readers the opportunity to read broadly and try new things,” Aghazarian says, “without any expense nor the commitment to finish something you don't like.”

Below is a sample of 10 recommendations from the community:

Andrea BaruzziAndrea Baruzzi, Interim Associate College Librarian

Matrix by Lauren Groff [also available as an ebook]

“Vastly different from the author's previous works, which I also loved, Matrix is a historical fiction novel inspired by the life of Marie de France. Set in 1158, we follow Marie's life and visions as she is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey.”

Planning to read: The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Rachel BuurmaRachel Buurma, Associate Professor of English

Riding the Trail of Tears by Blake M. Hausman

“It's written from the perspective of Tallulah Wilson, a young Cherokee woman who works in a virtual reality tourist attraction that simulates the forced removal of the Cherokee people from their homelands in the Southeastern U.S. Thought-provoking and unexpectedly funny.”

Planning to read: Harry Sylvester Bird by our colleague Chinelo Okparanta, associate professor of English literature

Nora KellyNora Kelly, Media Relations Specialist, Communications

War At The Wall Street Journal: Inside the Struggle to Control an American Business Empire by Sarah Ellison

“It is a fascinating look inside the machinations of one of the nation's oldest newspapers and family businesses and one of the most powerful and controversial corporations which is also a family business. The story was also the inspiration behind the second season of the HBO show Succession, and many of those storylines are pulled directly from what happened at the WSJ. Unlike Succession, Newscorp prevails in the end, but at what cost?"

Elena LeeElena Lee ’23, Geophysics Special Major from Lake Oswego, Ore.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn [request it from the public library]

“It's a very whimsical, sweet, profound story with lots of wordplay — kind of like The Phantom Tollbooth. It is very zany but a thoroughly enjoyable read, and pretty quick to get through.”

Planning to read: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez and The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Rebecca MichelsonRebecca Michelson, E-Resources Specialist, Libraries

A Perfect Cemetery by Federico Falco

A Perfect Cemetery, by Argentinian author Federico Falco and translated from the Spanish by Jennifer Croft (one of my favorite translators), is my favorite type of book: a collection of interconnected short stories. Each one is a little haunting and a little unsettling, but Falco manages to balance the strange and real perfectly for maximum emotional effect. One of my favorite books I read in 2021 and one that I keep thinking about and going back to.”

Planning to read: Speak, Silence: In Search of W. G. Sebald by Carole Angier [request it from the public library]

Mariam MuhammadMariam Muhammad ’24, Peace & Conflict Studies and English Literature Major from Pakistan

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

When We Were Orphans is a work that, much like Ishiguro’s others, defies a description that does not betray the heart of the book. Set in London and Shanghai in the years leading up to the Second World War, this book jumps to and from various points in the past, and is particularly poignant in its core paradox. The main character, a politically engaged detective, though celebrated for many cases, can’t seem to solve the puzzle that stings and persists over the course of a lifetime. This book is certainly not a light read, but is overflowing with a touching sadness that, similar to Ishiguro’s other novels, reaches at the heart of the human condition, and breaks through the alienation the character experiences by bringing him in union with us: the readers.”

Kristen RecineKristen Recine, Laboratory Lecturer, Physics & Astronomy

Nimona by ND Stevenson

“It's a short read since it's a graphic novel, but there's plenty of character and story development to pull you in! The story centers around the new sidekick (Nimona) to a villain in a world that is both (medieval) fantasy and modern. Nimona is snarky and not afraid to do things differently, throwing the villain's world into chaos. The writing is a perfect mix of funny, witty, heartfelt, and suspenseful. What a great way to kick off the summer!”

Planning to read: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Nikki SenecalNikki Senecal, Director, Donor Relations, Advancement

Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague by Maggie O'Farrell

“An interesting fictionalization of Shakespeare's family life and his son's death. Beautifully written and heartbreaking. Holds a certain relevance today.”

Planning to read: Never Simple by Liz Scheier

Andres VillalbaAndres Villalba ’25, Educational Studies and Linguistics Special Major from Hampton, Ga.

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

“You came here, your parents and their parents and their parents, and you always seem to have just arrived and yet never seem to have actually arrived.”  — Charles Yu

“A funny yet touching novel about an Asian-American actor who dreams of making it big. Written in the format of a screenplay, its unique nature along with its absurdist humor is what made me love it. If you liked this book, be sure to check out another by the author, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

Planning to read: Spread Your Wings and FLI: How to Effectively Navigate College as a First-Generation, Low-Income Student by Jessica Ilayalith Mora

Steve WangSteve Wang, Associate Professor of Statistics

Conversations by Steve Reich

“A fascinating series of discussions between the pioneering American composer and collaborators spanning his entire career."

Planning to read: The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski [request it from the public library]

Want to add a recommendation? Email Maria Aghazarian

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